A few minutes ago, my son, Kai, headed off on his bike for his first day of high school.

Until now, you might say that I was on the stricter end of the spectrum. When the pandemic started (in 6th grade), I started allowing Kai more screen time. I gave him 15 minutes of screen time for 1 hour of reading as long as he’d spent a minimum of 2 hours outside.

Gradually, I’ve changed the rules in favor of more video games, as that’s one of his primary sources of friend time.

But my limits are still clear.

This year, I’m trying something new. Even more important than ensuring Kai has a certain amount of time outside or reading, my priority is teaching him to make choices that honor his needs.

After all, this is what I coach my clients on. Doesn’t my 14-year-old deserve the same?

I shared this idea with Kai last week, and of course, he liked the idea of more freedom.

I also shared with him a teaching from Kim John Payne, creator of Simplicity Parenting.

Payne writes that parenting has three phases:

  1. 0-7 Years: The Monarch (as in queen or king) Phase. This phase is about clear limits, and its refrain phase is: “In our family, we do this, we don’t do that.”
  2. 7-14 Years: The Farmer Phase. During this phase, parents help their children add in what’s needed, weed out what’s not, and create a mixture that helps them thrive.
  3. 14-Ongoing: The Shepherd Phase: Rather than making decisions for our children, we shepherd them along their path.

(If you’re wondering why I’ve strayed into the realms of parenting and how this might apply to you, please bear with me. We’re almost there!)

Kai is squarely in the shepherd phase now, about to turn 14-and-a-half (though, lately, half birthdays are less of a big deal).

And so, this weekend, I made Kai a proposal.

Photo of Kai and me on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia, MaineI told him I would be willing to remove all the precise limits (phone time, book time, outside time) as long as I saw he was making decisions that met his needs and learning from decisions that didn’t.

To support his decision-making process, I suggested that we have a coaching check-in every Monday evening.

(Miraculously, he often welcomes my coaching. Last week, he announced that I get a “Beginning” in Fun, which is like a D in his school. But, he followed, I earn an “Exceeding” in Coaching. I’ll take it.)

Each Monday evening, I proposed, we sit down. I ask Kai four sets of questions, and he makes a commitment for the week.

At first, he was reluctant to even have this conversation, but once he heard my proposal, he liked it. (We’ll see if we can keep this up through high school!)

Here are the questions Kai and I agreed on for now:

  1. How did it go last week? How did it go with the commitment you set? What are you proud of? What might you learn from?
  2. What do you want? What does your present self want? What does your future self want?
  3. What do we need? We equals the collectives or groups you’re a part of: Family? School? Friendships? Our town? Our planet? Etc.
  4. What commitment will you make this week to take you toward your wants and needs?

Now, I invite you to imagine.

Imagine that you’re a kiddo embarking on a new journey in life, and you have a trusted person who sits beside you and helps you reflect on your life each week.

What would be different if you reflected each week on these questions?

Are you curious to find out?

If so, I invite you to experiment. You might commit to just doing this reflection once. Or set a time at the beginning of each week for a month to reflect.

You might reflect in your journal. Or you might invite a friend to take turns listening to one another. You might print them out, put them in your pocket, and take a walk with them in nature.

Your choice.

If you do experiment with these questions, I would love to hear how it goes for you. Please feel free to send me an email and let me know!

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