Katie Zimmerman has two daughters who are 8 months apart. How? She adopted a little girl and then found out she was pregnant. The most challenging part of having two kids so close in age? Getting them to sleep, she said. For months, Zimmerman was constantly exhausted because one child was always awake.
To find relief and advice, she didn’t call her mom or consult other parents. She called Chesea Kunde, a professional parent coach.
“I think it was her educational background that made you feel she knows what she’s doing and she has kids and knows where you are,” said Zimmerman, a Scottsdale, Arizona mom. “All the advice I ever really got from my mom or sister or whatever was to share a room or rock them and kids need to be able to sleep in their own room and self-soothe.”
Parent coaching is part of the $1.9 billion personal-coaching industry, which includes wellness trainers, corporate coaches and life coaches.
Moms and dads can hire a coach for everything from sleep training to how to deal with video game addiction. The practice is gaining more attention with celebrity parents such as George and Amal Clooney and Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake hiring help from coaches like Nanny Connie to give advice on things like diaper changing and soothing a crying baby.
Parents want to know they’re doing it right
In an age that’s given rise to lawnmower parenting and helicopter parenting — where ever-alert parents try to ease their children’s struggles — parents want to be assured they’re parenting the right way. Parent coaching is one way to fulfill that need.
Actors Emily Blunt and John Krasinki appeared in a promotional video for “super nanny” Connie Simpson to talk about how she helped their parenting.
Krasinki said the most satisfying aspect of hiring Simpson, the gold-standard of coaches, was learning he was a good, capable dad.
“I think what you taught me more than anything was just the confidence of knowing that I know that baby better than most people,” he told Simpson. “Better than nearly anyone. Maybe not as well as you at times. But I think that has been such a joy for us to feel confident.”
Arizona-based coach Chesea Kunde, who holds a masters in marriage and family therapy, said she spends her days and nights reassuring moms and dads they’re no different than other parents.
Parenting today is both the same and markedly different than decades earlier.
The two primary prongs of Kunde’s Building Blocks practice reflect that. One focuses on sleep issues. Kids always fight a bedroom routine. The other service focuses on discipline and family issues, which is growing because of issues with screen time.
“There are always new challenges. It doesn’t mean parenting is harder today than it was back then. But social media makes it challenging in a way that we that we haven’t seen. At its core though, parents struggle with the same things they always have. Kids throwing tantrums, not listening and they have the same worries: Am I giving my child enough time?” said Kunde, a mother of two girls, ages 5 and 19 months.
One skeptic of parent coaching, Elizabeth Wickham, who writes on the parenting site SwimSwam, told the Deseret News that she can’t understand why parents would pay hundreds of dollars for advice.
“Through the years, you learn that over-parenting doesn’t work,” she said.
Kunde’s services start at $435 for a two-hour private consultation and can go up to $710 for a two-week sleeping program. Like costs for life coaches of any specialty, parent coaching services can vary widely, from around $25 for a group class up to thousands for individual services.
Compassionate, sanity savers
When Zimmerman’s youngest daughter was 5 months and her oldest was just over a year, Kunde came to her house. The parent coach showed Zimmerman how to put her kids on a sleep schedule so that her youngest was sleeping through the night and their nap times overlapped.
“I could finally find time to get stuff done…Like take a shower,” Zimmerman said.
Another mom, Joanna Sunderman, credits Kunde with saving her sanity.
Sunderman’s 6-month-old was up every 20 minutes, every night. The problem “was mostly that I kept holding her,” she said.
Kunde came to her house a few nights, set a sleep schedule and talked her through leaving her tired baby alone to cry in her crib for a few minutes.
“She talked me through it. It went against my instincts. She said you’re not going to damage her. You’re not scarring her for life,” said Sunderman, who moved from Arizona to Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
Kunde followed-up with phone calls and texts to assure the sleep plan held.
A parent coach holds parents accountable in a way that books or the well-meaning advice of family and friends just can’t, Kunde said. Hopefully, in a non-judgmental, compassionate way.
How parent coaches work
Some coaches make house calls. Some Skype or FaceTime. Some host classes that range from just a few families to a large number. Some do a combination.
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Lisa Pozin, a Vancouver, Canada mom of three kids ages 9, 10, 12, attended three workshops of parent coach Anne Andrew. Most of all, she wanted relief from the yelling and blaming that surrounded her family’s disastrous morning routine.
Andrew, who wrote “What They Don’t Teach in Prenatal Class,” said a lot of her work centers on parents’ negative beliefs about themselves that get triggered by their kids. She works to teach parents about their “inherent worth,” or the intrinsic value we are born with. It’s not based on anything we do or accomplish. People who are aware of their inherent worth are naturally more resilient, kind, positive and peaceful, Andrew said.
“What (Andrew) teaches, we’re not really taught in this life,” Pozin said. “And if we are, we forget it.”
Pozin said the negative belief that kept looping in her head when her family was late was, “What’s wrong with me? Why can all these other parents do this all the the time?”
Pozin was able to stop feeling hostility and shame, both for herself and her children, by accepting her inherent worth — even if they arrived late.
“It took all the emotion out of the situation,” Pozin said. “I’m not bad. They’re not bad. We’re late. It became just a fact.”
Does she get to school on time now?
“Yeah. And if we don’t, we celebrate that we got to school safely.”
Andrew, also from Vancouver, believes that parents becoming the best version of themselves will translate into healthier children.
“I really, really keep making the point we are teaching by example all the time. That really is the only way we are teaching our kids,” Andrew said.
How to find a parent coach
There is no central, reliable collection that breaks down parent coaches by location, credentials and specialties. So what do you do?
Here are some ideas:
Word of mouth. Know someone who has used a parent coach and raves about this person? Start there. Even if this coach doesn’t specialize in exactly what you need, they network and might be able to refer you to a coach who can help.
Local hospitals or health clinics. Some parent coaches give workshops and talks at local hospitals. That’s a good way to meet a coach who you may hire for a private consultation.
Pediatrician or OBGYN offices. Ask for a referral from these doctor’s offices.
Facebook parenting groups. Ask parents in these groups if they’ve ever had success with a parent coach.
Breastfeeding groups: These groups often know a wealth of information about local resources.
Some things to consider about parent coaches:
- Coaches are not able to treat health conditions and, unless they have counseling and mental health credentials, they should not treat mental health issues.
- Interview a coach before meeting with them. Ask if it’s possible to speak with a client or two.
- If you get a bad feeling, don’t hire them.
- Coaches can be credentialed or not.
- Parent coaches primarily work with parents, not children.
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