Parent Coaches Offer Help for the Journey through Childhood

by Mary Scribner

Published in Seattle’s Child, October 2004

All parents know the challenges and joys of parenting. From the hazy exhaustion of being up with a sick child to the joy at hearing the first words uttered by a baby, our emotions can vacillate like a pendulum moving at warp speed. In seconds we can swing from feeling that we actually “might” be doing a good job parenting to utter fear for our “innocent” preadolescent as she chooses clothes to mimic a sexual Brittney Spears. Even the most optimistic and skilled parent can use a compassionate, skilled listener. We all want to make sound parenting decisions.

Compared to just 20-30 years ago, parenting today requires a different set of skills: In order to keep pace and survive in our fast-paced culture, families need to be experts at time management, conflict resolution and stress management. We need expertise in assertiveness training, empathetic listening and communication skills. We also need to be adept at weeding through junk media and warding off the pressures of the advertising/entertainment industry.

Not long ago, families relied on each other for support and encouragement. Tribes around the world raised children in communities of adults, each sharing their gifts and ideas in the experience. There was an unspoken belief that we were all on this journey together. Now, in our modern day mobile society, the journey is less defined, less predictable and more isolating. It often seems that we make this parenting journey alone. We may decide not to burden our friends with “our problems” so we just keep them inside and do the best we can. We may undermine our confidence with our internal dialogue, second-guessing our parenting decisions and wondering, “Should I have…?” or “Did I do the right thing?”

Understanding and talking through the possibilities with another can help us clarify our intentions, our values, and our directions. Parent coaching is a valuable new resource for parents to do just that.

What is Parent Coaching?

Parent coaching is a collaborative relationship between client(s) and coach. Through parent coaching, parents learn to identify priorities and make clear choices based on what is optimal for themselves and their children. Since parenting issues are unique, the reasons parents seek out parent coaches are unique as well. A parent coach can:

  • Assist with discipline issues at any stage of development;
  • Help parents navigate the school system and provide developmentally appropriate educational practices for children and teen-agers;
  • Address sibling rivalry and peer-related issues proactively;
  • Support new and adoptive parents with all the changes a child brings, and help with the challenges of step parenting;
  • Navigate parents through tough decisions – from finding the right preschool to navigating college choices.

What Can You Expect from Parent Coaching?

When you work with a coach you can expect lots of understanding, compassion and support. A coach will ask you key questions, provide information from a vast store of resources and offer specific suggestions to help you implement new attitudes and strategies. During phone conversations, the coach helps you discover constructive ways to address a situation that may be causing you concern, assist you in identifying your goals and help you with designing steps to attain them. A coach encourages and challenges you to discover stresses that may be impacting you and your children. A coach helps you to evaluate the systems you have in place which are supportive and guides you to tap into them more efficiently.

How Does It Work?

A parent coach works with you through 45-minute weekly or bi-weekly phone calls scheduled at your convenience, for an agreed-upon period of time, usually three months. One parent may take advantage of parent coaching or a husband and wife can be on the calls together. The beauty of this model is that after a long day, you don’t have to find a sitter and leave your home. Instead, you can get comfortable and come to the phone session in your pajamas. (If desired, meetings can be arranged in person if client and coach live or work close to one another.)

Sessions cost $75, which includes unlimited e-mail responses to a client’s questions or comments, and a 10-15 minute short coaching conversation per week as needed by the client.

If you need a trained listener and advisor, who can support and encourage you on your own parenting journey, parent coaching may be the right resource for you.

Mary Scribner, R.N., CPC (Certified Parent Coach) is the mother of one son and a member of Sound Parent, based on Bainbridge Island. The other Sound Parent coaches are Sally Kidder Davis, M.Ed., CPC; Chris Christensen, B.A., CPC; and Rachel Eden, M.A, CPC. All have completed a graduate level certification program through the Parent Coaching Institute affiliated with Seattle Pacific University.