Becoming a parent is one of life's biggest and most important challenges. At times parenthood can be exciting, joyful and fulfilling - but at other times it can be overwhelming, exhausting and incredibly confusing.
How do you know if you're 'doing it right'? What does it mean to be a 'good parent'? With all the conflicting information on offer out there, just whose advice do you take?
Taking care of another life, especially a life that can't take care of itself, is an immense responsibility. Getting the right balance between care, love, discipline, education and enjoyment can be extremely difficult - it is a craft.
Just as thousands of executives, managers and sportsmen seek coaching to hone and perfect their skills in the boardroom and on the field, many modern parents seek parent coaching to support and guide them through the toughest stages of parenthood.
About parent coaching
The idea of parent coaching may sound, to some, like some kind of new-age money-spinner, or the product of a 'nanny state' trying to enforce rules onto its citizens. Some people might ask - 'why should I take parenting advice from a stranger?', or think 'If I was a good parent I wouldn't need to seek advice'. The truth is - humans have always looked to others for parenting advice. Loving a child is one thing, having the skills to rear it into a happy, healthy, moral, well-rounded individual is quite another.
'Good' parenting has been explored throughout history by many revered figures, including the 17th and 18th century philosophers John Locke and Jacques Rousseau.
In his most famous work 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding', Locke wrote:
"The well educating of their children is so much the duty and concern of parents, and the welfare and prosperity of the nation so much depends on it, that I would have everyone lay it seriously to heart and set his helping hand to promote everywhere that way of training up youth which is the easiest, shortest and likeliest to produce virtuous, useful, and able men in their distinct callings."1
Even though this extract was written over 300 years ago, the advice still applies: all parents are responsible for raising and educating their children to the best of their abilities. Of course, 'educating' them does not have to involve spending thousands on private schools or extra tuition, because the most important lessons a child will learn will be taught by you, the parent. This is why it is so important that you have the tools and the skills to give your child the best chance in life.
Coaching is about providing these tools. It rests on the basis that the ability and potential to become a great parent is already inside you - you simply need a way to identify, extract and develop these parts of yourself in order to apply them in real life. A life coach will use specialist techniques to help you do this.
How can a parent coach help?
Parent coaching can help you deal with all aspects of parenting, including:
Anxiety - how do you deal with the fear that you aren't doing it right, or the fear that you might hurt your child, or prevent them from reaching their full potential?
Confidence - learn to be more certain in your abilities as a parent.
Parenting style - what techniques work for you? All parents are different, a parent coach will help you to discover the style that works best for you.
Relationships - how do you cope with the fear that your child does not love or respect you? What about when having children puts pressure on your partnership or marriage, or even the relationship you have with your own parents?
Work/life balance - how does parenthood effect other areas of your life? Are you neglecting your social life? Are you afraid of going back to work in case it effects your child's development?
Choices - parenthood is all about making choices. The choices you make will change the direction of your child's life - so how do you ensure you make the right ones?
Single parents - how do you make up for the loss or absence of one parent? Looking after a child is difficult for two people, let alone just one.
Life events - sometimes unexpected things happen in life, things we never thought we'd have to deal with. Coaching can help you to help your child cope with trauma, loss and other major life changes.
Teens - thought to be the most difficult stage in parenting, teen-hood can throw up a whole new range of challenges, including drugs and alcohol, truancy, sex and bullying.
Nutrition and health - from new-borns to young adults, our children's health never ceases to be of the utmost importance. How do you deal with things like eating disorders, allergies, illness and unhealthy lifestyles?
Do I need parent coaching?
If you feel overwhelmed by parenthood- regardless of how old your children are, you may benefit from parent coaching.
According to a survey of 4000 mothers by Netmums2, two out of five had been given advice that they thought could harm their baby. This included:
- exposing a baby to hot tarmac fumes to strengthen its lungs
- not worrying about sun-cream because babies can't burn
- mothers should instinctively know what their babies want when they cry.
Conflicting information can be confusing and overwhelming, and lead to feelings of inadequacy.
Dr Katherine Rake of the Family and Parenting Institute says:
"It is very saddening to see that so many UK mothers feel put down and experience feelings of guilt. We need to work with parents to ensure they receive the advice the need. But we also need to ensure they are not bombarded."
Parent coaching is not designed to show you how to rear your children - that is of course entirely up to you. It is designed to help you feel more confident and sure of your approach. Is it good for you? Are you happy? Are there any changes you would like to make? Sometimes our thoughts can become so muddled that simply having another person to listen and feed our thoughts back to us systematically can make everything seem so much clearer.
Coaching should help you to realise that, whether you are a father or a mother, you are already a good parent, you simply need to develop the confidence to assess and hone your approach to fully benefit both your child, your life and yourself.
1John Locke, 'An Essay of Human Understanding'
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