Parenting Coach Question

Updated on November 15, 2011
A.J. asks from Norristown, PA
15 answers

Last night, I had my kids at a McDonalds play yard for a while because it was cold out. I took notice of two ladies with a 7-ish year old boy. He was yelling loudly, and I started noticing he was screaming mean epithets at his mom. At first I thought he was joking. He was playing fine with other kids, but any time his mom would say something to him, he would yell at her or violently jump around and say he hated her etc. As I eavesdropped, I realized the other lady was a parent coach or social worker with them.

Literally for the hour I was there, he called his mom several vile names (it was hectic enough that all the other kids playing didn't actually notice, so we didn't leave) and yelled at her to shut up, etc. The last 45 minutes they were there, they were trying to persuade him to leave, to which he would just throw his shoes or say, "Shut up, I'm not leaving, I HATE you!" to his mom. He was perfectly respectful to the social worker, and at times she would sit quietly with him talking. Then he'd jump up and yell at his mom some more. I'm no expert AT ALL, but he "seemed" to be 'acting' and milking the "hating mom" angle. Every time he yelled at her the coach would motion her to ignore it, so he kept just going back into the equipment and playing after saying mean things. All the while, he would NOT leave.

Finally, the kid was looking bored and tired (they got there before us) and under the approving eye of the coach, his mom said, "Sweety, let's get going, now, do you want to put your coat on here or wait until we get to the car?" Really patiently and nicely, giving a choice, all that. He threw his shoes again and ran off to a fussball table and started banging it up and down and a McDonalds worker told him to stop-which he did immediately (suddenly able to follow orders just fine). The fussball table was beside me, so I overheard the coach say, "Now, see? He really listened to you that time when you said we should leave, did you see his face? He HEARD you. I think this time, we should offer him an incentive, like a drink for the ride home." The mom then said, "Sweety, how about if we get you a soda for the ride home."

OK. Now. Anyone who has read my posts may have noticed I'm a tad bit more on the discipline side of things than the "emotion coaching" side. Granted. But really, I couldn't believe that advice. A SODA??! After refusing to leave the play area for an hour and cursing out his mom?! And granted, I don't know if he had a mental issue, or a severely abusive background, or a million other things. But all I saw was his mom, who looked so sad and was trying so hard to go along with the whole public playdate thing, and be a good sport while the kid verbally publicly assaulted her, and my heart was breaking (OK, maybe she brought in on herself and was mean to him for years, I don't know, but right now, she was trying and seeking help).

Could that parenting coach's advice possibly have been helpful in a bigger picture? Can some of you parenting coaches out there please reassure me that this approach may help them? What will go on behind the scenes? Could this have been just a "first assessment" or something on the part of the coach? Just survival mode until they could get him out of the store without dragging him? I'm so worried for them! I left there feeling like that kid was truly a future danger to her..I was so distraught, I left my wallet, and today I'm having to shut down all my cards etc because no one turned it in.... :( But anyway, any thoughts?

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answers from Phoenix on

You saw one snippet of their lives. Best not to assume or judge in those situations. The truth is that no one knows their reality, except for them.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I'm not a parenting coach, however, I have worked with children whose parents were transitioning from incarceration back to 'normal' life. Which may be why the coach wasn't working in the mother's home; Mom may be living in a halfway house or transitional housing.

Not speaking globally, but many mothers who have been separated from their children carry a lot of guilt which gets in the way of discipline. Also consider that many parents (whether incarcerated or not) grew up as abused children or with extremely ignorant parents and thus, they have NO real idea of what effective, loving parenting looks like, so discipline can feel scary because it's an uncharted realm for them.

I'm sorry you were so upset; I've had those moments too, where I was just baffled at how someone could let a situation continue. You and I, A., had our kids chosen to be rude, we would have stopped that right away. We have confidence in our parenting. The mother you witnessed clearly doesn't. She likely thinks her kid hates her and that disciplining him will make him hate her more, so she allows it out of fear. It's also likely she might have been an abused person, because there are plenty of us who have either never been abused by a loved one/parent or have healed from it and wouldn't have put up with it for a minute. In my opinion, it's one thing to ignore a child who is blowing off a little steam with whining or complaining; it is another thing entirely when a child is being disrespectful toward someone's person.

It could also be that she has a child with some atypical behavioral diagnosis and Mom has been traumatized as she has previously tried to discipline with raging and outbursts coming her way. So hard to watch. I hope everything was resolved with your wallet. We just don't know, do we?

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on


I'm imagining myself standing there, watching this.

Coach (to mom): "Maybe you should bribe him to go to the car."

Me (to coach): "Maybe you should teach her to be a parent and not a buddy. People like you only contribute to failure." (to mom) "Mom, tell the boy it's time to go. If he doesn't like it...tough. Pick him up and put him physically into the car. You can be firm and loving at the same time, but you have to show him who's in charge. He'll appreciate it later, and so will you."

