Exam confidence in schools

Exam confidence in schools

Study motivation is a huge topic, specially as young people approach GCSE or A levels. A lot of my young clients want a quick fix, however I have found that it rarely works (or exists).

Building Resilience in Children

Building Resilience in Children

In this week’s article, I am going to discuss building resilience and why resilience is important.

Building Resilience in children

Sometimes the hardest part of parenting topics are the ones that you never thought about. I know this through many years of life coaching teenagers. We all talk about sleep issues, toilet training, teenagers and sex or drugs. Yes, of course, I am not saying any of those things are easy. Far away from it. However, we already have myriads of sources of information on those. We all have friends who tell you “just get ready for the sleepless nights” or “wait until your daughter becomes a teenager”.

I respect people giving their best advice and aiming to help. However, prophesying about everything that will go wrong in the future is rarely helpful.

Anyway, (if you have read some of my articles you will know by now that I do ramble a bit) for good or for bad, we have time to think about those situations, and we can even start planning for those. However, in all honesty, we rarely do notwithstanding that building resilience is a very important skill for children and parents alike.

Guidance through a small crisis can help a child to build resilience.

There is a range of parenting topics that nobody tells us about. Fortunately, through life coaching teenagers, I see this lapse all the time. Here are a few examples: How do I react when my child is pushed in the playground?  Or when he/she falls face flat and has a bleeding nose? How do I help when their best friend is not their best friend anymore and they feel rejected and isolated? Or when they feel the teacher is not listening to them? What about when, most likely in secondary school, they struggle to fit in or make friends? These are some of the instances when it is priceless to have good parenting skills.

I know most of us will have mix feelings about those situations. Some will think: it is hardly the end of the world (“come on, stand up and go to play again), others will opt for sympathy (“oh, dear me, are you ok, come here with mum/dad”), others will become very directive (“what you have to do is…” or “next time you tell him/her…”).

It is not my role or my intention to challenge any of those approaches. I believe every parent is doing the best they can every day towards building resilience in their children. Successful parenting often requires that you approach every situation from a different angle.

My intention is to help you think from a different perspective. Think about your reactions and the underlying message that you are sending. Does it help your child in building resilience or not? Once we understand that underlying message, we can assess if it is the long term idea we want them to learn.

Here are two examples. In this case, I am using my own experience with my daughters.

Daughter number 1 is around 18months old. We are spending a beautiful day in the playground. She is understandably excited and pacing around. At a certain point, she falls. Nothing serious but enough to get a good fright (her and I) and a very loud cry. Here is a tip I learned in my first aid course with Red Cross ages ago; the louder a victim cries, the less priority is it to you. Well, don’t ask me why, but as I calmly walked the few meters distance to her I was considering what the heck to do.

So, I came up with an idea. I put her up and said a few soothing words, I cleaned her hands and chest of sand and then I said: this a naughty floor, isn’t it! I think we have to tell him he is naughty. Now, picture a 35 years old dad talking with a floor and telling him off. I just had no idea what to do or how to stop my daughter crying.

After I repeated “naughty floor” a few times and smacked it (careful here. In my enthusiasm, I overdid it and hurt my hand), to my surprise my daughter joined in. A few seconds later, we were both telling off the floor for being naughty and asking “it” not to do it again. Did this little drama teach you something about practical parenting and building resilience in children?

In between jokes, this became part of our family tradition. We told off the floor, the steps, the corners when we hit them, the tree, etc. I have been thinking a lot about what I did and how it impacted my daughter. Through life coaching teenagers, I have been able to change the orientation of children so fast that their parents start wondering the source of my magic. I am not going to claim that the response with my daughter is perfect neither is it one of the must-have good parenting skills. But it did two things;

1) deflected the attention from the pain

2) rather than playing the victim culture, it empowered her and helped her build resilience.

We are all human, and sometimes we get it wrong.

Building Resileince in children

As I write, I am thinking, maybe I should have changed the order in which I told this story. I am going from “success” to “not-successful”. Anyways, something tells me to tell it this way. It is a good thing to go from the known to the unknown, right?

Fast forward to a few months, or years—I wish I could be more exact—and my daughter is around 3 or 4 years old. One Sunday morning we go to the supermarket to buy a full English Breakfast for ourselves and visitors. The first thing we do is to get one of those large bottles of milk (the four pints, or 2.2lt). As we walk in, my daughter, eager to help says, “Daddy, can I help? Can I carry it?” I was conscious it was a bit on the heavy side, but who am I to stop her from feeling helpful? We spent a bit of time in the supermarket.

Every now and again I asked her if she was OK, “Yes daddy, I can do it”, she said, and we continued. As we approach the cashier we see two people ahead of us. The shop is almost deserted, and I am planning for a quick return home and a nice breakfast. Suddenly…. a massive splash and milk everywhere. I am not sure what I said or did. However, after checking she was fine, the shock, embarrassment, and confusion kicked in.

Building Resilience in kids is important from a young age

She said, “Daddy, it was an accident”.

Me, looking lovingly at her and finally having an idea of what to say and do, said, “Of course, honey. It was an accident”.

I wasn’t going to be hard on a well-intentioned 3 or 4 years old girl, was I?

Well, let me tell you. I think this was one of my biggest mistakes.

The moment she blamed the event on an accident (definition: an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury), she was not to blame. That was her one step slip from building resilience. Growing through life coaching teenagers I now realize that one thing parents battle with is finding the balance between love and discipline. Now, I am not in the blaming game, but the side effect of this is that she didn’t take responsibility. Therefore, it obviously wasn’t a learning moment. At that instance, my daughter was disempowered. Maybe I am being a bit strict, but that’s how I see it. Much about practical parenting is about looking beyond the immediate action. Successful parenting pictures the future impact of our decisions on the child.

Funny enough, for the following years—I am not making a causation point here, just a correlation—she was very clumsy. There was an accident in the kitchen with the glass of water when dropping my phone or when leaving the crayons on the carpet, etc.

So, what is that I learned? That to resolve something, we have to take ownership. If I am permitted to rate good parenting skills, this will be my top pick. The moment we do this, we are responsible and learn from what we did (not some vague accident). Each time we shift blame away from ourselves, we miss the opportunity to learn from that mistake. Most importantly, through learning, we create the magic word we hear so much: resilience.

And linking to the first example above: the moment we empower our kids to resolve an issue, we empower their confidence and help them in building resilience.

I can imagine some of you saying: he is taking it too far. Taking every single situation as a learning moment or making a big fuss of small things seems way over the top and tiring for the kids and for me.

And if you are thinking this, you are partly right, at least in my opinion. It can be tiring, and it can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be great fun too. Everything depends on how you do it and how much fun you want to have from those events.

How can we help young children in building resilience?

As with every parenting topic I write, I want to give you a few ideas on what to look for and what you can do. I am not assuming these ideas will work for everybody, but, through life coaching teenagers, I can tell that maybe one of them will work for you. Who knows, as you read you could come up with other practical parenting ideas that will work for you.

Now, I want us to picture a few good parenting skills and how you can adapt your style to help your kids in building resilience. Please take this as suggestions and always modify these ideas to;

1) your taste and how you feel about them

2) your child and what you feel they can accept at each point in time.

These are the most frequent advice I share with parents and teachers. I have heard loads of positive feedback about how it has helped their successful parenting drive. I hope they also help you.

