You know, Michael Jackson was on to something with his song, encouraging us to ‘make that change’, but I think he forgot to mention just how hard that can be. Did you know that it generally takes only 3 to 5 days to master a new skill (depending, of course, on the complexity of the skill). Yet it can take from 18 days to a full year to change a habit or behavior. So it’s obviously a lot harder to unlearn a behavior than it is to learn one in the first place. What’s my point? I’m curious why when individuals are seeking parent coaching, they seem shocked that they will have to commit to 7 or more sessions minimum. This is a behavior change we are trying to embrace so why wouldn’t it take that long?
Behavior change is a complex thing. First you have to WANT to change, and then you have to seek the knowledge how to change. Then you have to physically begin to make the change (extremely simplified version of the behavior change model). Once the new behavior is learned, you have to repeat repeat repeat in order to truly learn the new behavior. At this point, the new behavior will feel awkward and it will be difficult not to slip back into the comfortable old behavior you are seeking to replace. Eventually, with much time and repetition and reinforcement, you will own and hopefully prefer the new behavior. With practice and with preference, you will be more likely to maintain the new behavior. There you go. Lots of little steps.
The thing about parenting is that you are not the only person involved. Inherent in the word ‘family’ is the involvement of others; namely, your kids, your partner, or your co-parent. Perhaps your own parents or close friends. All those involved in the family should play a role in the adoption of any new parenting behaviors. Does this mean they, too, must be coached (or want to change)? Not necessarily, but it might be easier for all involved. Just like trying to quit smoking, trying to improve your parenting skills can be much easier when you do it as a team.
The other thing about parenting is sometimes YOU need to be the grownup. YOU need to be the bigger person, and face the fact that in order to facilitate change in the behavior in your family, you will need to change and suck it up while those around you EVER SO SLOWLY respond to your changed behavior. This is the hard part. This will be frustrating. I am not going to argue. You will feel like quitting. You will feel like regressing. You will feel like NOT changing. This is where you have to push on through. Much like the plateaus one hits while trying to lose weight, this too can be conquered. They will change too. They will react to your positive tone and amicability. It will be worth it. But, yes, it will be hard.
As a coach, one of the frustrating things I face is trying to get potential clients to understand that parenting is not a one-stop shop, and changes therein don’t happen over night. Or in one or two sessions. Change takes time. Listen, friends, parent coaches are here for you. We’ll be right by your side, every step of the way. It’s a long path, but it isn’t all uphill, and you won’t go at it alone. Commit to it, and it will happen. We’ll help you find the way. First, though, you have to want to make that change.