Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What is a Parenting Coach


When it comes to being a parent there are more resources available than every before. There are Yahoo! groups, facebook pages, mommy web-sites, daddy web-sites, blog after blog about every aspect of parenting, books and magazines, as well as parenting classes. And of course there are the friends, family, and even strangers, who are more than happy to tell you what you are doing wrong and how you *should* be parenting. This plethora of information can be pretty over whelming. When any person can find a platform to spout their views as if they are an expert in the field, knowing where to turn and who to trust can be hard. 

When you are struggling with your child's behavior, you feel a disconnect between the relationship you want to have with your child and the relationship you actually have with your child, or the parent you are doesn't match up with the parent you want to be, where should you turn?

Would you consider hiring a parenting coach? 

Before you can answer that question you may need to understand what a parenting coach is and what services a parenting coach can provide for you and your family. Because there is no required certification or license for a parenting coach it's also important to know what to look for. Some people who call themselves parenting coaches have their own experience as a parent as their only credential. This would be similar to the life coaches whose primary credential is that they are alive and thus have a life. This kind of parenting coach is not what I'm talking about.

A parenting coach is a professional. The credentials of a parenting coach may vary, but they should have them. A parenting coach should disclose their degrees, training, work experience with families, and references.  Anyone can put together a professional web-site, so you need to look past the virtual first impressions and read the "about" page with a healthy amount of skepticism. 

I've heard people on parenting lists suggest that no one needs to pay for parenting support since there is so much available online for free. It may be helpful to hang out online and get support and encouragement from other parents online, but the advice you get online or from friends and family, while usually well intentioned, may be short sighted. If you build a campfire on dry ground that is made up of decomposed pine needles, pine cones, leaves and branches it is possible to put out the fire that you can see only to leave a fire that spreads underground through roots and decaying matter. The same is true with parenting, you may think you've extinguished a behavior, taught your kid a lesson, put out the fire, but that fire can go underground only to cause serious damage to a child's mental and emotional health, as well as to your relationship.  

For example: A mom posts on a group page that her daughter has been given detention for repeatedly swearing in class at school. She is at a loss as to how to deal with her daughter so she asks for advice.

On a group page the answers will reflect the bias of the person responding. In many groups that person will not know the mother, her child or very much about their relationship or life situation. The responses will usually cover the spectrum of popular parenting philosophies. Suggestions may include punishments, such as  taking way her phone or grounding.  

A parenting coach would meet one-on-one with the mother to discuss the situation. The discussion includes information gathering: trying to understand the mother and daughter's relationship, finding out why the mother thinks the daughter would be acting out in school - was the daughter acting out of anger, boredom, or as a way to release stress? If the mother does now know why her daughter is acting this way then the discussion might turn toward ways the mother could rebuild a closer more trusting relationship with her daughter. If the mother can clearly identify some reasons for the behavior then the conversation might turn toward ways to meet the daughter's needs so that swearing in class is no longer her best way to get them met. If the mother is unsure of how to talk to the daughter about the situation then the parenting coach would be able to help her work through how to broach the topic or how to communicate with her daughter in a non-threatening and empathetic way.

With a parenting coach the support is more than a "you should do [this] to get your child to stop doing [that.]" Parenting coaching provides a unique solution to a parent's unique challenges. Parenting coaching goes beyond helping parenting with one incident, instead it supports parents in strengthening their relationship with their child over-all. 

Ideally a parenting coach will meet with you in person, spend adequate time getting to know about you and your family, and will spend time talking with you, not at you, so that they can offer you feedback that not only addresses your concerns about a particular situation but also gives you information that will help you be the parent that you want to be.

A parenting coach should also be familiar with a variety of parenting methods and philosophies so that they can assist you in creating your own personal parenting philosophy or goals. If you find all the advice available confusing or over-whelming, if you aren't sure what the right thing to do is because there are so many supposed "right ways" then a parenting coach should be able to help you sort through the noise to discover what not only feels right for you personally but is a good fit for your family. 

Often we, as parents, feel uncomfortable asking for help. We may feel that asking for help from a parenting professional is a sign that we are a bad parent or that our children are out of control. The truth is that seeking help is a sign of strength, proof that you are committed to being the best parent you can possibly be, and not only should we not be ashamed to ask for help, we should feel good about ourselves for taking that step.

I've been co-parenting with a parenting professional for almost 17 years. This has been to my advantage, and has hugely benefited our children as well. Having someone right beside me who is able to suggest ideas for better communication, or let me know what I might do differently next time after I have had one of my less than stellar mothering moments, hasn't always been easy, but I am truly grateful for that support. I do think that one of the reasons people hesitate to work with a parenting coach is because it will require them to be honest about their imperfections as a parent. Admitting that we don't always have the answer to a problem, or that we haven't always handled challenges in a way we are proud of, is really hard. If we are brave enough to admit that we don't always get it right, and to ask for help, we have the opportunity to feel really good about ourselves in the long run. Even more importantly, we have the opportunity to have an amazing relationship with our children that is based on compassion, honesty, respect and unconditional love.

Since most of you don't live with a parenting coach, how do you find one?  Start by asking parents you know if they have used or heard of a parenting coach that they would recommend. Once you have a name, go online and start googling and search for their professional page on facebook. Check out their credentials and see if their website explains their parenting philosophy and their approach to working with parents. If you feel like this is someone that is knowledgeable, qualified and experienced, contact them. Ask them any questions you still have about what services they provide. 

Some parents balk at the idea of spending money on a parenting coach, particularly since their services aren't covered by insurarance. When I'm considering the cost of something I tend to look at the value of what I'm getting. What is it worth to me to have a positive relationship with my children?  What price would I pay to get the support I need to be a parent who has children who move through the world confidently, who are comfortable in their own skin and who enjoy my company? Another thing I do is compare the cost to other things I spend money on in my life. If I'm willing to spend a large amount of money for cable TV, or cell phones with data plans for myself and/or my children, shouldn't I be willing to spend a comparable amount of money to get support if it will benefit me and my children? Considering parenting coaching involves an investment of time and money for a short period and has benefits that can be felt in future generations, why wouldn't I be willing to spend as much money as I would on a weekend trip to a theme park with my family? 

So, would you hire a parenting coach? 



If you're interested in parenting coaching, particularly if you live in the greater Portland, Oregon area, I feel comfortable recommending my husband, Jess. You can check out his website HERE  and you can find his professional facebook page HERE.