Here we go: Building resilience in children

Resileince in kids is a superpower
  • Physical distance. It is normal for young kids to want to be on you or glued to your leg. As they grow, encourage them to extend the distance from you, allow them to go to the next aisle in the supermarket while shopping, to ramble in the park playground. Allow them to develop that feeling of looking out for themselves while being reassured of their safety by your presence. This could be a good excuse to have a night out with your partner while they are cared for by a trusted person. This sounds like nothing you have seen in courses on parenting topics, right? While it is important to teach our kids to be mindful of strangers, let’s do it from the point of caution rather than fear.
  • “Can you help me?” This is a great telltale. When surrounded by adults, Children will aim to avoid mistakes and a lot of time, they will ask for help. This could be opening a jar or doing homework. Successful parenting, in this case, is about teaching them how to do it. Subsequently, you let them do it. Ideally, they will be successful sometimes. It is important to remember that simply because they do things once, it doesn’t mean they feel equipped to do it again. This is what I call “how many times till”. What it means is: how many times do my child need to do something, reasonably successfully, before they feel comfortable to do it by themselves. Observe your child and make some assumptions. This is one of the good parenting skills you need to develop; being observant. Of course, there will be things they only need one or a few repetitions (most likely because it is easy or they’ve done the job/repetitions before). Other times, they will aim to avoid doing the thing. At such instances, successful repetition is critical for them to gain confidence and success. Be sure to guide them, but not doing it for them (or mostly doing it for them).
  • Silences. This is probably one of the most frustrating actions for parents. The child hides behind them and doesn’t talk to her auntie or her friend. It is also one of the, in my practical parenting opinion, hardest to overcome. At this point, it is crucially important to dedicate yourself to help him or her out of the habit. I am not saying we all have to be extroverts. I respect introverts and thank goodness they are here (I am not one of them). For me, the goal is determining if the child is happy with that behaviour or unhappy for the lack of connection. If the child is unhappy, we can do loads of things—which you will find in most parenting topics—to help them out. Encourage new activities, play days, bring new people (cousins, neighbours, kids, or classmates) home. Think about how to help them socialise in safe groups and slowly increase the changes. It is likely going to take a long time. However, you will see how eventually they adopt those new behaviours.
  • Obsession with winning. For good or for bad, our society is obsessively geared towards a winning or losing mentality. Let’s be honest, what is the most frequently asked question after your child’s Sunday football? “Did you win?” followed closely by “Did you score?” I understand these are important. However, what if we were to ask: did you enjoy it? What do you think you did well? How do you feel you played? See how these questions take away the pressure of winning or losing. The situation is that a lot of children feel they need to be at the top (score, class or whatever) to please their parents. On many occasions, the parents are not consciously promoting this idea, but the children still feel they need to do it. I don’t suggest you ignore the outcome all together (at the end of the day, we want them to achieve good marks). Nevertheless, balance the focus on outcome vs the ability they used to achieve it (concentration, creativity, determination, etc.). I am planning to write a detailed successful parenting article on this point. Look forward to it.
  • Playground, friends or school interfering. This is a similar approach to “can you help me?” when relating to third parties. This is especially critical when they are having friendship issues or struggle with a particular teacher. I am aware it is a delicate topic and, as with everything above, please, use your common sense and do what you feel is right. I am aware many young children will avoid conflict, and it is not the same as a sporadic argument with a friend that is consistently bullying them. However, here is a simple technique I took from one of my daughter’s school. Think TAG. T: tell them you don’t like it. A: ask them to stop G: get an adult. By using those three steps, we are encouraging children to take the first two steps in resolving conflict. Consequently, we are giving them an exit strategy (safety net) if it doesn’t work by involving an adult. But more importantly, we are allowing them to build resilience and confidence through their own accomplishments.

These are the most frequent advice I share with parents and teachers looking for practical parenting skills. I have heard loads of positive feedback and I hope they also help you.

Helping our kids to grow up into confident, happy and resilient adults is an everyday job. Some days we’ll get it wrong. That’s fine. We just have to use our own resilience and say, how will I do it next time? Other times we’ll get it right and feel really proud of our achievement. Those days we tell everybody! Just kidding. 

Suggested reading

Controlling And Domineering Children — Helping Them Let Go Of The Fear Of Losing Control

Controlling And Domineering Children — Helping Them Let Go Of The Fear Of Losing Control

In this week’s article on successful parenting, I’m probably going to hit some nerves. I’m talking about controlling or dominating children and how to help them.  It is a frustrating topic particularly for life coach for kids experts like myself. However, I have to ask you to bear with me, we can get through this together.

We all have pet-hates, some people hate people eating with their mouth open. Others can’t stand leaving food on the plate or go mad when their house is untidy. I don’t have many of them (well, I don’t enjoy people eating with their mouth open but I am working on it), but I have pet-hate words.

The one that raises all my alarms is; control. This is especially crucial in a parent-child relationship. I can’t seem to stand it when in a parent coaching session I hear: “He needs to control his temper” “I can’t control my kid”.

I call it my personal c-word. It just makes me cringe. Let me explain why and how I go about dealing with controlling or dominating children. As always, I will provide examples and some tips for you to read. Also, feel free to read other related articles in the blog like “talking with teenagers” or “managing unruly behaviour”.

Challenging behaviour, controlling behaviour, dominating children, children displaying aggressive behaviour

Unfortunately, this is a lot more common than it appears. I can remember one time in parenting classes that a parent told me “it is not nice to be around him/her” or “he/she is a great kid but I feel he is using me” or “when he/she is like this, he/she can’t control himself/herself and I can’t control myself too”. Consequently, all these conversations tend to be very emotional and parents feel way out of their depth. Their love for their children is mixed with the very human experiences of having a child’s behaviour dominating them and the house.

Let me introduce a case study about a controlling child

A few years ago I was working as a life coach for kids with a 12-year old (we will name her Mary) that was showing early signs of self-harming. Also, her behaviour at home and school was becoming erratic and a lot of the time aggressive towards her parents and friends. We had a number of kids coaching sessions and, in all honesty, the result was, at best, volatile. However, she enjoyed coming to talk with me and I felt the relationship was improving. A big part of the work of coaching kids is to create space for things to eventually happen. I can’t express how frustrating that “eventually” might be and it is sometimes an act of faith to believe that we will get there.

Controlling and Domineering Children

One day, she suddenly changed the topic and said:

Mary: “I was four when I knew I had it.”

Me: “What happened when you were four?”

Mary: We were getting ready to go to the nursery, we were running late and my mum was a bit tense. I am not sure what happened but I believe I threw something or broke something. My mum started shouting and I was so afraid I started crying. After a few seconds, my mum came to me and apologized, hugged me and was soft.

me: and…

Mary: And I knew I had it.

Me: What did you have?

Mary: Control. I could control my parents.

I frequently use this example during kids coaching and parent coaching sessions to illustrate how our mind makes decisions and then repeats them. The only trouble is that many of those set-in-stone decisions are made when we are way too young and can’t really judge them, like in the case above.

Important note: The girl in the example was not consciously seeking control. It was purely subconscious. It was only through coaching kids’ conversations that the feelings and ideas became conscious to her. I believe this to be the case for the vast majority of children I have supported (and that’s many hundreds of them)

As impactful as that part of the conversation was, the follow up was a lot more revealing and powerful.

Over the next years, Mary made ‘controlling’ a way of being. Her parents noticed that she was determined and stubborn, but it was all manageable even charming at times. There were two of them and one of her. She was small and most of her demands could easily be met. Even in school, she could be demanding but charming and it was more or less easy to resolve. This is one of the points I find really tough to explain during parent coaching sessions.

However, things changed for the worst when she moved into secondary school. She then realized she didn’t have much control at all. Her teachers and friend would have a defence influence on her (as for any other kid of this age). The work from school got a lot more demanding, failing was a lot more noticeable.

