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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.

    Following the Family Mission Statement continued...

    Here's how it works in practice. Say it's a choice between Andrew, 8, cleaning his room or doing homework. "In our family mission statement, lifelong learning is uncompromisable so doing his homework is more important than cleaning his room. However, I have clients that say cleanliness and organization is the No. 1 issue," she says.

    She concedes that parent coaching does have its limits and is not for every family. "I am not a counselor and, if in my intake, I find that a family needs a counselor, I will find out what community they reside in and refer them to a family counselor," she says.

    "Coaching is an industry that is very new and I believe that you have to be an educated consumer," she says. "You can't just walk in because someone says they are coach and assume that they have the qualifications out there."

    When Coaching Should Be Counseling

    Some child psychologists, including Steven Richfield, PsyD, of Plymouth Meeting, Penn., are inclined to agree with that statement.

    "If you pick up a phone or email a parent coach, that person has never met your child and doesn't know what your child is going through, so the advice could aggravate the problem," he says. "It is a slippery slope, both ethically and professionally."

    While not all parent coaches are bad or unqualified, he says the trend can be dangerous. "It's one thing to provide generic advice and another thing to offer specific counsel on serious emotional problems," says Richfield.

    It can be hard to communicate the degree of distress a child is in over the phone or through email, he says.

    "As a child psychologist, I will only provide advice when I work with a child. I don't feel like it's appropriate to offer advice without meeting the child," he says.

    Richfield, author of The Parent Coach: A New Approach To Parenting In Today's Society, takes a different approach when he coaches parents. He has developed a social and emotional coaching program that includes cards with different scenarios, which include one in which a child is being teased on the bus because she just got braces and one in which a child is overly frustrated by homework.

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