Almost everyday, one or more of my adult sons and daughters reach out to me to get my input on something. It’s always a highlight of my day and is the long-standing reward of being the go-to person from their childhood.
What parent doesn’t want to be included among their child’s most valued advisors—or even better, their first choice?! That can be your reality with a little intentionality and consistency.
Your Child’s Life Coach
Becoming your child’s life coach starts early. But don’t be dismayed if you’ve lost those early years—you can start today, whatever their age.
Here are seven ways that helped me keep my kids coming back for my advice:
- Build relational equity. You can’t force anyone to want to reach out to you. That privilege comes as the result of investing lots of time into the relationship. Talking. Being interested in their life. Becoming that trusted person. Remember: kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That takes time—and lots of it, so…
Create the context. Before a person actually gets to the point where he will reach out on their own, you need to have had lots of scheduled time together. The best way to do that is to have a regular time blocked out to spend undistracted time with your child. That’s what I call Special Time and is summarized in my free ebook, 7 Ways To Supercharge Your Family This Week. As I’ve said before, quality time happens through quantity of time.
Don’t freak out. When your kids trust you and you encourage an open door for conversation, they will most likely ask you questions that take you a bit by surprise. That’s exactly what you want so don’t freak out! If you overreact, they will be more hesitant to ask next time. My kids have asked me the definition for just about every profanity imaginable. We’ve talked sex—and much beyond birds and bees stuff. Let them know nothing is off the table so keep the freak-outs contained and they will keep asking.
Answer the right question. Make sure you understand what they’re asking. 7-year old Johnny asked his dad where he came from. Although this question came earlier than expected, his dad calmly began to explain the birds and the bees. Afterward, a shocked Johnny said, “Well Billy said he came from Philadelphia and I just wondered where I came from!” Take a moment to clarify before you launch into a response that’s unnecessary.
Don’t exhaust the subject. The beauty of a long-lasting relationship is that it is just one ongoing conversation. Especially when a child is young, answer with just enough to satisfy their curiosity at the moment (see #4 above) and leave the door open for more discussion later when desired.
Share from your life experience. Your child wants to know about you and how you’ve handled similar situations as them. So when appropriate, draw from your experience and share a story that adds some life instruction for them. Speaking of life instruction…
Help your child with the take-away. We have so many choice teaching moments almost daily when our kids feel free to ask us about whatever. Sometimes their questions require simple information. But wherever possible, seize the opportunity to teach application. How should we act/respond in light of this information? Set in the context of your family values.
These simple principles can help you create an open-door culture between you and your child. Make time to hang out, talk, have fun. Then don’t be surprised when you hear, “Hey Dad/Mom, I was wondering about…”. That never gets old!
Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Question: How do you cultivate the trust and desire in your child to see you as their life coach? Share your answer in the comments below.