This week I would like to talk about teaching decision making skills in continuation of the article named.  I want my children to be happy.

In that article I explained how life coaching teens is about giving happiness vs helping our children decide for themselves and giving them the tools to learn. In that article, I also explain the key areas for us to educate our children at the different stages of their life. 

I think this article, I want to continue with the topic of helping our children be happy, but also giving you a bit of a thinking process to use when teaching decision-making skills

So, why am I telling you all this?

 Because during our kids’ formative years, what we tend to do is to provide for our children. We provide material things and give them the best and most supportive environment possible. Nothing wrong there, is it?

However, are we helping them be happy by themselves? Or are we providing the happiness. If it is the latter, then it means that when we are removed (i.e. school, or friend) they might not be as capable of judging by themselves or develop poor decision-making skills. So, how are we equipping them to be happy without us? 

Life Coaching Teenagers

When talking about life coaching teens, one key idea that I share with parents is the Sympathy trap. When our children are facing a difficult situation (and this will vary by age) our instinct will be to jump it. More than helping resolve an issue, we will be tempted to do it for them or virtually do everything.  These behaviours go from writing a note to the teacher, to ask the coach to give him/her more play time. In some cases, parents might keep away from school (he is a bit tired today) several times, or even ask the young person to ignore what their teachers are saying.

Now, with our hand on our hearts… who can blame the parents? We just want to give them as much happiness as possible. Also, it makes us feel good, loved, great loving parents and that time and those hugs we get when we resolve the situation make us feel like superman/woman.

On the other hand, children will learn, slowly but surely, that when they feel delicate (and this is a vague word on purpose) they will be getting support. As this action-reaction is repeated a pattern might be created with a powerful underlying message: dad/mum will solve it for me. Rather than using their decision-making skills and feeling empowered.  

Having worked as a teen life coach for many years, I need to highlight a possible further step, we can also see a potential (as not every kid will develop it) belief being formed: I cannot resolve it by myself because I am….. (insert here your choice of words and you won’t go far off: weak, unreliable, clumsy, shy, etc). 

When those beliefs are formed in a child’s mind, it becomes so entrench that will start limiting them. Their confidence, self-esteem goes and they will start either retrieving into themselves (pulling out of things they enjoy), giving up easily or becoming disproportionately competitive (as a way of masking their lack of confidence and lack of decision making skills).

And we have now created for ourselves the sympathy trap.

Our kid is delicate, can we fix it and give them back decision making skills?

Darn, I keep hearing Bob the Builder all around: can we fix it? Yes, we can! And the more we fix things, the more they need us to fix them for them.

can we fix it.

Now, I want you to consider an alternative approach to life coaching teens. Of course, you will have to adapt this to your child’s age but I am confident you’ll get the idea.

Step 1: how critical is for my child to resolve this situation? 

    If it is important go to step 2

    If it is not critical: work on active listening and avoid making suggestions. You might want to use some of the ideas in further steps, but your role here in be coaching teens, becomes more of a listener rather than an active participant.  

Step 2: what is the most important lesson my child can learn from facing this situation?

(resilience, confidence, conflict resolution, responsibility, autonomy, etc). Be aware that a lesson had doesn’t mean a lesson learnt. Repetition is crucial to learning and developing their decision-making skills.

Step 3: what is my role in this situation and what are my child’s role and responsibility?

How can I help my child take on his responsibility to resolve this situation? How can he/she also learn that important lesson. As a rule of thumb, it is ok to be involved with your child but the less involved you are in the actual situation and resolution, the better.

Step 4: What support or tools will my child need to resolve this situation by him/herself?

This is a critical step, avoid from giving them the solution, allow them to work this out by themselves. You can make suggestions, but remember it is their responsibility to eventually take on those ideas and use them.

Step 5: Stand back.

Let them do their part.  

Step 6: Help them assess how it went.


What worked well, what didn’t work. Help them connect with the key learning they are experiencing. I.e.: “what you did talking to your friends is a sign of confidence. Well done.”

This can be a frustrating step as some kids will either not do anything, or not do as discussed with you. That’s fine. Remember whose responsibility is to resolve the issue in life coaching teens, you are empowering them to take control.

Step 7: most situations will not be resolved in one go. Go back to step 1 and repeat.

As children learn to manage things for themselves, they will gain confidence and resilience. They will become more autonomous and, most importantly, they will learn they have great decision making skills to resolve those situations. This will have a great impact on their self-esteem and overtime, a great impact on how they judge their ability to be happy.

Of course, I am not advocating for a robot approach to parenting.  In life coaching teens, sometimes we will need to step forward and have those conversations. Sometimes we’ll need to give them plenty of cuddles and comfort. What I am advocating is to be discerning about when and how to take each approach.

And that’s what I wanted to share with you in this article how empowering decisions making skills can be!  Be mindful of our desire to provide for our kids, as sometimes the best thing we can do for them is to let them fence for themselves.

When using this approach, start with the areas you feel better equipped to delegate and you child better equipped to address. Then start giving them more space to resolve situations by themselves.

If it helps, keep in mind the line of “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

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