It may be in our very first session, or it may come much later, but this is true for all of my coaching clients: I want them to tell me about their childhood. No, coaching is not therapy, and I don’t need to hear about every memory from each client’s first 6 years. I do, however, want to know how my clients’ family experiences shaped their deeply held beliefs—their mental models—about life and about themselves, because those beliefs actively shape their current perceptions, behaviors and relationships, often outside of conscious awareness. By making those deeply held beliefs explicit, clients are often able to make more mature and considered decisions about how to operate in the world, and such decisions almost inevitably lead to better outcomes, both personally and professionally.
In this blog, Dr. Bill Anton describes the importance of the father-daughter relationship in the creation of mental models—mental models which have profound implications for the daughter’s future, particularly in terms of her choice of a romantic partner.
As I reflect on my relationship with my father, I feel grateful for many things, not the least of which (I now realize) was his “subconscious choice” of my spouse! Like my dad, my husband Eric is smart, hard-working, kind and completely devoted to his family. Unlike my dad, Eric likes to take life as it comes, and doesn’t even know a single route—never mind three alternatives—to a destination to which he is driving for the first time. (I like to think I’m somewhere in the middle, but truth be told, I’m probably more like my dad, which is part of the reason that Eric complements me so well.)
What made me happiest when I read Bill’s blog about fathers and daughters was the realization that Eric’s relationship with our daughter, Laney, is providing such a strong a foundation in terms of both her sense of self and also her future relationships. Laney is adopted from Vietnam, and it was Eric—not me—who flew to Vietnam to bring her home. (He was accompanied by dear friends who were adopting their daughter, Sadie, at the same time.) So Eric was, in a sense, Laney’s first parent, meeting her when she was just five months old and weighed only 15 pounds; their bond has been a very special one from the start. Not surprisingly, Laney wants Mommy when she is tired or sick, but Daddy is her buddy, taking her to Disney World, teaching her to fish, and foisting her forward from his shoulders while holding onto her only by her ankles; it’s a move they refer to as “the bungee” and I swear it gives me a mild heart attack whenever I see it. Eric taught Laney to ride her bike. He buys her Rays t-shirts, and he takes her downtown for gelato. He calls her “Pumpkin” and teaches her every day that she is strong and smart and courageous and beautiful and worthy of love—our love, certainly, but also the love of friends and partners yet to come into her life. So thanks, Dad, for “choosing” Eric for me—and for Laney.