Parent (and Therapist!) Coaching Tips
Many therapists get caught up in the trap of wanting to coach parents, but chicken out when they begin to feel uncomfortable and unnatural or when it doesn’t go as smoothly or as well as we’d like.
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The best part about this model is that it’s EASY to remember & implement. Here are the basics in an easy to remember formula that works whether you’re implementing a consultative model with families at home or seeing kids in the clinic.
Introduce, Do, Review
“Introduce” the strategy – Discuss the technique and the rationale before the activity. Here you’re explaining to a parent what you’ll be doing, how you’ll do it, and more importantly, why you’re doing it. I usually start and end with the why piece because that’s how we get parents to buy in to what we’re doing. Without a buy in, there’s little incentive for a parent to follow-through with a strategy so this is a HUGE part of success – yours and theirs!
“Do” the activity – Implement the strategy within an activity TOGETHER. It’s fine for a parent to sit and watch as you model a strategy for a few times with their child, but sooner or later, they’ve gotta do it too! This is much easier when you’re embedding your strategy into a routine a family already does – then it really is just suggesting a tweak here and there. It’s also better because you can watch parents and provide tips to help them feel more competent about their own performance. Even shy, reserved moms will join in when you gently persist. I usually start with a comment like, “Sit down here with us,” to encourage parents to stay checked in and join the fun! Don’t forget to offer generous PRAISE for moms and dads too! We ALL like to feel like rock stars, don’t we? Especially when joining in with you is something new and out of their comfort zone. Be sensitive to that uneasy feeling a parent or caregiver may be having too.
“Review” – Talk about how it went and plan your tweaks for what can make the strategy even better. Discuss specific times/ways parents can incorporate the strategy at home. Always ask, “Do you have questions?” and “How’s that feel for you?” to get feedback so you can address any concerns.
One last thing… remind a parent that you’ll ask them about how this strategy has gone for them next time you’re together. It’s a soft nudge to help establish expectations for follow-through. Afterall, they see a child MUCH, MUCH more often than you do and will always be the person who is most motivated for their child’s success.
Parents… you can do this too! Think about using this “Introduce – Do – Review” strategy with your therapists with problems you’re having at home. For example, a child whines when she walks into the kitchen instead of using the words (or signs, or pictures, or her device) she knows. Begin your session by saying something like, “Hey… can we work on something I need help with today?” Most therapists will be forced to restrain themselves from hugging you right then and there! We LOVE it when parents take the lead and tell us what they need!
See? This works for ALL of us!
Have a great day!!
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