In her book, The Parent As Coach Approach: The Seven Ways to Coach Your Teen in the Game of Life, author Diana Sterling says that the role of parents in a child's life changes as the child develops. She suggests the following model for parenting a child from 0 through 20:
0 through 6
Parent as Teacher
7 through 12
Parent as Administrator
13 through 20
Parent as Coach
She goes on to explain that at about age 6 or 7, the mental transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" occurs and that children are then able to absorb information independently and no longer need their parent to teach them everything.
During the ages between 7-12 children begin to initiate activities and create social groups and need an adult to administer these activities and groups, and help them to explore their growing interests, while continuting to serve as teacher.
During the teen years, a child's intellectual process expands with new capability for abstract thought. He begins to manage his own activities, schedule and decision making and doesn't need or want an administrator.
Here's where parents have a choice about the way they approach parenting their teen.
They can continue trying to parent as an administrator. Many parents do this automatically, out of habit and often unconsciously. This will most likely result in resistance, frustration and conflict with teens, who are trying to make the transition from children to responsible, independent adults. Parents may see their role as promoting personal responsibility (don't forget to brush your teeth, did you do your homework? clean your room?) where teens simply see this as nagging. They know what they need to do and they would like to choose when they will do it. The more nagging, the more resistant. And, come on, Mom, I think I can handle brushing my teeth by now!
This is the point where a break down of sorts occurs. Some parents take a step back from the conflict and think their job is done as their teen disengages, pushes their parents away and/or rebels. In fact, this is the point where teens need their parents most.
Diana Sterling suggests that at this point parents consider parenting their teens a coach. Based on my work with teens and what teens tell me about their relationships with their parents and what they want and need from their parents and other adults in their lives, I would agree with Diana.
Teens need coaches to support and guide them toward creating a life of purpse and meaning. They don't need adults to manage their lives anymore. Instead they need guidance, support and perspective. They need to know you're there and are watching from a comfortable distance sometimes ... and are right there with them at other times. It makes sense when you think of what they are trying to accomplish; going from totally dependent to independent. That doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen alone.
Ideally for teens, all the adults in their lives will be their coaches during this transition, parents included.
This concept may seem foreign, even difficult, for some parents to embrace. Some parents will disagree with the concept of parent as Coach and stand firm on their role as Administrators. The truth is, making the shift from Administrator to Coach may mean some self-reflection around our own upbringing and the way we were parented, That may be difficult for some, however the return on investment will yield great rewards for those who are able to make the shift.
I believe that this philosophy can be applied to all adults who work with and support teens.
I love that I get to witness this kind of transformation in my work on a daily basis and that this work serves as a never ending source of gratitude and growth for me and the teens and adults I work with. The truth is, teens have so much to offer adults and society in the form of creative ideas and solutions and observations. Coaching teens and adults to connect and communicate more effectively is a great way to breathe new insight, energy and creativity into our world.
For more information about Diana's book and her philosophy, visit
Finally, sometimes coaches need coaches. To explore how personal coaching may help you or the teens in your life,
call me at 603-452-7350 or contact me via the form below.
Transition on Purpose