The social clique could set you in the “popular group” or the “boring group” without much to do with her. The more she realized she didn’t have control anymore, the more she craved control. Thus, she started pulling out of school a few days here or there. At home, her behaviour was becoming a tyranny. Her parents would bend backward to please her but at one point or another, she would lash out and they would reciprocate. Doing homework or getting her out of her phone would be a full-blown out battle with only one loser.

As a life coach for kids, the reason why I am bringing this difficult example is that it is all rooted in that word Control. This is the need for something that, according to me, doesn’t really exist. However, like in every article I write, I aim to provide the two sides of the coin—what is it that is happening inside the kid’s mind and what can parents do in this situation.

But, let’s start by giving you a few bullet point ideas on what to expect when  overcoming controlling children:

  • Your kid is not enjoying it either
  • He/she is the kid/teenager. You are the adult. You have different responsibilities in resolving this situation (as well as vested interest)
  • Yes, I am afraid it’s going to take time and consistency. No magic wand here either.
  • Yes, it can be done. It’s been done before and it will be done in the future. Believe you will do it.
Contraolling and Domineering kids

From my experience as a life coach for kids, I would suggest you write those four kids coaching points on a piece of paper and keep it with you. Put it in your wallet and read it regularly. They are all hugely important. However, I  am sure you will rip up the paper, swear at me or cry in desperation in no distant time. But by persisting, I am sure one day you will look back and say: hmmm, maybe Javier was right.

So, what’s going on with your child? Why are they demanding control? Why are they using aggressive behaviour, being a controlling or dominating child or just  can’t manage to take no for an answer without starting a personal WWIII

There are many reasons a child can become dominating or controlling.

Through hundreds of parent coaching and kids coaching sessions, I have found that the reasons come in many ways and shapes. However, in the end, there is a tremendous lack of self-confidence. This creates a fear of being rejected,  or less than somebody else (siblings, friends), less than what they think you expect from them. These fears are created early in their formative years for multiple reasons. In the vast majority of the clients I see, they were created in very innocent, well-intentioned situations that got totally messed up (the child was tired, or a combination of conversations happened on the same day) or simply by small repetitions of negative thoughts.

What is most important is the feeling that the situation created. Behind challenging behaviour, comes the need to control the situation. However, behind this need, we can find a lack of confidence and behind this lack of confidence is the need to feel physically, emotionally or sociably safe. Let me give you an example. Place yourself in a 4, 5 or 6 years old kid mentality. He or she has had a couple of situations in school/home, maybe they were over impulsive, or they opted not to listen and got into trouble. Or somebody blamed them for something they hadn’t done. These are everyday situations I encounter as a parent and in my work as a life coach for kids, and, in the majority of cases, we just brush them away. But in some cases, we don’t and a repetitive thought process starts. Something like this:

“I feel I am different, maybe not good enough. I am doing my best but I can’t avoid thinking I will blow it up and everybody will see me for what I am: a failure. This feeling is burning inside me. What if my parents find out? They might prefer my siblings to me. It is so painful I need to control it. I want my parents to think about the world of me, I can’t do the wrong things, but I feel I will do them and if I do…. No, I need to control what’s going on.”

I guess you can see how the little kids can struggle with this situation. Heck, anybody would struggle! As the need for control becomes more pressing, the realization that they don’t have it becomes more clear. As this happens, they will aim to force it and enforce it. Anything that feels like out of control will trigger their response/defense system.

Controlling or dominating children are trying to create a safe haven.

And here, the situation complicates a bit. As they demonstrate negative behaviour, they also observe that sometimes (many times or even almost always), there is a benefit. The parents or friends might eventually give up and concede in their request. Or as described to me by an 11 years old girl during kids coaching session: “after the argument, mum comes and we have a chat. It feels good, she is only with me.”

After repeating this pattern, the combination of the need for control, lack of confidence, and benefit obtained becomes so tangled that the young person can’t differentiate the beginning from the end, the reason from the consequence and it is all a vicious circle. To make things worse, every time they do it, they know they shouldn’t have done it and feel even worse about themselves.

So, here you have it. As I explain in parenting classes, your kid is not enjoying the bad behaviour either. Not a little bit…. well, maybe he or she enjoyed that after-argument connection. However, they would love to have that connection without a negative feeling.

I can imagine many of you now thinking “what did I do?” “How could I get it so wrong?”. Well, let me stop you there. Obviously, I don’t have a magic ball, but if you are taking the trouble of reading this article, it probably means that you have their best interest at heart, your intentions have been good. Therefore, there is no need to get into the Guilty train. That journey takes you nowhere, helps nobody. So, stop it. It’s not worth it.

So, how do we go about helping children who are controlling or dominating?

In a word: carefully.

As a professional life coach for kids, the first thing I’ll suggest is that you have to put yourself together. Don’t take it personally and don’t blame yourself or others. It is a situation and, most likely, had many reasons. Don’t waste your time on finding the reasons—at least not just yet. Instead, use your energy to keep calm and focus. Subsequently, believe that your kid can overcome those fears (those I mentioned or others) and will become a fantastic kid.

Secondly, aim to connect with the feelings your child is experiencing. This is an important topic in all my parenting classes. I mean, the deeper feelings, not the anger or frustration. Also, aim to connect (not understand) the emotions that are triggering those feelings. One important thing to mention here is that you will never be sure if the feeling you think is the right one. It doesn’t matter, any good connection at that level will be good.

Thirdly, stay with him/her. This doesn’t mean hugging them or constraining them or on being top of them. It means to be physically and emotionally with them. So, it is not the best time to pick up your phone, do dinner or—please never do this—video their actions. Just stay there with and for them.

The main goal is to help them feel safe and reassured.
Controlling kids

Fourthly, eliminate control from your vocabulary. During parents coaching sessions, I advise them to change it to words that are more empowering and flexible. I tend to use “manage” or “deal with”. The reality is that we don’t have control over almost anything in this life. What we can do is to manage a given situation the best way we can. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it will not work. That’s OK.

I find that many parents make a battleground out of “control” ie. “I can’t let my kid control our lives” or “I should be able to control my child.” Well, if you see this as a battle, you have already lost it. The more you aim to gain control, the more the kid will feel they are losing it, so they will only up their game to regain it. The difference is that you have certain lines you will not cross. Your child doesn’t have any red lines, they will say and do whatever is necessary and that’s when you will lose. So, change the game, forget about controlling them (do you like being controlled?) and start working on how to help them. Eventually, you will be able to manage the situation.

Fifth (is there a fifthly word? Sounds strange to me): Accept and help them accept that things don’t always go according to plan. The key question is: “and now what?” “What is that I can do?” “How do I go forward?” This is a question you can ask your children. Even as young as five or six, they will have some ideas. Perhaps, you may want to suggest others, but remember it is a joint job.

Finally, and this is the big one for me, I want you to start thinking, and help your child thinking on these lines: what is that you want to control vs what is that you can influence.

Practical parenting exercise in supporting a domineering child.

Take a pen and a piece of paper and draw two boxes. On one side you will write what are the things you want to achieve (most likely, those we want to “control”). On the other side, you will write what are the things you can do to influence the outcome on the first box. I know, it sounds a bit strange and confusing, but bear with me.

For instance: The topic is to help my child resolve his temper.

What do I want to achieve? I want to have quiet evenings, happy family time, be able to provide comments to their drawings or homework without having an almighty argument, siblings getting a lot together. Ultimately, I want my child to be happy.

Do you notice anything about that list?

