Both/And: Add a Splash of Coaching to the Support Smoothie
My friend's daughter is into Week Three of college life, out of state but top of her momma's mind. It's not going smoothly. The professors are tough and she failed the first round of tests. The student in the campus apartment directly above her has an unhappy, yappy pooch. She forgot all about getting a pesky parking pass; her car was towed within 24 hours of moving in. She's homesick, disoriented, insecure, and a little scared. In short, it's going precisely like most big life transitions should and do go. It's going to grow her twenty-something self up and into a new chapter.
When her daughter reached out last night, my friend whipped up an impressive maternal concoction of encouragement, commiseration, lecture, tough love, and fervent prayer. She is working hard to manage her own over-protective tendencies, as she becomes acutely aware of her daughter's deficient self-sufficiency. Wanting my feedback and support, she copied me on the text volley. Here's an excerpt:
Daughter: I'm crying because I'm angry that I don't know how to study.
Mother: Oh Jesus please help my sweet girl not feel bad about these tests, please Dear God comfort her soul, bring my beloved child Your peace in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just hang on to The Lord honey and beg him for help. This is what I do for everything.
You are doing your first tests, you are learning what they want. Focus on passing the courses. You are going to do it, honey. Find a friend smarter than you are and ask if you can study together. Or get a tutor. I spent all my time in college with tutors and professors. No time for Facebook or movie marathons. Whatever it takes, do it. No one who calls upon the Name of the Lord will ever be put to shame. Psalms.
Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with His Love; He will dance over you with singing. Memorize it, it is for you from your Loving God who adores you, honey.
Daughter: Thanks Mom, night. I'm just mad at me.
What I offered to my friend was this observation: she is a compassionate and committed mother who offered sound advice and uplifting scriptures, and who missed a coachable moment. What seemed like a sign-off statement to Mom was, in my opinion, an invitation from her daughter. "I'm just mad at me" was an opening to engage in a deeper exploration together, with more curiosity and less fear. An intimate, woman-to-woman exchange could have unfolded had she responded with one of these questions:
"Would you say more about being mad at yourself?"
"What is your favorite go-to scripture when you are disappointed in yourself?"
"What have you thought about doing to learn how to study better? Which of my ideas could work for you?"
I'm not suggesting that my friend shouldn't have said everything she said, in the way that she said it. Parents have a temporary pass to perform CPR (cheerlead, pontificate, rescue) on their kids until they are launched, and a lifetime pass to quote chapter and verse. I'm suggesting a both/and approach--mix coaching in with the mothering.
Coaching would demonstrate that my friend has confidence in her daughter's own God-given wisdom, and it would help her daughter access that wisdom more effectively and more frequently. I think too of how coaching could grow them together. Mother could listen and learn how to "be with" her evolving girl in a new way. Daughter could trust that sharing her difficult experiences and feelings won't evoke a flood of anxiety from her mother, which could keep them both submerged and stuck.
Together, mother and daughter could direct the focused support of coaching on crafting a better study-strategy. Nutritious. And consider this: the daughter's answer to any one of those coaching questions I suggested to my friend will, per her, invite a dialogue they haven't yet had. Delicious.
Fortify your next support smoothie with a delicious, nutritious splash of coaching!
Hope you Rock your October!