What parent hasn’t rolled eyes skyward when faced with a child-rearing challenge?
In the old days, we might have asked our parents or grandparents for advice.
Now, there are parenting coaches. Some counsel in person. Others, to accommodate busy schedules, do it over the phone. A decade ago, the term "coach" transitioned from the playing field into areas of personal finance, career and romance. As the profession grows, so do the number of specialties. Some parenting coaches are creating niches within a niche — dads, working moms, children’s behavior issues, even moms-to-be. Consultations start at $45 to $60 for a 45- to 50-minute session.
The problems that are addressed vary, according to Diana Brown, a former elementary school teacher. Brown works with parents independently as well as through workshops at the Mesa Unified School District’s Parent University (workshop prices range from $18 for a parenting team to $10 for a single parent). She counsels young parents who are overwhelmed by the reality of it all and older parents who are caught in teen power struggles. She also works with grandparents who have stepped in as primary providers and have found that parenting issues have changed.
"Issues have changed because society has changed," said Brown.
Some issues, anyway. Kelly Downey, 32, went to a parenting coach for an age-old problem —yelling. But it wasn’t her three children, ages 4, 6 and 7 1 /2, doing the yelling. It was her.
"I knew there had to be a better way," Downey said. And Brown helped her develop a strategy that she could apply — assertiveness rather than aggressiveness. Things are much calmer now around the Downey’s Mesa household.
Discipline is a big issue when it comes to why parents seek out parenting coaches. They recognize when the old techniques involving force, fear and coercion don’t work. Like Downey, they want alternatives.
What they may not understand is that discipline problems are often symptoms of something else. Parenting coaches talk through the situations with the parents to help them come to a solution strategy.
"The thing (children) are missing is our time," Brown said. "We are spending 40 percent less time with our children than we did in the 1950s. And it has been shown — and this is pretty amazing — that five minutes of focused play a day reduces oppositional behavior by 50 percent."
Elizabeth Nelson, a Scottsdale coach, gives the example of a child who isn’t doing homework. "They (the parents) think the homework is the issue," Nelson said. Instead, it may be the environment created by the parents that’s causing the behavior.
"We can’t change others, but we can change our own behavior," Nelson said. "I do not see any problem that is not solvable."
Neither does Laura Atwood, who heads up the Adler School of Professional Coaching-Southwest in Phoenix.
"We are all human beings," Atwood said. A child’s reactions and responses are somewhat predictable based on environment. Power struggles and attention-getting behaviors are such reactions.
"If we change us, we change the outcome," Atwood said.
Parents’ biggest concerns range from rule-setting, disciplining, communicating and spending, to balancing hectic schedules, family time and moments for themselves, parenting coaches say.
That American families are so mobile today, cut off from the traditional network of support, has produced the need for parenting coaches. But also, many couples and single heads of households do not want to parent as they were parented and are looking for help.
"The two most important jobs a person will have are spouse and parent," Atwood said. "Yet these are the things we are probably least trained for."
That’s why she believes it is important to reach out for help when problems arise.
"The better start we give our children, the stronger and more capable they will be, which will make the world a better place," she said.
• Diana Brown, www.brainsmartguidance.com or (480) 855-3250
• Elizabeth Nelson, (602) 615-6768
• Laura Atwood, adlercoachsw.com or (602) 569-2426