As nice as it sounds, the reality is that we have no control over any of those things. Even as a professional life coach for kids, I still can’t force my way into their heads. It is not within my power to grant those things as it involves other people or family members. Unfortunately, as much as I want all those things, they are not within my power.

Therefore, the more you pay attention to that box (what I want to achieve), the more frustrated you will become. I believe we get frustrated because we can’t get it and we know it. Furthermore, every second, minute, hour or day I spend thinking on that box is double wasted. Wasted once because it is not my “gift to give”, it doesn’t depend on me exclusively. Wasted twice, because I am not using my energy in the right way. Again, this is another point I often find hart to explain in parenting classes. A lot of questions will always come up.

Now, think about the second box. What is that I can do—sort of kids coaching technique—that hopefully,/maybe/fingers-crossed, could influence help my child resolve his temper?

Here I would write things like: I will keep calm, I will ensure he is aware of any change of routine, I will ask how he is feeling, I will allow him to express himself, I will keep an eye on the sibling relationship as maybe he is getting the short straw….., etc.

Did you notice something? Every single thing starts with the pronoun “I” and most of those things are within our reach. We can do something about them. Those are good indications that we are getting it right.

Ok, it is already the longest article I have written so far. As you can imagine I could go on and on. However, I want to leave it here. I hope these ideas help you understand and connect with your child and create strategies to help them. Remember, they are not enjoying it either.

As always, If you like the article, please share and/or subscribe to HelpingKids channel on YouTube and Facebook page, It helps us a lot to spread the word and support other parents.


Suggested Reading

Choosing your battles with a controlling child

How To Teach Children Responsibility Through The Medium Of Tidying Up

How To Teach Children Responsibility Through The Medium Of Tidying Up

Hello again in this week’s article about good parenting skills we are going to tackle the unthinkable: Teaching children responsibility through tidying up.

After 10 years working as a life coach for kids and parent coaching expert, and 14 years since my first daughter was born, I have noticed something obvious. There are a handful of crunch points in our daily routine with our children that trigger us. Simple things that we do every day and yet, we manage to get them wrong pretty much every time. Ok, maybe not every time. However, getting it right is the exception rather than the norm.

I am talking about morning school run, eating habits, homework, bedtime and the topic for this article: tidying up.

I am aware the standards change from home to home. However, in my peculiar case, it happens that my wife is tremendously tidy. She is a Tetris master of the universe in placing things in the kitchen cupboard. Her drawers seem to be organized with a ruler, and her jumper folding skills could pass an SAS Sargent inspection with flying colours.

helping kids tidy up

I am not so organized, but I do like a clean room, bath towels hanging up rather than on the floor, and shoes, if not in the shoe cupboard, at least paired up nicely rather than all in pile at the entrance of the house (I just hope my mum is not reading this because she will be laughing out loud as this has been a late development for me).

While the children are young, understandably, we do most the tidying up for them. However, as they start becoming more independent and have a lot more stuff, things start getting out of control. This is exacerbated if you have several kids. In my case, I have two daughters, and I have all the respect for those that have more. Even with two daughters and the advantage of being a life coach for kids, I sometimes think I need to attend parenting classes too. Hats off to you guys, you deserve a statue in Trafalgar Square.

Teaching children responsibility prevents arguments and strengthens family bonds.  

For the last 14 years, I have been acutely aware of the home routines around tidying up. You may also find this article on tidying up interesting. I also grow very discontent with the arguments that this can trigger (“how many times I told you …..”), the last-minute rush (“have you seen my trainers, I left them here, and I can’t find them” “where is my maths book. I left it on my desk”) or those calls from school in the middle of the morning, most likely when you are in a meeting or about to get on the bus/underground/car, saying how they forgot their sports kit or homework and if I can bring them to school. I won’t stop emphasizing that coaching kids is a tough job. Also, being a life coach for kids expert doesn’t make it easier for me.

teaching kids responcibility

As you can tell, the whole point of this article is much broader than tidying up. It is about teaching children responsibility, to own their actions and be conscious that failing to do them has some consequences. Let’s assume we are having parenting classes. I will be using tidying up to illustrate all those points.

In my many conversations with parents during parent coaching sessions we often talk about their routines. When casually talking about their home routine, I notice a pattern. The parents take on all those responsibilities from early on and through the years, take on more and more stuff, while the children take on less and less. Most parents think “the little ones already have homework and school to deal with” or “it is faster if I do it” or “they don’t know how to do it”. There are a million more reasons I get in parenting classes which all end in parents doing everything. Consequently, the little ones binge on their favourite tv program comfortably laying on the sofa and asking us not to make too much noise because they can’t hear.

However, as the kids get into more stuff (football on Tuesdays, chess or Wednesday, play day on Thursday, karate on Fridays and swimming on Saturdays) this becomes unbearable for the parents. If you multiply these tasks by the number of kids you have, I can tell you it is going to burn you very quickly. You will explode. It is not a question or “if” but “when”.

Start teaching children responsibility early.

The main problem with coaching kids is that we often begin late. By the time we want to change it, it is now way out of control, or mum/dad can’t do it anymore, it is almost too late. We have taken on responsibilities for so long that the concept of owning those back is totally alien to the children.

During these series of articles, I will be writing about responsibilities, how to help them become independent, good home routines, etc. There are loads of great information out there. I particularly like searching online for “age relevant tasks for children”. I admit some of them seem a bit ambitious, but overall there is a lot of great advice which I always share on this blog or during parent coaching sessions.

teaching kids responcibility

You can also read the “good homework routine” “or the school run” article to get further ideas from my site.

Since the title of this article is about teaching children responsibility through tidying up. Let’s get into it

Firstly, as a life coach for kids, I want to mention that what you are about to read is not my invention. In fact, I struggled with the issue of tidying up for years. However, with time, there was learning in every place and in every person.

In a casual parent coaching conversation with my friend Beatriz Marquez, the topic came up. I almost dropped my coffee when she said, “I sorted it out ages ago, but not only that, my 21 years step-son just moved with us, and he has got it sorted in three weeks. His room is immaculate”.

The kids coaching strategy she developed was so simple and powerful that I almost felt silly to not have thought of it.

Before you continue reading, here is the disclaimer: this technique of coaching kids is not for those light-hearted parents. This technique is simple, yet requires you to take necessary action and stick to it. You won’t get the guts for this technique from parenting classes. The approach is a one-hit home run. Do it well the first time and reap the benefits for life. Do it halfway, and you’ll blow it. It will not work, and you will struggle to implement it later.

I have to admit that we toyed with the idea for a few weeks. We saw the value and potential of it but were not brave enough to do it. Yet, when we did it, it transformed the routine.

Ok, enough rambling.

Here goes the strategy: “whatever is on the floor is rubbish.”

This is your mantra, your truth, your Ten Commandments all in one.

And here is the in-depth explanation.

When is it appropriate to start coaching kids do this? I think at a very young age. Your child as young as three can help out in tidying up. Therefore, our role as parents is to help them learn (honey, can you put your toy in the box?”). This will also give them a sense of realization and will feel connected to you as you are doing something together and, most likely, he/she will get nice praise from you. In this case, I suggest establishing the rule around the 8 or 9 years mark but, as my friend Beatriz did, you can start at any age.

What do you need to do to teach children responsibility?

