When parental coaching is a valuable option – Daphne’s story

Parental coaching blends systemic coaching and therapy. It helps parents and children to improve their relationships without labelling any member in the family with psychological pathologies, which tend to to create self-fulfilling prophecies.

Once upon a time a systemic coach…

As a consultant and then as a coach, I quickly made it a habit to let my client settle down, engage in some small talk, make themselves comfortable before starting any one-to-one working session.

This moment didn’t have a name or a definite function, I just felt an unformulated need to offer some kind of airlock to my client between two meetings. Sometimes, I would rush through it to get to the core of an overfull agenda, wanting to get things done, and vaguely conscious that I was missing something.

It took me some exposure to the Anglo-Saxon way of working to start experiencing check-ins at the beginning of team meetings.

Hi guys, thanks for being here today, we have an hour to cover XYZ but before we start, I’d like to know what’s on your mind that keeps you from being fully present”. I remember how surprised I was the first time I heard people talking about their sick kid, household worries, travel constraints and many other private concerns I would have kept for coffee machine conversations. I remember being amazed at the amount of time taken off the 60 minutes of the meeting to listen to them. I also remember how impressed I was at the focus and discipline all participants displayed throughout the meeting, but I didn’t fully relate it to the check-in.

 The first thing I learnt about high-level coaching is that it is mostly about presence.

Starting a new learning journey, the first thing I learnt about “advanced coaching” was that it was mostly about presence. Every plenary session would start with a lengthy check-in. The first one was filled with strips of our daily lives we hadn’t completely left behind, endless silences, retained expressions of guilt or anxiety. 

One morning, a participant shared:

As an extravert, check-ins used to feel awkward. Today, I feel the quality of this silence and how it contrasts with my average morning. Every day, I rush my children through showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing their teeth, catching the bus to school… Stepping back and looking at this hysterical lady shouting about makes me feel guilty and miserable. How awful are these mornings… If only I could have a few minutes check-in with my kids before starting a new day, that would be just marvelous. For all of us.  Am I ready to wake up half an hour earlier to offer us this time together?

My learnings :

Checking in is not only a coaching technique or a mere step in a methodology. It is about making space for availability, focus, connection. Time and space to be fully present for whom you have chosen to spend a moment with: a coachee, a team member, a friend or your child. 

Once upon a time a parental coach…

Daphne and Steven have two adorable daughters who have inherited their mother’s strong temper. Like any other working Parisian working couple, they plan and schedule every minute of their family life. Steven takes the girls to school and kindergarten in the morning; Daphne rushes back from the office to fetch them in the evening.

Does my daughter really need to see a psych?

One day, Daphne tells me with concern that her first born’s schoolteacher has summoned her and has strongly advised her to take Miss Elder to a child psychologist. Apparently, Miss Elder seeks attention all the time, which Ms Teacher interprets as “anguish”.

– Otherwise, wonders Daphne, Miss Elder is a happy 5-year old, she sleeps and eats well, she’s affectionate with all members of the family, gets along fine with her sister… why would she see a psych? Am I such a bad mother? To tell you the truth, she does seek attention, but I’m so busy preparing dinner and bathing Little Miss Younger, that I often send her to play in her room.

– How do you feel about her attention seeking? 

– Honestly?… I get impatient. But it’s my fault, I’m not available enough for her. She’s right to ask.

– What do you feel like doing, at your level, before you take this lovely, healthy, expressive little girl to a child psychologist?

How about trying systemic coaching at home?

Daphne has decided she would make the way back home after school Miss Elder’s moment. She would ask every day « What do you want to tell me today? » Then, when sitting for family dinner, Daddy would ask « Do you want to tell us about your day before I tell Mom about mine?”

Funny, recalls Daphne: that’s exactly what last year’s schoolteacher would do. Miss Elder adored her.

Our learnings: 

We did not change this year’s schoolteacher but at home, the atmosphere has greatly improved thanks to daily parental check-in.
Systemic coaching is a powerful problem solving approach that helps you solve any kind of relational issue whether at work or at home. Nobody’s guilty, nobody’s ill: but everybody can participate in improving the relationship.

 

 

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Disclaimer:

This article is published with respect for the ethical rules of my learning group:
–       Only publish to share learning, and with a positive intent,
–       Only use quotes and stories to bring the learning to life, and with the explicit consent of all the individuals directly involved,
–       Only express personal views.