Parent Coaching: Effective Tool Or Social-Media Driven Fad?

abstract art for parent coaching

If you’re a parent and are on any sort of social media platform, you’ve likely seen accounts for parent coaches sharing their own perspectives on what you should be doing as a parent. 

In this post, we’ll cover off what parent coaching is, what parent coaches do, why it might be useful to work with a professional to coach you, and what to look for in a parent coach before hiring them. 

An Abundance Of Advice

When I became pregnant with my first child a friend told me to expect that everyone will have an opinion about everything, but to do my research and then trust myself to make the right decision based on evidence-based information.

As a Behavior Analyst I often review research to ensure I’m implementing the most current practices with my clients, so this resonated with me as I started my own parenting journey.

What do you know, there was a bombardment of pregnancy related information on my social media feed as soon as it ‘knew’ I was pregnant. Questions come to mind with the overwhelming amount of content:

  • How do I parse out what was evidence-based or just fluff?
  • Who do I trust for evidence-based information?

Personally, I found it helpful to read through a few things but then take my questions to the professionals like a Physiotherapist, Midwife, or Family Doctor. Finding parenting support online can be overwhelming. If this is the case for you, seeking out a certified professional, such as a Behavior Analyst, as a parent coach might help you not only with your specific situation but also to parse out what is evidence-based and what is not.

Everyone’s Situation Is Different

We all have our reasons for seeking out parenting information. Perhaps you’re finding that your children are really struggling with intense or dangerous sibling rivalry and fighting. Maybe your teenager has started high-school, is struggling with self-esteem, and is also displaying some worrying behaviors that concern you about their mental health. You might have a child with a neurodivergent diagnosis like ADHD that affects their executive functioning skills, and you’re having a hard time teaching them daily family routines. 

You might sense that your situation warrants the support of a professional. At which point you wonder, how do I find someone that will be effective, trustworthy and has the skills to engage in a problem-solving process with me as a parent? How can I find someone who can help me wade through the information I’m reading online to figure out what is helpful and what isn’t?

Choosing A Credentialed Professional As A Parent Coach

Anyone can advertise as a parent-coach and follow whatever philosophy or ideas they want when it comes to parent coaching. But would you want to go to someone who advertised themselves as a medical doctor but had no scientific training or even one cohesive science they followed? Probably not. In the same way, hiring someone as a parent coach with no training or professional credentials can be risky to you as the parent.

One of many benefits to working with a credentialed professional, such as a Behavior Analyst (BCBA), as a parent coach is that they take an approach that builds capacity with parents to improve family life.

This is done by ensuring that they are not just working directly with the child, but also supporting the parents or caregivers in learning new skills to support their own child. Furthermore, they can work in collaboration with other professionals like a Clinical Counselor or Psychologist who might be working directly with your child. 

Another benefit to working with a credentialed professional like a Behavior Analyst is not only that they are part of a regulated profession, but also have coaching and capacity-building skills. They have been trained in the science of behavior and follow evidence-based practices so you can trust that you are getting services based on research.

Where Do I Start?

With so many ‘parenting coaches’ online, it can be confusing and overwhelming to choose one. Whether you are on social media or just cruising Google searches for information, there are lots of people advertising as a parent coach. Furthermore, many seem to have differing or even conflicting views.

Caregivers deserve access to information and support from professionals with appropriate training and experience. 

Whether you’re reading information online, or ready to make that initial phone call to a parenting coach, let’s go over some things to ask and think about. These considerations can help you be an informed consumer of parent coaching services.

6 Things To Consider When Selecting A Parent Coach

1. Consider The Science They Follow

Think about the scientific and philosophical perspective of the content you’re reading. Something to look for:

  • Does this person have a professional designation or degree that is legitimate? If you don’t recognize a degree or professional designation, Google it to ensure there is some sort of licensing body with credentialing standards. 

For example, many professions are regulated by local or federal Colleges or Boards such as Behavior Analysts, Psychologists, Speech & Language Pathologists or Registered Social Workers. 

2. Education, Degree Or Certification

While this is not everything, it can be a helpful data point as to whether this person has undergone training or are simply sharing their opinions.

  • Does this person hold some sort of degree in a field related to child-development or behavior?
  • Is the certification or degree they hold legitimate? Depending on where a degree was earned, there might be letters behind their name that you don’t recognize. If in doubt, search it to see if it is a relevant degree
  • What are the requirements for this certification or degree? This can help you consider if they have enough training for your comfort

3. Experience

Consider their current and past professional track record and how many years of experience they have under their belt.

  • Have they been employed in a child-development related field for many years?
  • Is parent coaching their primary gig?
  • Do they have testimonials from other clients? Some professionals, such as Behavior Analysts, are ethically prohibited from asking for testimonials from current clients, but you could ask about a statement from a former client.

4. Matched Values And Perspectives

Consider if your own personal convictions and research line up with their perspective. Find out how a parenting coach approaches their work before you hire them by:

  • Doing some research on their approach/philosophy to see if there is evidence behind it
  • Ask questions about their approach to understand it before you take their advice or hire them to work with you.

5. Coaching Model

  • What does their service model look like and how long do they expect to provide services for? Will they be working directly with the child or coaching family members to work with your child to adapt routines?
  • Do they use an empowering and evidence-based approach to parenting that will allow you as a caregiver to gain the skills you need to support your child after the parent coaching sessions are over? 
  • Do they value teaching the caregivers new skills while also teaching the child new skills? While this is certainly important, long-term success and sustainability of a child’s skills are dependent on the parent having the skills to support their child’s learning and growth?
  • Do they use a preventative training program such as the Balance Program? If your young child is beginning to display challenging behavior (e.g. non-dangerous tantrums that are more intense or frequent outside of what is typical for their age), consider asking if the coach is familiar with the Balance Program. It gives the whole family skills they need to support their young child. While researched for children with autism, it is also recommended for children with other behavior and communication needs.
  • Do they individualize their coaching to your family’s needs or take a one-size-fits-all approach? While attending a parenting class can be helpful in learning some tips to support your child’s behavior, a personalized approach can be particularly helpful if you are seeing increasingly challenging behavior. If you do seek a parent training program, check out this post on some evidence-based parenting programs.

6. Other Considerations

  • What is the weekly time commitment and what is the format? Will they coach you face-to-face or will they coach you online?
  • Ensure you look over their contract.
  • Do they require a referral from a pediatrician or can you self-refer?
  • What is their coaching style? This is important to consider with your personality and what you’re comfortable with.

The Bottom Line

Parent coaching has certainly taken off on social media. Whether you consider hiring someone as a parent coach, or simply try out some of their advice posted online, I encourage you to protect yourself as a consumer by feeling empowered to ask the right questions as you seek out an evidence-based practitioner that will support you in supporting your child’s behavior.

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