First, have a grown-up conversation with them. As a professional life coach for kids, I don’t fail to mention to parents in parenting classes that communication is everything. Choose a time in which everyone is calm for the conversation to happen. Ensure all the kids are there. Simply tell them briefly (please don’t talk too much, they will switch off) that keeping their things and rooms tidy is their responsibility. The overall cleanliness of the house is your responsibility. Here is my speech:

“As you know, we tend to get into silly arguments because things are on the floor or your room is a mess or your cupboards are impossible to open. You are old enough now to look after your own things. Also, I am confused and tired. I don’t have time to tidy up everybody’s stuff. So, from now on, there is a simple rule that applies to everybody: if I see one thing on the floor, I will assume it is rubbish, and I will throw it away. This applies especially to your room, but also to the things around the house”

They will probably be amused and confused about this approach. You might want to do a walk around the house and point at all the things that are out of place and can go to the rubbish bin.

This part is setting up the agreement. It is not a discussion, it is not flexible, it’s what it is and what it will be from now on. Take time to explain it, but ensure there is no concession. Open their cupboards and, if things are piled up, explain that you will put them on the floor and if they are not hung or folded when you return, you’ll assume it is rubbish. Therefore, it can be thrown away.

A critical part of this kids coaching approach is to ensure you separate responsibilities. It is their responsibility to tidy up. Not yours. If they leave something on the floor, they are making a choice, therefore, own the responsibility of that choice. You’ll understand in a couple of paragraphs why this is so important.

What can you expect from them? In all honesty, very little. They will be amused, but most likely they won’t believe you.

Now that the rule has been established, we go into action. In our case, we reminded them a few days of the rule with some but very little success. Eventually, we said: from tomorrow morning the rule start. If you are struggling with taking decisions, I do parent coaching too. So, yeah, you are welcome to join my parenting classes.

The next day, we did the morning routine as usual. We didn’t make any comment about the tidying up, and they didn’t mention it.

When we were home alone, we went to their room and took everything that was on the floor. All went to a black bag which we left by the door.

According to my friend Beatriz, not throwing it away was a mistake. I agree with her, but I guess she is more strong-willed than me. However, we did manage to correct it.

When the girls came from school, they ignored the bag (to be fair, they didn’t know what was in there). Only when they went to bed and missed their toy, did the conversation start:

Daughter N2: “Mum/dad, I can’t find Robin. Have you seen it?”

Daughter N1: “I can’t find Thomas either. I am sure I left it here this morning.”

Me (with my heart pumping): hmmmm don’t know. Was it on the floor?

Daughters gave me a mixed look of confusion, panic, and begging. “No, I don’t think it was on the floor.”

Me: well, if it wasn’t on the floor, it will be there. If it was on the floor, I assume it is rubbish.

Daughters: No!!! You haven’t thrown it away!! (Now the confusion and begging part left their looks, and I could tell it was more panic).

Important note: the next line is probably the most critical part of it all. I copied literally from my friend, and I can swear by it.

Me (calm and casual): no, I didn’t throw it away. You did throw it away as you chose to leave it on the floor. It is your responsibility, not mine. You know the rule, you made your choice.

At this point, I pointed I hadn’t had time to go to the dump, but that tomorrow I would take the black bag there to throw away.

Well, I have never seen them go downstairs so fast and agile. They suddenly became Olympic athletes jumping steps down.

They opened the bag, saw their “precious” possessions that had been ignored the whole afternoon and evening, and pulled most of them out, took them to their room and left them in a nice tidy way. Took their stuffed toys and, calming themselves down, went to bed.

We had a bit of a chat, and I reminded them about the rule.

The next day, during the morning routine, I did remind them of the rule, and the room was perfect. This continued, in a good pattern for a few days. However, as my friend Beatriz predicted, the standard slowly decreased.

One day, we repeated the exercise. I have to be honest and mention that I moved the stuffed toy to the top of their desk. Everything else was in a black bin bag, and I dumped it in the rubbish bin.

A small explanation: in Spain, the rubbish is thrown into skippers that are collected every day. Where we live in London, we have Wheelie bins that are collected every week.

A few days later, on Saturday, my daughter N2 was looking for her favourite jacket. She only needed a second after asking her mum (“mum, have you seen my leather jacket”) to go into a panic. However, the clever rat ran to the wheelie bin and found it. In any case, the effect was almost as good as expected.

Since then, their room tidiness has improved massively. I am not going to lie, it is not to the standards of my wife, but hers is a tough standard to have. However, they are more responsible and organized.

During this kids coaching technique, I am sure we will have a few runs to the bins every now and then and, eventually, they will lose something precious. Remember, it is their responsibility, not yours as a parent.

My youngest daughter has just read the article and made a valid point. They were seriously annoyed at us. Of course, they would be, but it passed, and they learned. As they take responsibility for their actions, so do we.

And that’s it. Simple, isn’t it?

As a life coach for kids, I will advise, if you have kids of very different ages, you will need to adapt it slightly making small concessions for the very young. However, if the kids are all over 6, I suggest the approach applies to everybody.

As I mentioned above, the core of this article is a lot bigger than tidying up. It is about coaching kids to learn responsibility, being independent and being considerate of their own things and the request of their parents. Failing that? You may want to look at our article on unruly teens

I hope you enjoyed it.
Helping Younger Children With Anxiety

Helping Younger Children With Anxiety

While I often write tips for successful parenting, this week’s article is focused on how to help kids with anxiety, and, in extension, help parents from developing parental anxiety too. Through life coaching children I have discovered this is a crucial but neglected topic. While a lot of what you are about to read refers to children of all ages, I have concentrated the content more toward younger children that are aged around 10-12 and younger. However, if your child is older, please continue reading as you will get some helpful ideas too. We also have more articles on helping children with anxiety articles here.

When I meet a young new client for the first time, they don’t know me and most of them don’t even want to talk to somebody. That first meeting with an older stranger often sets off what I call a panic attack in teens. It is critical to set up a friendly environment and to explain things in a way that they understand. I’ll be talking about how I help children with ABC: Anxieties, Behaviour, and Confidence.

When I talk about anxieties, most young people don’t know what it means. Many have heard the word, but they can’t explain it. That’s why when I am life coaching children I mention that “anxieties is a grown-up word. Young people call them worries”. One thing I have noticed is that parents who don’t know how to help kids with anxiety often develop parental anxiety aswell.

Children don't talk about anxiety, they talk about worries.
Children don’t talk about anxiety, they talk about worries.

This might sound simple. However, the underlying message that I am sending is very powerful:  I talk your language.

There is another embedded message in this simple sentence. When we use impressive words to define emotions, that feeling becomes hugely important, and we create/attract a lot of attention towards that.

And, without even trying I just gave you an essential part of what I want to share in this article: don’t make things bigger than they are. By all means, respect the feeling your child is experiencing. Panic attack in teens is not a joke. However, the more manageable you keep it, the easier it is to resolve.

Hopefully, by now, you have read some of my other articles on life coaching children, and you know that I have a tendency to ramble a bit, but always within the topic. When it happens here, don’t think it is because I am having parental anxiety. Just kidding.

In the remaining part of this article, I want to share with you a few important ideas about how children and parents experience anxieties; things we have done as parents or things we haven’t done. I will also provide a few ideas on how to help kids with anxiety. As always, they are based on 10 years of being a life coach for children and teenagers, thousands of conversations with the young people and their parents.

Ah, before anybody thinks this article is about blaming or shaming parents, I want to tell you that nobody gets it right all the time. I am a dad of two and a professional in this field. However, I am constantly assessing my situation. I am also confident that I have made some of these mistakes as well.

The point of this article is to learn from the past for the present and future, a huge part of successful parenting is finding what works for your family.

