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The Coach Approach for Kids with ADHD (and other Complex Kids)

October 27, 2017

This is the second in our two part series for ADHD Awareness Month. Last we wrote about why identifying ADHD is so important. This week our guest blog is from Elaine Taylor-Klaus, co-founder of ImpactADHD and past board member of CHADD, who discusses the importance of parent coaching. The best way to help our kids is often to help ourselves, the adults in their lives who are there to love and support them on a daily basis.

parent coaching

by Elaine Taylor-Klaus

Do you frequently ask yourself, “why can’t this child just,” or otherwise at a loss for how best to help a child who is struggling daily? You probably parent or teach a complex child. Ranging from 4 to 24, complex kids may be quirky or odd, sensitive or angry, isolated or lonely, anxious or disorganized. They often appear typical to the outside world, but internal struggles create obstacles to their success. Sometimes their challenges are explained by a diagnosis. Almost as often it’s just a sense that you have, as a parent or educator, that things are harder for this kid than they need to be.

How Training & Parent Coaching Help with Complex Kids

Parenting and teaching complex kids can be stressful, isolating and frustrating. Parents often spend so much energy on these kids that they let themselves fall to the bottom of the priority list . In the long run, it impacts their ability to be the best parents they can be. Similarly, teachers give of themselves all day, every day. They have little time to take care of themselves, much less the complex kids who need that extra bit of attention.

Historically, there has not been many options for parents or teachers of complex kids. While therapy is an option, what parents really need is guidance and a support structure. Teachers rely on limited in-service trainings, if any.

Coaching is a relatively new alternative that is both convenient and effective. Training and parent coaching offer practical support, empowering adults to motivate kids to reach their full potential.

Parent and teacher training in behavior management are recommended treatments for children with ADHD and related conditions. For parents, it is particularly effective when combined with parent coaching as a mechanism to implement what is being learned in the training. Learn more about CDC recommended guidelines for treatment.

Why the “Coach-Approach”?

In addition to support, coaching models a style of communication that empowers complex kids. At ImpactADHD, we call this the “coach-approach”.

As parents, we want the best for our children. Sometimes that can get in the way of our relationships with them. We get caught up in what we think is best, that we forget they are independent human beings. Similarly, teachers can be so attuned to ‘getting results’ that they focus more on the outcomes than on the process of learning . The process is essential for complex kids.

The coach-approach teaches how to communicate with kids in a way that is open, motivating, and constructive. When adults take a coach-approach, they are able to:

  • Teach Resilience
  • Motivate Independence
  • Inspire Kids to Overcome Obstacles
  • Help Kids Reach Full Potential

Specifically, parents and teachers learn to navigate the fine line between directing kids and encouraging independence. They learn to see the best in kids and help them reach their full potential. They focus on learning and improvement, rather than correction and criticism.

Impact of a Coach-Approach

If you want to help kids identify their strengths and motivations, celebrate their successes and get “unstuck,” then your approach makes a difference. If you want kids to learn how to take constructive feedback or learn to be more accountable, HOW you have conversations matters. This is every bit as important for teachers as it is for parents.

“But what about student coaching?” you might ask. “Wouldn’t it make more sense for the student to work with a coach?” Truthfully, if a student (of any age) is not asking for help, then chances are they are not ready to use it. We all know that’s true, even though we wish it were different.

That is why it is essential for adults to learn how to foster buy-in and cultivate ownership in complex kids. Long term, some complex kids might benefit from coaching support. But their willingness to use it will depend on the work you do first, as a teacher or a parent, to empower students to reach for their own success.

  • A coach-approach to teaching can shift classroom dynamics and bring out the best in all students, even those who are struggling with learning or self-management.
  • For parents, training and parent coaching is a powerfully effective way to create lasting change in a family. A parent coaching relationship provides the structure to focus on what’s important and then determine the actions you want to take to keep things moving forward.

If you NEED things to feel easier and less chaotic or stressful, parent coaching might be the right option. Learn more about what to look for in a coach from the International Coach Federation. Here you can find coaches who use Mindprint.

Elaine Taylor-KlausElaine Taylor-Klaus 

Elaine is the co-founder of ImpactADHD, an award-winning blog and provider of reality-based training, coaching and support for parents of complex kids. Elaine works with parents all over the world, on line and on the phone, to rediscover the joy in family life and empower their kids to become independent and reach their full potential. She is the co-creator of Sanity School for Parents and the upcoming Sanity School for Teachers, online training programs that teach a coach-approach to behavior management.


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