“If only my child had come with an instruction manual!” That’s a thought that most parents have experienced at some point in their lives, and one that I’ve heard often over my years as a birth-five specialist, family therapist and parenting support consultant. Nothing really prepares you to become a parent. Some of us were lucky enough to have parents who set a good example, but others grew up in homes where the dynamic between child and parent was anything but functional. The truth is, even if you did have loving parents that did right by you 24/7, you can never be fully prepared to handle the sticky situations that are bound to come up with your own children. You never really know what behavioral or emotional challenges your child may wind up struggling with, and how those issues will affect your other children and the family unit as a whole.
This is where birth-five support and parent coaching comes in and can be a helpful resource.
Birth-five support is unfortunately an underserved support in the Austin community and one that is so important. The research continues to prove that the first five years of a child’s life are the most critical. By the age of three, for example, a toddler’s brain is 80% developed, and by the age of five, a child’s brain is nearly fully developed at 90%.1
I fell in love with infant, toddler, and early childhood mental health after receiving extensive training from the premier birth-five agency, Southwest Human Development, in Phoenix, Arizona. I have additional post-graduate training from the Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas. Currently, as a birth-five specialist, I bring forth evidenced-based knowledge and research to parents to address a wide range of behavioral, developmental, emotional, and social problems with their toddlers and young children.
What can this help?
- Developmental delays & milestones
- Emotional & physical aggression
- Fears & worries
- Meltdowns & tantrums
- Prosocial behavior & social skills
Behavior is communication with toddlers and young children. As such, parents can benefit from learning the function of their child’s behavior and/or what unmet need a negative behavior might be serving in the moment. Additionally, parents benefit from:
- Improving limit setting and implementing positive discipline
- Learning emotional language/vocabulary that toddlers and young children respond well to
- Reducing power struggles and regaining control as a parent
- Strengthening attachment and bonding in the child-parent relationship
- Understanding and meeting your toddler and young children’s emotional needs
Parent coaching is a bit different from traditional therapy in that it’s focus is more goal-directed. Whereas traditional therapy may have you spend several sessions exploring and processing past events to recognize how they have contributed to current behaviors and emotions, parent coaching helps you identify a goal (i.e. getting my child to do their homework without a daily tantrum, getting my teen to respect my authority, etc.) and offers tried and true techniques to help you get the outcomes you desire.
What can this help?
Parent coaching is for any parent who wishes to resolve behavioral or emotional struggles with their children. Parent coaching is also helpful with increasing your confidence in your parenting skills. These struggles can include daily challenges, such as:
- Afterschool/homework struggles and morning/bedtime routines
- Challenging developmental periods (i.e. the “terrible two’s”, “tweens”, etc.)
- Child-parent conflict and child-parent relationship problems
- Sibling conflict and rivalry
- Social media and video game limits and usage
Parent coaching can also help with more demanding behaviors that push the parent’s skillset and test their limits. These include, but are not limited to:
- Communicating with your moody teen who consistently shuts you down and/or gives you attitude any time you attempt to communicate with them
- Handling your strong-willed or defiant child who struggles to listen to you and/or often does the opposite of what you ask
- Supporting your anxious or clingy child who won’t go anywhere without following you and/or having a meltdown
Early intervention, whether it’s with birth-five parenting support or parent coaching, is critical and it benefits both the child and the parent. The child’s presenting problems decrease in frequency and intensity, and in best case scenarios resolve altogether, while the parent’s stress levels are reduced and the parent gains increased confidence in their parenting skills.
1. Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.hardvard.edu.