Anyways, back to my ideas on how to help kids with anxiety   

Idea 1: it’s a phase. It will go away

In my first conversation with parents during any life coaching children session, I always ask “how long has your child been experiencing these anxieties”. The answer is mostly something like this: “mostly over the last few weeks or a couple of months”. So far, so good. However, when I enquired a bit further about the child’s early years, the information becomes more critical: “ well, he/she has always been very delicate, a bit shy and somehow demanding.” Or “for the last two years, he/she has been struggling in school, we thought it was some friendship issues (or not getting along with the teacher or not being confident in his/her academic performance) but in the last few months he/she has been all over the place.”

I am the first person who advises parents not to overreact or develop parental anxiety. Thus, we must be very careful about how we react in the presence of kids. Please continue reading for an in-depth clarification of this idea.

Idea 2: Why is my son/daughter experiencing anxiety? How did we get here?

Practical parenting can be daunting but also simple with the right tools

Panic attack in teens or children worries is like a bucket of water. They will be able to manage so much until the bucket is full. Once this happens, any minor issue will spill it over. Most parents will only react after several weeks or months of spilling over.

I guess you will be asking yourself, how do I know when to intervene? My answer is always the same: look at the patterns. One of the secrets to successful parenting is being very observant. In my experience, anxieties have two possible routes:

1- Sudden then hidden: An event has happened that shocked the child (bullying, fear, shock or, in the worst cases, a traumatic experience). The child will immediately react to it. There will be tears and feel the need for comfort. After a few days, typically parents start getting a bit tired of the issue and think the child is attention-seeking. The child will regularise the situation and hide their feelings. However, they don’t go away.

It is important to mention that while certain experiences might create a disproportionate response, it doesn’t mean the experience was especially traumatic. It might be that the child was in a delicate state on that day, or a combination of factors made it more difficult to deal with. The frequency of a panic attack in teens will depend on their mental state at a particular point in time. In fact, in my experience, around 10-20% of issues I see come from what we could understand as a traumatic experience. The vast majority come from perfectly normal situations that the kid, on that day, could not manage properly.

2- Hidden then sudden: Following the analogy of the bucket, in this route, the child is exposed to a low-level repetition of situations. The feelings (fears) start forming early on but the child chooses not to tell or pretend to ignore them. Over time, the repetition alongside with not sharing those worries creates a snowball effect. The worries in our head only get bigger and bigger. At one point the child is expecting things to happen and when something comes up, they validate their own inadequacy to deal with it (“I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I can’t make friends” or “I knew she would not want me to play with them”)

Idea 3: The guilty trip takes us nowhere

Self-blame only leads to inaction.

Many parents that I have supported have expressed shame or self-blame about what their child is going through. As a coach and a parent, I understand and sympathize with them. However, I am very strict about my views. This approach doesn’t help your child and doesn’t help you. You need to remember the affirmation “Self-blame will only debilitate me. Therefore, I will be in the worst situation to help my child. Maybe I said or did something wrong. Perhaps it had nothing to do with me. It doesn’t matter. It is not a question of blaming but an attitude of belief and resolution .”

I am not saying we should ignore our own behaviour. Of course, there is always room for improvement—and self-awareness is the best route to learning how to be a good parent as well as how to help kids with anxiety. What I am saying is that the most important step now is to help your child. Blaming anybody or anything is not a successful parenting strategy.

Idea 4: Is it normal? Should I intervene? Should I ask?

These are probably the questions we all ask ourselves, mostly in the past tense (was it normal? Should I have intervened earlier? Should I have asked somebody?). It is always a delicate balance, and unfortunately, through my years of life coaching children, I haven’t found any checklist or scorecard to follow. We are left with our best tool: our instinct.

Here are a few tips for you to assess your child situation and your next steps in helping your child with anxiety:

Tip 1: inform yourself. If you are reading this article, it means you have an interest, and I can assure you that this is the most crucial part of it. Maybe this article doesn’t clarify everything, but by reading and paying attention, you will be better equipped. There are loads of information, the trick is to ensure you take whatever action works for you. The more you know, the less likely you will be hit by parental anxiety too.

Tip 2: Look for patterns. Children and adults are creatures of habits/patterns. Observe your child’s behaviour over a period and notice if their behaviour is changing over time in a clear direction. Every child will have good and bad days or good and bad periods. That is perfectly normal. However, if the worries or behaviour change is becoming habitual (i.e. sleep is difficult, rejects new initiatives they used to enjoy, starts complaining about going to school or not having fun there, etc.) then it is time to have a conversation. Pull out all the knowledge you have acquired on how to help kids with anxiety and put it to action.

Tip 3: If in doubt, have a conversation. Let’s face it, we all have very busy lives, we are doing school runs, taking them to sports, or play days, working or managing the house. Our days are packed. In this overload of actions, we say to ourselves “I will talk to her later on today or tomorrow”. If you have any doubt or cause of concern, have the conversation as soon as possible. The longer panic attack in teens lasts, the more it becomes difficult to deal with. Set up a quiet time and mention the things you have noticed. As I said earlier in the article, keep it simple and honest. Use words and behaviour that will allow them to express themselves freely.

Let them answer the question and whatever they say, allow it. It is not about being true/false, but about allowing.

Tip 4: keep having the conversation. Most children have a vested interest in not sharing those fears. Let’s be honest if they felt they could, they would have done it already. The reason is that they might be scared of the consequences. Maybe they think it’s their fault, or they are afraid of what we parents will think of them. Ensure you put time aside and bring back the chat. Leave it open, don’t force them to answer, just create the space for them to answer when they are ready.

Tip 5:Get advice from others. Every teacher I have met had the best intentions for their students. Ask for some time with their teacher. Talk to people who observe them in different environments (I found the playground ladies an important source of unbiased information). Also, ask the parents of friends. Don’t seek for a problem, aim for the behaviours that might indicate something else. Ask about what they do—if they relate well to other kids, how they take on challenges, conflict or new situations. Most children will present different behaviour at home than elsewhere. Both will be part of their life and “true”. However, knowing both can provide validation or information for those conversations. Successful parenting has a lot to do with how much you know or are willing to know.

And I think I will leave it here. I can continue writing, but I think this article is already dense enough. I hope it provides a few good ideas.

And this is from me to you for today. I hope you like our article on helping young children with anxiety. As you know, there are other articles on the site and more to come to help you do it, browse around and see what you will find. Feel free to contact me if you want me to address any specific topic PERSONALLY.


Suggested reading

Empowering Teenagers Suffering Through Bullying — What Should You Do When Your Child Is Being Bullied?

Empowering Teenagers Suffering Through Bullying — What Should You Do When Your Child Is Being Bullied?

Young people are delicate. However, there are topics in my line of work as a life coach for kids that are more sensitive than others. Bullying is one of them. With study motivation or anxieties, most of the transformation is internal—in our head. However,  when we are working in cases of bullying, many young people and parents feel like it doesn’t matter what they decide in their head, those people will still be at the school gates saying things, or online spreading rumours. That is why I recommend empowering teenagers through parent coaching.

For this reason, I want to encourage you to read this article. Take it seriously like you would with parenting classes. However, also look online for practical help in your area. As always, I’ve put links to some beneficial resources such as Kidscape and Bullying UK at the bottom. It is not an easy topic and parents will need to prepare themselves as much as possible. This is why I had to provide more information below along with links to websites that I like and respect. When it comes to empowering teenagers through the difficulties of bullying, no amount of information is too much.

There are two main areas in which parents can be involved in empowering teenagers to deal with bullying

The first area I will suggest from my kids coaching experience is to ensure your children feel free to speak up. Unfortunately, many teenagers will do a fantastic job of hiding their situations and emotions. Sadly, a lot of parents will only realize when it’s too late. I will share some ideas later on.

