Parents are always looking for ways to teach children new concepts, but often do not know how to help their young children learn in a way that is developmentally appropriate, while at the same time working on improving the relationship. One method which has been found to be very effective to achieve these goals is Coaching. Many parents rely on questioning as a method of teaching their children. Questions do not serve to expand learning because often parents ask children questions they already know the answer to such as, “What color is this?” or “What sound does a cow make?” While having our little ones perform for our friends and family is fun and, of course, cute, but it does not serve to expand language. This method also causes children to sometimes feel tested and, for some, they may become apprehensive to answer due to fear of being wrong. This can interfere with the parent-child relationship. Just think about your adult relationships and how it feels to be questioned too much by another adult. It might cause you to avoid that person and that is not the goal for most parents with their children.
Here are four areas where parents can coach their children to build skills in the key areas necessary for children to be successful in life according to the Incredible Years Parenting Program.
1. Academic and Persistence Coaching. In this area, parents can use Descriptive Commenting, which helps build children’s language ability. In this strategy, the adult basically narrates what the child is doing in his or her play. It can be likened to a radio announcer giving a play-by-play. If a parent wants to encourage learning in colors he can say “You have the red car and the yellow truck.” To improve behavior a parent can say “You followed directions exactly like I asked you. You really listened.” When trying to foster persistence, one of the most important life-skills a child can learn, parents can say “You are staying calm and trying again.”
2. Social Skills Coaching. Parents can both describe and prompt friendly behaviors in children as this is important for children in making friends. A parent can teach helping and teamwork by saying, “You are both working together and helping each other like a team.” Patience, asking and sharing can be fostered by saying “You waited and asked first if you could use that. Your friend listened to you and shared.” Problem-solving and cooperation can be increased by saying, “You both solved the problem of how to put those blocks together. That was a great solution.”
3. Emotion Coaching. Describing children’s feelings not only helps them build an emotion vocabulary, it also serves to help them regulate their emotions because they are able to recognize and tell the parent how they feel. To help children express frustration a parent can say, “That is frustrating, and you are staying calm and trying to do that again.” Curiousity can be fostered by saying, “You are so curious. You are trying out every way you think that can go together.”
These last two focuses for parent coaching, social and emotional skills, can be taught which is a shift of thinking that has taken place in the last decade or two. Coaching in these areas will help us build well-rounded successful adults which according to Daniel Goleman of Social Intelligence, “once you get into the workforce, then what turns out to distinguish the stars from average is emotional and social intelligence: how we manage ourselves, how we handle relationships.” Children do not come into the world knowing what behaviors are good and bad. They only learn to do things based on positive attention to their actions. Through the use of coaching language, parents can specifically point out many crucial life skills in a positive way without too many questions so their children’s learning is greatly enhanced and their relationship with their children blossoms.