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The life coaching program of parenting

2014 September 9
by Rachel Turiel

We’re returning from an afternoon at the river, and Col is struggling to carry out our deflated, unwieldy innertube, unfurling itself from his arms like an escaping octopus. Col exhales the sigh of the defeated; you can practically see his chest deflate.

“Hey honey, any ideas on how you can make that task easier for yourself?” I ask with false cheer.

Col grumbles, professes to be fine, and I swallow down the urge to fold up the raft as precise as Holiday Inn staff and return it to the shelf of his arms.

Later, we’re mounting our bikes and see a small pile of broken glass on a concrete wall. Col grabs the glass, arm cocked and aiming, about to launch it in the tall grass.

“Hey honey, do you think it’s safest to leave that broken glass where it can be seen or to throw it in the grass?”

Col winds his arm down and returns the glass to the concrete wall.

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Who knew parenthood was like being a life coach to very small people? One thousand times a day it would be easier to take  my mulitple decades of experience and simply announce the Right #&%$*! Thing to do, or for the sake of efficiency, motherfreaking do it for them. (Watching Rose wash dishes—unleashing a Niagra of water for each solitary plate—is like an advanced meditation. Just breathe, keep breathing. Breathe).

I have a (marvelously-talented) life coach, who puts a great deal of effort into gracefully helping me access my own wisdom while she likely grits her teeth waiting for me to simply get it. It’s just like parenting, how we casually ask those gentle, loaded questions, as if we’re not all that invested in the outcome. My life coach will say, without much emotion, “Rachel, do you want to examine if you have any other choices here?” This morning, while Col pushed himself around in Rose’s doll stroller, straining the fabric, enraging Rose, Dan said nonchalantly, “Hey Col, do you want to choose something that won’t annoy your sister so much?”

hh -life coach10Gratituous rat picture. I really love this little rodent godammnit. 

Daily, there’s unending amounts of information to disseminate, information that seems well, obvious. Sometimes I want to shout, “HANDS OFF THAT UNRIPE APPLE!” But instead, I opt for, “hey, you know if you pick unripe apples then we miss out on all that delicious ripe fruit.” I once told Col, “the window just can’t take the impact of a tennis ball. Can you throw somewhere else?” Cue falsely patient smile. And then I fell down in the grass to simply breathe because the restraint takes so much effort.

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But it’s worth it, right? We all know kids who will take a parent’s advice, turn around and do the exact opposite. Because really, who wants unsolicited advice? (You can ask Dan how well it works in our marriage). Also, kids are already at the low end of the personal-power totem pole, looking for ways to exercise some authority over their lives. But the funny thing is that kids truly, mostly, want to do the right thing; they want to be helpful and to add positively to the family culture. As long as its their idea.

If kids get to make their own decisions, though with maybe a teensy bit of leading questions tossed into the mental arena for contemplation, or some general information about the way things work (see: unripe fruit), they’re more likely to make a decision that everyone can live with.

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Rose, bagging up frozen peach slices. The kids have been 100% more helpful since Dan’s been away hunting. It’s weird. Rose took out our kitchen garbage without being asked this morning.

So, I’m starting a new program: life coaches can train for free with my family! Just shadow us through the day as I spin thousands of decisions into their own. Wink wink.

11 Responses leave one →
  1. September 9, 2014

    Hi Rachel,

    Whenever I am in a position of asking obvious questions to my kids, I hear myself and it brings me back to being a kid and hearing my own mother in my voice and then I get frustrated that they brought me to that place because it as so obvious in the first place:-) At any rate, I recently discovered your blog and thoroughly enjoy it. I wish I were local so I could attend your writing classes, but I am in Fort Collins. It is a haul to your part of the state, but I do love your area.

