It makes me sad that so many parents not only struggle with parenting, but struggle with the very fact that they are struggling and might need some expert help! In every other endeavor in which art meets skill, coaching is a central and valued element. With the Olympics upon us, we are vividly reminded that from ice skating to acting, baseball to ballet, soccer to singing, the really gifted world-class contenders wouldn’t make a move or a toe-loop without their coaches.
Parent coaching, like all other coaching, helps by holding a vision of success when you, for whatever reason, cannot. A coach sees the powers inside you and guides their unfolding. In singing, soccer, life in general — and in parenting.
A coach helps by seeing the desired result, knowing the steps for getting you there, and patiently reminding you of those steps. A coach helps as you take those steps, which may feel awkward or unnatural at first. A coach patiently encourages you along what can feel like an interminably long road, sometimes to what feels like an unreachable mountaintop, even when (especially when) you can’t see the destination.
This is especially true when the steps to get to your goal aren’t self-evident. For example, I’m guessing that many (most?) people who suffer low back pain wouldn’t naturally think to do prone cobras as a way out of their misery; in fact, without the expert (coach’s!) information that they are one of the best things to do, it’s a fairly counter-intuitive movement to make when you’re trying to protect your back.
The fitness world offers many examples of how a coach helps you succeed — examples that can then be compared to how a parent coach helps you succeed. The above prone cobra case can be compared to guiding parents to incorporate such presence practices as meditation or mindfulness into their daily lives. Most people probably wouldn’t make an automatic, intuitive connection between meditation and more successful parenting — and yet research reveals it is one of the most potent ways to become a more effective parent!
Small Tweaks for Big Gains
Sometimes a fitness coach helps by guiding us to make just a very slight change — a reversed grip, the knee pointed this way not that — that makes a huge difference in our success. I have had parent coaching clients return after our first session to report that just a couple seemingly small changes in how they were speaking to their children had already improved the situation at home.
That is always a happy development — instant shifts for the better. They do happen, but usually real change takes time…and therefore it takes time to notice success. A coach helps you bridge the gap between unfamiliar new behavior and desired result, so that you’ll stick with the new behavior long enough for it to become habit. And it is habit that changes everything.
For the most part, things you do once in a while aren’t going to make much difference one way or another, whether you’re talking about diet, exercise, or parenting. Resolutions you embrace for a few months but then abandon aren’t going to get the job done. This is where a coach helps.
Talent Seeks Out Coaching to Soar
It has often been said that parenting is a skill and an art. If you’ve parented, you know that is true…and we often find ourselves feeling less than skillful, and definitely less than artful! It’s funny to me that parent coaching appears to many as a luxury or extravagance — or even unnecessary. Or worse, evidence that you are failing somehow, or less-than.
In every other kind of endeavor in which art meets skill, coaching is a central and valued element. The most gifted in those arenas, the best of the best, get regular coaching. In those worlds, having a coach is actually prestigious!
I only made this connection when I was in New York City visiting family, including my step-sister Lise. Lise (Lindstrom) is a real live diva, an opera star, a leading soprano who’s in demand all over the world. The night after our last dinner together she was flying off to Italy to begin rehearsals for her first “Brunhilde” role in Wagner’s Ring cycle — a momentous chapter in any singer’s career. Lise wouldn’t have dreamed of embarking on that role without many coaching sessions over the weeks she was home in New York.
Lise would be the first to say — as would, I’m sure, many others who have reached world-class levels of doing what they do most effectively — that her coaches have made the difference between her being a gifted singer who sang beautifully, and an international opera superstar whose reviews overflow with superlatives and who gives you goose-bumps to hear her sing.
How Parent Coaching Helps
In fact, Lise is forthcoming in saying it was a coach who changed the arc of her career. She had perceived her voice in one way, and was using it in that way — and then one day was asked to audition for a role that was in a whole different stratosphere, vocally. She went to this coach to ask his opinion of whether she could sing this challenging title role of Puccini’s Turandot. After singing for him for just a few minutes … and making a few adjustments as he guided her … he quietly said to her, “You can sing this, and so much more.”
Lise had not realized the fullness of her own powers until then. Coaching revealed them to her. This is how I see my job, first and foremost, when I do parent coaching: to inform, inspire and encourage parents as they dig down and unfold the best of themselves. Sometimes they surprise themselves with their own powers. I help them work smarter rather than harder.
And all along the way I remind them that this is not about perfection, but about striving. (There is actual scientific research demonstrating that striving — a form of “mental force” — produces positive changes in the brain. Setting an intention, and applying consistent effort toward it, rewires you in beautiful ways!) A coach helps you focus your striving in the way that will bring the most flourishing results, in the form of more confidence in your parenting, more joy in your home, and greater wellbeing throughout your children’s lifelong development.
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Fitness training image by ManOnPHI under Creative Commons license