These past two weeks, we have had the pleasure of hosting Dr. M’Lisa Shelden and Dr. Dathan Rush from the Family Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP) Center for the Advanced Study of Excellence (CASE) in Early Childhood and Family Support Practices for coaching training in two regions of Virginia. Both trainings went exceptionally well and involved lots of a-ha moments, those moments when you can almost see the light bulb go off above someone’s head! I thought I’d share a few of the a-ha moments either I had or that I heard from others. I’d love to hear about yours. Maybe you joined us at one of the trainings or maybe you have been reading about coaching and trying to use the practices. I think we all learn from hearing what struck another person as important or different or exciting!
Coaching is an Interaction Style, not a Model
I’ve been reading M’Lisa’s and Dathan’s work for years, but it wasn’t until I read their book, The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook, that I really “got” this. We have frequently used the term “the coaching model” in our state to describe this way of working with families, but in the training, they emphasized that coaching is NOT a model. It is an interaction style that is evidence-based. It’s a way of talking with families that builds their capacity to support the development of their children. It’s such an important distinction because it means that you can use coaching practices with any model of service delivery. Based on discussions I heard from participants, I think this was an a-ha moment for many people.
The Importance of the Joint Plan: “Starting with the End in Mind”
Dathan talked about this quite a bit and I felt like I could see light bulbs going off all around the room. When he talked about what an effective intervention visit would look like, he started with “revisitation of the previous join plan.” Every visit should involve planning, either throughout the visit or at the end, for what the parent and child will do between visits. This plan is developed together, not by the interventionist telling the parent what he or she can try during the week. This is also very different from giving the parent a handout to read or a prescription of activities or stretches to do. The joint plan is a key component of an effective visit, and it’s a component that I think service providers can easily take for granted and not purposefully develop because we often assume that the parent “knows” what to do by being involved in the visit.
Being Purposeful in What You Say and Do
Every part of coaching, from the words you chose, the questions you ask, the feedback you give, and the activities you do during the visit must be done with purpose and intention. I loved how M’Lisa and Dathan talked about modeling – that there are two kinds: hopeful and intentional. We do alot of hopeful modeling, where we engage the child and show the parent and hope that he or she “gets” it. Instead, we can be intentional when we do use modeling by asking for permission, giving the parent a job to do while we model, debriefing, helping the parent try the strategy, then reflecting and planning together for how to use the strategy during the week. For many interventionists, this requires an awareness of we say and do and the willingness to reflect on it. Until it becomes second nature, it will take effort. Change takes effort but that’s a good thing.
There are so many more but I’ll stop here. There was one quote from the training that really stood out to me too:
“…studies of nearly 700 children and their parents, provide evidence that is highly supportive of the principles of the parenting model which is the conceptual framework for relationship focused intervention. They suggest that: (1) parents are the major influence on their children’s development even when their children participate in intervention; and that (2) the effectiveness of intervention is highly associated with parents becoming more responsive with their children during the course of intervention.” (Mahoney, 2009, p. 90)
Interacting with families using coaching practices helps us make this happen.
What were your a-ha moments from the training?
Share them in the comments below and be sure to follow the comments to learn from each other!