Parent Coaching is Latest Self-Help Approach

OBURN, Mass. – What tripped Lisa D’Annolfo Levey’s maternal tolerance meter on a recent Tuesday afternoon was not just the toy football her 7-year-old son, Skylar, zinged across the living room, nearly toppling her teacup. Or the karate kick sprung by her 4-year-old, Forrest, which she ducked, barely.

The clincher was the full-throttle duel with foam swords, her boys whooping and squealing, flailing their weapons at the blue leather couch, the yellow kidney-shaped rug, and, ultimately, their mother.

“Forrest, how about you come up and hug Skylar instead of whacking him in the head?” Levey implored. “This is stressing me out, guys. You can sword, but I’m feeling compromised here.”

Soon after, she was on the phone with her personal parent coach. ¬†Levey, 40, who has a job with a nonprofit organization that helps women in business, started her coaching sessions last year because, she said, “I was really just struggling with the intensity of life, feeling like I’m not enjoying my time with my children and why do I feel so down?”

Parent coaching, the newest self-help approach for overstretched parents, is catching on for several reasons. It is cheaper than counseling, with many coaches charging $75 an hour and at least one Internet coaching service charging $30 a month. It is usually done by phone, letting parents squeeze in sessions without hiring baby sitters or taking time from work. And it is capitalizing on the parental penchant for seeking secrets from pros – the tendency to call in the super-nanny depicted on reality TV instead of calling your mother.

“This is so American,” said Dr. Alan E. Kazdin, director of the Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine. “We want a quick answer, we want to do it yourself.”

On the sword-fight day, Levey was full of questions for her coach, Jennifer Mangan of Wheaton, Ill…

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