Should We Coach Our Children? | Get "Heart to Heart" with Julie Johnson MCC

Mom with teenage daughter

In this "Heart to Heart with Julie" column, Julie Johnson MCC shares sample coaching conversations and situations to help you grow along with her learnings, ideas and practical tips to help us all become better coaches. These are real coaching experiences that illustrate common issues coaches face.

We encourage you to share your thoughts, learnings and own experiences in the comments below!

These articles were first posted on Julie's blog, The Coaching Cube, and have been updated for inclusion here.

In this article Julie shares a beautiful personal story to illustrate a common question and challenge for coaches—who are also parents.

Intro Heading:

So, is there a place for coaching at home? Well, my answer to this question may not be what you expect. Below I share one of my most memorable encounters with my daughter to help you decide for yourself!

Here's what happened:

One Monday afternoon a handful of years ago, I was in the kitchen when I suddenly heard a burst of protest from upstairs.

  • "Mooooooooommmmmmm!"
  • "Yes?"
  • "I CAN'T go to gymnastics practice tonight." (By this time I was headed upstairs)
  • "Why not?"
  • "I've got too much homework this week!"

At the edge of giving in (hey, what more honorable excuse than homework?), and yet wanting my daughter to honor her commitment to the sport, I decided to do a bit of coaching.

I asked questions like:

  • "Tell me more."
  • "What homework do you have this week? What else? And what else?"
  • "How long do you think each assignment will take to complete?"
  • "What day is each assignment due?"
  • "What pieces of time do you have to work on your homework each day?"

As the layout of the week and its demands became clear, I could see her wheels turning.

After some silence, during which, 1) she was processing the information that she had put on the table, and 2) I was trying unsuccessfully to form an opinion on whether or not she 'should' attend gymnastics practice that evening, I said something like: "OK Honey. You know best. You decide."

She took a swift, almost indignantly deep breath, and replied, "OK! I'll go to practice tonight."

Indeed, she went, and she made the rest of her week work quite well too.

Here's my take:

I learned SOOOO much from this encounter.

After this, when similar challenges would arise, I would try to help my daughter 'sort out' or get the situation straight in her mind. And then leave the decision up to her.

And while this is an example of how things can play out at home, it's applicable anywhere.

As coaches, we  can help our coachees make their own sense of the chaos, and then 'throw' the responsibility for making decisions back into their lap: we must always let them know we believe they're "naturally creative, resourceful, and whole" *.

And a little postscript!

While my daughter appreciated these conversations in general (and there were many), I will never forget the time she came to me and said:

  • "Mooooommm!!! I'm gonna ask you a question. And this time I DON'T want you to say, "You decide, Honey!' I just want you to tell me what to DO!"

Now it's your turn:

Here are 3 questions to consider:

  1. What have you taken away from this story?
  2. (How) does it impact where, how and with whom you use your coaching skills?
  3. What will you do differently (if anything!) going forwards?

* See CTI's Co-Active Coaching model

Share your takeaways and thoughts with Julie in the comments below!

If you liked this "Heart to Heart" column from Julie Johnson, you may also like:

Julie Johnson

Contributing Author:

Julie Johnson MCC, MIM is an Executive Coach, Coach Supervisor and Author. Her purpose is to help motivated people be at their best. She's passionate about spreading quality coaching conversations farther and wider, impacting the lives of people she'll never meet. Julie helps leaders develop an authentic Coaching Leadership Style so they grow next-generation leaders - and scale their own leadership. She also loves creating synergies by connecting 'the right people' with each other. Meet Julie in this short video here and learn more about her on her website here. You can also sign up for her monthly blog The Coaching Cube.

Learn more about Julie & see all their articles here >>

Image of Teenager with Mom on couch by VH-studio via Shutterstock


  1. Andrea

    Awesome article! Yes by coaching they ultimately make the right choice! I’ve been doing this for the past two weeks with my granddaughter ! Thank you so much

  2. Ingibjörg Reynis

    Great read, thank you
    Glad I am not the only mom that does this and get the ask "tell me what to do!"
    How do you respond when your daughter does that?

    • Julie Johnson

      Hi Ingiejörg! Love your question. I might start weighing the pros and cons of several options, and then share what I would do if I were her, and remind her that while that would work for me, but she has to decide what would work for her. It really depends on the situation - for sure!

  3. Irina Stefanescu

    Hi Julie,

    Great article!

    When my son was 14, he had an important decision to make and I told him we could have a conversation to clear the way for his decision to be easier. He gladly agreed and we had a good coaching session. In the end, happy about the result, he asked me: "So, this is coaching, isn't it?". I nodded yes. "You have practiced coaching for about 9 years already. Wow, how could you deprive your most important client in your life of this precious gift?". I was speechless, then, little by little, I reminded him of episodes, as you shared in your article, so he could understand we've been having many coaching conversations. Since then, I have almost always asked: "What do you need from me now: my opinion, advice, a conversation to organize your thoughts or anything else?". Except for emergencies and crises. Now he is 21 and we have great conversations.

    On the other hand, one of my colleagues let his son always decide for himself. When his son was graduating from psychology, he told his father: "You are a great friend, actually my best friend. I wish you were more of a father sometimes, guiding and telling me what to do, setting limits and challenging me more."

    So, yes, as you say, Julie, we need to invite our children to the point where we can activate together with the role that they need us to be in from the large role repertoire of the loving parent: the present coach, the supporting mentor, the comforting friend, the generous or rational resource giver, the competent problem solver, the curious learning partner, the joyful playmate, the diligent learner, the spontaneous co-creator, the encouraging self-confidence booster, the discreet secret holder etc.

    • Julie Johnson

      Hi Irina - What great stories you have! They bring more context in around the overall role of parenting! And I love the question up front - what do you need from me. I've just been a participant in a group coaching supervision session today, and the supervisor asked up front - what do you want/need from us today? It's a great way of making the psychological contracting explicit from the beginning! Thank you for sharing - Julie

  4. Barry Paul Wilding-Webb

    Julie, I love your story which resonates. I was running coach training programmes a number of years ago and met one of my clients a few years after she qualified. She told me a story of how she had coached her 9 year old son to wear his socks, which he hadn't done for years. It just goes to show that once learned coaching skills can be applied to a myriad of situations. For years she had 'told' him to wear his socks and it wasn't until she changed her approach did she achieve a positive outcome. A great lesson for anyone but especially leaders. Barry

    • Julie Johnson

      Hi Barry - Thank you for sharing your story! I would have LOVED to be there to observe that coaching conversation around wearing socks - a piece of mastery for sure! Greetings from The Netherlands - Julie


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