Coach: Speechless.

Me (to coach): "How much are you charging? Because I'd ROCK this job and wouldn't have to deploy to Iraq."


ETA: Hazel is dead-on. There are all kinds of possible reasons this mother doesn't know what to do. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like the coach has a clue either.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

The only thing I take away from this situation is that the boy was rewarded with a soda for bad behavior. I think that was a ridiculous thing for the "coach" (quotations intentional) to offer.

I agree with the other posts that we don't know the whole story, but I am left as baffled by this as you are, A.!

Bummer about your wallet... :(

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

The only thing that came to my mind was that this was probably a mother that had no clue as to how to be a mother. Maybe she had lost her children and was trying to win them back from the state? Maybe her kid hates her so much because she has been abusive in the past? I don't know. What I do know is that if a "social emotional coach" was watching me parent she probably would think that I am not the nicest mom in the world!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Just as there are ministers and pastors and priests of every variety, there are counselors and parent coaches, and parents, of every variety. What this coach you heard was doing has very little resemblance to the "emotion coaching" I have learned to do. Practicing patience and trying to perceive the child's needs are the only similarity, but the way it which it was done was ineffective at best.

It's not easy to be a parent if we're carrying a load of whatever dysfunction we learned in our own childhoods. This mom may truly not KNOW how to parent better than she has. So she finds a coach. A lousy coach, maybe, but how would she know that, really? If she knew good parenting, she wouldn't need the coach. So she's stuck in a trap on non-success, and she may eventually go to some other extreme, over-correcting for her earlier mistakes.

But that's not emotion-coaching that you were watching. It was excessively lenient parenting.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

This child obviously has behavoir issues and it sounds like he was with an occupational therapist or behaviorist not a coach and they were working though his problems. This is the proper way to deal with these situations professionally. When the child finally behaves you reward for good behavior and in the beginning you take little steps. Now a soda isn't the healthy choice but again, it was probably something the kid would think was a reward. What was going on was a private matter and was probably very very hard on the mother especially to do this in public and therefore your shouldn't judge until you have been in that type of situation. They are obviously getting the right type of help which gives the mom and her family a lot of credit. Over time things will get better since they are using a therapist. There are many things to worry about these days and this is not something you should be focusing on b/c this is not affecting you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Something MORE was going on - sounds like he had some special needs and they were working with him. Poor woman.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

LIke you stated, you don't know this child's history. I work with children on the autism spectrum and it is very difficult for some parents to take them out in the community. I, in no way, shape, or form and saying that this kid sounds like he has autism. I am just saying that these children also present great challenges in the community at times. It's very isolating for the parents. They avoid it because of the stares and judgement they have received from others. You also don't know the EXACTLY what the capacity that this person was working in....a behavioral consultant, a therpeutic staff support person, a therapist, etc. I am sure that a plan was developed BEFORE they went to McDonalds and this person was helping mom carry out the plan. I have accompanied parents on outings such as grocery stores, Walmart, etc. to first, give them strategies on just "surviving" these visits and then help make the outings more productive and pleasant for everyone.

This family clearly needs support. They are struggling daily. I am thankful that this mom is accessing services to help her son.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

I think there is obviously more to the story that could never be known in the brief window of time you observed.
Maybe, for some reason, the mom had been away from the child due to personal issues and the child felt abandonded and angry.
Maybe she never tried to discipline him and that's why he listens to everyone EXCEPT her.
It's hard to say.
All I do know is that if it was a social worker or parent "coach" with them, her hands might have been basically tied as far as what to do because it's a sad fact that it's almost considered criminal to discipline your kids these days, especially in public.

What comes to mind is that when my daughter was very little, if her father's parents had their way, she would have been taken away from me. They dragged me through court so many times saying that I was unfit. Even worse, they told my daughter that I was unfit, I didn't love her, I didn't want her, I didn't know how to take care of her....
They were so merciless, that ultimately, they weren't even allowed to contact her by phone until she turned 18 years old.
Anyway, maybe the mom you saw was on the bad end of something like that.

Hug your kids and hope that whatever was wrong in the background with the mom and boy you saw can be resolved. Especially for the sake of the child.

