Hell hath no fury....
At over three hours, our first coaching session was a marathon. Victoria shared stories of things going on in her life and how everything was a ‘mess’. It seemed that almost every aspect of her life was a disaster at this point.
What I learned most from this moment was that I needed to have patience and just be with her. I could quickly see that she just needed to talk to someone about her challenges and experiences.
I observed that:
1. all of the problems felt really big to her, and
2. she was blaming others (mostly her husband and/or daughter) or the situation for everything wrong in her life.
I noticed the chatter in my own mind saying “Can I really handle her and these ‘heavy’ situations? Maybe she actually needs a therapist and not a coach.”
Despite my own internal questions, I stayed patient, listened attentively, and trusted the coaching process.
I gave her space to share and then I was able to go back and summarise the main big issues. To help us narrow down the ‘big mountain’ in front of us, I asked: “Which one of these, that if you could fix it, could pretty much resolve or minimise all the rest?”
This one question was the breakthrough that needed to happen.
She realised for the first time that the relationship between her and her daughter was hindering every other aspect of her life. We discovered together that it was HER parenting style that had basically created a ‘7-year-old monster’. This was the first time I heard responsibility coming from her, rather than blaming everyone else for her problems.
There were so many compelling reasons for Victoria to take charge of this situation. We took note of these good reasons before moving forward.
Despite her slight shift in ownership, once we started to dig deep, I observed that Victoria continued focusing on what her daughter was doing wrong, blaming her daughter or husband for everything.
After listening to her examples, I shared the pattern that I could see:
1. Mom gives instructions
2. Daughter shows defiance and bad behaviour
3. Mom makes threats or warnings
4. Daughter shows worse behaviour
5. Mom (or dad) gives in a.k.a. bad parenting
6. Daughter is (temporarily) happy – frustrated parents – overall struggling relationships
Victoria responded with “I am reinforcing my daughter to NOT cooperate. The worse she behaves, the more I give in. It is a pattern and I have trained her to behave badly.”
Followed by: “I see this is basically a power struggle and is completely destructive to my relationship with my daughter.”
Coaching questions followed: “What do you want it to be like? How do you want to be as a parent?” She describes... “Calm, authoritative, confident.”
I asked: “What are the behaviours of a calm, authoritative and confident parent?”
She said that it should go like this (when her daughter begins to push back):
1. Calm down (by taking a deep breath, etc)
2. Listen to my daughter/acknowledge her
3. Repeat the WHY and then follow through, no matter what
The way forward
This became The New Parenting Plan, The New Me for Victoria. She highlighted that this new approach (rather than yelling, threatening, blaming; and eventually giving in) would help diffuse
1) the power struggle, and
2) stop the parenting cycle that was creating a 'monster kid' (i.e. the root causes of this constant defiance and bad behaviour).
With the new connections discovered and self-awareness in Victoria, she felt so much more empowered, calm, and took ownership of the situation that she created. We discussed that the first step is awareness.That it was like building new muscle. You learn, adjust, grow, and change little by little. She realistically knew this would not be easy, but truly believed in herself and her daughter, and that they could change.
My key takeaways in this case study: have patience, trust the coaching process, summarise aims clarity, have the courage to highlight potential blind spots and encourage them to break through plateaus.