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Published:February 5th, 2013 12:45 EST
When to Go from Parent to Coach to Mentor

When to Go from Parent to Coach to Mentor

By Jay Forte


Kids grow up. Thank goodness. At every stage in this process they need something different from parents or guardians. What kids need from their parents at age 7, or 17 or 27 is different. As they move through life, they need us to change roles; they need us to move from parent to coach to mentor to help prepare them to be able to live great, happy and successful lives. We do a disservice to our kids when we continue to parent them through every stage of their lives.

Early childhood is the period where kids need to be introduced to how family, society and life works. This is when we parent " we define the rules, create the foundations and provide the guidance. We share our guidebook on how to play the game of life. We help to establish beliefs about the world, people, families and faith. Our kids build their core beliefs by watching and connecting to those around them. Parenting is a command-and-control relationship " parents tell, kids respond. Powerful lives can be built on strong foundations. But this approach becomes ineffective as kids develop into teens and young adults. Parenting needs to yield to coaching.


Coaching is a partnership and collaborative approach to discovering one`s unique abilities, then to find applications in the world or workplace to fully develop and use these abilities. This is the time when parenting moves from command-and control to engage-and-discover.


To be effective with a teen or young adult searching to find his place, we move from telling to asking. We shift our discussions about rules to conversation about experiences, impact, feelings and awareness " and what they mean to the teen. This is a period to help our kids observe and assess their behaviors, responses and abilities - to start to notice what they are successful and unsuccessful at " what they love and what they dislike. Clarity about who they are " their unique abilities " their talents, strengths and passions " gives them information. We then help guide them to use this information to make better work and life choices.


In this period, we, as coaches, ask more questions, let them experience more, and hold them accountable for, and own, more of their decisions. If parenting continues through this stage, either kids become clones of their parents (which rarely leads to success or lifetime happiness) or they rebel against the rules. This period is better used to connect with kids in an interactive process to help them discover who they are and where are the opportunities to show up in today`s world in a way that fits who they are " then to own that process. They need to wake up and love their life each day " parent`s can only help them discover how to do this, not actually make it happen.


And as it happens to all of us, we grow older. Once our kids have learned how to make decisions in work and life around who they are, what they are good at and what matters to them, they build a life that fits them. My happiest moments in life, besides the births of my daughters, have been witnessing their connection to lives they love. Though confident and clear about what they want, there is still more to know and to teach. Enter the final phase " mentoring. This is where, now as adults, we connect with our kids to accelerate their learning in areas in which we have expertise. It may be about work, parenting, cooking, faith or even life. We share our lessons to make their road easier. They are open to learning. We are open to sharing.


It is alarming how quickly time passes. We see our kids move from youngsters to adolescents to adults. Though they will always be our kids " we think of them as babies, toddlers and teens " they will and must take their rightful place as adults in society. To help prepare them to have great, happy and successful lives " lives that adds value for all of us " we change our parental roles based on their needs. We move from parent and rule-builder, to coach and experience-encourager, to mentor and wisdom-sharer. Each role is valuable. Each shows up at the right time. Each makes an impact. Each inspires their greatness.


Our kids need parents who know how to help them grow into strong, passionate and powerful people, clear about their abilities and clear about where their best fit in life is. We have the opportunity at every moment with our kids to be a parent, a coach or a mentor. What they need determines how we respond. When we know how to move from telling, to asking, to educating, we encourage their development into who they really are so they can find their fit and transform their world.


Jay Forte is a life and greatness coach, author of The Greatness Zone and Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, and a nationally known speaker.