Melissa Benaroya is a licensed clinical social worker who practices as a parent coach. What I love about Melissa is that she is my wife! 😉 But what I also love is that she has committed herself to supporting parents in raising children in a way that creates more harmony in the home. The struggles and the nagging and the frustration and the arguments and the punishment all take a toll on how we show up in other parts of our life. Build your parenting strategies and the benefits are tremendous. Melissa guides parents to build and execute that plan. Listen, just like in business, there is no perfect playbook for how you parent. And parents that want to be their best, just like athletes, have coaches.
What was so enjoyable about spending time learning from Melissa is that there are some great parallels between raising children and guiding your organization. We often say in entrepreneurship that our company is our “baby” and it’s true. We have a lot of responsibility in how we raise it, how it treats other, how it comes back from defeat and how it celebrates successes. Melissa shared with us the power of “choices” for children. Rather than saying “NO”, it is more of a “YES, AND”. If your child is throwing legos around the house, instead of telling them to stop that, why not give them a choice. How about this, “You can either play with your blocks and build something or we can put them away until later when you’re ready to use them appropriately. It’s up to you.” We replace dictating with empowerment. And that’s what we want to do with our teams, right? That’s what great managers do. They ask questions. They pose choices. The encourage ownership and critical thinking. Carol Dweck, in her book, Mindset, calls this a Growth Mindset. That’s what Melissa infuses into her coaching.
In Melissa’s practice, she guides families to use empathy as a form of connection and an opportunity to regulate emotions. You can learn more about her coaching at her website. She has also developed a number of courses at Childproof Parenting. Thanks Melissa for a refreshing change of topic that most everyone will find some relation to. Be sure to check it out!
Who should I interview next? Please let me know by clicking here.
In this Freedom Speaker Series episode with Melissa, you will learn:
- Relationship between parenting and building a business
- The function of empathy in a family
- How to create harmony in your home
We are fortunate to have Melissa available to spend time with us on this edition of Stride 2 Freedom. If there is a speaker you’d like us to interview, click here and let us know. Stay well. Stay safe. Stay healthy.
Show Notes and Links From Episode:
Melissa Benaroya Linkedin
Melissa Benaroya email
Russell Benaroya: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Stride 2 Freedom Podcast. My name is Russell Benaroya, and I’m the co-founder of Stride Services, a virtual back office, bookkeeping, and accounting firm serving hundreds of clients around the United States.
This podcast is designed to help small business owners focus on growth and innovation. In other words, focus on those things that inspired you to start your business in the first place. We call it your genius zone. We do our job on this podcast when business owners feel like they have the trust and confidence to build the right team of partners around them that will help them grow.
Thanks for joining. Let’s go.
Hi, everyone. This is Russell Benaroya, your host of the Stride 2 Freedom Podcast. Welcome back. I am pleased to have a special guest with us this week. And I really want to look at her but I also want to look at the screen. Hi, Melissa.
Melissa Benaroya: Hi, Russell,
Russell Benaroya: Melissa Benaroya is my wife. She is also a very well-known and respected parenting coach here in Seattle. And I’ve wanted to have her on the podcast for a long time. I’ve wanted to have you on the podcast for a long time.
Melissa Benaroya: Thank you, honey.
Russell Benaroya: And the reason is that our purpose on the Stride 2 Freedom Podcast is to help business owners get and stay in their zone of genius. Well, we know that two things matter when it comes to parenting and getting and staying in your zone of genius. One is the harmony that we create at home really has an impact on how we lead in business. True?
Melissa Benaroya: True.
Russell Benaroya: Number one, number two, what I’ve learned from watching Melissa work with her clients over the years is that there are a number of parenting techniques that I find really applicable in managing teams and groups of people in the organization.
So I thought today, we might kill two birds with one stone, which is maybe learn a little bit about effective management, but also about how to create harmony at home. How does that sound to you?
Melissa Benaroya: Sounds great.
Russell Benaroya: Okay, awesome. Well, so fun to have you here. Okay, first question, serious question. Tell me the last show that you binge-watched that you really enjoyed.
Melissa Benaroya: Oh, wow. Well, I’m currently binge-watching A Million Little Things.
Russell Benaroya: What do you like about it?
Melissa Benaroya: Well, it’s about friendships and relationships, and struggle, and all that good stuff. And there’s some mystery involved.
Russell Benaroya: A little drama. Tell me about the last appliance that you bought that you’re really pleased with?
