No Amount of Yelling Was Going to Fix this Problem

I never cease to be amazed at the power that using problem solving over punishment or reward can have on actually making situations better. 


My 10-year-old son, Cole, is playing soccer this season and he has a great coaching team. Both coaches have very different styles. One is quiet in his coaching style and the other is passionately loud, as you sometimes need to be when trying to communicate with eight players across a soccer field.


Cole kept getting "coached" during the games because he was not staying in his position. He was like a dog chasing a squirrel, wherever the ball went, Cole went. This showed his running skills but it also meant he was not where he was supposed to be at often critical match times.


The other problem was that the passionately, loud coach's style was not motivating Cole to change his behavior. Instead it was upsetting him and it was obvious that he was not having fun out there on the field.


On our way to last night's game we spoke with Cole, his goal was to not have his name yelled out ad nauseum throughout the game, as had been the case in previous matches. I asked him what would help with that? He replied "staying in my position." I asked him what would help him do that? His answer stopped me in my tracks: "If I knew which side was my right and which was my left."  


Eureka!!  Yep, it sure would help if knowing the right from the left was something he knew for sure. Cole has dyspraxia, so some processing things that you and I might take for granted don't come naturally for Cole. He knows that he writes with his right hand but on the soccer field he was having trouble figuring this out.


No amount of passionate yelling from the assistant coach was going to help Cole. We gave him a few tips for remembering which side to stay on and his name was only called out once, for a great play! A massive difference!


If in doubt, ask yourself, "What is the unmet need causing this behavior?" Problem solving to find it has never let us down. Yelling however has never worked.