Coaching Can Help
First, I am not an expert in parenting. But I have learned a thing or two about coaching and helping people take action towards the direction God has designed for them in life and ministry.
Second, this tool is not limited to parenting. It is an essential tool whether you are working with teenagers in youth groups or wherever you’re connecting with people in meaningful ways to help them take the next step on their journey to follow Jesus’ mission for their life. I found that I had a multitude of examples of these shifts while empowering my teenagers to become self-led adults.
What Are They Interested In?
One of the things we did very early with our kids was introduce the idea of internships. Whatever their interests were, we connected them with people we knew and respected in that particular field. We had both kids in summer internships by the time they entered high school. This was important for their development because it gave them a sense of responsibility, curiosity and confidence.
To learn about the kids’ interests, we had to be disciplined in our interactions. We forced ourselves not to react when we heard “surprising” developments about what they experienced at school that day with a classmate, or what a teacher said that might have been taken out of context or the latest slang terminology.
Instead of reacting we responded with – “tell me more?” Sounds simple. And it is in theory. Try it next time you interact with your teenager.
Bottom line, it began with a curiosity in the work and progressed to an interest to the point of taking action.
Encourage Environments for Discovery
Our eldest was interested in finance. His first internship was with a real estate broker. The broker saw that our son was a fast learner. By the end of that summer our son had processed the paper-work for a $1million loan (under the watchful eye of the broker). What did this do for our son? He discovered certain parts of the job he enjoyed, others he did not enjoy as much and still others that were necessary but not his passion.
Our youngest wanted to work in a pediatric physical therapy clinic. The children were on a spectrum of mild to severe disabilities. As a young teen, my daughter supported the work of the therapists, and interacted with the patients and parents. Similar to our son, she learned a number of lessons that she stored in her memory banks for her future schooling and career choices.
Here’s The Secret: Listening
Our key tool to helping the kids connect to environments for discovery was to listen. We listened as they talked about their classes and their friends, to their thoughts on current events, and for the solutions they came up with to solve problems. As they processed what was going through in their heads, we would be listening for a sign that they were at a point of taking action.
This level of listening is a big shift from parenting younger kids, where there is more instruction (and control).
Shifting From Talking to Listening
How can I ignore my tendency to share my wisdom and seek to listen?
Here are 5 coaching strategies that will help you navigate the significant change from advising to assuming a listening posture.
1. Take the posture of a learner
You don’t know it all. As parents we certainly have more experience and your wisdom may be right and good but there are realities that teenagers are navigating today that are outside of your expertise.
2. Remain silent
It takes some time to come to good conclusions. Stay in a quiet place while your son or daughter processes what they sense the Holy Spirit is saying to them. They are more likely to take ownership and action on their own ideas.
3. Be patient
Here’s a hard one—actively remain in a non-anxious state. Trust the Lord, trust the process, trust your teenager. You have poured a lot of love and training into them, now is the time to allow it to take hold and for their decisions to become their own.
Every person on the planet has a deep need to be seen and heard. Show them that you are listening. Without contaminating what your son or daughter is processing, summarize what you heard them say.
5. Ask “Is there more?”
Make sure they have gotten it all off their chest, that they are at a resting place in their process. No other question is needed at this time.
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