    Thanks for sharing all this good stuff.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 9, 2014

      Kids have such magical, experimental minds. We adults have such logical, experienced, security-focused minds. When I remember this it becomes clearer why Col would need reminders not to throw a tennis ball at our window, and all the other seemingly-obvious things kids need reminders on daily. :)

  2. Melissa permalink
    September 9, 2014

    How do you keep finding the patience to have that restraint? I try really, really hard to focus on the guidance aspects but by the time the weekend comes I’m so worn down/out by long work days and all that it takes to run a household even as one-half of a partnership that the time and patience needed to be empathetic escape me. I start off well, with good intentions and then by minute 30 or 45 (my 6 year old, when amped up, takes a long time to calm down) of the cry-whine-complain I want to anywhere else. Anywhere. When you wrote that your daughter’s was jarring and disturbing, I wanted to shout “Yes! Someone else who understands!”

    How do you summon up that patience and not have it falter? How do listen while your kid rails against you and your meanness and never letting them do anything fun when you’ve spent the day at the beach building castles and hunting for shark teeth?

    Is there a way to reinforce gratitude and let them know it makes you feel pretty awful when your efforts to have a great day are dismissed? What about empathy from child to parent?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 9, 2014

      I don’t mean to make it sound easy, because it’s not. Like with anything important and hard, patience requires practice…but it builds on itself, it becomes more natural over time. A couple ideas:
      1) Give yourself huge kudos for any patience you can muster.
      2) When your kid is railing against you ungratefully, try not to take it personally. Kids are in the moment, so even if you’ve been giving them the moon, something shifts and they feel angry/powerless/disrespected etc… and they react in the way in which they’re wired (My daughter blames, my son withdraws). See if you can address what caused the turn of emotions, knowing that your child wants to get back to a loving connection.
      3) In a “green light” moment, i.e. when everyone’s feeling connected and loving again, let your child know that if she is angry/hurt/frustrated etc… she can tell you, you can hear it. She doesn’t need to accuse you of being mean to be heard. She can try and articulate her unmet need and you will listen and empathize and help brainstorm solutions.
      4) If you want to see your kids act with gratitude, model gratitude, even to the point of going overboard.
      5) Parenting is really hard. Give yourself as many “do-overs” as you need. Apologize to your kids when you lose your patience, they’ll appreciate your humanness and your honesty.

      • Rachel Turiel permalink*
        September 9, 2014

        One more thing: sometimes when I expect life with kids to be easy and smooth, it’s crushing when it’s not. Maybe, with young children, if we can expect a certain amount of chaos, a certain amount of unruliness, lots of big emotions, challenges and concerns, and resign ourselves to be teeth-grittingly present for whatever arises, then we’re not screwed twice: Screwed once by how challenging it is, screwed twice because we’re telling ourselves it should be different.

  3. September 9, 2014

    Your style is really unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from.
    Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I
    will just book mark this site.

  4. September 10, 2014

    This made me laugh! I can relate so much to the complete exhaustion that comes from self restraint. It made me think how hard it must be for my kids to use the same kind of restraint, that I so casually and doggedly expect from them. Thanks for sharing!!

  5. September 10, 2014

    Will you please come over and help my kids with their math homework? And getting ready for school in the morning? And getting ready for bed every night? And pretty much everything? Cause I’m sure they’re tired of my “Didn’t the teacher go over this in school? If you know the answer why don’t you write it on the page? Why is it a surprise to you that you have to put your clothes on every single day? And if you just did it rather than whining about it for half an hour, you would be done by now and could go do anything you want!” We need some life coaching around here. Not to mention some breathing (I’m not even sure I know what breathing feels like anymore). Oh, another school year, how I love you so.

  6. Andrea permalink
    September 10, 2014

    There is soooooo much comfort in knowing we are all doing this together. You are a great friend, giving yourself to us through this space.

  7. September 11, 2014

    Touche. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the
    amazing spirit.

  8. September 22, 2014

    i like this way of looking at parenting. it seems like a longer view and yes it takes restraint and patience, but isn’t that what we are supposed to be better at as adults, and what we want to model for our kids? i think the comment about how well unsolicited advice works in an adult relationship is the perfect comparison, i mean kids are people, too. also, the power totem pole, makes so much sense. it’s a long term vision, like investments, and keeps goals like “internal moral compass” in mind, not just the immediate goal of “make him/her stop that.” xoxo

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