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Dial a Coach for Parenting Advice

Having trouble honing your parenting skills? Some parents in the same boat consult a parenting coach.
WebMD Feature

Your child's steadfast rejection of any food except for pizza, refusal to clean his room or do homework, and fondness to throw temper tantrums in public make you want to pull your hair out or just throw your hands up in despair.

Sound familiar? Instead of giving up, many parents just aren't taking it anymore. They're logging onto their computers or picking up the phone to vent to their coaches -- their parent coaches.

We can hire coaches to help us with virtually anything including organizing our closets and teaching us how to flirt, so it makes sense that parent coaching is booming. These coaches counsel parents on everything from how to deal with a picky eater to how to encourage children to be more responsible. Fees typically range from $35 to $125 an hour. Many parent coaches even specialize according to type of parent such as working moms, single parents, and parents of children with learning disabilities.

Still, not everyone is convinced that parent coaching is such a great idea. Some experts suggest great care should be taken when seeking advice about a child's temperament or development.

Coaching Parents to Be Their Own Coach

Parent coaches like Seattle's Deborah Phillips, MS, generally do their business by email, instant message, phone, and occasionally in person.

A mother of two, Phillips has been a parent coach for more than four years. While she does most of her coaching over the phone, she also runs workshops around Seattle.

"Typically, parents come to me when there is a specific situation causing a problem -- a trouble-shooting request. [And] once I help them figure out how to solve that problem, we start looking at their parenting overall," she tells WebMD.

"Say it's a 3-year-old who is throwing tantrums and the parent has tried everything they can think of to no avail or a 10-year-old who is starting to be more independent and testing boundaries," she says. Basically, "anytime a parent feels stuck they come to me," she says.

For starters, she asks parents to determine what is most important in their parenting. "I want to know their bottom line/core value and teach them how to make sure that everything they do and say is consistent with that value."

Phillips' most popular service is a coach-parenting program, a five-week course that meets for one hour each week and gives parents the skills and tools to start being a better parent. In other words, she coaches parents to be their own coach. And instead of a whistle and a clipboard, she gives them problem-solving techniques that are in line with their core values. She doesn't write the plays the way a football coach would, but she teaches parents how to develop their own winning moves.

"I am not telling them what to do as parents, but I am giving them the tools that they need to figure it out for themselves," she says. Once they graduate, "parents get confidence in their ability to figure out what they are going to say and do," she says.

She coaches about 30 to 40 people a day -- and some aren't even parents yet. "A lot more people are starting to come when they are pregnant or even just planning to be a parent," she says. "Today people just want to be the best parents that they can be."

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