Released On 02 November 2020
Meet the Expert: Interview with Elaine Halligan
In the first article of our new series of interviews with our panel of experts, we meet: Elaine Halligan.
Elaine, please tell us about your background and how you built your experience as a parenting coach?
Hello Everyone, I’m Elaine. I’m a parenting coach, an author and a speaker, and owner of The Parent Practice. But first and foremost, I’m a mother. And it’s my parenting journey that led to where I am today. I was in my late twenties when I had my first child. When Sam reached the “terrible twos” things did indeed turn rather terrible and it felt like my world had been turned upside down. I never for one second thought that I would be shouting at my beautiful baby. And yet somehow I became “shouty Mummy”, resorting to using those tried and tested (and not particularly effective) techniques such as nagging, repeating, reminding and reprimanding. I confess, I didn’t always enjoy being a mum in those early days. I found it bewildering and complicated. Too often I finished each day exhausted and overwhelmed, with an immense feeling of guilt that I was “getting it wrong”. Sam was impulsive, sensitive and intense, always in trouble at nursery and often labelled “the naughty one”. By the age of 7 our beautiful boy had been excluded from 3 schools and written off by everyone around him. Our world literally imploded.
It was at this point that I gave up my career in the city and retrained in positive parenting techniques, learning new skills about children and psychology. I knew instantly I had discovered my calling. By transforming myself and my approach, I was able to change my son, unlocking a world of positive parenting and simultaneously discovering a new and inspiring sense of purpose.
The results of the changes we made were revolutionary. Sam re-entered education, finishing school as Head Boy and going on to become a budding entrepreneur. As for me, I’ve learned some powerful new skills that I’ve had the privilege of sharing for 14 years, helping parents all over the world to implement these tools and techniques to create harmony in their own homes.
I’m not Wonder Woman or Super Nanny, not Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee, I’m just me (and in essence, I’m probably you) and that’s what makes me different. I’ve been in your shoes, I’ve been at the end of my tether wondering why my child is different and what I can do to fix things. I’ve learned first hand the skills it takes not just to survive the struggle, but to get to the other side and change the story.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love working with parents, especially 1-1, and seeing and hearing about the transformation in their home lives, and with the skills I deliver, parents quickly report that their children are happier and more confident; that home life feels easier and less stressful, and that they find that holy grail of parenting - keeping calm! I deliver work daily that is life changing and the sense of purpose and the legacy I am leaving, makes this one of the best jobs I have ever had the privilege to do.
The variety of my work is energising. I meet with such fascinating folk and have found myself ( BC/ aka Before Covid) in the Bahamas delivering school talks, on the stage at The Wimbledon Book Festival, presenting at the Wellington College Festival of Education, delivering a Petcha Kucha talk at Cambridge University and the scariest moment was standing on that red circle delivering my TED x talk in Oxford. The variety of speaking events is breathtaking, as I never imagined I could build a career doing this. It’s a far cry from my accountancy days with Coopers and Lybrand on the 8th floor or Embankment Place!
How do you look after your own wellbeing?
Nothing complicated, but mainly fresh air, fun and friendship! Walking my ADHD working cocker spaniel on Wimbledon Common is a surefire way to clear the head. I have to see clients of an evening , so I do have to work at maintaining a balance in my work day and therefore Wednesday mornings you’ll always find me on the Golf course trying hard to keep my handicap at a level where I can compete ( in a friendly way) with my single handicapper daughter. My girlfriends are my lifeline and I couldn’t survive without my ‘Chics Chatting Club’ and getting a regular eight hours sleep every night is my elixir
What issues do you come across most regularly when speaking to parents?
The most common issue is parents telling me their child doesn’t listen to them. They start the day determined not to be “shouty” mum or dad. And that might work for a short time, but then the reality of a busy morning trying to work from home and supervise the home-schooling kicks in. It’s a challenge to keep calm when one child is reading a Tom Gates book when they should be getting ready to start their work and the other still hasn’t got dressed… and has somehow grabbed the i-pad from the hiding place. Parents then struggle to keep their cool when no one is listening .Parents often report they feel stressed and worn out by constantly nagging and repeating the same instructions, and they often tell me they feel they are failing as a parent.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone that was about to become a parent, what would it be?
Sign up for a positive parenting class as soon as your toddler starts developing language. Parenting is tough. That little baby did not come with a handbook and given that most parents sit through hours of antenatal lessons, it seems crazy that the parenting classes stop at birth, when the hardest job of raising a grown up starts. It’s like planning for your holiday and booking your flight to an exotic holiday destination, but on arrival finding you forgot to book the hotel and left the guide book at home. We would go into no other complex role without skills or training. Open your mind and your heart and learn the language of your child. Become that parent translator, to raise confident and contented children.