My name is Marty Minney and I am Dana’s My Coach’s mom. After observing Dana raising her sons for the last 6 and ½ years, I notice there are some things she’s doing that work (as an unbiased observer ;-). When I mentioned it to her, she said she was just using coaching tools… the same tools she’s teaching in companies and to her entrepreneur clients! Then she asked me to write a guest blog about it. It’s my first blog (I am not a techie-grandma…not YET anyway).
My qualifications for writing a blog with these observations are that a.) I spent 30 years as a kindergarten teacher and have a Master’s Degree in Education, b.) I nurtured and raised my own kids, and have a fulfilling relationship with my husband of 50 years, and c.) I’m 70 years old for heaven’s sake..and I can do darn well what I please!
Anyway, here are the observations what is working in my family and Dana’s family; maybe here is something you can use, too:
Use A Team Approach-Having fun in a family takes a team effort…the more you clue in the little people to their part of the equation, the better off the grown-ups will be. Dana consistently brings the boys’ awareness to how their mood and behavior impacts the rest of the family or ‘team’. If one is screaming or grouchy at the dinner table, he will be asked to leave the room until he is calm because it’s not fun for the rest of us to hear it. Now, the boys will even give each other feedback. If Jakob is crying, Johannes says, “Your screaming hurts my ears!”.
Teach Self-Awareness and Cooperation-Dana gives the boys ‘jobs’ that they need to do everyday and then asks them at the end of the day what they did that worked. If they do their jobs, they receive a reward for each thing. This makes them accountable for their actions and it’s a way to encourage them to cooperate without giving punishment. If they don’t do the jobs (ie. get ready for school on time, do their homework, follow the ground rules, pick up their toys…) they simply don’t get the reward, no fuss, no fight. ‘Natural consequences’ is what she calls it.
Make it a Game-I notice when Dana challenges the boys to complete a project within a certain time frame, this usually inspires them to act (she calls it ‘getting into high performance’). If the boys are dawdling about getting ready, she will say, “I bet you can’t beat me at getting dressed.” They will spring into action and usually beat her, yet it’s a win-win.
So I took this play from her playbook…while gardening one day, I told them however many weeds they pulled out of the garden, they would get a penny. They were so motivated, they pulled out 300! I never expected them to get so many, but making it a challenge with a reward really got them going!
Accentuate the Positive-Dana asks the boys a lot of questions and gets them to talk about what they like and what they are proud of. Of course she calls it something else, ‘appreciative inquiry’ and ‘open-ended questions’ and says these are ‘coaching tools’. I see that it encourages the boys to use their imaginations and it also activates critical thinking skills (this is teacher-talk). She asks them, “What was the funnest thing you did today?” Then she just lets them talk. From my experience over the years with many families, I notice many parents seldom let their kids talk while they just listen.
The boys are really picking up on the modelling that we are doing with them. For example, the other day, Johannes was on the phone with his mom, who was out of town on a business trip and he asked her, “What did you do today that was fun?” Then, he followed it up with, “And what did you see on your walk?” Jakob and Johannes also will encourage each other to talk. When asked about one of their favorite topics, forts, Jakob shared a little and then said to his brother, “What did you want to say about forts Johannes?”
Hopefully they will hold onto this ability to express interest in others. These boys will have challenges in life just like everyone else. It seems to me we are giving them tools to enjoy the delights and deal with the inevitable disappointments. They are quick to laugh, often helpful and certainly fun to be with (most of the time) For now, I am thoroughly enjoying seeing these little boys develop into bigger boys and applauding the encouragment they’re getting from their mother.
PS Even though she DID make me write this (she can be so pushy…she must get that from her dad) it’s still true.