Melissa Benaroya: Well, of course, you know what that is because it took me a while to convince you to get one but an air fryer is my most favorite appliance. and now also yours.
Russell Benaroya: Yes, awesome. So this is a segue into the most important part of this podcast, which is really just a podcast on air fryers because this is the best thing that has happened in our relationship.
Melissa Benaroya: And I told you so.
Russell Benaroya: That is fast. Well, listen, let’s jump in. Why don’t you share a little bit about who you are, what you do, and why you do it?
Melissa Benaroya: Sure. I’m actually a licensed therapist but I practice solely as a parent coach because I think there’s a lot that we can do to support children and families without having to put a label on anybody or a diagnosis. So I work with families on a host of different challenges; from families that have little itty bitty babies to teenagers.
And honestly, a lot of the challenges we see at different ages and stages are very much the same. They look different. There’s a different flavor and a different color, but there are still kind of the same underlying issues that exist. So I do a lot of one-on-one coaching, speaking, teaching, all things parenting.
Russell Benaroya: Why do parents call you? What are they feeling in that moment where they’re looking for relief?
Melissa Benaroya: Most times, I get calls initially when things have just gotten too far. People wait until they just can’t handle it anymore, which is unfortunate because my hope is to do some preventative work and get them to that place.
But usually, there is a behavior, a challenge, something they feel like they feel totally helpless and hopeless around and just want to, number one, better understand what’s going on. Make sure their child’s okay; there’s nothing wrong. Number two, have some tools and strategies so they can feel more confident in the way they communicate with their child.
Russell Benaroya: And when you say it’s gone on too long or gone too far, what are they feeling at home? What is the atmosphere that they tend to be dealing with?
Melissa Benaroya: I’ve recently had phone calls from parents that I hadn’t met before I start crying on the phone, just like, “There’s nothing I can do.” They’re feeling very hopeless and out of control, really.
This one recent client said, “I’m a really high-powered executive, but I can’t manage my four-year-old. I have no idea how to do this.” So just a lot of stress, feeling really incompetent, and just wanting to do the best they can for their child at the same time.
Russell Benaroya: And how do you speculate that impacts the energy that this executive or business leaders bring into the workplace?
Melissa Benaroya: Well, it definitely affects the workplace. I mean, our personal shows up in our professional space as well. So if you feel beaten up, exhausted, incompetent at home, and drained, quite honestly, you’re not going to be able to show up, be present, be creative, and engaged the way you might if things were flowing with greater ease at home.
Russell Benaroya: You’ve seen me as an entrepreneur over many years. And I’m curious what observations you have about how you would liken parenting to entrepreneurship?
Melissa Benaroya: Well, I think there’s a lot of similarities. I’ve gone with you to many events where they’re speakers talking on entrepreneurship and building business. And I listen to those talks through the ears of parenting and everything applies.
I think one thing that shows up a lot for you both probably at work and at home is just having a very clear structure, shared agreements, collaboration, which many times parents don’t even think that collaborating with their child will invite greater cooperation.
It’s just like, “Hey, I’m the manager. This is a top-down business I’m running here at home, and you do what I say.” And that doesn’t work as it probably doesn’t work in the workplace as well.
Russell Benaroya: Yeah, for sure. Talk about maybe your perspective or observation on working with women business leaders versus men? What are some comparisons and contrasts? There are obviously different stresses.
Melissa Benaroya: First of all, usually, and this is not in every case but a lot of the parenting and child-related care is on the shoulders of women. So they’re managing and juggling a lot more, in general, for the most part. But I get almost just as many calls from dads these days as I do moms.
So I think the experience is very similar. I feel like a lot of men come into the coaching process, maybe a little bit more authoritative like I’m in charge here. And more of a fixed mindset of like, this is what I’m capable of or this is what my child is capable of and not see the opportunities for growth there.
This isn’t just about our child’s growth. This is about our growth as humans as well. It’s a big process for growth. And I don’t necessarily think most adults see it from that perspective.
Russell Benaroya: There are many books written, although no great playbook for building a business for entrepreneurship for business owners. So much is learned on the job. My guess is that there are probably a lot of parenting books out there. Everybody is expected to be an expert, but nobody really is because we’ve never had kids before.
Melissa Benaroya: Absolutely. Yeah. This is on-the-job training. You don’t know what you don’t know until it shows up. There is so much great information and research out there; more in the last 10 years than there had been 100 years prior, which is good and bad.
