Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #55 Parental Coaching: Nurturing Children Towards Success

May 29, 2023 Jean Balfour Season 2 Episode 55
Ep. #55 Parental Coaching: Nurturing Children Towards Success
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
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Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #55 Parental Coaching: Nurturing Children Towards Success
May 29, 2023 Season 2 Episode 55
Jean Balfour

I'd love to hear any questions or comments you have about the show. Send me a message! Jean

We have a unique opportunity to coach and mentor our children toward success, happiness, and personal growth. Tune in to the latest episode of Making Sense of Work as Chris Avis, Educational Psychologist and Faculty member of Bailey Balfour delve into techniques, and insights that can empower you to become an effective parental coach. 

Meet Chris Avis
Chris studied psychology at Bristol University and decided during this course to train as an educational psychologist (EP). Over the last 35 years she has worked as an EP in 6 different local authorities and have held a number of management roles. 

Chris trains as a coach with Coaching Development in 2009 as this approach fitted with the way in which she likes to work with people and help them to develop themselves. 

Book recommendation: The Art of Coaching: A Handbook of Tips and Tools: https://www.amazon.com/Art-Coaching-Jenny-Bird/dp/113889186X

Connect with Chris here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-avis-386760b/
Connect with Jean Balfour here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanbalfour/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jean.balfour/

Experience an Introduction to our Coach Training Programmes with our Free Taster Course: https://courses.baileybalfour.com/course/coach-training-introduction

Sign up to our newsletter to learn more about upcoming programmes: https://baileybalfour.com/subscribe/

Show Notes Transcript

I'd love to hear any questions or comments you have about the show. Send me a message! Jean

We have a unique opportunity to coach and mentor our children toward success, happiness, and personal growth. Tune in to the latest episode of Making Sense of Work as Chris Avis, Educational Psychologist and Faculty member of Bailey Balfour delve into techniques, and insights that can empower you to become an effective parental coach. 

Meet Chris Avis
Chris studied psychology at Bristol University and decided during this course to train as an educational psychologist (EP). Over the last 35 years she has worked as an EP in 6 different local authorities and have held a number of management roles. 

Chris trains as a coach with Coaching Development in 2009 as this approach fitted with the way in which she likes to work with people and help them to develop themselves. 

Book recommendation: The Art of Coaching: A Handbook of Tips and Tools: https://www.amazon.com/Art-Coaching-Jenny-Bird/dp/113889186X

Connect with Chris here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-avis-386760b/
Connect with Jean Balfour here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanbalfour/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jean.balfour/

Experience an Introduction to our Coach Training Programmes with our Free Taster Course: https://courses.baileybalfour.com/course/coach-training-introduction

Sign up to our newsletter to learn more about upcoming programmes: https://baileybalfour.com/subscribe/

Jean:

Hi everyone, and welcome to Making Sense of Work Today. I'm thrilled to be joined by my friend and colleague, Chris Avis. Welcome to the podcast, Chris.

Chris:

Thanks Jean. It's lovely to be here.

Jean:

Before we dive into the podcast today, I have a couple of small asks. Firstly, if you'd like to be kept up to date on podcast episodes, please do sign up to our newsletter@baileybalfour.com. It would also be really great if you could rate and review the podcast growing. The impact of any podcast is partly dependent on reviews, and I would really appreciate your support. So, let me tell you a bit about Chris. Chris is an educational psychologist and an executive coach as well, as I said, of being on the faculty of our programs. She studied psychology at Bristol University and then went on to train as an educational psychologist, which is a very long training. So you, Chris qualified as a teacher and then worked. For five years in a residential special school for children. And then she went on to train as an ED educational psychologist at the Tavistock Clinic in London. And then for the last 35 years, she has worked. Both as an educational psychologist and in management roles, as well as working as in training and consultancy with a focus on adult development and personal growth. And she's done that work both in. The local government sector in the UK, but also in private companies. Chris trained as a coach in 2009 and has really seen that as being integral to that personal growth, leadership growth, and adult behavior work that she's really curious about and here she is today. So welcome to the podcast, Chris.

