At first glance, the roles of parent coach and parent educator appear to be one in the same. At second glance, it is easy to see they are not. While these professions share a great many commonalities, they also share a great many differences. As agents of change, both parent coaches and parent educators strive to help families achieve their individual best. Their initial involvement and approach to this common goal, however, are two factors that distinguish parent educators from parent coaches.

Parent Educators

Who are Parent Educators? Parent educators are individuals who enter the field from adjacent professions such as nursing, family therapy, education, social work, judicial, and law enforcement. These are professions that often encounter issues involving families and children at risk, and many have first hand knowledge of crisis intervention.

What Training Do Parent Educators Receive? . Parent educators are educated in childhood development, parenting theory, discipline, and at risk behaviors. This training is often part of undergraduate and graduate curriculums for majors such as education, social work, psychology, or nursing to name a few. They may also participate in national certification programs such as Parents as Teachers, and Certified Family Life Educators.

What Services Do Parent Educators Offer? . Since parent educators most often work with at risk families and children, they concentrate on prevention through education. They empower and build confidence by delivering a variety of programs that increase parent knowledge and strengthen parenting skills. These classes or campaigns attempt to develop a number of healthy habits including:

  • Stress reduction
  • Child management techniques
  • Anger management
  • Childhood development
  • Positive parenting
  • Communication skills
  • Prenatal care
  • Substance abuse
  • Family planning
  • Nutrition
  • Money management
  • Self care

Who do Parent Educators Work With? . Some parents enroll in programs on a volunteer basis and the courts or social service agencies refer others. In order to reach as many parents as possible, classes are often held at a variety of times. In addition to classes, parent educators often design programs that include family visits and telephone support, which is also available on a varied schedule.

Since parent educators come from all walks of life; parenting education is offered through a variety of outlets. These include community and public health agencies; hospitals; civic groups; schools and child care programs; private agencies; and mental health professionals.

Parent Coaches

Who are Parent Coaches? . A parent coach is a professional who is trained to support, assist, and empower parents using the technique of coaching. Because every family and family member is unique, parent coaches perform individual assessments on a case-by-case basis. From this assessment they help parents formulate a plan to resolve conflict and strengthen the family bond. Unlike parent educators, who are called upon to restore or create a healthy family environment, parent coaches are leaders who transfer power to parents once they have the skills and confidence to solve specific problems or make desired changes.

What Type of Training Do Parent Coaches Receive? . Parent coaches participate in training and certification programs that last from six to twelve months. During this time they study personal and parenting temperament styles, assessment inventories, coaching methodology, and specialized niche programs. This training is offered through a variety of venues including the traditional classroom, virtual classroom, and teleclasses. Parent coaches, like parent educators, come to the profession from all walks of life. They are teachers, therapists, social workers, mothers, fathers, and grandparents—anyone who cares about children and believes in the family.

Who Do Parent Coaches Work With? . The issues and problems coaches work with are as individual as their clients. One mother may need suggestions on toilet training her son, while another may need help reconnecting with her teenage daughter. Still another couple may be concerned about how their divorce will affect their children. Even though the situations and issues vary, the dedication and support clients receive from their parent coach is unwavering. This unwavering support is the most important tool any parent coach can possess.

In addition to any parent coaches have expertise in a specific parenting area. These include:

  • New parents
  • Divorced parents
  • Single parents
  • Adoptive parents
  • Same sex couples
  • Teenage parents
  • Parents of toddlers
  • Parents of school age children
  • Parents of tweens
  • Parents of teens
  • Mothers
  • Fathers

What Services Do Parent Coaches Provide? . Parent coaches, like parent educators, work with parents to provide a service that benefits the family. These services may be offered on the telephone, in person, in groups, by email, or in the form of parenting classes. Typically, a parent coach will perform an intake interview with her clients. This enables her to learn about individual family members and family dynamics. She may also use this time to assess the family, discuss the issue or problem, and determine whether coach and client are compatible. From this point, a schedule is arranged and the coaching begins.

Like parent educators, parent coaches are dealing with busy schedules and busy families. This busyness is why parent coaching is so attractive to today’s families. Many times sessions and classes are held at night, during lunch hours, and on weekends. Any time parents are available to devote their full attention to the problem at hand. Plus, since a great deal of coaching takes place over the telephone, the lack of travel time is very convenient.

Establishing a Parent Coaching Practice

Parent coaches are self-employed and to that end must possess a certain amount of business acumen and an entrepreneurial spirit. Parent coaches are free to make their own schedules, dictate session length, determine what fees to charge, and how they want to receive payment.

Parent coaches are also free to mold and build their practices in a manner that suits them. Some coaches want to help as many families as possible and structure their business to accommodate this desire. Other coaches may only want to work part-time while pursuing other interests. Some may want to only work from home via the telephone while still others want to use their certification to boost their existing career. Whatever the case, once certified, it is important for parent coaches to establish a business and marketing plan.

Like any business, parent coaches must market and advertise their services. This can be done in a variety of ways including offering sample classes or sessions, writing for parenting publications, submitting press releases, and giving presentations. Any and all of these approaches can attract potential clients. Potential clients that represent the beginning of a fulfilling career as a parent coach.

 Caron Goode’s (EdD) insights are drawn from her fifteen years in private psychotherapy practice and thirty years of experience in the fields of education, personal empowerment, and health and wellness.  She is the author of 15+books and the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International, a training program for parents & professionals who wish to mentor other parents.