Best wishes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Not knowing the situation or background, and just by going from what you observed, I would have to say that generally speaking the other woman was not helping at all. I've seen many parents in the same situation. The child listens to others because they know they mean business but they know their own parent is a push over and will be walked all over with no consequences. This woman is trying the very PC approach and it's the wrong approach for any child, in my opinion. Choices are fine at times but when it's time to go, what other options are there? Time to go means time to go so put your jacket and shoes on, now. Bribe a child? No way! Super Nanny would have NEVER allowed that child to get away with how he was acting and she's pretty PC. This other woman was way over board on being PC. Blah! It's not going to help the child or mother. It'll be confusing if they're trying to ease him into good behavior with one minor thing, and then another minor thing and so on. There should be one way to approach that child, do it, and that's that. (This time ask, next time bribe, next time ignore??) And the ignoring thing is the worst thing to do, ever! I hate that! Parents think that actually works. Um, no it doesn't and the rest of us in public has to tolerate their children's behavior until they decide to behave on their own. DOH! I don't think so! How many times I've been in a store over the years and have seen the "ignore it" thing and all they do is continue to scream and act up. Meanwhile, Mom pushes the cart and ignores bad behavior while the rest of us who went shopping to get away from our kids have to put up with it.

I know it's upsetting but there's nothing you can do about it. I know if this child was acting this bad in front of my kids I would have said out loud that if that boy doesn't calm down and behave himself we'll have to leave and when he didn't I'd take the kids, apologize to them out loud that we had to leave but we cannot be around a child who behaves so poorly and no one is punishing him. One thing though with my kids seeing poorly behaved kids, they see that it's wrong and mine will behave for the rest of the day!

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Even though you gave us a blow by blow we only see a small window and it is colored by what you considered important.

I do know there are some parents who will grab at anyone who tells them they can make junior behave without any real discipline. That "coach" may not have any real qualifications. I don't really know.

One huge problem is that you can find science to prove darn near any parenting style.

What I mean is my ex's sister never disciplined her son. She simply never said no to him. So yeah, he never disobeyed her because he was never required to do anything but what he wants to do. Is that actually discipline?

Anyway I am rambling, sorry. What I am saying is there isn't enough information.

Is bribing a child with a soda a good or bad thing? Neither. Sometimes a bribe is necessary. In this case it sounds like the "coach" didn't produce the results she wanted so is advising a bribe to get the kid to leave on what appears to be her command. See the "coach" fixed the kid, he left when mom said so. That will be 500 dollars. After all the child's behavior didn't actually change with the last lets leave, the coach just acted like something was different, now give him a soda so we can leave and I can get paid.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

You know... the only way I can see this as a fit is if Mom is/was physically/emotionally/verbally abusive and is under supervised visitation and required parenting classes.

Why? Because that's the way my son acts with his dad when there are people around to KEEP MY SON SAFE. He dishes out exactly what he gets from his dad RIGHT BACK AT HIM.

HOWEVER, anyone else asks my son to do something, and it's "Okay! Sorry!"

There's a GOOD reason my son disrespects his father. It's because he's not shown ANY kind of respect or kindness from him. In a public place, his dad might keep his temper, but the MOMENT they are alone.... So our son doesn't want to leave public places. He doesn't trust that his dad is going to STAY nice. And for durn good reason.

Dear. God. I WISH to high heaven someone would teach my husband to not escalate things to WWIII at the first sign of backtalk. Seriously. Kids aren't computers. They don't instantly obey every thing you say 100 percent of the time with a smile on their face. My husband will be SCREAMING at out son for a normal "5 more minutes?", much less an actual tantrum. Or, almost as bad, will just leave. without. him. "Fine, do whatever you want." and WALK THE F OUT AND LEAVE. ((You may have guessed by now, that I rarely leave my son with my husband, and it's the ONLY reason I've stayed married to him this long. The man is a prick. And he'd get partial custody.) The only kind of consistency my husband offers is unkindness. Pick the WORST way to handle any situation, and he's on it like white on rice. The one and only time they played "catch"? My husband looked away and our 7yo threw short and the ball hit him in the leg. Mit was thrown. BBQ was thrown. Kiddo was sworn at up and down ("You MFing SOB, why can't you F'ing, Aaaaargh!" Crash! ... of course, all of these with real words, as if the abbreviations aren't enough. This is a story I already have "up" on mamapedia, which is why I'll freely share it, but there are sadly far far far too many of these. Like a couple times a week when his dad decides to take a week off work for "vacation". Vacation = Hell. )

If this kid has only known unkindness from his mother in the past... a soda isn't a bribe. It's an olive branch.

GRANTED... That's not something *I* would ever do (pshaw! REWARD bad behaviour??? I'm sorry. It hurts from laughing! Okay. Got myself. I don't THINK so!). But then I don't need to. I'm certainly not the best parent in the world, but I'm kind and I'm consistent and I'm fair. Kiddo! March!

Or i'd take his shoes, stick them in my bag, and carry him with an apolgetic nod to the rest of the parents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Erie on

i'm not sure what the issues are, but i give that mom a TON of credit for getting some help. hopefully that social worker was actually helping though. sounds like it was more support for the mom, though and not really helping the behavior. again, not sure what the situation really is. taking him out in public with him acting like that is probably a real difficult thing for her to do.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

well you know and i know, that child has been yelled at and called gets you nowhere..children do what they see..children say what they hear..and the last thing that child needed was a soda!!

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