So we have more information, we can make more informed choices about how we parent but it’s also very overwhelming. And that’s one reason many families will come to me like, “I’ve read 20 books; nothing’s changed.” So I work really hard to help them apply some of the concepts and strategies to their home life and their particular child and challenge.
Russell Benaroya: How do you know if you’re successful? When you’re successful what do you measure?
Melissa Benaroya: Successful as a parent or as a coach?
Russell Benaroya: Successful as a coach?
Melissa Benaroya: I think I’m successful as a coach when people stop calling me.
Russell Benaroya: You work yourself out of a job?
Melissa Benaroya: I do it too fast, too. Yeah, when I meet with a family and things are shifting like after one or two sessions. So just hearing like, “Hey, it’s not perfect, but things are definitely improving.” Or, “We’re not in that power struggle anymore where we used to spend a lot of energy and a lot of time managing this situation. And that’s not even an issue anymore.”
That doesn’t mean new issues haven’t surfaced. But just hearing their biggest challenge, where they’ve just felt like there was no hope, those things shift pretty quickly.
Russell Benaroya: Many households have a partnership. I may have a partner or a spouse, which is, by the way, not that dissimilar than a business where you have a partner. How does your coaching surface opportunities or ways for the partners to better engage with each other? Who’s responsible for what? How do we get shared agreement, things like that?
Melissa Benaroya: Well, I think that everybody wants to be on the same page with their partner, but they aren’t necessarily. And so sometimes it’s helpful to have a third party guide you through that process.
We all come from unique backgrounds, have unique experiences, values, priorities. So I think just opening up conversations addressing how we are on the same page, and where we’re not aligned, and how we can get more aligned. So I think that’s probably true in a business partnership as well and acknowledging that each partner, whether it’s a spouse, or sometimes your partner is a nanny, or a grandparent.
There are all kinds of partners; not just the birth parents. Just acknowledging that we all bring something new unique to this relationship and this parenting process as well. So it’s not going to look identical. And even if we’re applying the same principles and practices, it may sound and look a little bit different.
Russell Benaroya: Okay. Can we get into some pro tip tactics here— your top three techniques or tactics that you share with parents that you have found to be really effective in creating a better dynamic or relationship with your children?
Melissa Benaroya: Well, one, I usually go through an exercise. I really like everybody having their own aha experience. One thing that is super powerful is just being mindful of the number of times we say, “No”, “Don’t”, “Stop”, and “Can’t” all day long. No wonder our child does want to cooperate. No wonder they’re resisting and digging their heels in because they’ve been rejected all day long.
So there are opportunities in those exact moments to focus on “Yes”, and “Can”, and “Feel free to”. So I think number one, just starting by noticing how often that flies out of our mouth— it’s really a knee-jerk response — and then finding the opportunity to shift it to a “Yes”, or a “Can”. And it’s not like “Yes” and “Can” you can do anything you want, whatever; it’s “Yes” with a limit or a boundary.
I think that’s one. Another one that I make sure to address in every situation in every family is using empathy as a form of connection, and also an opportunity to regulate our emotions as well. We have to connect before we correct. So if we come at our child with an issue and just start in that place, we’re going to invite resistance. But if we acknowledge, if we empathize first, they’re going to be more open to having the conversation. I spend a lot of time on that. So this is a very simplified form.
One last thing I would say is using limited choices. Everybody wants control and our kids are different. So being mindful that with limited choices, there’s a limit. It’s not like, “Hey, what do you want?” It’s, “Hey, we’re eating breakfast right now and I’m happy to get you a bowl of cereal or a frozen waffle. What would be better for you?”
So being really clear about what I’m willing to offer within those limits. That can apply to almost any situation. And being mindful that when we fill that power and control bank account, our kids aren’t going to have to go looking for power and control when they’re feeling like that bank account is depleted.
Russell Benaroya: When you share these techniques and tactics with parents, what do you find they tend to struggle with the most? Or what is the most difficult one to wrap their head around and embrace or adopt?
Melissa Benaroya: I think empathy is a tough one because people don’t necessarily see that as a parenting tool. And empathy is something that we are all born with, but some of us are more naturally empathetic than others. But I liken it to a muscle: the more that we use it, the more that we strengthen it and the more we have access to it.