Chris:

Okay.

Jean:

Thanks. How's work at the moment for you?

Chris:

so when I thought about that question, Jean, I realized that the answer is kind of busy, but everybody's busy. and so I was thinking, so what do I really mean? and what I noticed about my work is that it changes through the year. So what, what's the kind of focus what schools and parents are talking to me about changes? And right now everybody's. Thinking about worrying about the changes of school or class for children in September?

Jean:

Gosh. So your, your year has a real rhythm to it, I imagine with that.

Chris:

yes. Yeah.

Jean:

And when you have a good day, what does that look like for you?

Chris:

So again, I was, you know, thinking about this and I guess I get the most pleasure when I'm in a school or in a family home. Working face to face with the people who have the concerns, the worries about the children and the young people working face to face with the child or the young person, listening to their concerns. I've really realized how important it is to give people's space to talk about the things that worry them about their children, not to rush quickly to sort of suggest solutions. So that, that's the bit I enjoy the face-to-face work much more than coming back to my desk and writing reports.

Jean:

Hmm. And what was that like during Covid? Because I imagine that really your landscape changed enormously during Covid.

Chris:

Yes, it did massively because, you know, suddenly we were all having to work from home and. you know, schools, and educational psychologists generally were not used to using this sort of platform. But actually quite quickly we did move to using the telephone and then using video calls to be able to continue to keep in communication with schools and with parents. And indeed, you know, I was carrying out some assessments with young people over Zoom, which was a bit challenging at times, but, It helped us, you know, we were able to continue the work in some form.

Jean:

I imagine actually for some of the young people, particularly the ones who are teenagers, they're so used to being in this world that actually they were probably more comfortable in a way with it than you were imagine.

Chris:

that's true actually. And some of them in fact, found it easier to have that little bit of distance. So easier than being in a room face to face.

Jean:

mm Yeah, it's interesting, isn't it?

Chris:

Yeah. Yeah.

Jean:

Could you tell us a little bit about your career? I've shared a bit, but it's always good to hear it from, from the person

Chris:

Yeah. So I think, when I did my psychology degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. But I, as a careers talk, I met, an educational psychologist and he was really inspirational for me and talked about his job, and then I talked to him afterwards. He let me go and shadow him and spend time with him and it absolutely, just the way he was working, I thought, this is what I want to do. And so I went down that route that you've described, getting the required experience to be able to train as an educational psychologist. And then I, I got a job and quite quickly got a management role and then found myself being even more curious and intrigued about the adult behavior. And at that point I sort of jumped into more of a business psychology role. And from there did the coach training and now I kind of do both. So I've moved around, as you've said, I've had jobs in different places. I've, you know, worked for myself for a period of time. I've lived in all sorts of different places. but I guess the thread through it all is, Understanding people's behavior, what makes people perform at their best, what's anxiety about for people. And, working with them to try and find a way through that.

Jean:

Yeah, I'm sure. I guess I'm curious over your career, what change you've seen. I'm particularly curious on, on whether the story that we are carrying, that there's a lot more anxiety in the system for people at the moment, whether you are noticing that more than maybe 20 years ago.

Chris:

Yes. I mean, I, I do notice a lot more and I think Covid and, you know, you asked about the impact of it on my, on how I do my job. There is no doubt that it's just had a huge impact on children and young people and, and adults of course. So teachers, parents, all of us. but I am, I do also wonder, you know, when we have the language to talk about something, it kind of, we create it. So I do also think that because we are much more aware and we talk about our wellbeing and anxiety or maybe, you know, it just allows people to express it more and to be aware of it.

Jean:

That's interesting, isn't it? Yeah. We maybe put too much focus on it and sometimes probably could shift our focus away to help kind of let it, uh, not, not disappear because it doesn't go away, but to kind of let it held a less figural, less present feeling for us.

