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David Wood, certified life coach
David Wood PCC
Certified Life Coach

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“Wow, that’s great,” followed by the universal facial grimace and head nod is the common response I receive when I tell people what I do. “I am a life coach for children and their families”, is my answer to their question, and then I am told a story about their child, their friend’s child, their coworker’s child, or their neighbor’s child. They look at me with sympathy as if I have been given a life sentence having to work with a population that most parents fear and many people choose not to become parents because of.

“How do you do it?” is typically the next question I am asked. The answer to this question is simple and complicated at the same time. The simple answer is I assess each individual client and family for strengths and areas that need improvement and then together we create a plan for success. This is what I was taught at coach university. My expectations for an adolescent client and myself as his or her coach, is no different than my expectations for any other adult client.

The complicated answer is that I thoroughly enjoy the adolescent population and I approach each client with: Honesty, Humility, the Willingness to Admit my Mistakes, A Memory of my Childhood, and Respect. Each of these is critical in order to build rapport with a child as a Coach University graduate or as a parent.

Honesty is a tricky subject when it comes to parents and their child. Many parents fear telling their children the truth because they want to maintain balance in their home and giving an adolescent “bad news” (i.e. consequences or saying “no”) is like detonating a hand grenade in the middle of the living room. The mistake many of us make when we are involved with children is we surprise them with the truth. The truth should never be a surprise.

I use honesty with children and when I have a concern I share it. I do not wait for the child to make my worst fear come true to tell them I knew they were headed down the wrong path. My job is to identify potential problem areas and “preact.” I want to put a plan in place to prevent this problem area from becoming a problem (preacting). There is also a second reason why I like to share my concerns with the adolescent. If I am unable to prevent the adolescent from going down a path that we have agreed is the wrong path for him or her to go down, I am also establishing an agreed upon consequence for the behavior. I will develop a contract, sometimes verbal and sometimes written, stating that we have agreed that if this behavior takes place then this is the consequence that will be earned by the child.

When you take the surprise out of your expectations and consequences there is very little left to argue about. It's what I learned at Coach University. This approach worked with: my adolescent son, adolescents I worked with as a Social Worker, and works with my adolescent clients today. Take the surprise out and be honest with your child. It will be difficult at first but you will reap the rewards of less conflict and a better relationship.

Humility is also very important when working with children. Many parents and adults believe they must shove the truth down their adolescent’s throat until the child acknowledges the parent is right. Let me take you back to the most significant learning experiences of your life. Did you learn because someone made you learn or did you learn because you experienced it and then had the support of a friend or loved one that helped you through it.

Many of us as parents and adults tell our children if you do that behavior I will be disappointed, mad, take away your car for a month etc… What we need to instill in our children is when you make a mistake I will be here to support you. I expect most children will do things they should not do, the same things we did when we were adolescents. We all know forbidding a child from doing something is like throwing out the gauntlet, a challenge most children cannot and will not pass up.

Remember, it is not about you. It’s not about what you want or what you believe. It is about your child, what he or she wants and what he or she believes. Do not personalize what your child is doing but allow them to experience their life and be there, with humility, to support them through it. If every time you did something wrong your friend said, “I told you so” how long would you keep talking to this friend.

As parents and adults we are supposed to know everything and never be wrong. This is the thinking that gets many of us into trouble with our adolescent child. When a child is wrong, we expect the child to acknowledge he or she was wrong and take responsibility for his or her actions. Who is role modeling this behavior for them. If it is not the adults in their life then many times it is not being role modeled at all. When we make a mistake we must admit to the adolescent child we were wrong, apologize, and revoke any consequences that were given. This is critical in building a strong relationship with an adolescent child. The message we want to instill in our children is that we are all human, we all make mistakes, and when you do make a mistake this is how you should deal with it.

Another very useful tool we have at our disposal is remembering what it was like for us when we were adolescent children. Do not make the mistake of expecting your child to be like you were when your were their age, because this will just create frustration in your life. The goal is to remember how much expectation your parents, teachers, and other adults put on you, the pressure you felt to act a certain way by your peers, the changes you were going through physically, and how every crisis seemed like it was the end of the world. Remember these difficult times, how painful some of these experiences were, and how difficult it was to always communicate with your parents about how you were truly feeling. When you can remember your own difficult experiences you will have more patience in dealing with your adolescent child when they are being disrespectful, swearing at you, yelling at you, and telling you, “You are the worst parent in the history of the world.”

Finally, remember that even though they may look like you, sometimes act like you, and have the same last name, They Are Not YOU! Our adolescent children are real people that need to be respected for their opinions, ideas, feelings and passions to take on the world. We live in a very diverse world with varying opinions on religion, politics, family values, work ethic etc… Most of us have friends that we disagree with and we accept them for who they are. When we do this with our adolescent children, respect their differences and not try to force them to be like us, we will see in front of us, not an adolescent child who is ignorant and foolish, but a young adult who is preparing for independence and the ability to take on the world with accountability and passion.

These are the tools I live by in both my personal and professional life. My adolescent clients and their families have responded well to these tools and I do believe today’s parents can develop a stronger relationship with their adolescent child if they consistently used these techniques in their everyday life.

If you have any questions, feedback, or would like to find out more about my coaching services please access my website at


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