What do successful CEOs, happy homemakers, and professional golfers have in common? They all benefit from the resources of a life coach to help them live productive lives and fulfill their goals and dreams. The techniques that promote awareness and change, enhance relationships and bring satisfaction for executives are also powerful tools for parenting.

Training and raising a child can be more challenging than running a business! As a parent, you may not have had a healthy role model to follow, and may have learned your parenting skills through trial and error. After all, parenthood doesn’t come with a training manual. Or does it? Parent coaching is a relatively new but rapidly growing profession that is extremely different from consulting, therapy, or counseling. It is especially aimed at helping parents build and maintain close, healthy relationships with their children. The coaching process addresses specific conditions and transitions in the family’s life and provides mentoring for parents and children through which mutual respect develops. By discovering what the obstacles or challenges might be, one can choose a course of action that makes life more pleasant for the whole family. Coaching teaches empowerment and growth through honest examination of one’s life and goals, and creates an effective means to a win-win solution thereby lessening conflict and trauma that may have to be dealt with in a counselor’s office later on.

Why do families need coaches?

Today’s families are scattered across the globe and the network of community is frequently weakened or lost through separation, divorce, relocation, job demands and other changes. Even when you do have close access to family members who have “been-there-done-that”, you may not get the best advice from them. Best friends or parents may think they know what's best for you, but they often promote their own staunch, old-fashioned opinions without considering the child’s personality, long-term goals or other factors in a situation. For example, Aunt Suzie may tell you that your child is acting up because you divorced her father—that you should have stayed married no matter what. While the marriage may have seemed ideal to your aunt, the affect of the divorce was far less upsetting to you and your daughter than being in a situation where you and your daughter were being emotionally and verbally abused daily by her father. What Aunt Suzie may not understand is that you and your daughter are both better off having very limited contact with the man that outsiders (Aunt Suzie included) consider Mr. Wonderful. Coaching involves the person’s mind, body, emotions and spirit as well as the social and cultural context of a situation. A coach would consider all sides of the issue, and support your decision while helping you and your daughter adjust to being a single-parent family.

Parenting is complicated by our aggressive society where competition for social and economic status concerns your child, and where peer pressure and feeling accepted and safe at school distracts from the learning experience. The educational system as a whole tries to force every child into an identical mold rather than honoring individual learning styles. All the while the media and entertainment industry challenge your values at home. Broken promises, disloyal friends, gender and racial inequality and sexual promiscuity can jeopardize your child's efforts to cope. The result may be seen as conflict in family relationships, lowered self-esteem, and academic underachievement. These difficulties indicate an area where coaching is needed, and where you may become proactive by teaching your children to make decisions using their best judgment and problem solving skills.

A human being’s beliefs about him/herself and the surrounding world have usually been programmed by eight years of age. The role of most psychologists and counselors is to solve the problems manifesting as a result of negative, limiting or traumatic experiences of the earlier years. Well-meaning adults concerned for children may underestimate the divine potential which lies within each child. By trying to mold their children into what they believe they should become, parents unintentionally destroy the child’s ability to hear and follow their internal guidance. Yet, if we have not found our own inner voice, how can we help our children find theirs? Coaching can help both the parent and the child follow Divine guidance that promotes well-being and healthy self-esteem.

People usually seek a counselor to assist them in changing their child's noncompliant behavior. By the time help is sought the child or teenager may be angry and defiant, and parents may be exhausted and ready to give up. Unfortunately many of these children end up on medication or in therapeutic boarding schools without ever having discovered why the child or teenager is so frustrated. Building on the premise that we cannot change anyone else, we can only change how we choose to be or respond, the goal of parent coaching is to control or change the situation, not the child. Rather than asking how we can change our children, we should ask how we can help ourselves out of our mistaken concepts and fears, and overcome our lack of confidence.

What are some specific instances where parent coaching may be helpful?

1. Your children are fighting constantly and you are tired of playing referee.

Did you know that sibling rivalry is not only a common behavior, but considered normal in healthy families? Why? Because it teaches conflict resolution. As adults we have developed skills to resolve conflicts in an effective and civil manner, but how did we develop these skills? We learned them by setting and defending our own boundaries and by negotiating and accepting the boundaries of our siblings or playmates. A parent’s job is not to solve children’s problems, but to teach them how to make compromises and solve problems on their own. The aim of coaching is to allow children to take control of their lives and their learning, to think beyond the present and instant gratification, and realize they are responsible for the impact their decisions have upon themselves, the ecosystem and others.

2. Your child has a terrible habit of lying

Everyone would like honesty from those who communicate with us, and no one likes being told lies. We want to hear the truth about what a person is thinking, feeling or doing. When children make up stories and excuses the reason could be because he/she is afraid of telling the truth or fears being punished. A coach can show you ways to create a discussion environment where you can express your displeasure or disagreement concerning a particular behavior, while showing love and acceptance that helps your child feels safe enough to tell the truth even if it conflicts with your expectation of him/her. A coach may also look for other reason why the child feels insecure and distrustful of the world around them, and examine your method of dealing with the child. You may be giving orders without explaining the reasons behind them, then when the child doesn’t follow instructions, punishment ensues. If a child feels criticized or fears punishment he/she will try to hide his/her actions. In order to avoid your displeasure the child may eventually stop telling you the truth. Knowing that there will always be love and acceptance, keeps the channel open for honest communication.

3. My daughter is very disrespectful of me and other adults.

“Honor thy sons and daughters.” That sounds opposite to what we’ve been taught. Yes, children should be taught to honor their parents and elders, but how can a child learn to honor others if they themselves have not been the recipient of honor or respect? No child is too young to be spoken to with reason and logic. Even if the child cannot understand all that you are saying, he or she will understand that he/she is being respected. Respect builds self-esteem and confidence which are building blocks for successful living. If we pay attention to how we train our children they can become joyful, well-adjusted citizens living in integrity with themselves and their environment.

What should I look for in a parenting coach?

A coach should be someone who is not associated with your family or workplace, someone who can help you see your own potential, set goals and choose action steps, and then hold you accountable to staying on track. A coach is able to connect you with to people and information, and offer objective feedback or another perspective – they do not give advice, but may refer you to a therapist if you need to work on certain issues or help you get “unstuck”. A coach should encourage you to empower and affirm yourself. A coach will always tell you the truth and expect you to do the same. The results are up to you, not the coach. You are the player in your own life, and you must take action to make things happen.

Old habits can be changed, but it is not a simple process. Few people are successful the first time they consciously attempt to try a healthier path than the one they are currently on, and this may be discouraging. You may embrace healthy ideas consciously and not be able to accomplish here and now what you know you are capable of doing. This is because each person’s unique assortment of fears, attachments, emotional wounds, unmet needs, obsolete strategies, socio-cultural pressures resist our efforts to change. We may go through the cycle several times before we get to where we need to be. A coach reminds the individual that each attempt is a learning experience, and encourages him/her to keep trying especially when the new path goes against the grain of society and family traditions.

You don’t have to wait until problems arise to connect with a coach. In fact, having resources in place and being familiar with the coach ahead of time will ease any tension associated with getting help when it is required. In seeking a coach, find a discerning person who offers support and boosts your confidence while offering sound advice.

Author's Bio: 

Caron B. Goode, Ed.D. DAPA, NCC, is the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International (ACPI). She is a family therapist, parenting author and mother who has developed a comprehensive training program for people interested in becoming coaches for parents. While the Academy’s parent coaches are not trained in specific methods, there is an underlying set of principles to guide you towards becoming involved in community parenting. See www.ACPI.com or phone 520-979-4470 for more information.