Book Excerpt: Client-Centered Goal-Setting and Parents: Do the Two Mix?

A big dilemma coaches often face during the goal-setting process is how to keep the coaching centered on the client but not ignore mom and dad. It’s a delicate balancing act to make sure that parents feel heard at the intake without alienating the young person by pushing the parents’ agenda. Although coaching is based on client goals, the coach can still provide an opportunity for parents to express their wishes for the young person and the coaching process. Not only are parents often paying for coaching and expecting some acknowledgement of their goals at the first intake session, but parents often have valuable insight into the life of the young person that can be useful in informing the coaching process. Being respectful of parents’ goals by acknowledging them in the presence of the client while also explaining that the process is client directed will go a long way toward keeping the process on track. Coaches are encouraged to share with the parents that time will be spent during the goal-setting session with the young person discussing whether the young person would be interested in considering any of the goals suggested by the parents.

Although the coach won’t be forcing the young person to adopt the parents’ goals, the coach will give the young person a chance to assess whether any of those goals are of interest. Oftentimes, the parents’ big-picture goals, such as graduation from high school, are aligned with the client’s goals of improving grades and getting his or her parents to provide more breathing room. Thus, the coach can plan to discuss the parents’ requests during the goal-setting session with the client and aim to help the client see different perspectives on a situation without pressuring the client to choose a parent-centered goal. The client may decide that a parental goal is too rigid, whereas a variation on that goal fits just right. The coach can be a valuable facilitator of the goal-setting process with adolescents and young adults.