We are coaching children into their extraordinary potential! I am passionate about helping parents and teachers co-design spaces for children to thrive and I am asking myself and others, “How can we coach children effectively over the course of their school days?”

First of all, I’m trying to learn how to be a better coach. My adolescents are definitely teaching me. At ages 20 and 18, they definitely respond more open-heartedly when I ask them open, honest questions. Practicing the art of open, honest questions was a particularly poignant part of my leadership academy with the Center for Courage and Renewal.

Coaching children in childhood is focused on that vital connection of attachment.  Your relationship with your child is everything!  Creating a nest and nurturing those little birds is our powerful work!

Do you want children who are easy to parent? Focus on your relationship with them.  The work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a constant guide for me still and I highly recommend Institute’s coursework, including the Power to Parent.

Coaching our children will always begin in the nest of the relationship.  Whether teachers or parents, we must steward their hearts before we can speak into their lives.

It begins simply…

Eyes, Smiles, and Nods

Then, giving something of ours to hold onto.  Even my 18-year old daughter was offering her hand to me during conversation last night.  It was a move towards, it was our attachment, hand-to-hand and heart-to-heart.  I recently blogged about the power of a hug with a dysregulated child; hugs are powerful moves of relationship at all times.

Reassuring the child we will always be there for them, always love them, and inviting the child to depend on us.

Next we need to design our classrooms and homes with rituals that help us maintain our connection.  Some ideas include:

  • family meals
  • inter-generational connections
  • class meetings
  • service projects
  • vacations together
  • family celebrations
  • screen free zones
  • morning and afternoon greetings
  • religious services and programs

Then, only after attending to our vital connection with our children, can we coach them…

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Here are the topics of the lived curriculum:

Coaching Children in Matters of the Heart

Every child needs safe adults to coach them on managing the powerful emotions of life.  We need to invite children’s emotions and encourage them with our love and acceptance. Additionally, children need strategies to learn to cope with those emotions in a way that both honours their experience.  They can only figure that out within the context of relationship with health adult attachments.  Teachers, our work in the classrooms with strategies like zones of regulation, breathing strategies, and mindfulness give children opportunities to learn self-management of emotions.

I believe this is also the place of exploring spiritual truth and character issues.  All behaviour is based on beliefs.  What does your child believe?  What needs to blossom and bloom in their heart?

Coaching Children in Self-Care 

Self-care may be the newest and most powerful currency for helping children explore their extraordinary potential. Children need to learn to sleep well and eat healthy foods.  They need to learn to listen to their bodies and hearts, in order to know and attend to their needs.  Over time children need to take ownership for their daily habits.  This is a self-reflective process and a pre-requisite for all learning and growth.

Offering your children support in developing healthy, daily habits is a crucial role for parents and teachers.

Coaching Children in Lifelong Learning 

Children need to be encouraged in their play, explorations, risks, failures, and learning.  They will naturally gravitate to areas of strength and personalize their own learning.  We need to help challenge them, build on their interests, and guide their thinking.  It will be a rich experience to encourage learning throughout their lives.

For example, G, my littlest one who is now 5-years-old, is a creative.  She naturally sings and dances.  So, The Builder and I are encouraging her with piano lessons.  It is challenging and encouraging her to learn focus, but it builds on naturally propensities, so she is motivated.

My oldest daughter was active and naturally gifted in her body.  So, she did gymnastics.  While these are examples of structured activity, unstructured play is essential.

Just as both girls needed to be stretched in areas of strength, they also needed dance parties and monkey bars.

Coaching Children in Relationships 

All children need coaching in the area of relationships.  Last week, when G declared from the bathtub last week, “I made a new friend,” we were filled with excitement and delight.  We discussed the process in-depth, asked her a ton of questions, and encouraged her to apply the same process to new friendships.  Also, we reassured her that learning to make friends was a big goal we had for Kindergarten!

We can weave our values of kindness, assuming the best about others, generosity, and inclusion as we throughout our discussions of what happened on the playground.

Coaching Tips and Tricks

Plan ahead – I don’t know about you, but I often land at the dinner table or a social conversation with the children without a ton of juice left.  Coaching children might be my hope, but I need conversation starters on the tip of my tongue.  I almost always plan ahead.  I have chosen a topic from my work or my own reflections to offer as a conversation starter.  Or, I develop a handful of open, honest questions and use them over and over.  Our most notable achievement is always: Together!

Maximize bedtime – Parents, use the book you just read to ask a personal question or offer bedtime prayers from the heart.  Cuddle closely so the connection and safety are visceral for the child.  Plan to spend 15-20min.

Model conversation – The children see The Builder and me discussing life all the time.  We don’t go into another room, we model relationship and healthy conversation consistently.

Family/Class meetings – A powerful tool is to bed family or class meetings into your week.  Use them to plan everything from meals to homework to special events.  Democratically solve problems and resolve conflict.  Family and Class meetings have served me faithfully over my years of motherhood and teaching.

Stay inspired – Surround yourself with great role models and encouraging peers, who help you make your relationships with the children a priority.

If you need more practical ideas, check out my Pinterest boards for both Learn Forward and Karine Veldhoen.

What did you learn this week?  What did you love?

For the sake of the children,

Karine