How Parenting Coaches Work

Is parent coaching effective?

Coaches can effectively help anxious moms and dads relax and enjoy being parents.
Coaches can effectively help anxious moms and dads relax and enjoy being parents.
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The success of parent coaching in fostering long-term positive change hasn't been studied in-depth, possibly because the industry is relatively new and remains unregulated, unlike licensed therapy programs. Nevertheless, non-peer-reviewed surveys and evaluations conducted by parent coaching institutions indicate that a majority of clients find the services helpful. A 2007 case study of three parent coaching projects developed by the Parent Coaching Institute found that participants at each site reported significantly improved parenting skills as a result of the professional mentoring [source: Schriffin and DeGaetano]. Similarly, in a 2001 analysis of the impact of coaching on four parents with "noncompliant children," early childhood education researchers found progress among the entire group [source: Marchant and Young]. Even Web-based counseling has been shown to be an effective outlet for cultivating parenting best practices [source: Wade et al].

But parents should also understand that coaching won't always cut it. Consulting qualified mental health professionals may be a more appropriate approach if children exhibit warning signs of more serious, negative behavioral or emotional patterns, including the following [source: Nemours Foundation]:

  • Persistent anxiety, excessive crying and other indicators of depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Sudden appetite changes or significant drops in academic grades
  • Severe temper tantrums
  • Signs of substance abuse

In a way, coaching can be more valuable for its potential to train-up happier parents than its ability to mold happier kids. Research out of Ohio State University published in 2011 found that mothers and fathers with lower confidence in their parenting abilities experience higher levels of childcare-related stress and fear of being negatively judged [source: Lee, Schoppe-Sullivan and Kamp]. A reassuring voice on the phone cheering them along the way and urging them to trust their instincts can provide much-needed relief to those who feel inadequately qualified for bring up their sons and daughters. Also, the "myth of perfect parenting" -- the unrealistic, media-perpetuated expectations of hassle-free mother- and fatherhood -- has only added more pressure to the intensive job of modern-day child rearing; coaches, at times, can temper that intensity with logical problem-solving and emotional support [source: American Academy of Pediatrics]. Considering the inherently mentally and physically taxing occupation of raising kids, parent coaches can be worth every penny, because it sometimes pays for moms and dads to have someone in their corner.