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Coaching is the New Fatherhood

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Developing the unique masculine parenting style.

By Dana Minney

74_coachingBreaking news: Dads are great! Previous generations had very rigid parenting roles. Our dads and our dads’ dads often brought the masculine traits of discipline and authority to family life while moms brought nurturing and sensitivity. Those well-defined roles are history. Single parents are increasing in number. Changes in the work and business environment may require parents to travel or work outside the home for longer periods.

Today’s parents, single or not, may feel a pull to play the role of both mother and father. Modern men may try to develop a feminine side to be more sensitive. At the same time, many men are discovering their innate male qualities make them wonderful fathers. This may be different from how our forefathers approached parenting, but contemporary dads are finding new applications for the abilities unique to men.

Scientific research has found very real and specific differences between male and female brains that impact behavior. How can men utilize their unique male qualities to be great dads? Sports psychology provides a useful parallel for parenting. A skilled coach sees the best performance in each player and uses different methods to bring that out. Men have a natural ability to do this.

What attracts men to sports is what also makes men great parents:

1.) the ability to focus,

2.) goal orientation and

3.) thinking of the pack (teams).

This doesn’t mean women can’t apply this psychology or can’t learn it. Anyone can learn to think and act like an inspiring coach. Phil Jackson, considered one of the all-time greatest coaches, said, “A coach uncovers the curiosity of each player and directs it on to the playing field.”

Children are like athletes, with curiosity and ability. Parents can find a way to blend their child’s curiosity with family goals. Although I am a woman, I have learned game theory. I apply it to parenting by creating games with my sons. One of them loves winning. He wants to be first at everything.

Games based on speed really work for him. If I need him to clean up, I give him a time challenge and see if he can beat it. For Christmas, he got a stopwatch. He wears it around his neck constantly. Clearing the table is fun when it is a challenge that lights him up. A game, defined in simple terms, is “something that happens within a specific period of time within a specific set of rules.”

Because men’s brains tend to function in linear patterns, they are great at creating games and breaking down a game in to smaller goals. When applied to family life, it takes some finessing to get the players (you and your kids) functioning like a team and making home life in to an ongoing game.

But it’s worth it. First, decide the goal for your family (for example, team spirit). Then create a game by keeping score and awarding points. A game is a way to make it fun and stay accountable to reaching the goal. If your family goal is to have more teamwork and cooperation, keep track whenever someone does something that contributes to the team.

Discuss as a family examples of team-spirit actions such as offering to help carry groceries, caring for a younger sibling when needed, etc. Next, create a “scoreboard” with stickers or markers to show what each player earns each day. Points can be turned in for money (pennies or quarters.

Mind you, this should not break the bank!) or passes for fun activities. Hand out rewards at the end of the day according to the score and enjoy the result. So dads, go ahead and be dads. And play ball!

Tips for Single Dads

1. Read Your Child. That’s not a typo. I don’t mean read to your child. Read your child like a sports coach. What is he or she curious about? You’ve seen how your child’s face lights up during certain activities. Create a game in which this can be expressed.

2. Stay Connected. Even when they aren’t listening, keep communication lines open. Ask open-ended rather than yes-or-no questions. For example, “What would you do if you had superpowers?”

3. One Play At A Time. The most important thing is what is happening now. Show leadership with phrases like, “Let’s complete this. Then we will do something fun.”

4. Timeouts, Not Knockouts. When your kids goof up, use natural consequences. Timeouts give firm guidance while punishment (verbal or physical) inhibits growth. A coach preserves an athlete’s desire to play.

5. Celebrate. Every game needs a celebration to reward the players for playing and encourage bonding. Have a picnic, sing or prepare a favorite meal.

In Dana Minney’s The One Minute Parent, second edition, you will learn how to create more harmony, integrity and fun in your family. Applying the coaching tools developed throughout years through her business and her study of family dynamics, Minney shows the three basic habits that make organizations successful and how to apply them to your family. For more information, visit


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