“What Do Kids Think?” ~ a guest post by the incomparable coach Katie McClain

Welcome to September everyone!

This blog post is a special treat because it’s written by my friend and sister coach, Katie McClain. Katie and I both trained with our teacher, master coach Brooke Castillo and have remained connected through other mentoring groups.  We also share hotel rooms for retreats; she was the poor soul sleeping in the other bed when I got up to go to the bathroom and gave myself a ginormous black eye while we were at Brooke’s retreat in Sacramento in the spring. I digress…

Before you read this great piece she created, I want to tell you that what Katie shares with you is something that is really resonating with me right now — as in today. Although Katie and I work in different realms as far as coaching, we share a fierce belief that when we are at the helm of our thoughts, we create the life we want. We create the feelings we want. It takes work. It takes practice. It’s not easy sometimes. It’s not airy-fairy woo stuff that has you ignoring circumstances — it’s the bravest work you can do on yourself. 

What Katie shares about kids learning to be at the helm of their own thoughts has been a lightning rod for me in the past 24 hours. See, I was supposed to post this over a week ago, but this happened and that happened, and I got caught up in one thing or the other — and I needed to post it today. Really — as in God and the universe knew I needed to post it today.

Yesterday, there was a mini crisis in my home. I will leave out the details, but my beautiful 12 year old daughter and I had some long discussions about how her life and her world is changing. And it’s going so fast — so fast that she sometimes has lots of uncomfortable feelings around it: overwhelm, frustration, anger, confusion. She is navigating relationships face-to-face and through online portals that are about fun and expression much of the time. And other times, they can be scathing and brutal. It’s easy to get sucked in. To react. To believe what you hear, see or read. To think, “maybe they’re right about me…”

The greatest gift I will ever give my children is to teach them the tools to manage their inner world when things are happening around them that don’t feel good — that could cause damage and loss of self-worth. They can stand strong in the face of that with the power of their minds. Grace and Christopher will learn that they can look at the facts, feel the shitty feelings that can accompany volatile circumstances that just come with living life and decide to stand in their own power. They define who they are — not other people or circumstances — not even their dad and me. It begins and ends with a thought. 

I urge any parents who read my blog to check out Katie’s site and learn more about her curriculum; she doesn’t know it (well, she does now), but I want to ask her if there’s a way I can teach it here in my corner of the world to the kids in my life who so need it.

Love you, Katie! Thanks for your words — here she is, folks:

What Do Kids Think?

One day this summer, I was lounging at the club pool and was situated directly across from the diving board. I watched a little boy about 9 climb the steps and toward the edge of the board. He moved from the safety of the handrails to the narrow surface of the board with deep water below him. I could tell that this was an important journey for him because just past the rail, he changed to tiny, shuffling steps for about a foot before he turned around and went back.

When he got back to the stairs, he called out, “Dad! Dad!”. He tried again to get his dad’s attention and his dad eventually turned to him. The boy said, “Dad, will you catch me?”

His dad was a bit distracted talking to friends. Dad said, “No. You can do it son.” Dad walked closer to the pool and watched as the boy tried again.

The boy stepped away from the ladder and made his way toward the edge of the board with both hands on the rails. The handrail ended and the boy moved slowly, slowly as he inched to the edge of the diving board.

This time he leapt!

Watching this scene was delightful and fascinating. He did it! A big win! I could see his smile before his head broke through the surface of the water.

His dad congratulated him and told him, “Good job.” The boy didn’t seem to hear what his dad was saying. His head was in and out of the water as he swam to the side of the pool. The boy beamed as he climbed out.

I was glad that the boy hadn’t heard his dad.

Not that I’m against encouraging and praising our kids. Kids definitely need positive reinforcement from the adults in their lives.

I wanted to shout, “Ask him what he’s thinking! Ask him how he feels!”

I’m on a mission to teach kids thought-awareness and how to think on purpose. Teaching kids to be aware of their thinking and to create thoughts that support their path in a positive way is a great way to build self-confidence and resilience. Kids can encourage themselves by creating their own positive self-talk (adults can, too!). Here’s part of the process I use with my own son and with my young male clients.

I first ask:

“What do you think?”

I do this whenever he has a success and also when something hasn’t gone the way he expected. 

Honestly, I try to ask my son and my clients what THEY think as much as possible. I believe it’s powerful to teach thought awareness by helping kids consider their own thinking about life and the experiences they have in it.

When the boys I teach have an experience that doesn’t go their way, I listen a bit longer and pause before I dive in with questions or support. I give him time to find his thoughts.

Listening longer and pausing before we speak is a great practice to use with anyone.

By giving kids time to think and then share their thoughts, you are allowing them to “download” the thoughts from their mind. If the child downloads a thought that seems painful to me personally, I ask him how that particular thought feels. If he says that the thought makes him feel bad or sad or angry, I ask if he wants to continue thinking that thought or to choose another feel-better thought. I offer to help find a new thought after he tries to come up with one on his own. The new thought must always be something that makes sense to the child and that the child believes. Pie-in-the-sky thoughts won’t do the job.

Do you recognize this process? I think many parents already do this sort of thing with their kids. The important parts are to listen, then listen some more and finally LISTEN. Kids are amazing at finding feel-better thoughts. Only assist your child with finding a new feel-better thought if they’re stuck.

Asking a child what they think, how they feel and listening are great tools when your kids have a win like the boy at the pool.

The little guy at the pool was a champion at thinking feel-good thoughts. He headed toward his mom with a huge grin to tell her the good news. “Mom, I did it! I jumped off the diving board!”

Next, he ran around to his friends telling them about his success. He invited them to go on the diving board exclaiming, “It’s easy!”

His parents smiled. I think that was all the encouragement he needed.

Katie McClain is a master life coach who works with moms and their sons. She’s also founder of The kidThink Program for schools. Find out more about Katie at www.kidthink.info.



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2 thoughts on ““What Do Kids Think?” ~ a guest post by the incomparable coach Katie McClain

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