HomeParenting Dilemmas

Do you need a parent coach?

Go, Mom, go! Could a parent coach turn you into the parent you always hoped to be?

By Leslie Crawford

As parents, we're expected to be experts. From the moment we laid eyes on our newborn babies — so perfect, so innocent — we vowed to be ever-patient, loving, and devoted. We follow through, too, doing our homework, devouring parenting books, magazines, and (ahem) websites. But then, all our best intentions are undone in untenable trigger moments: on "happy" family vacations when backseat whining morphs mom into Medusa; when frantically hunting for missing homework and bellowing, "You're making me late for work again!" or during the pre-dinner witching hour when kid crankiness reaches its nails-on-the-chalkboard peak. "Help!" we silently scream during those darkest of parenting moments, followed by: "Isn't there someone out there who can tell me what to do!?"

Why yes, there is. Enter the parent coach, a modern invention that is slowly gaining a foothold with a generation of overtaxed parents desperate to do a better job. Parenting in the 21st century means that — sprinkled amongst those joyful moments that come with raising a new human being – you will face an unimaginable smorgasbord of pitfalls. Sure, you might have taken birthing classes, but after that, from toddler tantrums to adolescent attitude, it's up to you to be a pro at parenting.

"Go to your naughty corner!"

So, what exactly does a parent coach do? Act as your very own 24-hour personal parent trainer who rubs your shoulders and gives you a pep talk whenever you endure a tough bout of back talk? ("Go, Mom, go! You can win this round. Remember: Gentle but firm!") Or does she march into your home à la TV's Supernanny, take a prim white glove to your family’s dirty laundry, scold your ill-behaved children — and ineffectual parenting — and send you to your naughty corner?

Neither, according to Gloria DeGaetano, founder of the Parent Coaching Institute (PCI). Parent coach graduates don’t blithely ladle out advice or admonishments. As with a career or life coach, a parent coach assesses her clients' strengths and challenges. This is not therapy, stresses DeGaetano. Instead, the coach's goal is to help moms and dads minimize the difficulties and maximize the joy of parenting. "Parents are the experts on their own children," says DeGaetano, who explains her coaches — just like athletic coaches – are there to help parents improve their game. "Our coaching helps parents be more authentic. So instead of screaming, they say, 'I feel like screaming.'"

Next page: Answering cries for help

is a senior editor at GreatSchools.

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