Parent as Coach

In October last year I went to the International Coach Federation Australasia conference on the Gold Coast. One of my favourite sessions, (perhaps topically being mum to a toddler Ethan with another one on the way!)  was a workshop by Tracy Tresidder called ‘Parent as Coach’. As well as being useful for parents I think the components discussed can be utilised for any relationship in our lives. As one of my colleagues said, perhaps reverse parenting too 🙂

Tracy’s approach based on Martin Seligman’s positive psychology PERMA model shared the following 5 habits for positive parenting:

  1. Savouring
  2. Focus on Strengths
  3. Practice Gratitude
  4. Focus on Listening
  5. Practice Mindfulness

Here I reflect on each component and share some of Tracy’s wisdom:

  1. Savouring – Savouring positive experiences helps secrete neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine regulating mood and feelings of joy. Tracy asked us to reflect on the most positive experience we had recently and you could immediately feel the energy in the room. This question can be tailored for kids after a day at school, what was the most fun thing that happened today? What made you laugh the most today? Another tip Tracy shared is going out in nature together and savouring natural wonder. I can relate to this with Ethan who loves going out searching for sticks and leaves #natureboy.
  2. Focus on Strengths – Tracy suggests we focus on what is right with our kids versus what is wrong. The VIA strengths survey for youths can help with this. I bought the book version for my goddaughter previously which opened up a great conversation. A strengths based question Tracy uses with her kids is “What Went Well’’ today (www). A word of strengths caution from Tracy however was to praise the time and effort children put into things versus the outcome. This is in line with Carol Dweck’s Growth mindset which I have written about previously.
  3. Practice Gratitude – As written about previously trading appreciation for expectation can change your life. I’ve found this invaluable as a mum with a young child adjusting to a different routine. Tracy shared the research shows writing a few good things in a gratitude journal 3-4 times a week is sufficient to make a difference with your life outlook which the whole family can do. Adding ‘why’ you are grateful further deepens the experience. A discussion around rituals emerged during the gratitude conversation and how kids can thrive with rituals and tradition. I fondly recall our Sunday family roasts and summer holidays. With Ethan rituals include Saturday afternoons at the beach (often with a coconut and hot chips involved!) and special weekly village crepe dates. Something I’m keen to keep up with him as some of our quality time when baby number two arrives soon.
  4. Focus on Listening – As a coach deep listening is essential for really hearing your counterpart, the same goes for children. Tracy shared “Listening is not waiting to speak.” and “Listen with your lips shut”. One of my favorites is You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Once we stop talking and giving advice it’s amazing how people can come to their own conclusions which is much more empowering. I’ve heard parents of teenagers share driving together in a car can be a great time to listen.
  5. Practice Mindfulness – Tracy spoke how mindfulness can be practiced in short bursts everyday which my teacher calls ‘micro doses of mindfulness’. This can be focusing your attention whilst washing, eating, walking, breathing, or any activity. I’m currently reading ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Thich Nhat Hanh which goes into this life changing way of being in more depth. It’s great to see schools introducing short mindfulness training sessions and Tracy referred us to org and the Smiling Mind App for more resources in this area.

I would love to hear how this resonates with any parents and other tips you would be willing to share to help others.


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