Chris:

yeah, and, and sort of normalize it a little bit, I think, and say, you know, actually this is something that all of us feel some of the time.

Jean:

Yeah. I know with the young people in my life, I'm often helping them see that a little bit of anxiety is quite a normal experience and, you know, helping them with a few strategies just to help them think about how to deal with it because, because, there are really good strategies. Yeah.

Chris:

yes.

Jean:

So you've talked a little bit about this already, but what does a, what does an educational psychologist do?

Chris:

It's a very good question and I struggle sometimes to explain it and, you know, I, when I meet a parent, especially, you know, this rather grand title, you know, what on earth does this mean? And I think it can be a bit scary parents sometimes too. but I guess what I would say simply is that I, I go, mainly into schools. That's kind of the way that the system works, is that I have a group of schools I go in and meet with. The special needs coordinator in the school who will talk to me about the concerns that sh usually she has. and then we'll agree, you know, what's gonna be a helpful way forward. So it might be to do some work with the individual child, but it might be looking at something at a more of a systems level. so if a class, if a teacher is struggling with the behavior in class, then it might be about helping that teacher think about how they organize their class. And what are the expectations they have with the children? I guess basically my job is about helping children with their learning and their behavior, to do as well as they possibly can,

Jean:

And how does the family come into the work that you do?

Chris:

where very, very importantly, I always meet with parents. and, you know, but just yesterday I was in a school, met with the parent of a child who's. You know, quite a lot of complex needs. And I think for one thing is, as I said a bit earlier, about acknowledging the concerns, just giving the parent an opportunity to talk about, you know, what they're worried about with their child, but also what's going well. So let's not just think about the child's needs, but what are the child's strengths. and I take that opportunity really to listen to the parent. And then to think through with them what, what will be helpful, what is going to help them at home have an easier time with their child? What would they like to see their child achieving? And yeah, so supporting the parent that way. So I think it's such an important part of what I do.

Jean:

There's something, um, curious for me and I, and I'm curious to ask this actually, we, um, is noticing different approaches to parenting, I guess, over the, you know, the way I was raised, which was less based on praise, I suppose, less of a strengths based approach, which is, which is a lot of how we see encouraging parents to, to be with their children. And I'm curious about where you would, where you stand on, on how is the best way to help children thrive? Because, not because giving lots of positive feedback all the time doesn't necessarily create the environment for a child to know how to work with difficult. Difficulties and challenges.

Chris:

Yeah, ums. So very, is a really good question, Jean and I, and I'm just sort of thinking about it. I suppose. What I would tend to do is I might hear from a parent that they find it very difficult to give positive feedback to their child. and in that situation I would be trying to help them think about, you know, what is going well and why is it important to notice what's working well. so a bit like in coaching, we talk about noticing, I do, I do that with parents and sort of ask them. You know, well, what was happening when that was going well? and the other thing that that sparked me thinking about is, is communicating with their children. So one of my real things is that I believe these days parents don't talk to their children enough. Either the parent or the child or both are on their devices all the time. and there might be lots of communication, kind of going out through electronic devices, but there's very little communication going between the parent and the child or young person and just trying to create some more dialogue between them is something I think about a lot.

Jean:

Yeah, it's, yeah. We're gonna say a bit more though.

Chris:

Hopefully not all criticism, you know, that that's thing.

Jean:

Yeah. That's interesting. I was thinking about a parallel to organizations actually, that I think that is true at work as well, and. And that oftentimes we are sending instant messages to peop to each other rather than talking, even if it's talking on Zoom or on the phone, that we've moved our communication out of in person. And you know, I'm essentially relational. I believe that relationships are how we work best together, or as you are describing, parent best. And so, so I think there's such a parallel for us in an organizational life as well.

Chris:

You're right.

Jean:

Yeah. And it kind of leads us into how does coaching link to this work?

