I cannot tell you how many times I wished I had a family coach when we first started out. My parenting journey began different than most. My husband and I took guardianship of my niece when she was already four years old. Strong-willed, curious and clever, she was definitely a force to be reckoned with. Becoming overnight parents gave us quite the challenge. From attempting to maintain a bedtime routine to getting her to try new foods, we employed a lot of interesting tactics and operated with trial and error. Although I wouldn’t consider most of our attempts successful, we did grow to become a loving family of 3 in the process.
We soon added a second and then third child to our family, growing our parenting challenges (and our hearts) exponentially. What worked for one child was futile with the next. If only there was a handbook with all of the answers! Over time, we received tons of advice and assistance from family, friends, teachers and counselors. However, my go-to for the tough stuff is always Susan Stone Belton.
Susan is a Family Coach and author of Real Parents, Real Kids, Real Talk: Raising a Successful Adult Using Humor and Common Sense. She is also the mother of a very close friend, so we consider her a part of our extended family. While I know that she loves and cares for my children, her opinions and advice are definitely more objective than our parents and relatives. Having an outside opinion to put our struggles into perspective has really helped us overcome many battles.
We had been struggling nightly to get our children to eat well. As parents (or grandparents or aunties), it is really easy to be won over by our children’s emotional pleas. When they refused to try a new or “difficult” dish, we would offer a kid-friendly alternative like fruit, corn or sweat peas. The main goal is to get them to eat their fruits and veggies, right? Susan said to stop making them separate meals. Include something in the meal you know they’ll eat (bread or applesauce for example), then feed them what you’re eating. Say, “You don’t have to eat it, but this is all we are serving tonight.” It took a week or two to get them to take us seriously, but now they eat almost anything we serve. It was magic.
Joking aside, Susan really has given us solid advice over the years and we value her opinions highly. Most notably we love her take on accepting your children for who they are, not who you expect them to be. This was especially hard for me when my ballerina-dancing, princess-loving daughter started to prefer activities and topics I knew nothing about: Minecraft, anime, and soccer. I am learning to love the things she does (or at least accept her love of those things) although I do still get to do her hair or dress her on occasion. She appeases me, because she knows I enjoy it and she loves the one-on-one bonding time.
I love talking to friends, family and other moms about their schedules, family traditions, habits and takes on parenting to help me evaluate my routines. My family’s dynamic is always evolving especially as the kids reach new milestones. If like me, you want to continue to learn and grow as a parent, I urge you to try and find an objective outside opinion like I’ve found in Susan.
To get you motivated, Susan has agreed to answer some parenting questions for you, my Amateur Super Moms. If you are interested in becoming the best possible parent to your children, please read on as Susan shows you how to open your mind to new perspectives and parenting techniques. I know her advice and take on parenting will aid you as it has us.
Where are you hiding the secret parenting handbook with all the answers?
Well, that’s in my book, Real Parents, Real Kids, Real Talk, of course! But we all have a secret parenting handbook inside us; it’s a combination of our own upbringing, our own values, and our love for our children. There is no single right answer. As long as we are making sure our children are safe, and always remembering that we are actually raising a future adult, not just a current child, we can find the answers. We also need to respect each individual child for who they are, and to accept that each of our children need their own handbook!
What is a “Family Coach” and what services do you offer?
As a Family Coach, I work with the entire family (duh!). I do not think it is enough to work just with the parents; I believe that the feelings and opinions of the children need to be taken into consideration also. My coaching is different than traditional family therapy because it is not done in a cold and sterile office. Where we meet is determined by the family to ensure everyone’s comfort and help open the dialogue. We can meet (or video chat) from your child’s tree house if need be. (Read More).
In addition to Family Coaching, I also lead parenting workshops, give motivational talks, and present at conferences and seminars. These can be customized to whatever age group or theme bests suits your audience.
What made you want to be a Family Coach?
I love children, I love parents, and I love families. As someone whose family was torn apart at age 4, I grew up fascinated by families, and by seeing two parents working together. I decided at a very young age that I would work with children when I grew up, and that I wanted to help every child have a loving, safe, and comfortable childhood. And as an extension of that, I realized that if I could help parents feel more comfortable in their roles, then the whole family would benefit.
What’s your favorite age to work with?
Oh my, that’s a tough one, because I love every age! Babies and toddlers are so very cute, kids are so cute and fun, and teens are so cute, fun, and interesting. (Yes, they really are!)
Where did you learn all the best practices and parenting techniques that you suggest?
In real- life practice! I have been working with kids since the age of 10, when I first started babysitting. Currently I am a Family Coach and Motivational Speaker, but I have also been a camp counselor, a Special Education teacher, a Gymboree teacher, the owner and director of a home-based preschool, a Crisis Hotline director, all adding up to several decades of experience with hundreds of families and children. And of course, I am the proud mom of two successful adults, my son Brandon and my daughter Casey. I also have two awesome step-children.
What is our job/our goal as parents?
I always teach that the goal of parenting is to raise a successful adult, one who we are proud to release to the wild at age 21. I ask parents what their definition of a successful adult is, and then to teach those traits on a daily basis. My definition was honest, kind, responsible, capable, and to have a close relationship with me, all at age 21. So I thought of that list every day, and as soon as I got my kids sleeping through the night, I started teaching those things through every interaction with my child. It’s not just asking how do we respond to every situation to get through the moment; it’s asking how do I respond to this situation with a lesson that will help them become the adult I want them to be.
What are the biggest challenges faced by parents today?
Parenting is the most difficult (and most rewarding) job. As we prepare for a new baby, we read books, take classes, and talk with other parents. And every book, class, and parent seem to give us different advice! We are told to let them cry it out, and to pick them up quickly. We are told to allow toddlers to make their own food choices and to insist they eat everything on their plate. We are told to have early bed times and late bedtimes. And the list goes on.
I think the biggest challenge facing parents today is finding the courage and the strength to be the parents we want to be, and to raise our kids the way we want to. Parents receive a lot of pressure from grandparents, neighbors, strangers (!!), and society to parent the “right” way. But every parent needs to find that “right” way for themselves. It takes trial and error, but as long as safety is the primary consideration, every family learns the way that works for them.
What are the best practices we should have as parents?
Keep them physically safe, allow them to make mistakes, teach them that every action is a choice and every choice has a consequence, accept them for who they are, and love them…even when you are frustrated. Wrap up that intense love you felt for your newborn, and feel it every day. When your toddler is being defiant, remember that love. When your child refuses to brush his teeth, remember that love. When your teen argues, remember that love. Oh, and have more fun! It’s fun to be a parent, so enjoy it. I know it’s hard, but when we focus on the hard parts, we miss out on the fun parts. So laugh, and play, and enjoy your child at every age. It goes by quickly!
How can someone go about getting additional support from you or advice on a specific parenting issue?
Be sure to check out my book and website. My coaching services are available in person, by Skype or by telephone. I love hearing from moms, and I respond to all calls and emails. I can be reached through my website or email. (Jump to Team Page for Susan’s bio, more information, and links).
Lastly, what do you think it means to be a Super Mom?
Every mom is a Super Mom! But the main trait of every Super Mom is that you recognize that you need to take care of yourself first. Moms need their rest, moms need a hobby, moms need to work out and stay strong, moms need to eat right and be healthy, moms need friends, moms need time to themselves. When we take care of ourselves, we have that much more to give to our children and our partners. And then we really can be the Super Mom we want to be.
I would like to thank Susan for her time in answering my questions and lending us her expertise.
For any of you out there doubting your parenting abilities, please keep this in mind:
if you are seeking help to become a good parent, you already are one!
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