Rites of Passage: Cop, Coach, Consultant


This morning, my oldest boy turned thirteen, and my younger boy boarded the bus for three days at Outdoor Ed.

I mean, I’m the mom who celebrates all the milestones and every little step toward independence, but even I have to say… it was a lot for one day. I watched each one blend into the crowd of kids as tall as me, and I felt a little pinch in the heart, so to speak.

Tonight, Tucker and I are going on a date. A rite of passage. Thirteen calls for some conversations.

Here’s what I’m going to say, in a nutshell. Stay with me. I’m practicing on you, the easier audience.


Tuck, happy birthday, first son of mine. You’re the wonder who made me a mom. There’s a special place in my heart that belongs to only you, and it will always be yours.

I’m so proud of you. Tall boy, you are so fun and funny, so creative and clever, so incredible. You’re this terrific blend of your first dad and me. A little of me, but a whole lot of him.

You’re in a season of becoming. And I love watching you. It seems something is new every day.

I heard recently that parenting comes down to three roles and stages: the cop, the coach, and the consultant.

When children are small, they need someone to monitor all of their decisions, actions, choices, and whereabouts. They need a Cop.

When they get older, they need someone to stay close enough to keep the end in sight, to offer guidance as needed, to keep boundaries in place and consequences logical, and to love them enough to hold their feet to the fire. They need a Coach.

When children become young adults, they need someone who is a phone call away, an expert at the ready, someone who steps in for advice only when they’ve been invited. They need a Consultant.

So, today, we stand at the precipice of some changes. You see, buddy, when you were younger, I could make you obey me. I was bigger than you and stronger than you, the keeper of all the things you wanted and needed. Through sheer force of my will upon yours, I could shape the outcome of your day.

Not so, anymore. I cannot make you do anything. You are bigger than me, stronger than me, and our relationship must be born of trust, not force. We are at a place now where your choices are yours, and you will obey and respect me only if you choose to.

I’ve learned that a mom can’t nurture a boy into manhood, which is kind of a bummer, since I excel in nurturing. But nurturing doesn’t show a boy how strong he is, what he is capable of. So I have to learn to do this differently, as we navigate this next stage together. Mostly, I need to step back and let Peter lead you.

Today you are a young man. And a young man doesn’t need his mom to monitor his every move, his every question, his every thought. There are perhaps some secrets a young man should get to share only with his dad.

And so, my role is going to change. I’ll choose to be less of a Cop, more of a Coach. I’m not going away or stepping back. I’ll be here when you need me, but you won’t always need me.

For the record, my teenage son, I still have the power to make your life fairly miserable, just to be clear.   Should you choose to disobey or disrespect me, you’ll be subject to the consequences a father deems appropriate when a young man disrespects the woman he loves. Keep this in mind.

Tonight, over dinner, we will make a list of the things a Young Man Does.

A young man takes responsibility for his work,
including mowing the lawn and finishing his homework, helping with dishes and managing his time.

A young man takes responsibility for what he brings into the room,
including his tennis shoes, food wrappers, and attitude.

A young man lets a woman use her voice,
to say yes, to say no, and to be heard.

A young man is a leader,
and he uses his courage and compassion to affect the world around him.

Happy birthday, my Young Man.

May you grow in wisdom, stature, and favor among God and men.


I’m crazy about you.

P. S. Peter is still in Cop Mode.  So slow down with your big ideas.


Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. I always told the mom’s of my 7 grandsons, “Always remember, dear ones, you are raising men, not boys.” I think your words sum that up explicitly. Blessings to you and Peter as you both continue on this most precious and awesome journey.

  2. Such a sweet love note to your son! Love, love, love! And so wonderful that you realize your role must continually evolve and your job is to make him independent even though there is an invisible cord from his heart to yours and will always be. Your are such an awesome mom!

  3. Sweet! And I love the photos!

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