How to Help Your Kids GROW into Lifelong Achievers

During the summer months, the streets of my Cape Cod town become engorged with tourists and beachgoers. This becomes painfully obvious when you see a car with out-of-state plates attempting to make an ill-advised left turn, much to the chagrin of locals like myself.

parent and child on beach

This is why I’ve taken to use a variety of backroads to shave valuable minutes off my journey. I remember one fateful day when I estimated that I would have to spend an extra 10 minutes to get to the grocery store. I can’t waste that kind of time when I have Oreo Thins to purchase, so I veered onto one of my trusty shortcuts. Pure genius, I thought to myself as I whizzed along.

I was shocked and dismayed when I saw a flagman motioning for me to stop. I spent the next 20 minutes watching a team of construction workers discuss a very large hole in the ground. Finally, the mammoth yellow road machine that had blocked my path lurched to the right, and I was allowed to proceed.

My driving experience reminds me of a saying often employed by coaches and personal development gurus:

When it comes to people, fast is slow and slow is fast.

I’ve never found this maxim to be more true than when parenting. When I try to produce short-term changes in behavior (“Clean your room or you’re not going to the movies.”) or try to imprint my methods (“Just make a simple to-do list like I do.”) with one of my darling cherubs, we both end up frustrated and nothing changes.

A coaching approach eschews directive statements that fail to produce long-term results in favor of guidance and questions that do. The practice of coaching increases accountability, encourages action planning and follow through, and supports long-term behavior change in pursuit of a desired outcome. It’s naturally positive and solution-focused, and decades of research has proven that it works in a variety of personal and professional situations.

In his excellent book Coaching for Performance, Sir John Whitmore was the first to publish what’s known as the GROW model. GROW has become a popular coaching framework because it is simple and straightforward. I find that these qualities makes it great for use with kids.

The GROW model guides a 4-part coaching conversation:

Goal – What do you want?
Reality – Where are you now?
Options – What could you do?
Will – What will you do?

The key to becoming a parent-as-coach is developing an ability to ask instead of task. Asking the right questions in the right order unlocks accountability and long-term success in areas of academics, sports, relationships, and other important aspects of your kids’ lives.

If you’d like to help your kids GROW on their path to achievement, add these coaching questions to your repertoire:


  • What do you want to achieve this week/month/semester?
    (Shoot for specifics here.)
  • How do you think you’ll feel when you succeed?
    (Builds motivation and helps envision a positive future state.)
  • What’s an example of a milestone you’ll achieve along the way?
    (Builds healthy goal-chunking and planning skills.)


  • What’s working well for you right now in terms of achieving that result?
    (Inventory of constructive factors.)
  • What’s not working as well as it could be?
    (Inventory of preventive factors.)
  • What’s missing that might help you succeed?
    (Develops critical thinking skills.)


  • What are some actions you could take to make progress toward your goal?
    (These don’t have to be realistic in this initial stage. The objective is idea generation.)
  • Would you like any additional suggestions from me?
    (If yes, offer a variety of suggestions including some silly ones just to demonstrate the importance of getting ideas onto the table.)
  • Which of these options feels right to you?
    (Encourages reflection and self-awareness.)


  • Which option or options do you choose?
    (Choices create personal accountability and empowerment.)
  • When will you get started?
    (More accountability.)
  • How can I support you?
    (Clarifies your role as a willing guide but not an owner of the effort and outcome.)

At its heart, coaching is about constructive conversation. Open doors for your kids, but be sure that they’re the ones who choose to walk through them. It’s never a fast or easy process, but it’s supremely rewarding when you can be a valued guide on their path to achievement.

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How have you prepared your kids to become high achievers? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.

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