Do They Know They Need What I Have to Offer?

May 18, 2007

I did a little market research on professional coaches offering services to parents and wound up overwhelmed. I know it’s typical to have some strong reactions to learning about the field you’re considering when planning for self-employment or business ownership. It involves a lot of change and a lot of risk so emotions get stirred up. But even though I knew that as an abstract idea, I was surprised by the details of my real experience.

I Googled and Yahoo’ed parenting and coaching and found a few sites. Only one site I reviewed listed a fee for coaching. It was in line with the format and fees of general life coaching I’ve heard about, but the rest wouldn’t state a fee—and I was anxious and annoyed! I’m inclined to put fees out there, so I wondered if that will somehow put me at a disadvantage. Do these other coaches have good reasons not to list fees? Is it better marketing to wait and cover them in a sales pitch? Are they ashamed or uncomfortable stating fees, or do they know about some strong research indicating it’s more effective to cover fees in person? I was stressing!

But that wasn’t the end of my anxiety. The coaches have different backgrounds. Some have bachelor’s degrees in a social science area (not psychology or human development). Some were teachers for years and use that as their experience base. Some have master’s degrees, but not in psychology or counseling or human development or education.

That should encourage me, right? I would think so! I have a master’s degree in psychology, specialty focus on child psychology and consulting in schools. I co-owned a preschool and child care center for 10 years, worked in residential treatment, worked in schools, and had a private psychotherapy practice. So why did the backgrounds of the other coaches get to me? Because maybe parents aren’t comfortable talking to someone with a mental health and therapy background about how to improve their relationships with their children and their overall parenting style—that’s why.

Then the big problem showed up. A recurring theme on the parent coaching web sites is, “We don’t tell you how to be a parent” or “We don’t have the answers” or “We don’t teach you a system—we help you develop your own system based on your values.” They state that because professional coaching is rapidly becoming helping people discover their own answers instead of training and teaching them.

My anxiety was buzzing full-speed now. It makes sense to avoid telling parents there is a single program with some number of steps and you learn the system. That’s simplistic and doesn’t allow for individual variation. But, come on, there are core facts!

You shouldn’t help an overly compulsive, worrisome mother develop her own style of intruding and controlling her children’s lives. You have to stand for the child’s need for autonomy and reasonable risk-taking because it’s developmentally necessary.

You don’t help a dad with high achievement standards and a stoic outlook develop a program for pushing for high performance in all areas that winds up ignoring his children’s emotional needs and vulnerabilities. You have to take a stand for the emotional security of the children.

You don’t help the mother who is worried about hurting her child’s feelings or causing a rift in the parent-child relationship develop a system that is permissive, with few boundaries and low expectations on the child, where the primary goal is to make sure the child approves of the mother’s choices. You take a stand for the child’s need for boundaries and expectations as a model for self-control.

My strong response to some of these aspects of other coaches’ web sites helped me reinforce some of my core values for my practice, so it was very helpful in that regard. But this experience stirred up a lot of worries that what I want to offer and what I believe in may not be the service parents are willing to pay to get. I’ve chosen this work because I know there are important things that children and adolescents need from their parents to develop compassion, empathy, self-control, morality, and strong character. I will encourage parents to learn about those things, help teach them the information, and help train them in the skills they can use to guide their children towards adulthood as capable, responsible, and fulfilled people capable of enjoying life and sharing it with others.

And as I speak about and write about what I believe, I have to trust my words will reach parents who want that future for their children and will be able to see that they need to learn certain principles and skills to help make it happen. I will coach them, as unique individuals, to help them find the specific skills and techniques for providing their children what they need. But I will always stand for the needs of the children and help parents see what they should be doing to cultivate the roots of resilience and the fruits of abundance in their children’s lives.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey

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