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Getting Assistance with a Parent Coach

We’ve all been there. Either standing in the middle of Aisle 10 watching your child lose it, or on the other side of the aisle thinking, “Wow, that kid is out of control. They need to do something.”

Families such as the Steinauers from The Colony did do something to curtail the behavior episodes involving their 3-year-old and 4-year-old boys. After randomly bidding on parent coaching services at a silent auction, Tina and her husband found themselves ready to get real about parenting. Kristy Dixon, an Academy for Coaching Parents International certified coach, guided the parents through personality tests and a questionnaire to get a better idea of their family dynamics. “I remember being very skeptical of the whole process,” Tina says. “But she was very insightful and walked us through our personality differences with regard to our parenting styles.” They discovered their older son was sensitive and responded best to praise: “You didn’t do this well, but you did a good job with this,” and their younger boy was much like Tina, who is often opinionated. “I want things done a certain way, but disciplining our youngest son I realized I had to take a step back and find a way to compromise,” she says.

Parent coaches are trained professionals who help families find solutions for behaviors they just can’t seem to stop on their own. Angela Livingston, M.A., CPC, a certified personal coach at Enrichment Counseling and Assessment in Dallas, works with families to fill in the gaps in their parenting skills. (Oh, your child didn’t come with an instruction manual either?) For those public displays of disruption, Livingston suggests parents stop worrying about themselves. “Do not let the fear of embarrassment keep you from doing your job as a parent,” she says. She recommends establishing rules and consequences before taking trips out of the home. If your child acts out, you should follow through on the pre-established guidelines even if that means you have to leave the store and abandon your to-do list.

For the Holloway family of Castle Hills, parenting became especially challenging after the birth of their third child. With three kids under the age of 4, mom Karen became overwhelmed and sought out a coach. “Kristy helped me to realize that there is no ‘perfect’ parent,” Karen says. “I was overwhelmed by my three very small children and feeling like a bad parent. She helped me get back my confidence and understand that by reaching out for help, we were actually being better parents.”

In the three years Dixon has been a parent coach, she’s seen that the bad behavior often comes from a combination of factors such as stress, perfectionism on the part of the parent and personality clashes in the home. “No yelling” is one of her dictums, and she also reminds parents that children like to make some choices on their own, so a wise parent will empower them to make good ones. “Parents are often the first ones who have to change their behavior with their kids,” Dixon says. “But once they get out of the rut of either responding by yelling or giving in, the game changes. Parents are the ones that set the tone, not the kids.”

With the common problem of talking back, parents must take action quickly and firmly. Livingston suggests getting low to meet them eye-to-eye to tell them that disobeying is unacceptable, and if it continues there will be a consequence. “Consider a time-out chair,” Livingston says, “or have the child verbalize or write down how they feel when they’re rude or disrespectful.” She also recommends that you stay consistent with the consequences and refrain from getting emotionally involved as a reaction to their behavior. Her No. 1 rule, though, is simple: “Modeling, modeling, modeling. Ninety-five percent of what children learn is from what we model.”

You win some and you lose some as a parent, but with a little coaching you might find yourself celebrating more victories on Aisle 10.