There are some things that every single parent struggles with - like getting kids to clean up after themselves or to come back home on time.
Erika Katz, a well respected parenting expert that’s been featured on The Today Show, Fox News, Seventeen Magazine, The New York Post and many other major networks and publications had the same problem. Her son wouldn’t pick up his shoes from the living room floor.
So Erika went and found the solution.
In her most recent book “Coach Parenting: Raising Teenagers with Advice from Pro Football’s Greatest Head Coaches”, Erika gives parents the playbook to teach children how to be responsible, show respect, and to motivate them to be their best. She takes ideas from the greatest NFL coaches and shows how to apply them to your parenting through her own experiences.
Parents, let me put it simply. This book is a must read. The advice is practical, smart, and is applicable for kids of any age.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Erika to discuss Coach Parenting. We talked about her inspirations, methods, and how parents can get started with her unique and effective parenting methods. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
How did you come up with the idea of coach parenting?
I was home with my 14 year old son, and I asked him to pick up his shoes from the living room floor. Of course he said “Oh yea mom, I’ll do it”. A day later, his shoes were still right there on the floor. He didn’t move them until I told him I would throw his shoes out if he didn’t put them away.
A couple days later, I saw my son’s basketball coach ask my son to put away all the equipment, and my son responded, “Yes coach”, and immediately started picking everything up. I turned to his coach and asked, “How’d you do that?!”
His answer was simple - “They just need to be held accountable.” So, I thought that if I start parenting more like a coach, my kids will become more respectful and that our lives would become more organized.
How did you get started?
I started reading coaching books, including books by Tom Coughlin, the former coach of the New York Giants, and a book by Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks. I started to see a pattern. All these coaches used a principle I call “show up on time or get benched”. These coaches all insisted on punctuality, so I decided to try it at home by setting a curfew for my son.
I told my son that he must be back home at 11 PM on weekends, and that when I said 11, it didn’t mean 11:05 or 11:15. If you allow your kids to be late, you’re really telling them that what you said meant nothing. If he was late, I held him accountable – for every five minutes he was late, I made his curfew five minutes earlier the following week.
And it worked! Suddenly, I saw that he gave me more respect. That respect translated into every other part of my son’s life; he became more punctual with his schoolwork as well.
Did your children give you any pushback when you started coach parenting?
The earlier you start Coach Parenting, the easier it’ll be. You’ll already have established the pattern by the time your kids get older. But coach parenting is still possible even if you start later. You just need to be a tough coach and hold your ground.
You need to be firm and tell your kids that this is the way it’s going to be from now on, and if they don’t get on board then you’ll take away the privileges and things that they care about. For my son, it was going out Friday night with his friends. If he didn’t do what I asked of him that week, he wasn’t allowed to go.
The first couple weeks were tough. There was a lot of screaming and yelling. You can’t back down. If you need to, get your partner involved and have them help you hold the line. You have to do whatever you need to do to deal with the pushback.
In sports, if you talk back to the coach, you get benched or cut. Of course, we can’t cut our children, but we can give them consequences . It’s important to lay out the expectations and the consequences upfront. For my son, it was moving up the curfew if he was late. If he was late twice, then he wasn’t allowed to go out for a week.
The key is follow through. Every coach I spoke to said the same thing – you need to do what you say you’re going to do. You can’t be afraid of confrontation. Parenting isn’t always a picnic.
How long did it take for you to start seeing results of Coach Parenting?
It was fast! It probably took two and a half months. It takes a lot of support though. For a football team to win, the coaches all need to deliver a consistent message. You can’t have one coach undermining another. It’s the same with parents. To succeed, parents need to be on the same page or kids will start finding ways to play one against the other.
What do you consider a parenting win?
A parenting win is when you give your child an instruction and they follow it and show respect. They show up when they are expected to, clean their rooms when asked, don’t use any profanity and speak to you with respect.
Our kids are going to grow up one day and to be successful adults they need to show up on time, be responsible, and treat others with respect. If a parent can instill those values in their kids, then I believe that they’ve done a great job!
How can parents come back from a “loss”?
