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  • Writer's pictureJanelle Woo

Do Coaching and Parenting Mix?

I started training to be a coach almost 4 years ago. It was a big career change for me, and I worried that it would be “useless”. My fall back rationale was: at least it could help with parenting. Back then, I was coming out of being a stay at home mom, and my youngest was 2. It is important to me to be a good mom, and I had no idea how handy coaching skills would become… and it culminated in a recent parenting moment.

My son, who’s 7 years old, needed to apologize to his class. I won’t go into the details about why, but needless to say, he didn’t want to apologize and he was freaking out about it. We sat down to talk to him to explore owning up to his actions, but all he could do was think about how embarrassing it would be, and cry. Now let me say, that my pre-coaching habit would be to say “suck it up and do the right thing!”, but here’s how my coaching came in handy:

I could notice my old habit pattern, pause, and choose another path.

Before coaching, I would have just gone autopilot and not even notice that there’s another way. But I had a moment when I noticed my son upset and realized that a “buck up” attitude would not have helped. He wouldn’t learn anything if we forced him to do it while he’s resisting. I also know that historically, when I force something on him, he only gets more frustrated, scared, and resentful.

I then stayed calm, and got quiet.

In this moment, he really wanted to snuggle. I let him do so, while staying silent. Again, my go-to habit would be to lecture, but I decided to co-regulate instead. I understood that he needed to calm down in order to think through this. I was applying my neuroscience of change learning, knowing that our rational minds don’t work well when we’re in survival mode (fight/flight/freeze).

I could explore with questions.

After he calmed down, I was able to ask questions to help him explore other perspectives and to shift. I asked what he was scared of? He was worried about what others thought of him. So I offered: how do you feel when I apologize to you? He said he felt good. Do you think worse of me? He says, “No, I say ‘that’s ok’”. And that’s when he realized that they wouldn’t pounce on him for his vulnerability and may appreciate it.


I felt so proud of my son when he told me after school that he did it. I even did a debrief with him about how it went and what he learned. Having a reflective practice (another coaching skill) can help rewrite predictions about how things will go in the future, maximizing learning. I was delighted when he moved on so quickly, particularly as a highly sensitive person.

I’m celebrating him and the parenting win!

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