The second area is to decide when to intervene and the appropriate intervention. Many times the person blocking your help might be your child as they don’t want to either attract more attention or send the message that he/she needs “mummy or daddy” to resolve the problems because he or she is not strong enough.

What are the signs that my child is being bullied?

Let’s start with what we need to look out for. Probably, no one has mentioned this in your parenting classes before. Again, what I am trying to do here is to provide enough information while keeping a deep topic simple.

Are they pulling away from things they used to like?
First thing:

Change of behaviour. Behavioural changes tend to happen over time. However, it is unlikely that you will notice any drastic changes. Remember, your son or daughter will become a great actor. It is only by comparing their behaviour over a few months that you will notice the difference. I always advise parents or guardians coaching kids to be very observant. Keep an eye for the sleep patterns; if they are uneasy when going to bed, experience shorter hours of sleep, maybe nightmares or uncomfortable sleep.

Check their enthusiasm about going to school; are they looking forward to seeing their friends or just going automatically with no sense of fun? What activities are they doing? Are they pulling away from things they used to like? Sometimes they will express their suppressed anger towards you or other family members. However, at other times they will let it eat them up. Consequently, they become more closed off, less talkative, less engagement in all their social life.

In parenting classes, I tell parents, “Once your child starts showing less enthusiasm to new ideas, there is a big problem”

The most important thing, I think, as a life coach for kids, is to look for patterns. Some of those changes might be perfectly normal (they don’t want to go to their dance club anymore because their friends are not going or it’s not fun). It is not about one big thing, but many small things.


What is happening in their friendships? Unfortunately, when a person is being bullied, some of the so-call friends will become distant as if they don’t want to be seen with them. Perhaps, they are afraid the bully will turn on them too. I hear this excuse a lot during kids coaching sessions. While this is annoying, it is essential to see it as a natural response for those kids to be safe. In our case, what we want to see is what’s going on and why those friends are not with him/her anymore. Also, what other friends they have. Who do they talk about? Who do they socialize with?

Unfortunately, Sometimes Good Parenting Means Making Difficult Choices

Helping kids, empowering teenagers.
Helping kids, empowering teenagers.

Now, I am aware what I am about to say will probably grant you the title of ‘most hated dad or mum of the year’. However, if you have a cause for concern, go and talk with their friends. Contact their parents and ask them for permission to talk with them. When talking with your child’s friend, mention you have noticed somethings and give some examples. Reassure them that you will keep it confidential and that they are helping, rather than telling tales.

From my experience of coaching kids, it is important to let you know what to expect. I doubt you will get a clear yes or no. However, you will get further insightful information about social dynamics around your child. Also, you are creating a line of communication. Ensure their parents know the situation as maybe your child’s friends would feel better talking to their own parents rather than to you about your son or daughter. Thus, the parents can always revert the message back to you.

During parent coaching classes, I tell them not to neglect the relationship existing among siblings.

Friends are just as important as siblings

They might be disclosing information to their sisters or brothers, and they feel they must keep secret from you. Therefore, ensure you talk with them without making them panic. Ask them about what might be happening. While they might not know anything, maybe through friends, they might catch some important information.

Obviously, the most important part is to ensure you and your teenager are having a conversation. You can’t imagine how many parents tell me in parenting classes, “I thought it was just a phase and let it pass” or “I wasn’t sure what to do and hope it would go away”. I have some videos and articles about how to communicate with our children, please watch or read them.

Understanding the Elephant in the room is the key to empowering your teenager.

The key point I am making here is the elephant in the room. Bring up the topic without panic, worry or pressure. You will likely need several conversations before your son or daughter decides to freely express themselves. The most important thing you can tell them is: “I’ve got your back. I am here for you. Whatever happens, we can work something out. I am here to help you.”

Ok, so now, you have an understanding. Something is going on, your teenager will probably ask you to stay away, and you might feel very tempted to do so (I have to believe in my child, I promised him I would not intervene, or I am not sure what to do). As a professional life coach for kids, I tell you this is a bad idea.

What things you can do now to empower your teenager to cope with bullying

Helping kids deal with bullying through empowering teenagers
Helping kids deal with bullying through empowering teenagers
1- Avoid normalisation of the issue

By not talking about it or taking action, we are allowing it to become normal. Therefore, talk to your kid on different terms. Use analogies and third person to make it less personal, such as; “If you knew who robbed  a bank and hurt people in the process wouldn’t you have the responsibility to tell the police?”  “What if somebody stole your car, wouldn’t you want to know who did it and get your car back?”  “If it was your friend who was going through it, and you could do something about it, would you just stop and look?” Or “if you see somebody robbing an old lady, maybe you would not face the thug, but you would most likely help the old lady and call an ambulance if needed.”

As with the points above, you might likely need many chats, and maybe you will need help from other relevant people to help the message go through. Coaching kids can be a tough job but persistence always wins.

2- Be honest in what is likely to happen

Your son or daughters’ worst nightmare is that everybody will find out (even if everybody probably already knows), that they will bring even more attention to themselves, that things will get even worse if they talk. These are all valid points and, most importantly, they are very emotional points. This means that our well thought through ideas will not make a difference as emotions will always be stronger than thoughts.

Another issue is that your child sees no solution for what’s happening. Let’s be honest, if they thought there was an answer, they probably would have done something. This creates further paralysis in them.

Share in your child’s emotion and they will easily open up to you

The process of empowering teenagers can take a double approach; honestly using rational thought and helping them see the options they have.

When coaching kids, I help them to deal with the myth that everybody will find out. Well, unless you are living on another planet, I would suggest most people already know this is happening. Even more, I’d be surprised if the bully isn’t telling as many people as they can already. As a life coach for kids, I help them to look the other way.

Therefore, there is no need trying to handle the fear of bringing more attention to yourself—you can hardly bring more. The bully is already focussed on you, and unless something changes, this person is only going to increase their actions. Don’t fool yourself, things only tend to get worse unless we do something about it.

Things will get worse. Yes, this might happen if we are not clever on how to do it or if we do it alone. However, if we bring the school and authorities along with ourselves, we will resolve it together.

It is critical that you not overpromise or lie. It is likely to be a difficult process. However, it is one that needs to happen for things to improve. It is also a process in which your teenager is not alone. There are lots of people who can help and who are willing to help.

3- Have a plan, including a safe area

At this point, you would have reported the situation to school. The Inspection and Education Act, 2006 means that every school will have an anti-bullying policy or behaviour policy that will set out its code of practice to dealing with bullying, find out what it is and work with the school to put a safety plan including a daily routine that needs to change. Another thing parenting classes do is to make parents aware of the rights that affect their children.

Here is when the adults might need to step up. We might have to drive them to school or pick them up if the issue is there. Also, we might need to demand a safeguarding teacher to check on him or her, involve playground supervisors. We might need to ask his or her friends to help him/her or spend more time with him/her. The more people involved, the safer they will feel, and the more open to express themselves they will become. During parent coaching sessions I always advise they never try to go about the problem alone.

The two key ideas here are:
1) we have a plan to make this work
2) you are not alone, and we all have our back.

4 – Finally, give them some tools to empower themselves

There is plenty of information about bullying and empowering teenagers online. However, the usual ones are: avoid engaging with them, walk away, manage your body language and always, always report any incidence.

I have worked with many parents through parent coaching routines, and when we talked about the situation, they broke down in tears. They felt they had let their kid down and had a great sense of guilt. I can totally understand it. For this reason, this process is as healing for teenagers as it is for the parents. By taking action, having a plan, we are taking ownership and responsibility. We might have to adapt the plan, have several conversations with parents, or the school. It’s OK. What is most important is the unshakable belief that we will go through this and succeed.

