Consider parent coaching for less stressful parenting
–We all know parenting can be really difficult at times. But, what do you do when parenting feels difficult all the time? What do you do when every interaction you have with your son or daughter at any age becomes an argument and gets quickly out-of-control? A parent coach can help (provided at no charge by Parent Connection). A parent coach will show you how to smooth out these situations so you can stay focused on what is most important—creating a more joyful bond with your child, while helping him or her get ready for life.
Michele Gordon, Parent Coach with Parent Connection, a part of the non-profit Center for Family Strengthening of San Luis Obispo County, has worked with SLO County parents for the past eight years with really positive results. Parents say it is hard work, but Gordon’s methods work.
Parent Connection provides comprehensive parent education, including an on-line website for parents, (listing parenting resources), a parent helpline, parenting classes, and one-on-one parent coaching. Gordon and other Parent Coaches stress that one-on-one coaching helps parents grow and change.
Gordon says that she talks with many parents who are struggling and at times are uncertain what their parenting role is. She says that the parenting skills we learned from our parents no longer work for today’s children. We as parents are investing so much in our parenting. But, are we doing it well? Our parents’ generation was confident that they were in charge. Our parents had a “common sense” approach to parenting, and as long as they were meeting the physical needs of their children, they felt they were doing it right. Today, our parenting decisions are often based out of fears such as fear of safety or fear of not meeting the emotional needs of our children. We’ve lost our ability to help our children become resilient and to develop problem-solving skills.
A Parent Coach teaches parents how to create an environment where the child is supported to solve their problems and to bounce back from difficult moments. Gordon says that by the parent simply asking the question of the child, “What can you do about that? What are your options?” The child can make mistakes and learn to problem solve and become more independent. The child participates fully in their life and is accountable for their choices. The child is empowered.
Gordon says: “Parents should look for opportunities to guide their child’s behavior to develop the child’s skills.” In this way, the guidance provided by the parent soon becomes an internal self-discipline for the child. For example, by acknowledging a young child’s anger in saying “I see that you’re really angry, but it’s not okay to hit.” you’re helping your child gain emotional self-control. This method involves limit setting and positive alternatives: “I know you’re frustrated, but it’s not okay to throw the puzzle pieces. You can ask for help.”
Gordon helps parents identify their family’s strengths and resources. She asks them to envision and say out loud how they would like it to be—“what would that look like.” Her next step in helping parents is to make small changes to move closer to what they want.
For example,Gordon coached Stacy, a young mother of a newborn baby and a preschool girl, Sammy, who was spirited and intense. Stacy had her hands full, and every interaction she had with Sammy became a major conflict. The “terrible twos” turned into the “miserable threes” for both of them. Stacy was exhausted, needed help and felt she was failing as a mom.
Gordon helped her thoughtfully examine her parenting by looking at what was working—and what she can do more of. Stacy envisioned spending more enjoyable time with her daughter. She began to shift her focus from the conflicts to times in the day which they both enjoyed. She looked for opportunities to expand those enjoyable times, like stopping by the beach on the ride home from school. She carved out intimate moments with her daughter that brought them both pleasure. Many of the opportunities had been there, but Stacy hadn’t noticed. Gordon points out, “What we focus on grows. By increasing the happy moments, those happy feelings grow.” Gordon encouraged Stacy to focus on her self-care. Stacy found an app for meditation and began to carve out time for herself. Now, instead of moving from crisis to crisis, Stacy and Sammy’s interactions are joyful. Sammy is a happy, playful three-year-old.
Stacy says, “I have learned to focus on how I relate to my kids and to being aware of where I am coming from when I am talking with them. Something Michele told me once really stuck—you can only control how you act, not how your child reacts.”
Gordon has taught Early Childhood Studies and Family Studies for more than 20 years. Her training in parenting includes infant & toddler development, child development, and parenting for Cuesta College, Allan Hancock College, and Cal Poly. She is also a certified Parent Educator for programs such as Active Parenting, Positive Discipline, Parent Project, and the Nurturing Parenting Program. Before teaching and working with adults, she taught preschool for 12 years.
Gordon is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. She earned a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Studies at Sonoma State.
Gordon teaches parenting classes for families with young children (specializing in birth to age 5) and provides parent coaching. She lives in San Luis Obispo, where she and her husband, a teacher at San Luis Obispo High School, have raised two children. Contact Gordon at (805) 543-3700 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Parent Connection of San Luis Obispo County
Parent Connection is made possible with funds provided by the Mental Health Services Act and the Center for Family Strengthening, a non-profit community organization. To learn more go to sloparents.org.
About Center for Family Strengthening
Center for Family Strengthening partners with family support organizations in SLO County to provide resources to families in need, protect children from abuse and neglect, and ensure that strong families are a community priority. To donate or learn more about the Center for Family Strengthening go to www.slocap.org or call (805) 543-6216.