Coach the Student, NOT the Parents: Culum Walsh's Latest Coaching Insight

May 19, 2017 by John Andrew Williams

Coach the Student, NOT the Parents: Culum Walsh's Latest Coaching Insight

I’ve been in the ALC 1.0 course since January of this year, and the following is the most recent and most valuable lesson I’ve learned as an academic life coach: My judgments about the way adults parent their child get in the way of me coaching the child effectively.

The mother of a student-client shared with me that over two, consecutive weekends, her husband had physically disciplined my client. As she described the incidents, I felt a shock go through my body, as if I were watching a disturbing scene in a movie. The mother assured me that she and her husband had called the police immediately after the punishments, and asked them to interview their son to be sure that they were within the state’s laws for parents’ rights around corporal punishment.

The child had reported the first punishment to a teacher at school, and the social worker followed it up. My client’s mother has an M.A. in Social Work, so she knew exactly what to expect. She and her husband were transparent with the authorities, and it turns out that they didn’t break any laws.

The narrative going off in my head was: “I can’t handle this family. This is not the way I would discipline a child. I need to drop this client.”

I shared this experience on a 30 x 30 call with John, and he asked me the question: “In what way is this client stretching you?” My answer included a description of a similar experience, when my mother had punished me with a belt when I was in the 7th grade. I was running away from school, and she had warned me that none of her previous efforts to discipline me had worked, so the next time, the belt was coming.

As I look back on this experience now, I see that my mother was so committed to me turning out as a healthy and well-adjusted human being, that she was willing to go to such an extreme. Also, my mother was a parent in a different time. It was 1979 when I was in the 7th grade. Spankings were popular and socially acceptable. These days, spankings and other forms of physical punishments are closely scrutinized, and more and more parents prefer non-physical forms of discipline.

How is this client stretching me as a coach? He’s teaching me to let go of judgments about parents. He’s reminding me that there are myriad ways to express love and commitment for a child. Some of them are unpopular or politically incorrect, however, perfectly legal.

This client is teaching me to check my self-righteousness at the door of each session, and coach him, not his parents.


You might also enjoy Learning Style Critiques

Let's stay connected image

Let's stay connected

Follow us

Facebook linkInstagram linkTwitter linkYoutube linkPinterest LinkLinkedin link


To provide life coach training that changes lives, launches careers, and promotes human flourishing.

Logo footer

PO Box 2021

Hood River, Oregon 97031

NBHWClogo logoACTP logo