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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
HAVE A GREAT DAY. REMEMBER, KEEP YOURSELF HAPPY AND KEEP YOUR KIDS HAPPY BY HELPING YOURSELF AND HELPING YOUR KIDS
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 aboutattentive listening as a good parenting skill in last week’slifecoaching teenagers post.
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.
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.
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.
in. Breath out: 769
in. Breath out: 768
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
HAVE A GREAT DAY. REMEMBER, KEEP YOURSELF HAPPY AND KEEP YOUR KIDS HAPPY BY HELPING YOURSELF AND HELPING YOUR KIDS
I often think about my work, trying to extract from every kid coaching session the exact formula of what is working with my young clients. In my work as a life coach for young people, I think that life coaching for children has taken me the most time to understand and develop. I took a few things for granted, and they always came to bite my back. Mindsets such as, “I am the adult”, “they need a good talk”, “they are being influenced by friends” or, my absolute worst: “I get them.”
Rubbish, all of them! After many years, I have found that the most important thing parenting classes must teach adults is listening to children. What they need is attentive listening, trust, as well as an authentic relationship.
It didn’t take me long to realize that my being the adult is actually part of the problem. They feel that most of the adults around their life are against them (teachers, police, trainers, or strict parents).
Thus, they don’t need a good talk. In fact, what they need is somebody to listen to them. Yes, they are indeed being influenced by their friends, but that is a crucial part of social learning for them! Especially if they feel their parents (or adults) are not listening to them.
This is not one of your parenting classes. As a professional life coach for kids, my focus is on child development, not their parents. But, parents can’t help their kids if they don’t develop themselves too. Do you get the twist? Don’t worry, I am rambling again.
So, obviously, I didn’t “get them” because I was being the adult and I wasn’t listening to them.
Does it sound obvious? Well, I can tell you that when you have a young person who refuses to go to school, suffering exam nerves, or self-harming in front of you, that’s when you will desperately search for the magic formula to solve it as soon as possible. Then, you suddenly realize there is no such thing as quick solutions. Using feedback to motivate children is important. However, it needs to go hand in hand with attentive listening.
Let me share this real-life coaching for children case example. I am going to call this girl Sonia, obviously not her real name. Sonia is a teenager who is doing well in school. In fact, she is doing very well academically. Her family is nurturing and caring. However, Sonia is showing signs of anxiety in teens. The first change that happened was her sleep. She struggles to fall asleep, resulting in her being tired and clingy the next day. The next was that she stopped sharing as much as she used to do.
She talks to her parents and tells them that she is worried—thank goodness for that—but she can’t really identify why. Her parents try to understand, thinking that it was all about exam nerves, they take the approach of taking all focus away from exams. However, that doesn’t seem to work. Her sleep was still bad, and it’s now clearly affecting her and the family. Her behaviour was mostly good, but she was clearly tense and not being her normal charming self. As a life coach for kids and as a parent I would not wait for things to get so bad before trying to act. Brings us back to the point where parents should consider taking parenting classes.
As assessment week approaches her parents up their game, distracting her from exams with fun activities and revision or exam conversations are almost banned from the house to take all pressure away.
Nothing seems to change, Sonia’s parents were responding, but not attentively
listening to Sonia.
When I met her professionally for a life coaching for children session, Sonia was quiet, answering as little as possible. Also, while she was polite the most common line she used was “I don’t know” and all possible variations of it (I am not sure, I think so, maybe, it could be) or simply nod.
So, how do I go about it? Recall I told you teenagers don’t want to be talked to but listened to? However, Sonia was not talking. How can I listen to her?
A key part of my work as a life coach for kids is to create moments of connection. Sometimes they give it to me, sometimes, many times, in fact, I must create them.
The first step I had to do was to build trust and mutual confidence. You probably thought that since I knew her, this was already there, right? Well, it wasn’t. When exploring difficult situations, the young person needs to feel trusted and this is a completely new game for the adult. We can’t take any previous relationship, even as a parent, for granted. When coaching kids, we must work on building a sacred space of mutual trust.
The way I do this is by mixing a combination of life coaching for children experience and showing examples of trust. Firstly, I shared with Sonia as much as I could from my life as a teenager, situations I have experienced professionally as a life coach for kids and so on. My aim was to go to her world, to fish around until I can find a line of connection. Humour and fun activities seemed to help distract her from the fact that we were having a coaching session.
I told her about my fears when I was her age. How I felt I wasn’t a good student. About my fears when my daughters were growing up—should I tell them I wasn’t a good student? Should I hide it? Fundamentally, I was sharing my fears. I was sharing myself with her.
As she felt more comfortable, I shared more of my professional, personal and family life. She started talking a bit more.
In case you are wondering, yes, it feels vulnerable. But how can you expect her to open up (a massive act of vulnerability) if I am not willing to demonstrate the same?
