Parent Coaching: An Innovative Approach
to Helping with Challenging Child Behavior

Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Director of Family Engagement
Anu Family Services/Center for the Challenging Child

© 2014 by Anu Family Services. All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Anu Family Services.

How This Came to Be
 History of parent coaching
 Used with parents whose children exhibit aggressive, hostile, and/or passive behavior

The EAP-Parent Coaching Match
 Limited sessions
 Solution-focused
 Not deep therapy
 Designed to help employees “get back in the game”

The Vision

Before Parent Coaching
 Parents of a troubled or traumatized child need help with parenting.
 Support the family with education.
 Therapy/meds for the child
 Evaluate periodically
 Cycle back to the same issues.

After Parent Coaching
 Parents of a troubled or traumatized child need help with parenting.
 Support the family with education, frequent coaching contacts.
 Help parents help the child feel feelings, avoiding blame, and focusing on healing.
 Behavior improves.
 Harmony is restored to family life.

Present Moment Parenting
 It’s healing for parents and children to learn new ways of interacting.
It’s all about physical and emotional survival.
Ten Basic Tenets of Present Moment Parenting
1. Attunement in the present moment is vital for a healthy parent-child relationship
2. The overarching goal for every child is to feel lovable.
3. With every interaction, parents are either pushing their children away or drawing them near.
4. Staying the in the present moment reduces parents’ fear of past or future behaviors.
5. All behavior is communication.
6. Respectfully addressing the child’s true feelings eliminates the need for punishment.
7. The child’s body is affected by emotional input from the parent.
8. The greatest human need is to be needed.
9. The parents’ role is to support and guide their children as they become capable in their own right.
10. Parents do the best they can with the tools they have.

 Children are Organisms
 Water • Sunshine • Fertilizer
 Unwrapping Child Behavior
A Physiological Approach

The effect of communication on the child’s body
 How is the heart involved?
 According to the Institute of Heartmath, the heart is responsive to emotional input.

 The amygdala responds to stress, and it sustains the response, even when the threat is over.
 “Keep me safe.”
 Adrenaline is more readily triggered with children who have experienced trauma. Also, with ADHD.

 The Adrenal Glands
 Flight
 Fight
 Freeze

 The Fear State
 The child who is constantly alert to feeling unsafe. This creates a “state” of fear, which dictates responses, often overly reactive.
 The child gets blamed for being uncooperative, when she was just unconsciously responding to perceived threat, trying to get back to safety. Fear becomes the default emotion, unless parents know how to reduce it.
Resource: Beyond Consequences

 Join the child in the present moment. Scrupulously avoid blame. This assures safety.
 What Parents Can Do
 Attune to the child to facilitate attachment.
 Help her know herself as lovable.
 Help others understand.

Contributing Resources
Daniel Siegel, M.D. – The Mindful Brain
Paul Pearsall, PhD. – The Heart’s Code
Heather Forbes, LCSW – Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control

 Small Group
 15 Minutes

 When Does Innocence Disappear?
At what age do children start to willfully manipulate adults?
Types of Parenting
 Authoritarian: My way or the highway
 Passive: You don’t listen anyway, so why bother?
 Authoritative: I’m the parent and I accept responsibility for your welfare. I am also including you in the process of life.

 All Behavior is Communication

 Why Doesn’t Punishment Work?
 Punishment has 3 results:
 Temporary stoppage of the behavior
 The need to retaliate
 Fear

 Judge, Blame, Punish Cycle
 When Parents Live in Fear, We Miss the Love.
 No Guilt
 A New Way
 Eckhart Tolle
 A New Role for parents
From Behavior Police to Success Mentors
 Set Up Success Opportunities
 Grown-up Tasks
Heartfelt Appreciation: “When you … I feel … because…”

 Opposition to Positive Input
First Family Meeting
Second Family Meeting
 Family Traditions
 When a Tradition is Broken, Employ Do-Overs
 Do-overs are teachable moments
 They avoid “pushing the child away”
Rehearse them at the family meeting.
 Play the scene as it happened.
 Play it again in a way that works better.
 Creates a map in the child’s brain for positivity.
 Give heartfelt appreciation for practicing.
 Do-Overs with Teens
 A casual “Let’s try that again.” If she refuses, don’t push.
 Set an example, and parents have do-overs themselves.
 Successes are the big deal.
 The Do-over is NOT Punishment

 Do Not Encourage Do-Overs Until …
 Family has had the second meeting.
 The family traditions have been posted.
 Do-overs have been rehearsed.
 They’ve switched roles to practice the do-overs.

