Are you coach or referee at home?

Do you find you are playing referee a lot in your child’s life?  

  • Blowing the whistle.
  • Yellow carding the extreme behaviours?
  • Red carding the worse behaviours?  

Are you constantly making a call on tussles:

  • Penalising and awarding penalties?  
  • Are you sure that your call is accurate and fair?
  • Did you have all the information to make the call?
  • Is making a call is the right thing to do?  

Being a referee is an incredibly stressful vocation. 

A ref is the official who watches a game (the game of our children’s lives perhaps) closely to ensure that the rules are adhered to and to arbitrate on matters arising from the play.

What we are suggesting is that we switch from referee to coach. 

Sports coaching can be defined as the process of motivating, guiding and training an individual in preparation for something. If we grow this definition to include that of life coaches then …

  • Coaches assist in the setting and achievement of goals.
  • A life coach helps you to, make new changes, and live your best life.
  • Your coach is someone who supports you, motivates you, and holds you accountable for achieving your vision for yourself.

Now with that said, why are we more referee than coach? 

One reason is that we find ourselves, especially in today’s world, faced with so many struggles and conflicts when it comes to our children. 

We are frankly ill-equipped to deal with them and we are in our own state of overwhelm.  

  • To be a coach we need to fear less and trust more.  
  • We need to doubt less and believe more.  
  • A referee parent stands in front of or over their children.  
  • A coach parent comes along side and one step ahead.  


Here are some tips of how to become a parent coach:

1.  Work on ourselves first

To coach successfully we need to face our own fears and anxieties first.  The referee is driven by fear. The coach is driven by trust.   This involves examining ourselves, our childhoods, the elements in our environment that have shaped us. We must become more objective about what our children are presenting to us. 

Journaling and reflective work are useful here. 

2. Parent in the present

All that is real is what is in front of us in any one given moment.  Coaching allows us to be present to what is, to bring awareness to situations. To help our children move any emotional, mental or physical obstructions in their way of flow. Coaching supports moving forward one step at a time.

A fantastic tool for this is to pause before we respond which means we can take a reaction to a response.  Pausing allows us to take stock of what is going on and consider what would offer the most value to the situation. 

Refereeing is fast paced, coaching slows things right down.

3. Avoid junk praise, grow intrinsic motivation

Coaches know that the best way to inspire is to build self-motivation within our children. 

 When we heap praise on them, and feel like we are being an encouraging parent in the process, we build in them a system of need and expectation that the reward is external. 

When we heap criticism on them we teach them that their actions must be based on what does or doesn’t please us. 

When we ask questions like this, we connect them with how they felt around their actions;

·      What did you enjoy most about that match?

·      How did you feel when you hurt / helped your brother?

·      I love watching you do……” 

All of these questions connect them to their internal processes and outcomes.

4. Collaborate

Collaboration and negotiation are no-no’s in many homes; seen as giving children too much power. 

How about we re-frame that to teaching children essential life skills, while empowering them with choice and connecting them to what they need to know to move forward. 

Coaches collaborate in problem solving, while referees make the call. Final. Lessons in this latter instance are mostly lost.

 What we want for our children is:

  • for them to grow up to be creative, aware, self motivated problem solvers.   
  • to mature with a fare assessment of themselves, 
  • a willingness to look at themselves and 
  • a solid esteem that is based on their understanding that mistakes are learning opportunities and not a statement on their being. 

Are you willing to be your child’s coach?

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