During our kid coaching talks, I ensured I set the fundamental mark of trust: respect. I mentioned how I wasn’t there to tell her what to do (how can I tell her if I barely know what’s happening in her life). Told her how I would respect every decision she made, even if it was not coming back to see me. I never challenged any question she had, any observation or idea. I took them all at face value.
Another important part of the kids coaching process was that I virtually ignored the reason for our sessions. Of course, it was parked in my mind, not forgotten, but I made a very precise attempt to avoid it until she brought it up.
Finally, I always ensure I bring humour into our conversations. The first thing we lose is our sense of humour. So, laughing becomes tremendously healing and a great relationship builder. What is important is that I was the butt of the joke. I related those experiences to myself and made a comedy of my experiences.
What Sonia was perceiving was a person who is honest with her and attentively listening. In case you are wondering, yes, it feels vulnerable. But how can you expect her to open up (a massive act of vulnerability) if I am not willing to demonstrate the same?
Why attentive listening is important for parenting and life coaching for children
Over the course of a few kids coaching sessions, Sonia started to feel more relaxed in our meetings, shared more about her school life, her concerns (remember, I didn’t bring up the topic, she did). During those chats, she displayed a pattern that we call, “them – us”. A lot of her talk was very generic about her classmates (them) and very specific about her two friends (us). This raised my curiosity, and I asked her more about her friends.
Here is the summary: Sonia knows that she does very well academically. Her two closest friends are also doing very well. She felt they had that in common while most of the other kids in her class were doing ok but less well than the three of them. What caught my attention was how, when talking about her two best friends, Sonia said: “they are very smart”. Simple yet powerful statement.
Why did this statement catch my attention? Any parent can overlook this. However, from my experiences as a life coach for kids, I could read between the lines. Well, she talked about them being smart. She didn’t talk about the three of them being smart.
Now, there are many possibilities but I like to think only two strong options.
It could be out of modesty: I am smart but I am not going to say it.
Comparison: They are smart but I have to work my backside to reach the same levels. Maybe I am not as smart.
I made the assumption that the second option could be the true one and asked her.
Me: What do you mean by “they” are smart?
Sonia: Well, they get very good grades. I do well as well but they are very smart
Me: And the rest of the class?
Sonia: They do ok… Well, a few of them don’t but most do ok
Me: But not as well as you three?
Sonia: No, we are normally the ones with the best scores
So here is my assumption: Sonia has created a strong bonding with those two girls based on their academic performance. She hasn’t expressed any other point of strong connection between them. I am sure there are other areas they all enjoy. However, what brings them together and differentiates them from the rest of their class is their scores.
One thing I find time and time again is that poorly based ideas take place in our brain and, despite everything telling us they are false, we repeat them to ourselves as a mantra until we believe them. The more we do it, the more we believe them.
Leveraging on my experience as a life coach for kids, I felt it was time to take my chances. I wanted her to check some of those beliefs she had expressed. Rather than “telling her, I opted for a tiny humorous but provocative approach.
Belief one: they are smart vs they are hard-working people just like me.
Me: But I guess they are naturally smart, they don’t work at all and get all those great results. I mean, I am sure they are heading to Nobel prize or something like that.
Sonia: Well, they are smart but we work together a lot and they do work hard. I sometimes work harder than them.
Belief two: Without the good results, they will realize I am not smart, they won’t be my friends
Me: And, of course, if you were not to get good results you will have no friends (in a joking tone)
Sonia: Yes, I guess they will still be my friends. We like the same music and the same movies. We do a lot of sleepovers together.
Belief three: I don’t have any other friends
Me: I can imagine how scary it might feel if you think you don’t know anybody else in your class
Sonia: Yes. It feels very lonely.
Me: And all the other girls?
Sonia: They are nice. We sometimes play together or go to activities together.
From here, the conversation took on a much deeper level, helping Sonia express those beliefs she was holding, sometimes by herself, sometimes with some suggestion.
The moment Sonia expressed those beliefs (fears), she could easily see how they were not real, just like exam nerves. She had friends. Not only those two friends, but a lot of the other kids in the class were also nice to her and she knew them well. In fact, she was interacting with them a lot of times.
When I saw her two weeks later she said: “I am sleeping much better now. I am a bit worried about the exams but not too much. I think I will do well.” She also related how she had been on an activity camp with some of her other friends and they had a lovely time together climbing, hiking, etc. In fact, she was the most talkative I ever saw her.
Now I want to summarise this case so you can take home a few ideas. Call it lessons from parenting classes and you won’t be wrong.
How do we help children with exam nerves, or, in fact, with any type of anxiety?
Don’t give them the talk. Listen to them
Acknowledge and respect their fears. They are true for them
Don’t rush. Allow time and space for them to talk when they are ready
Give them the chance to express their worries. When they do, don’t challenge/stigmatize/ignore them. Respect those emotions and give the young person enough support so they can eventually challenge those beliefs themselves
They will share with you as much as you are willing to share with them.