So it’s really just a matter of practice and application. The practice itself is very simple. It can sound something like, “Oh, it’s so hard when you want a chocolate doughnut for breakfast and we’ve got cereal or waffles.” “It’s so hard…” just that bit lets our child know, “I hear you. I understand you.”
But we have to force ourselves to slow down a little bit, regulate our emotion if our child’s flipping their lid, and it’s very easy to skip. But we’re going to be much more ineffective in anything else we say and do if we don’t start with empathy — connecting before we correct or redirect.
Russell Benaroya: You create a lot of ways for clients to engage with you. So, you speak at organizations, you do one-on-one coaching, and you also have a website with some courses online. Can you talk about the different ways in which you make yourself available?
Melissa Benaroya: Sure. Yeah. I do a lot of speaking locally here in the Seattle area. But I’ve spoken as far as the Philippines. So, I travel, which is always fun.
Russell Benaroya: When you can travel.
Melissa Benaroya: Yeah, exactly. That’s not happening right now but that’s okay. I am doing a lot of teaching and coaching online right now. Most of my work right now is online, which is great because I think it’s normalized a lot for parents and getting support and made it really accessible.
It’s hard for two working parents or even one working parent to show up in the middle of the day for a coaching session. So it makes it really accessible. And I do a lot of work with organizations in addressing their employees that are parents and supporting them in that role. So that way, they can be more productive at work and feel like their needs are getting met at the same time.
Russell Benaroya: Then you also have a website, Childproof Parenting. Want to talk about that?
Melissa Benaroya: Yeah. I co-created a program many years ago called Childproof Parenting; taught it live for many years, and then decided to put it online. So I have some online courses. Childproof Parenting is my signature course, but I have one on emotion coaching and one on creating peace at the table.
So I do have those online courses that are available that are really just self-serve now. So if you want to get support and check it out, I have a ton of free information on my blog, and lots of free downloads, those types of things. That way, you can take something concrete away from the information you read. So there’s a lot on the childroofparenting.com site.
Russell Benaroya: Okay, cool. I’ll make sure to put that in the show notes. And just to burst the bubble on this, usually, when I record a podcast, somebody is outside controlling our dog. But now the fact that both of us are on the podcast, nobody is controlling the dog. So to the extent that everybody hears this background noise, which is pretty likely, my apologies.
It only goes to show that we’re human and this is how we’re rolling. What is a question that you would like to be asked that people don’t normally ask you about your work?
Melissa Benaroya: That’s a good question. What do people not normally ask me?
Russell Benaroya: Or curious about or want to know?
Melissa Benaroya: Well, I get so many different types of questions. I guess the question that I don’t get, which I help parents get to is what am I doing to cause this behavior or to cause this challenge? How am I contributing to this? What is my part in this?
Many times, it’s like something is wrong with my child. So I help to create some awareness and this isn’t about blame. It’s just about taking 100% responsibility for how we’re contributing.
Russell Benaroya: It’s so true. So often we stand in the zone of villainizing and blaming others for the situation, like, “My kid is doing this,” or “My kid is doing that,” or “This employee is doing this or that,” without saying, “What is my role in that dynamic?” And I can only control myself.
Melissa Benaroya: Right. Exactly. And that’s why I only work with parents really. The changes that are happening at home, their child’s behaviors changing because the parent is changing their behavior.
Russell Benaroya: Totally. The kid is just doing what they know. They have limited tools.
Melissa Benaroya: Right. And most young children are working with a very underdeveloped brain. So they don’t have the experience that we have. They don’t have access to the rational brain like we do. So they’re just responding to us.
Russell Benaroya: Awesome. Well, Melissa, thank you so much for joining me today on Stride 2 Freedom. I wanted to have you on for a long time. And probably for obvious reasons, it’s been easy to put this off because I’m like, “Oh, you live here. We’ll figure it out.” But the fact that we actually found time to sit down is quite a gift.
I wanted to bring this topic on today because so much about business owners getting and staying in their genius zone is not about what happens in the workplace. It’s actually about the life that they’re designing outside of the workplace, of which much of that happens at home in raising a family and wanting to do that in the most harmonious way possible. So thank you for coming in and shining some light on some tools and techniques to make it happen.
Melissa Benaroya: My pleasure. Thank you.
Russell Benaroya: Well, thanks everybody for another great episode of Stride 2 Freedom. I will have notes in the show notes for you. You can obviously email me directly. I’ll also have Melissa’s contact information. We hope you enjoyed the episode today and look forward to future episodes. Have a good one. Thank you. Bye.