Chris:

So I think that since training as a coach, it's changed the way in which I have a conversation with people and in fact, my colleagues notice that I have a slightly different style, even in a team meeting of asking questions. But certainly in a school, you know, I kind of start with that contracting thing, you know? So what is it that you, you know, want to think about with this child? Why are you involving me here? Well, you know, what is the outcome that you want from my involvement? And it's fascinating how, even though I've asked that question now of people for the last sort of 18 months where I currently work, they still sort of, oh yes, uh, you know, they have to stop and think about it. So that already, I find is a really good way to get clarity about what it's that they want me to do. And then I guess, you know, or just asking those curious questions about a situation that they're describing to me, to really understand what's going on at home, at school, you know, what would they think the child would say if they were in the meeting now, what, you know, what would they say about this situation? And then similarly, when I'm talking to the child and I might be asking the child, you know, what's going well? What do you think your teacher would say? So, you know, there are those sorts of questions. and I might use a scaling question, particularly with children. So lots of those That I learned through the.

Jean:

So not just, not just in the kind of interactions around the work and the team, but also with your clients and with the people you're survey.

Chris:

And I think one of the things that I, I love about it is I often, in my job, there's a kind of placing the problem in the child. You know, if we can make this child learn better or sit still or then everything will be all right. And I'm always curious to ask the questions that take the problem out of the child and say, you know, what's going on here? And what can we do in this system to change things?

Jean:

That's so important because the child is part of a system. They're being affected by what's going on around them and. one of the things that comes up in the coaching program often that we hear from people is that for those who are parents, they notice that their parenting style shifts as they train as a coach, and, I think particularly for parents of teenagers, I think they find it incredibly helpful to shift. So I guess I'm curious about how would you see a coaching approach helping parents?

Chris:

Well, absolutely. I mean, I agree. I hear lots of the people on our program saying about how it has changed their relationships at home. and I think, you know, probably one of the things is that. It enables us just to take a step back. and, you know, not ask particularly, you know, not saying to a young person, you know, why have you done that? Why can't you tidy up your room? Or, um, you know, those accusatory kinds of questions. But I think just stepping back and finding a question that allows a kind of a more open response just shifts and allows the young person to take some responsibility. Rather than, you know that in TA terms, the sort of literally parent child relationship.

Jean:

Yeah. So it's, um, it's interesting is that, as you were saying that, I was remembering that we often say, don't start a question with why, because it can trigger a defense. And actually what you're saying is even just that simple shift, if instead of using why to use to asking a question with what. You know, what's, what's caused you not to tidy your room today? It just shifts the energy in the question.

Chris:

Very much so.

Jean:

Yeah, it's really powerful. It's really powerful. And, what do you love most about your educational psychology work?

Chris:

you know, I think it's, I feel it's a privilege actually because I get to spend time with a child or a young person and their parents and some of the adults from the school that are important as well. You know, I have that luxury maybe to have that time with them. The class teacher rarely gets more than a few minutes with an individual child and I can spend, you know, an hour or more than that. So there's something lovely about just having the right to have that time.

Jean:

And I imagine that, that you've also witnessed and experienced some real shifts in some of the young people you've worked with.

Chris:

Yeah. And that, that's fabulous. I guess often I sort of think, oh, you know, nothing's changing here. you know, can get frustrating around that, but you are right. I do see shifts in that and again, going back to parents, you know, when I notice them sort of seeing that I'm asking them questions in a different way and that there's a possibility for them to talk to their children and young people in a different way, I'll see a shift in the parent, and I think that actually is probably gonna be even more powerful.

Jean:

Yeah, no, I can believe that. Bit of a, a shift of gear. Actually, I'm, you've talked a little bit about this actually, but I'm curious about what's your experience of being on the faculty of the program?

Chris:

Yeah. Oh, it's fantastic, Jean. I absolutely love it. again, it's a privilege to work with our cohorts of, you know, people on the programs. Just watching them grow and develop and you know, I think that, I guess something about the way that we model in our behavior with them, then they pick that up. They are very open to learning, wanting to develop, wanting to hear the feedback and learning from each other. And I learned from them and they asked me a challenging question, I think, oh yeah, what would I do? What would I say? it's just really. Stimulating for me and such a pleasure to watch them develop as amazing coaches.

