Meg Parkinson has been called the parent whisperer and she is struggling to keep up with demand from parents calling on her to teach them how to, well, parent.
She hasn’t children of her own, yet 39-year-old director of PEPA Smart Parenting Meg Parkinson is struggling to keep up with the demand of parents calling on her to teach them how to, well, parent. And, thanks to a client who called her “the parent whisperer” and a reputation that is spreading across Brisbane, it’s a term that has well and truly stuck.
Parkinson first came to my attention through Leanne Hardcastle who hired her. “I used Meg because I want to be the best version of myself and I want my kids to see the best version of me. But sometimes I am toes on the edge, losing my mind, and then I try to teach my kids to be good people when I have no patience with them. When I am in it, I am reacting emotionally. Meg teaches me not to,” Hardcastle confesses with absolute honesty.
Parkinson says Hardcastle is not unlike many parents who seek her help. “A lot of my clients are professionals who want to do a good job and they are happy to receive education. I think parents are more self-aware and more likely to try to change parenting tactics than just do what their parents did. What I teach are good communication practices that you can use on everyone.”
Parkinson is well placed to assist parents as she has 19 years’ experience working in education, a Master of Education in Guidance and Counselling and years of mentoring the gifted and talented. However, she is well aware of the contradiction she is teaching those that have children, when she has not.
“It took me three years to get past that I don’t have children of my own, but I have worked with thousands of children and now I’m passing on my knowledge. Clients don’t even ask. To be a builder you don’t have to have built your own house,” she explains.
With a passion for behavioural studies, Parkinson found herself teaching other teachers, teacher aides and school principals about behaviour management. Eventually she turned to teaching parents. “It took me a while to recognise that, while working with teachers was helpful, it was the parents who would really benefit. So I took what I had learnt, married the information with current parenting programs from around the world, jiggled things around and came up with the core tools I believe every parent needs to know and practise.
“The stigma of getting more help and support is decreasing. Parents are being told what not to do – don’t smack, don’t yell – instead of being told what to do. That’s where I come in – helping them discipline in a positive way and stay in charge while not being manipulated by the child.”
Parkinson offers three learning options for parents – one-on-one counselling, group classes and, for those who are unable to meet face-to- face with Meg, she also offers an online course where parents receive ‘what to do recipes’ that they can follow to take the guesswork out of parenting challenges. “Essentially what I do is I support parents who are feeling stressed or in a rut but they don’t feel they need to see a psychologist for their child’s behaviour, they just need practical help. I teach parents how to support their child if they have a difficulty without taking over the problem for them.”
Her number one tip for modern parents is to not deal with misbehaviour as it is happening. “Once you are in the moment the problem solving part of your brain shuts down so you go back to your default reaction; that’s when you hear yourself becoming your mother!” Parkinson suggests being specific about the behaviour you are looking for and having concrete consequences that you follow through with; that way children learn about cause and effect much faster.