As some of you might know, I wear many hats.

On the one hand, I am a rebbetzin. I am married to a rabbi. I help run JFX and I provide spiritual guidance to our community.

I am also a teacher. I teach classes to adults and sometimes teens, whether those classes are intimate gatherings in our lounge, or lecture-style presentations for hundreds of women on Momentum trips in Israel.

Lately I’ve been developing another hat that I wear: parent coaching. I’ve enrolled in a course to help me develop this part of my life and I am finding it absolutely fascinating. I’m a perpetual student and, as a kid, loved getting new notebooks in the fall and cracking them open to take notes, meticulously underlining and highlighting. (Yes, yes, I am that nerd.) So having enrolled in a coaching course, after being out of school for decades, has been fascinating and so much fun. Here’s just one thing I’ve learned: coaching is not teaching.

See, I have an ongoing conversation with my kids about boring teachers. My kids claim that it is the teacher’s fault if the kids act out, because if the teachers are boring, then the kids will act up. But if the teacher is interesting, then the kids don’t act up.

I wouldn’t quite put it that way, but I do agree that it is the teacher’s job to be interesting enough to hold the room. (Of course it is also the child’s job to be respectful, even if the teacher is boring, but that’s another subject for another day.) Likewise, if I am teaching a class and people start pulling their phones out, it means it’s my job to be even more fascinating so that the people sitting in the room feel that they don’t want to miss even one word. (Of course they should be respectful too….) In other words, as a teacher, it’s my job to be the most interesting person in the room.

But coaching is not teaching. My job as a coach is to help my client be the most interesting person in the room, with strategically placed questions and prompts to draw out the wisdom that lies within each client. That means that my job is not so much to talk, but to listen, and to ask probing follow up questions to help my clients understand why they do the things they do and how they can do them differently. Of course, I also have tips and strategies to share (teaching), but that’s not quite where the transformation is.

While it’s hard to switch out these hats, what I’ve come to realize is that my kids often need me to be more of a coach than a teacher. A lot of times as parents we tell our kids things all day (teaching) when we should be asking them insightful questions to help them produce the wisdom within themselves (coaching). So much of parenting is actually withholding information in order to make space for transformation. Maybe there’s more growth in the pause than in the noise, more thoughtfulness in the silence than in the words.

Rabbi Shimon, the son of Rabbi Gamliel, says: “All my days I have grown up among the wise, and I have found nothing better for myself than silence.”
Ethics of the Fathers 1:17

Shabbat shalom,