During the last 10 years, I’ve helped hundreds of children to feel gorgeous from the inside out. I’ve helped them
- find the courage to overcome their fear of the dark, performance anxiety, dogs, and making mistakes (to name a few)
- feel safe enough to go away from home or on residential and have fun without their family
- boost their confidence so they can stand up for themselves and handle bullies
- manage their stress levels so they can cope with the pressures of school
- believe in themselves and find good friends who treat them with kindness
During this time, I’ve also been healing from my own childhood trauma. It’s been quite a fun and yet intense experience. I guess you could say that it was a co-creation – a team effort between the children and myself. I wasn’t a therapist or teacher, but more the guide leading them inwards to listen to the beat of their own heart.
As I look back on my days in my coaching room, I smile fondly and feel pretty chuffed to bits for all the children who have shown up and done the work. That takes courage *claps loudly * and not everybody is prepared to introspect so deeply which affirms their courage, determination and sensitivity.
Knowledge, confidence + new skills don’t happen overnight
Whilst establishing myself as The Smiley Coach and fine-tuning my craft, I’ve learnt so much. More recently, you will have noticed that I’ve started sharing my knowledge and alternative approach with other professionals. I call them Champions of Children.
I believe that shifting the focus from attending to behaviour to meeting emotional needs is a much better use of everybody’s time. It also raises children with good self-esteem who know their innate worth – instead of thinking that their performance, or what they do, is somehow linked to being a ‘good enough‘ person.
You don’t know what you don’t know!
I really want to share with you what did go wrong in the beginning. You can use my mistakes, sorry learnings, to help you in your work with children. It’s also worth remembering, that we’re all human and without awareness, we get stuck. You don’t know what you don’t know!
Hopefully, this blog increases your awareness and helps you prioritise the bits that matter (instead of getting caught up in the stuff which is a waste of your precious time). Then you can experience more highs and enjoyment over the worry, the drama and the fear-inducing uncertainty.
In my eagerness to do a good job and please my clients, I got caught up in the end results. Big mistake! Huge! I can now see how doing that was unhelpful to my clients because it gave them a message that I needed them to change, in order to feel comfortable around them. Do you do that with your kids? I also learnt that it was way more important to spend as much time as possible building trust because when I had that all-important connection with my client, the rest just fell into place.
Lesson Learnt: Above all else, connection (trust- mutual respect – love) is the number 1 priority.
Suggested Action Step for You: Work on your rapport with children instead of trying to control their behaviour. Be patient and take your time. Trust takes time to build and can be broken quickly.
I planned every session down to the second and I would feel myself getting anxious if we weren’t following the plan. Life isn’t like that though, is it? Children aren’t predictable and who is to say that my plan was the right plan for them. Mmm it probably wasn’t.
Lesson Learnt: Children are resourceful and can creatively problem solve when they are relaxed and happy. So creating rapport and a stress-free, safe environment is more important than trying to control what happened in a session. These days, I let the child lead and I work on the premise that they know what is right for them.
Suggested Action Step for You: Yep it’s that word again: rapport and trust. You will find trusting hard if you don’t trust yourself and your capability.
When I first started out, I was juggling my part-time Nanny job with coaching, building a website and at the time I gave up smoking too! I would also spend hours on the phone with parents because my boundaries were rubbish. I so desperately wanted to help them but actually, I didn’t have enough energy to focus where it should have been: on the child.
Lesson Learnt: Just because I know the answers and can help, doesn’t mean I have to do it all. Read that again. If you keep doing everything for others, how are they ever going to learn? You are doing the work for them. I guide children down a path which means they are in the best place and supported to work it out for themselves. I did go through a period of coaching both parent and child – it really is ‘the dance’ between the two that needs exploring for the best outcomes.
Suggested Action Step for You: You don’t have to wear your underpants outside your trousers and save everybody. People have to save themselves and be willing to. Delegate and relinquish some of the control. No, they won’t do it like you but they will do it in a way that feels right for them. Please be sure you prioritise self-care which is ultimately your rapport with yourself. Oh, and did I mention boundaries? More on that in a bit.
There are all sorts of ways our low self-esteem shows on the outside – not earning enough money, not investing in the things which are important like your mental and emotional health, not practising good self-care and not having good boundaries. This one is juicy and I did all of those. I didn’t charge enough money. I was doing home visits for £35 and staying for 2 hours drinking tea with the Mum because I wanted to help more. *cringe*.
I gave away too much for free and trained people to expect that from me. Then when I asked them for money, they didn’t make the commitment….some of them were even outraged. I’m sure they don’t go to work for free, so it was good to let those people go. They were definitely not my people.
Lesson Learnt: When you value yourself, you can have a better life. One which is less stressful, less anxious and more abundant – in time and money. I’m wondering how much you value yourself? How much you appreciate yourself and acknowledge that in spite of doing a really hard job, you never give up. Not on the children you support, but have you given up on yourself? It took a Coach and a therapist to highlight that my over-giving and under receiving were leading me to burn out and of course people were taking me for granted because I never said no.
What is that saying? Givers need to set limits because takers never do! My lack of boundaries also led to lots of people copying and stealing my work. Right down to the name of my products. The bloody cheek of them. It’s supposed to be a form of flattery, but I just found it lazy, unoriginal, underhanded and really fricking annoying. I’ve since paid to trade-mark my brand and copyright everything! But also with my newfound self-esteem, I am confident that I am my brand and those people can’t be me. I am always 10 steps and 50 gazillion ideas ahead of them.
Suggested Action Step for You: Learn all about healthy boundaries and how you need them as a human being, not just a professional. Invest in your personal development and value what you do and who you are.
As with all things new, there is a huge learning curve. I am a lifelong learner, but when it comes to children, with each developmental stage you sometimes still feel like you are locked in a dark room and you worry that you are getting it wrong or are not good enough. Yep me too! I was worried about letting people down or not getting it right.
Lesson Learnt: I got myself a good Coach and my therapist who I have been seeing for 15 years has guided me through my own triggers (yes I have them too and the kids can trigger me – I’m only human). Having a support system of wise cheerleaders is invaluable.
Suggested Action Step for You: Find yourself a Coach (I’m here to help!) or a therapist or a supportive community to handhold you and be your Cheerleader through the tricky bits. It helps to know that you don’t feel alone with your struggle. You are not alone. It’s more common than you think it is.