A girl and a spider
“Dad, help me get the ball” said Helena – my 6 year old daughter.
“What’s happened?” was my brilliant answer.
“I want to get the ball, but there is a spider web…”
Oh yes – spiders, spider webs, cobwebs – show me a parent who hasn’t dealt with them one way or another – one way being doing something about them, another one being calling someone, often dramatically, to deal with it NOW!
As I was in the middle of something and didn’t want to spring up from my chair, I’ve decided to use some of my…
“How can you get the ball yourself while avoiding the spider web?” – of course I had a clear idea in my head that a long stick should do the trick.
Helena’s face started expressing deep thinking.
“I could go around, over stepladder and I can avoid the spider web!”
“Or, you can think of something long, that could maybe help you?” – my superpowers were apparently week in the morning, since I gave in to suggesting solution… As soon as I was done with my hint, Helena was gone already.
A minute later, Helena comes in the room. Ball in her hands, and face beaming with smile.
“Dad, dad! Come, I’ll show you how I did that!”
A superpower I had to apply here was to actually get up and learn about the solution. We went together. As we approached the corner of the garden that was holding the ball hostage just a moment ago Helena took no time to throw the ball back where it was just a moment ago. Yes, the spider web was between us and the ball again… But this time no “Dad, help me” could be heard. Helena took off for immediate rescue action. She went around, over stepladder and she was next to the ball. She took the ball, went over stepladder, came back around and she was pride and glory in its purest form. I wholeheartedly congratulated resolving the issue all by herself and I was father’s pride in its purest form.
What makes me share this story?
First of all, this is a great example of a situation in which a parent can take coaching approach (what I attempted to do) or use other options, such as:
- “I have no time, play with something else”
- “Oh, come on! You are afraid of a spider?”
- “Get someone else to help you”
- Actually get up, and clear the way or retrieve the ball oneself.
Which one would you usually choose? Which one would you like to choosing next time?
I chose the coaching approach as I wanted to spark the spirit of creativity, problem-solving and pride in Helena. And I’m proud that it has worked!
But note one thing!
I almost (o.k., not almost, but actually) fell in the trap of extinguishing creativity with solution that came from me. Luckily for both of us, Helena decided to ignore my “long stick” idea and follow her own thinking.
The Coaching Parent’s remarks
Working with others for them to come up with their own solutions, and plan implementing them is one of the key principles of coaching. This is a principle that you can start using right now with your children (or other people) whether you are a coach or not:
- Create space for problem-solving – asking open-ended questions is a pretty simple way to do it
- Trust the person to be able to solve the issue
- Refrain from judgments and suggestions (if you have a “long stick” in your head… keep it in your head)
- Support planning if needed – but again, don’t plan for the person, be there to facilitate person’s own planning
- Celebrate success! Appreciate effort, and instill sense of self-pride. And be proud!
You may not get everything right the first time. You may not get everything right the 1000th time (the “long stick” is a perfect example). But the more often you practice, the better you become. And one day, instead of being asked to help getting the ball, you will simply notice your daughter going around, over the ladder and reaching for the ball all by herself.
About the author:
Adam Gieniusz is the editor of TheCoachingParent.com, a coach, a father to Helena (born in 2011), a husband, a business trainer, and an entrepreneur. As a Regional Director for Kent with The Alpha Group International he helps SME business owners and CEOs to dramatically increase their businesses profitability and to prosper.