Why we talked to a parenting coach

I was chatting with a co-worker one day who mentioned her visit to a parenting coach. She had a specific exhausting issue she was trying to work out with her daughter, and needed to consult with an expert. Up till that moment, it have never occured to me that there was even such an occupation. I started to make a mental list in my mind of all the questions I would have if I were ever to meet one… and the list got long. (Examples below)

Dealing with epic meltdowns, episodes getting more frequent
Not listening to instructions, at all. 
Default to whining when asking for anything
Won’t play alone, needs to be constantly engaged with her
Eating health balanced meals. Is our approach working? What can we do differently?
Approach to candy/snack food and screen time? Is ours okay?

Turns out, parenting is not like Math. There is no one answer because children are not like numbers. They are unique. So my experience with parenting a 3-yo and 1-yo thus far has relied largely on insight gained from reading a few Amazon topsellers, googling and consulting with our village. We have trial and error-ed out way through it. We have some successes and some areas that we are still working on (like the two mentioned above). The list got long enough for me to actually type it out and ask the husband if we could invest in meeting this coach. Lucky for me, one of my husband’s hobbies is talking to experts in any domain. So it wasn’t hard to convince him.

Coach Susan showed up at our house one Friday afternoon. We didn’t do much tidying up, because we wanted her to be able to see the context in which our family is in. After introductions and going through her very impressive resume, she looked at me and said

You’re tired. You’re not sleeping much. That’s normal. It’s okay — and it will pass. You’re at the hardest stage now.

It started with empathy. For us.

I cannot describe how it felt to have someone empathize with us. The focus is always so much on the kids and their behaviors. We don’t talk about what those issues do to us. So much of the focus is on the kids, we never talk about how I don’t feel like I’ve had a night of uniterrupted sleep in years. It’s not their fault really, they actually sleep pretty well. I just wake up. I do. My husband gets it, I know he does. But we’re not great at empathizing with each other, because its his sleep too. So we just slog it out together, acknowledging the tiredness with looks and sighs scross the table. You can also get empathy all day long from other parents. Once a day, I read something from another parent that I totally relate and can high-five with. But hearing it from an expert brings therapy to a whole new level. There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s normal. And it will end.

Affirmation is still advice.

On the long list of “opportunity areas”, we actually had strategies that we were already strategizing or prototyping. The approach probably shaped by the triangulation of data mentioned above. But never feeling like I was 100% sure of what I was doing. Now that I know what we’re doing right, I’m confident, I don’t (normally) waver and I stick to my guns. It’s like the kids now know I mean business when I execute. Confidence matters!

Re-focusing on the big picture affects the details.

I told Susan that I am “armed” with many principles and strategies and “things to say” but when the situation actually happens, I often feel at a lost and not really sure which “trick” to emply. So in essence, losing sight of the big picture of what we’re really trying to achieve here. I know it’s in there, and it’s something I know, but there’s just too much noise in our brains right now.

Susan, I feel like I need just one or two (no more!), foundational principles that I can use to help me in any diffcult situation with my kids. “Love your kids” is not actionable enough, in fact, I think it’s harmful sometimes to just think that. Her response was…

You’re raising adults, not children. In every situation you’re in, think about how what you can say and do to raise adults. Everything must be taught.

We knew this. But wedidn’t really know it. We walked through several real-life situations that have happened with us. She re-enacted the scenes using the simple principle of how we would ‘raise adults’ in that situation. There was a light bulb moment in that room. So why do we say and do everything we do as parents? What drives those moments? Talking to a coach and help you get to that enduring truth.

Why crowdsourcing sometimes fails. It’s rarely one size fits all.

We have a village, online and offline. I am part of no less than five parenting type mom groups on facebook. There is no shortage of crowd-sourcing channels to get advice. And we do that. A lot! The ideas, strategies that eveyrone has offered up has really helped us experiment with different things. But the reality is every family is so different. Because every human being is so different. This is why you will often hear your village say “This is what worked for us”. There’s also nothing wrong with trying out different strategies until you find something that works. That is what people have done for all of eternity. A coach is just a different approach, a more efficient one.

A coach brings a different perspective because their job is to work with as many families as possible, so they essentially get all the data points they could possibly get, and get to the best approximation of what might work for your family children, based on their wealth of knowledge and experience. Not only that, they show up and assess the environment and ask questions to help get at the root causes to inform a couple of different coaching strategies/programs. This is so efficient that we have decided we check in with our coach every year, whether or not we have “non-trivial issues” to resolve.

Getting coached is not a sign of weakness.

I have the privilege of working in a company with a CEO that I really look up to. He said this.

Even world-class olympic athletes raise their hands and tell their coach when they need help. Only then, can they get to that next level of greatness.

Dont let the stigma of “therapy” or “behavioral coaching” get in the way of bringing out more light in your life. It doesn’t mean that something is wrong with your kids, or with you. You’re not trying to “fix” anyone or anything. You’re just trying to improve this aspect of your life. And that is nothing to be ashamed of.

It makes a difference.

It was worth every penny. I look back on the past year with all the changes we have made and the huge improvements we see on everyone’s mood, behavior sentiment. But mostly importantly, I see directly how we are raising responsible, loving and kind human beings.

In this next essay, I write about the journey we are on to raising adults. Enjoy!