And this is it for me today. As you know, there are other articles on this blog and more to come to help you. Find time to browse through and feel free to contact me if you want me to address any specific topic PERSONALLY.

As always, If you like the article please share it with your friends. It feels fulfilling for me to share with your family and friends. Therefore, help spread the word and support other parents.


Kidscape – Help With Bullying

Successful Parenting — Why Communicating With Your Child Requires Effective Listening

Successful Parenting — Why Communicating With Your Child Requires Effective Listening

In this week’s successful parenting article about life coaching for children, I want to share my take on talking with teenagers; what works, what doesn’t, and how you can to do it in a better way. I am bringing in all my kids coaching experience on this one. As you will notice, there is a range of articles and videos on this blog on various topics including communication and raising teenagers. Please feel free to browse each of them as they bring a slightly different perspective on the matter.

Many of the parents I help through parenting classes tell me how difficult it is talking with their teenage kids. My answer to them is always the same: maybe you don’t need to talk. Instead, try and see what happens when you listen more to them. We spoke about attentive listening as a good parenting skill in last week’s life coaching teenagers post. 

Life coaching skills for parents

Teenagers, in general, are fed up with being talked to! Every adult under the sun “talks” to them, or rather “talks at them”. What they are not used to is having adults listen to them. This is one of the reasons why they lose connection with their parents and seek it in their friends or other things. To succeed in coaching kids, you need to be a good listener.

Remember when you were a teenager? Everybody was telling you what to do, what not to do, everything that will happen if you cross the line. And, let’s face it; most of those conversations were not calm and mature, rather, shouting and challenging. However, when you become an adult you want to repeat those things you didn’t like as a teenager.

So, let me make this proposal to help you boost your successful parenting skills

 Leveraging on my experience as a life coach for kids, I want you to take these three simple steps whenever an argument is brewing with your teenage child.

First Step:

Prepare to give yourself a timeout. If you engage in the conversation in an emotional state, you will not listen to them and, what will they do? Yeah, you probably got it right. They will not listen to you either. When you do this, I want you to take a few deep breaths and have a line that will always be the same, something like “I think we are not communicating well and this might end up badly. I am going to take a few minutes and come back to you so we can talk like adults.”

Whatever you do, keep it brief and mutual. Successful parenting is about the two of you. I mention this a lot in my parenting classes.

What you are doing here is anticipating conflict and digging deep into your resources to change that by avoiding escalation. As a professional life coach for kids, I have realized that everything we do creates a model for our children to follow. Thus, by giving yourself space you are teaching your children that it’s OK to get upset, but it’s not convenient for a good chat. You are also demonstrating how they can do it by themselves.

Second step:

Do it. Go for a coffee, walk around the block or to your bedroom. Whatever suits you, but when you do it, make a conscious effort to take deep breaths for as long as you can. In fact, I’d like you to breathe while counting down from 769 to 748.

Life coaching teens

Breath in. Breath out: 769

Breath in. Breath out: 768

Breath in. Breath out: 767

What you are doing is:
1) creating a safe space for yourself
2) breathing to control your emotions
3) distracting your thoughts by focusing on the numbers.

Third step:

Go back to your child. Thank them for the time they allowed you and calmly ask them if they want to talk about it.

For example, “Thanks Toby, for giving me the time. I am feeling better now, and I think we can talk about this in a way that I can explain myself and listen to you. Would you like to talk about it?”

What you are doing here is coaching kids by being an example of maturity and, most importantly, respecting their decision to talk or not.

Successful parenting takes time, so don’t give up

Helping kids life coaching teenagers

Be ready for your son or daughter to be confused, to follow you, or find ways to annoy you and continue the fight. They are probably not used to this approach, and subconsciously, they prepared themselves for battle. As you do it more often, they will eventually mirror your behaviour.

Repetition and consistency are critical parts of kids coaching process. Keep doing it. It gets easier and better. This is another point I emphasize in parenting classes.

Go ahead and let me know what happens.

I am creating more videos and articles on this topic. However, you might want to browse through these reference articles I found and see if they help you as well.

Suggested Reading.

4 Life Coaching Tips For Dealing With Teenager’s Unruly Behaviour

4 Life Coaching Tips For Dealing With Teenager’s Unruly Behaviour

In this article on practical parenting, I want to share with you four key ideas about teenagers and behaviour. In my experience as a life coach for kids, I have found either one or more issues at the root cause of unruly behaviour in young people. 


The first thing I’d like to share with you is that their behaviour is only an outcome; a result, a consequence of something else. When a teenager, or any child, let loose their bad behaviour, what they are really telling us is, “I am hurting so much and feel so angry and afraid I don’t have any other way of telling you”. I found this out through hundreds of kids coaching interactions.

practical parenting,Life Coaching teenagers

If we judge the young person on this behaviour, we are missing THE POINT, big time! As parents and educators, we want to see beyond the NEGATIVE behaviour and aim to connect with the feeling that is creating that behaviour.


Listen rather than talk. I know that I talk about effective listening a lot, so let me quote a dear friend instead. “We have two ears and one mouth, we have to use them in this proportion”. At least, I know that this is a golden rule for those who aspire to succeed in providing life coaching for children. Don’t aim to fix your child, solve their problem, impart judgment or police them. They don’t need any of those roles from you—or at least not just yet.

Be ready to listen. The most important part of practical parenting is communication, and a large part of that is listening. The more you truly listen to your child, the more your child will listen to you. Make a conscious decision to fully listen to them without judgment, blame or regrets. Silence can be a great help for them and for you. If you are finding this difficult, maybe you need to enroll in parenting classes.


Be ready to ask open questions that allow them to explain themselves and most importantly, will enable you to create a connection with them. By using open questions, I mean questions that encourage proper answers rather than yes/no or any other single word reply. 

If you ask: how are you feeling? Do you know the answer? 9 out of 10 times they will say “OK” as a way to avoid any further questioning. They probably don’t feel great talking about whatever is happening. However, we can help them slowly open up by asking the right questions. Successful kids coaching is usually about asking the right questions. Here are some examples:

  • How do you feel after doing that?
  • How does that make you feel?
  • I imagine that feels pretty bad, how is it for you?
  • What DO you feel(or think) you can do about it?
  • How can I help you?

Be ready for rejection, challenges, and frustration. This approach might be new to them. Thus, they probably won’t feel comfortable at the beginning. Keep going, adapt these ideas and questions, keep being there for them. At one point, they will accept your time and presence. Then the real conversation starts.

practical parenting,Life Coaching teenagers

As a professional life coach for kids and a parent, I am aware it can feel a bit overwhelming to take on this approach. Make sure you are in the right place to follow through.  Also, you can enroll in my parenting classes for further help.

These tips are what I use at work to provide life coaching for children every day. Also, I use them when talking with my daughters. I don’t want to promise they will work all the time or immediately. However, I can promise you it will change the dynamics in you and in your son or daughter. Over time, these four tips have the potential to change your relationship for the better. 

Here are the four life coaching teenagers’ tips again:
  • Ignore the behaviour, connect with the emotion that is driving it
  • We have two ears and one mouth. Listen more to them.
  • Use open questions to help them express themselves.
  • As I say in many videos, keep going. Consistency, especially in the face of rejection is fundamental.

There are many articles on practical parenting and effective listening here on my blog. However, if you wish to ask any questions, get in touch with me. It feels fulfilling to spread the word and support other parents. 


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