Kids acting out isn’t necessarily a loss. Parents need to constantly think like psychologists. Many of the greatest coaches approach their team like this. Jimmy Johnson, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys even had a degree in psychology.
We need figure out what’s causing our kids to act out, and then react in a way that calms them down instead of adding fuel to the fire. We need to identify the triggers, whether it’s lack of sleep, learning issues, bullying, drug use, or any other number of things, and have open conversations with our kids.
It’s also important not to be judgmental and to validate our children’s feelings. Letting our kids know that what they’re feeling is important helps build trust between us and our kids. They make mistakes just like we do. As parents, it’s not our job to judge our kids – it’s our job to listen and help them through whatever they’re going through.
Why is Coach Parenting better than other parenting styles, like helicopter or free-range parenting?
The problem with helicopter parenting is that it doesn’t teach kids to control themselves. It doesn’t give kids a chance to learn. You can’t hold onto your kids forever and they need to be prepared for the real world.
My issue with free-range parenting is that it doesn’t have any boundaries or reference points. Children aren’t given the tools to understand what’s right or wrong.
I think that as parents, we need to mimic the real world as much as possible so that our kids will be ready for the challenges they’ll eventually face. From my experience, coach parenting provides a nice balance between helping kids learn to be independent and giving them the boundaries and parameters that they need to succeed.
Why is “explain the why” so important in modern parenting?
Our kids are from the Google generation. They can instantly find the explanation to anything they want. They’re so used to knowing the reasons for everything that they believe that they’re owed explanations.
But it’s important not to give too many reasons. Once you give reasons, kids will start trying to poke holes. Keep your reason short and brief and don’t get dragged into a debate.
What types of incentives do you use with your kids?
I try to make sure that my children always get recognition for their accomplishments. It doesn’t need to be a monetary reward! For example, last week my son got his SAT scores back. It was 80 points higher than his first attempt, but it still wasn’t as high as he wanted. Instead of telling him that he could do better, I said “that’s great, you did better than last time, let’s go out for dinner to celebrate”.
Great coaches are known for paying attention to the details. Which details should coach parents be most focused on?
The most important details to focus on are the ones that we normally ignore. For example, watching how your child interacts with their team at halftime, when they are off the court will tell you a lot more than just watching the way they play.
How do you balance between Coach Parenting and maintaining an open, honest, and trusting relationship with your kids?
Every family needs to have a locker room – a place where the family can let loose, relax, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s important to be able to take a step back and unwind from time to time.
I make sure to tell my kids that if they’re honest with me we can work through anything. I point out that making good choices isn’t for my benefit, it’s for theirs. I’m not setting rules because I’m mean and strict – it’s because I want them to have the best life possible.
For example, if kids drink, it’s important to talk to them and find out why they drank before being punitive. It just isn’t the right time.
How do you think that technology has changed the dynamic between parents and children?
We can never have complete control over our kids. You can never know everything your kids do or say. And that’s OK. Kids need to make some mistakes on their own. But what parents can do is prepare.
We need to learn how to use social media – how to tweet and snap. We need to understand the world that our kids are in. My daughter follows the Kardashians, so I do as well. I want to know what she is being exposed to.
It’s also important to discuss online safety and personal boundaries with our kids. I speak to my daughter about what types of pictures are OK to post and what types might lead to trouble. I make sure to point out that once something is out there, it’s there forever.
It all comes down to preparation. We need to prepare our kids for the online world. We need to speak to them about the risks and teach them how to use social media properly.
We also need to prepare ourselves. We need to learn how to use the apps that our kids use and live in the world that they live in. If you need to go into the apple store and have them spend an hour teaching you how it all works, then go do that!
How would you sum up Coach Parenting?
There are five basic principles in coach parenting:
Show up on time or get benched – Everything starts with setting clear expectations.
Always be prepared – preparation is the key to success in anything.
Do what you say you’re going to do – if you don’t, your kids will learn that what you say doesn’t matter.
Listen to your kids – they’ll often tell you everything you need to know.
Be present – spend quality time with your kids without letting anything else get in the way.
You can learn more about Erika Katz and Coach Parenting at her Website - www.ErikaKatz.com