Here at Wee HQ, we’ve hit up child and family specialist Brandi Davis before for advice on dealing with tantrums, but Brandi’s scope of expertise goes beyond just meltdowns — through her business Child and Family Coaching, she helps parents work on all sorts of things that make for pleasant, peaceful home life. We chatted with Brandi for a little extra insight into what, exactly, a certified parent coach does, what a coaching session might look like, and the types of situations she’s trained to help with.
WW: So how did you get into the business of children and family coaching?
Brandi: As a preschool teacher, I found myself spending extra time talking with parents about not just school= related topics, but things that were happening at home: tough bed times, discipline, putting an end to yelling. I grew to really enjoy these conversations and mentioned it to my aunt who was a corporate coach. She took me under her wing, mentored me and helped me get my certification, and it was off to the races from there.
WW: So what are your sessions like? I’m picturing the show Supernanny. How accurate/inaccurate is that?
Brandi: Haha, there are no cameras following me around, and unfortunately no glam squad, either. And unlike Supernanny, I work only with the parents. Most of my sessions are done over the phone or Skype. I do in-house visits, too, but many people like the convenience of a tele-session. The fact is, we all want the kids to change, but in fact, the parents often need to do some changing first. The sessions are 30 minutes, and we do four sessions a month — this way parents can try the new strategies that we discuss, and then come back the next week and talk about what worked and what is not yet clicking. Parents can do just one month or they continue for many months. It depends on the need and want of the parents. For our sessions, the parents pick the topics that they want to discuss, and we find what works and feels best for them. This is their journey and their family, not mine. We find what fits best for them.
WW: Do you have a sort of range of services that you can customize for a client?
Brandi: Some parents come to me with very specific needs, such as bedtime help, or morning struggles. Others have more broad-ranging needs, like trying to deal with yelling all of the time, or kids who never listen, or an overall stressful feeling in the home. When you’re in the midst of it all, it can be hard to see a way out. I help parents find that way.
WW: What sort of ages do you typically deal with?
Brandi: I have worked with families with children ranging from 1 year old all the way up to 13 years old, though my specialty is 1-year-olds through elementary school ages.
WW: What are some of the most common issues you see parents (or kids) struggling with?
Brandi: The most common reasons parents seek me out are to discover new discipline methods because theirs aren’t working, because they have kids who do not listen, and– many times — because they want to stop all of the yelling. They know what isn’t working but they don’t know where to start to find what WILL work. We find that together.
WW: You also do group classes/workshops.
Brandi: I do. I do talks at local schools, held tele-classes through mommybites.com, as well as businesses (Lunch and Learns). I’ve spoken at Morgan Stanley, The Wistar Institute, Deloitte, and various law firms here and in New York. The workshops are very interactive. They are a place where parents can feel a little less alone. Everyone shares their stories and gives new ideas; we also do a lot of laughing. The classes are a lot of fun. Topics include Positive Discipline, Sibling Readiness, Keys To Positive Parenting, Getting Out Of The House In The Morning, and more.
WW: What’s your philosophy on discipline? (E.g. Time-outs, reward systems, etc..)
Brandi: Discipline is a topic that I cover often. When it comes to discipline, the idea is that the child needs to take responsibility for their choices. They are in control of their day. If they draw on the wall, they clean it up (as well as they can). If a child is throwing trains, then he cannot play with the trains. If she is hitting at the playground, she needs to sit out, with the grown-up making it clear that it is because she is not being safe. (Sometimes this even means leaving the playground.) The idea is that the behavior and the reaction to that behavior are connected. I find Time Out is often overused, and many times the grown-up ends up fighting about where the child is supposed to sit, and the life lesson gets lost. As for warnings, a heads-up is in always order. Be specific about what you want and what will happen if you do not see the behavior that you ask for, so the child can make an informed decision about his next move. When it comes to rewards, I ask these questions: What happens when the rewards stop? Will the child still behave? When do they stop? What is rewardable and what is just expected? If you have dragged your kid to five stores in a day, sure, thank them with some ice cream, but if you reward a child every time they listen or every time you ask them to help with something, they may not do what you ask without prize at the end. We want kids to cooperate because they know that they are part of something, a family, a team. It feels good to help as well, as feel free to “reward” with a high five, hug, smile, and sincere words of gratitude.
WW: What are some common “mistakes” that you see parents make that can be easily avoided?
Brandi: Some of the most common “mistakes” — and everyone has done these — are: Not Following Through On Consequences; Giving Too Many Chances; and Getting Super Worked Up. (In terms of the last one: Someone needs to be calm, and it is NOT gonna be your kid.) I would not say that they are easily avoided though. Parenting is a tough job, and kids to know just how to push your buttons, especially when you are exhausted. Parents need to forgive themselves more when they make a misstep. It happens, and the misstep is usually smaller than the parent thinks. Parenting can be complicated and full of questions and what ifs … but as my mom always says, the true job of a parent is to give kids wings to fly!
Want more advice, help, or info about scheduling a session with Brandi? She offers a free 30-minute phone coaching session so people can see what it’s all about. You’ll also want to check her site for her latest blogs (she writes as an expert for multiple sites!!) and to see her upcoming classes.