Jean:

I can see that. I can see your energy as you're talking about it. Yeah. Oh, I know. It's amazing experience, isn't it? Yeah.

Chris:

And when they realize I love it, that realization that giving advice is actually not the most helpful thing to do. so good

Jean:

Hmm.

Chris:

them.

Jean:

It's often the hardest piece of learning, but the best thing to do. Yeah. So, um, how about you? Have you, ever struggled with imposter syndrome or struggling, you know, with wondering whether you are in the right place or in the right job? And if you do struggle with it, how do you deal with it when it shows up for you?

Chris:

I definitely feel imposter syndrome all the time. I would say. and I think, you know what, as an educational psychologist, it comes up because. Partly the job title. A school will say, oh, you know, we're so pleased you're able to come in. And then they introduce me to the parent, you know, and I feel like, here's the expert coming in. And I think none of these things, I'm just me. And I guess I feel that my greatest psychology is me, and the way that I interact with people. And so I try to remind myself of that. You know, you don't have to have lots of clever. Interventions to offer or, lots of research at the tips of my fingers, actually, you know, just do what you know you are good at. So I, I can just remind myself. But I do have that. They're going find me out eventually.

Jean:

But it's amazing because you've been doing this work for a long time. You're clearly very good at it. You know what you're doing, and it's just the nature of our human condition that even with all that depth of experience, you still have those moments of, you know, am I whatever enough?

Chris:

Yes, yes. Clever enough. Yes,

Jean:

Mm.

Chris:

I know. It is amazing, isn't it? But maybe there's. Well, I always try to think, what's the good messaging here? What's the positive message? Well, it makes me keep thinking and reflecting and developing so I don't get complacent.

Jean:

Yeah, it keeps us humble as well. I think particularly if we're working with people and with young people, it's really important to stay in that very human space so that they feel they're meeting you at a very human level. I have no doubt they do, Chris, because that's how you are in the world.

Chris:

Yeah, I mean, it, it, yeah, I guess I, I should be, positive about the feedback that I get because, you know, I sometimes think, oh, especially a teenager, I think they're never gonna come and talk to me. And they do. So yeah.

Jean:

I'm sure. I'm sure. Good. So as we come to the end of our conversation, is there a book or a podcast that you would recommend to people?

Chris:

Yeah, there is. so there's a book, I've got it right here. It's The Art of Coaching. I don't know, are you familiar with it,

Jean:

I'm not familiar with it, no.

Chris:

It's

Jean:

Ah, yes, I do know it. Yeah. It's a beautiful book.

Chris:

It's lovely. it's, uh, Jenny Bird, who's one of the two people who wrote it with Sarah Gok. I, I know Jenny quite well. She was, a coaching supervisor for me at one time. And the book is absolutely packed with arty type of creative ways to engage with a client in coaching. And I, you know, I've used quite a lot of the ideas just. You know, I just kind of offer it as a possibility to a client, and some of them love it, you know, if they, if they're kind of interested in something more creative, like to see something on paper, it's worked really well.

Jean:

Actually it's also a good book for leaders, I think, cuz it has so many practical tools and things to help have leadership conversations or in one-to-one. So it's really, it's really a great book. Yeah. And it's very easy to consume because it's visually very beautiful.

Chris:

Exactly. Yes.

Jean:

Mm. Yeah. Oh, great. Well, we will put a link to that in the show notes. Thank you, Chris. Thanks for joining me today in the podcast. It's lovely to hear you talk about the work you're doing with young people. We don't talk about that very much here in this podcast, and yet how incredibly important it is that we're being able to help. Our young people to be well in this difficult world. So thank you for sharing that, and thank you for doing the work You do.

Chris:

Thank you too now. It's been lovely. It's been really good to talk. Talk about it here.

Jean:

Good. Well, thank you.