I stepped into the role of coach instead of mom in this session with our 19-year-old son. He was back from his freshman year in college and brought with him some behaviors that were outside of the boundaries of what we could accept in our home. The high school years had been tough as he was caught drinking on several occasions including one time when he showed up to school drunk. As his mom, and president of the school board, I was especially challenged by his defiance.
As parents we saw each mistake as an opportunity for growth and worked hard to help our children learn. However, when he moved home from college for the summer and his brother found pot in his room, it was time to coach him as an adult instead of parenting him as a child. With two younger children left at home who were influenced by his choices, something had to change. I was able to self-manage by reminding myself that he was now an adult who was perfectly capable of discovering for himself what was possible with the assistance of a coach.
Coach: Would it be okay to identify some of your values?
Coach: I will share a few that I see and then ask you to add to the list. The things I see as important to you include independence, privacy and adventure or risk taking. Do those seem like values for you?
Coach: What other values can you identify as important?
Andrew: Privacy is a big one. Respect. Fun is important. I don’t know any others.
Coach: What about family relationships?
Andrew: Of course.
Coach: At this age how does your value around family relationships fit with independence?
Andrew: They are both important.
Coach: What does it look like to have a strong relationship with family when your need for independence puts you at odds with family values?
Andrew: It doesn’t work but I want to make my own choices.
Coach: What options are there for preserving your relationships and being independent?
Andrew: I don’t know.
Coach: Is there something you could do to have a relationship with family and make your own choices?
Andrew: I could choose not to live at home.
Coach: That is one option. What else?
Andrew: I could respect the family expectations and make different choices about how I use my independence.
Coach: What would that look like?
Andrew: I could live at home to be with family but not break the rules at home.
Coach: And how does that feel?
Andrew: Hard. But I think it is possible.
As a result of this coaching many things shifted. He remained at home and found other ways to feel independent. This would not have happened if a line had been drawn in the sand and the options had been presented by me as his mom.
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