Dealing with Anxiety
 What are the sources of anxiety?
 Learning disability, ADHD
 Grief and loss
 Trauma
 Giftedness
 Perfectionism
 Illness
 Moving
 Peer relationships
 Parent anxiety

 Every misbehaving child has a degree of anxiety.
 Anxiety Defined: Fear where there’s no real threat

 How do we help him?
 Understand that the child is having a physiological response, not being “impossible,” “picky,” or “looking for attention.”
 Manage your own anxiety, for the sake of the child: relaxation techniques, self-care, and/or therapy. Read Self Compassion by Kristin Neff, PhD.

What Parents Can Do
 Coaches can provide information, and encourage self-compassion, which both reduce anxiety.
 “When we know better, we do better.”
 -Maya Angelou

More on Helping a Child with Anxiety
 Build self-efficacy slowly over time, as trust develops
 Join the child in the present moment, using attunement.
 Reassuring the Child
It’s not reassuring to tell the child over and over how much you love her. Too much telling can give her the idea there’s something to worry about.
 Join her on the feelings she’s having right now. That will communicate love.
 Listen deeply.
 How to Help with the Feelings
 “You’re really worried.”
 “You want me to take you to the store right now.”
 “You’re worried that you won’t get what you want.”
 “Your feelings seem very strong and powerful.”
 “If I guess how you’re feeling, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”
 Be willing to be wrong, and just listen. The true feelings will come up. Use the magic of silence.
Avoid Triggering Opposition
 How Questions
 How do you think you’d feel if we did as you suggested?
 How should we solve this problem so that everyone feels OK about the outcome?
 How do you want to limit screen time so that you don’t lose touch with your real life?
 How will leaving the house right now go with getting your homework done?
 Teach parents to use them instead of directives.
 A Better Choice for Young Children
 What Works With Older Kids?

Case Study
 16-year-old boy
 Suburban high school with 80 min. subject blocks
 37 detentions from last year, 16 more now
 Oppositional at home
 Verbal altercation with a teacher
 Unable to sit in class, failing everything
 Running away
 Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?

Explore Feelings to Express Grief Directly

 The words to use:
 “I see you are upset. Do you want to tell me how you are feeling?”
 “If I guess, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”
 Words to Use
 For parents
 Tell me more.
 I appreciate your letting me know.
 It helps me to hear your story.
 Your feelings matter to me.
 and more …
 When you let me in, I feel deeply honored.
 I know it’s not easy to talk about. You are braver than so many kids.
 (Listen without judging or fixing.)
 Consult the Child on the Solutions

 Testing: One, Two, Three …
Mistakes are our teachers

 Case Study
 6 year-old-boy
 Abused and neglected by his low-IQ mom
 Mom’s boyfriend was sex offender
 Mom had TPR
 Grandma and her husband took her in
 He was sexually aggressive with other children
 Verbally aggressive with step-grandpa
 Had rages, took a knife to grandma
 County was ready to send her to residential treatment
 Grandpa does “story time” at night.
 Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?

 Case Study
 Foster mom who is a healer: has two adopted kids already living with her, 18 (girl) and 13 (boy).
 Two boys, 13 and 11, needed placement after mother died suddenly. Dad was on drugs, mutilated himself.
 Previous foster placement failed; 14-year-old was blamed.
 Family pride in “being an Anderson”
 13-year-old using, stealing, needs treatment
 11-year-old unable to get up in the a.m.
 Coaching the mom helped son do his grief work. Powerful response.
 Truancy became the issue for the court.
 Ordered to residential.
 Mother stayed in the present moment, adopted him.

 Case Study
 14-year-old girl
 New discovery of LD
 Mom panicked, consumed by every homework detail
 Came to coaching, “We’ve lost our little girl.”
 Coaching resolved major issues.
 Backslid to old ways.
 Psychiatric hospital
 Return to coaching
 Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?

Children’s Sensory Issues
 1. Auditory
 2. Olfactory
 3. Tactile
 4. Taste
 5. Visual
 6. Interpersonal sensitivity

To Help Children with Sensory Issues
 Realize it’s not just picky or bad behavior
 Don’t try to talk them out of their sensitivities
 Make adjustments to the environment
 Seek occupational therapy
 Appreciate the quiet, inwardly-focused child – great work may be happening

 The Power of Now

 Remember: The Power is in the Positives!
 Wrap Up
 Questions?
 Contact Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. for training, parenting coach certification, consulting

© 2014 by Anu Family Services. All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Anu Family Services.


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