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Parent Coach Approach

The Parent Coach Approach

Parent can show they operate within the Coach Approach method for changing behaviors and outcomes

The Coach Approach is a step by step formula that you use to manage your children and over a short period of time, you can get the behavior you want and extinguish the behavior you do not want.

To give you a quick list of the steps in the Coach Approach Process they are:
  • Observe Mis-Interaction: Child gets disproportionately upset or has confusing response.
  • Plan Parenting Moment: Choose the new skill needed in the situation to coach and drill.
  • Review Impact: Share what worked and did not work about the interaction AFTER it is over!
  • Focus On: Pick a skill to drill that develops a characteristic matching family intentions
  • Coach: Building New Skill between Parenting Moments
  • Pep-Talk: Review and Encourage before the next foreseeable Parenting Moment
  • Watch Game Play: See What Happens During the Moment
  • Review Game Play: Discuss Outcome, Next Adjustments (Or Celebrate!)
So what kind of grades did you get in parenting in school? You were offered some kind of training in High School as an elective or even a minor in College, right? No? Well then, how did you learn to do the most important job that will ever be done? These silly questions are posed for a serious reason.

As we are raised, almost all of the preparation for becoming a parent comes in the form of happenstance impressions or informal conversations. We are mostly dependent on what we personally observe, choose to read, career training or see in the media. Unfortunately, the drama of the media makes for some strange parenting. I haven’t found much as a reliable model for the type of parent I want to be. What are we left with? On the job training, that’s what.

Unfortunately, there is a major flaw in this model of parenting skill building. If we rely primarily on this on the job training, then we are learning what works and does not work under the types of conditions that are considered torture in some parts of the world. Year one of a child’s life almost guarantees little sleep and much doubt. The effects of sleep loss are well documented and debilitating. The stress and strain also take a toll on your ability to learn a new skill. If you were to take on a job for which you had no formal training and were told that while were in training, you would be woken to perform simple tasks every 3-4 hours overnight, would you even take the job. If you did, would you feel adequately prepared? You would definitely expect your ability to learn would be impeded and your performance would suffer. And oh, by the way, you will care so deeply about the outcome of this particular job you will doubt yourself, second guess every choice and worry like you never have before. Good luck! Let us know how that turns out.

We smile but what is not funny, is those conditions are the normal circumstances in place when people learn how to be a parent. Now, what if you could learn to approach parenting in a new way? Would your results improve? The concept we call the Coach Approach is designed to do just that. For new parents, this is the chance to get some habits that allow you to figure out what went wrong and form a plan for the next Parenting Moment with a fresh perspective. With seasoned Parents, you can try on a habit that will shake up the patterns in your Parenting interactions and notice areas you gave up on begin to shift. Most exciting is that considering parents can get the training they need before they are wrapped up in the debilitating emotions and demanding schedule of becoming a parent. That powerful concoction of fear, hope and need combine to create all kinds of havoc with the intentions and actions of well meaning parents everywhere.

Imagine you are watching a sports game from the stands. You are focused on the players who are in charge of generating the action of the game but you also notice the coach. The coach is off to the side, the coach may yell, wave their arms, react with emotion or call a Time Out, but for all their efforts and energy, for the moment, they have very little real effect on the players, specific plays or the outcome of the game. That is OK with them because they know their time will come. The game is played for the players and the spectators. Note that no one can be a coach and a player simultaneously.

The magic and wonder of a coach is that they have perspective that the players do not have. They are keen observers of the action and possess experience and expertise the players have not yet accumulated. This allows them to work with the players after the game and during practice where skills are drilled. They also come alive during pre game when they deliver the pep talk reminding them of their collective plan and the fact that the coach believes in them.

This analogy serves parenting well. You are either the Player or the Coach (never both), the children are the Players. Parenting Moments are the game. You do your best work after the Parenting Moment is over by strategizing the skills to be focused on and practiced before the next game, or Parenting Moment. Then, just before your child encounters a similar situation that caused a Parenting Moment, you give the pep talk that resets the goal, and reminds of the skill to be used in the upcoming Parenting Moment.

Children Fighting
Having a Parent Coach in the family is mostly a fortunate thing. One day it was very beneficial for my nephew. The story covers more than one concept, but we are interested here in the use of the Coach Approach. As he was playing a computer game, another cousin asked to have a turn. He was not too interested in switching and just ignored his request, but hadn’t really broken any Family Agreements. At this point, the requesting cousin left the room to get an adult to intervene. As his mom, my sister, overheard the conversation, she walked in to the computer room to see if she could gently encourage him to set a time interval to take turns. Well, he felt tattled on and was now waiting for the adult to arrive and make him get off the computer. As soon as his Mom spoke, he burst out with anger and disrespect. “No Mommy, stop it!” He yelled repeatedly. She was so surprised at his outburst that she reacted automatically and made him leave the room immediately. He only got more upset. Next she joined in
feeling that it was unfair even for HER! She ordered him to sit in a bedroom until he cooled off. He stormed down the hall yelling, “Don’t talk to me, NO!” all the way. He is four by the way.

My sister looked like she was just sucker punched as she collapsed onto the couch. “How did that go so wrong, so fast?” she pleaded. We quickly got the other side of the story from the cousin in question. It seemed to certainly not be something that would have warranted the behavior we just saw. I asked my sister if she wanted coaching for her and Jordan. She did.

The best thing she did was to stop trying to force the outcome she expected in that Parenting Moment. What she needed practice in was staying emotionally distant enough to stop and think clearly about what was underneath the outburst. Next we went to talk with Jordan. He was sitting on the bed, muttering to himself about how horrid life was at this particular point. With the “Game” or Parenting Moment past, we were going to ask questions about what happened to see where things went wrong.

As we spoke, Jordan shared that he was expecting a serious consequence directly from ignoring his cousin. When his Mom came in, he was already mad that the cousin tattled to get him in trouble. Classic, right? It did not matter that it was not so. In his feeling like it was, and reacting like it was real, it needed to be handled that way. The outcome is the same.

The skill we saw that Jordan needed practice with is to stay calm in a dispute. Another skill for Mom to practice is usually missed in the A + B = C process, allowing him to be told of a broken agreement then providing the moment to choose wisely next. In forgetting that step they were setting him up to resisting the consequence. He was conditioned to expect the consequence on the heels of any infraction. That is frustrating. Have you ever had a friend that got mad at you and stopped being your friend without explanation? That is what consequencing without choosing is like.

A third skill we worked on with Jordan was being OK with making mistakes or getting mad. Most kids will tell you, if you ask them, it is not OK to be mad or to make mistakes. They see adults avoiding this all the time. The lesson to remember is that mistakes are how we learn what we need to practice and getting mad is OK, just be sure not to let your mad feelings make your choices for you.
Starting that week they both practiced their skills. Before his next mistake, my sister reminded him that he would have a chance to know if a consequence may be coming. They also reviewed getting upset is OK, but letting an upset kid make choices not OK. She calls with little updates to tell me that he notices when characters on TV are not practicing this skill. He says, “They are letting their mad make their choices, Mom! Or “They are mad ‘cause they made a mistake, Mom, that’s silly!” She has been so thrilled with the results! Using the coach approach can do the same for you!

Family Enjoying Time Together
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