We are proud to share April 2020 article by Parenting Expert and Accredited Coach Val Mullally, published in the Association for Coaching magazine: Coaching Perspectives.

In this article Parent Coaching: the Path to a Happier, Healthier Society Val Mullally presents her Parent Coaching – Koemba framework.

For further details of this magazine visit  bit.ly/CPshare

Parent Coaching – Koemba framework – article Parent Coaching - Koemba Framework - diagram



Last edited May 11th 2020

Maeve Murray

I have been reaching out to Val for Parenting advice the past 4 years now and her philosophy and her work just never fails to get me back on track again. 

Last edited June 05th 2019

It’s easy to feel pressure from your own parents, in-laws, teachers, or anyone else in your community to get your kids to be ‘good’. Similarly, you’ve probably experienced that nagging doubt that you’re not being a ‘good’ parent.

One of the questions I often hear is, ‘How do I know I’m Parenting right?’ 

Are you worried that you’re not Parenting right?

Confused about what is needed to give your child the best start in life?

How to keep your child safe and help them do well?

There are so many self-help books, articles and television programmes and some of it can be contradictory and confusing. Who has got the right advice? How do you know who to listen to? Whatever way you look at it, how does a parent know what is the right thing to do? How do you know you are being a ‘good’ parent? The thing is what worked in previous generations isn’t working now, because every parent in this new generation is a pioneer parent. What worked (or seemed to work) in parenting for your grandmother’s generation had probably worked for hundreds of years before. But as a parent now, you are facing challenges and opportunities beyond the wildest imaginings of your grandparents when they were young. Words that roll off our tongues were meaningless a few decades ago: Google, Kindle, Facebook, iPad, Skype, Internet, worldwide web, blog, laptop, smartphone, YouTube ….  TECHNOLOGY has created a whole new world. Which means that we need a whole new way of being in the world. So where and how do you find what is needed to parent now? As parents you are pioneering new territory as surely as the voyagers from five hundred years ago left the familiar behind to discover new lands. No one has been there before. You don’t know what the territory is like. You’re unsure of what dangers are lurking along the journey and you don’t know what resources are needed. Parenting in this new territory can feel disorienting, maybe overwhelming or even terrifying at times. Trying to return to the old land of strict discipline and ‘children must do what they’re told’ could easily seem the best option. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that in the long term that’s not going to work.

In the words of Einstein: A new solution is needed for a new situation.

Imagine the adventures experienced by those explorers who were brave enough to journey into the unknown. It makes sense that sometimes they must have felt exhausted. Sometimes they couldn’t imagine how they would have the resources to continue. Sometimes the only option was to keep going forward, even when they didn’t know what lay ahead. And at the same time imagine the thrill of stepping into new territory – new opportunities, insights and awarenesses that would never have happened if they hadn’t stepped out. Pioneering is an amazing experience, whatever the unknown territory is. And pioneering is not something you want to do alone. At times the early explorers came across a person who had journeyed some way along the new path already. Someone who had glimpsed the new territory and could give them an indication of what lay ahead. Someone who had viewed the terrain and could tell them what resources would be helpful. Someone who could give them hope and tell them that the journey would be worth it. The scouts who have reconnoitred this new land of Parenting and who are telling us about what lies ahead are the ones who have journeyed into the previously unknown world of what lies within us. Up until now this landscape has been as unfamiliar as the New World was to what Europe had understood the world to be in the Middle Ages. These scouts are reporting to us about the previously uncharted territory of our emotional world and of the workings of the brain. I’d like to share with you three pieces of really good news about what this means to you as a parent.

The first piece of good news is that some of the key information from the world of neuroscience is as simple as understanding the concept of North, South, East and West. It’s so basic that any parent can grasp the principles, and it gives you a compass to move though the territory of parenting – and relationships in general.

The second piece of good news is that you as a parent have the innate ability to be expert of your own situation. After all, you’re the one who has been there from the beginning, who knows the personalities involved and the dynamics between each of the members of your family. And you’re the one who is going to be there for the long haul. So the good news is that you are the perfect person to be parenting your children.

The third piece of good news is that we’re recognising the value of good old-fashioned wisdom. After all, we wouldn’t have survived as a human race if we didn’t KNOW how to raise our children. So, just as the pioneers to new lands drew on what they already knew and then related that to the new discoveries they were making, you can trust yourself to find what’s needed on your parenting journey. And just as discovering a new continent called for new responses, this new knowledge challenges us to rethink the idea of being a ‘good’ parent. So what’s needed to achieve this?

I recommend that you find yourself a scout, someone who has already taken time to adventure into the territory ahead. Someone who recognised the territory ahead will be different from anything you’ve ever journeyed through before. Not someone to tell you what to do. Rather someone who will encourage your awareness of your own resources and wisdom. Someone who will boost your confidence in your own abilities. And someone who will give you a map of the land, so that you will be able to plan your journey, navigate the challenges when they arise and celebrate your experiences. That’s why I advocate the Koemba Parent Coaching approach. Whether you choose to work on a one-to-one basis with a Parent Coach or whether you prefer a course so that you can journey with other pioneers on this Parenting adventure, either way you have the support to make this the most incredible, unique and worthwhile experience imaginable.

Right now if you are living anywhere accessible to Dublin, whether by air, rail or car, you have the chance to sign up for a three weekend introductory course. Three Friday evenings and three full day Saturdays that could potentially be one the most significant and life-changing experiences you could ever discover. They say that it’s not the things that we do that we most regret later in life. Rather, it’s the things that we don’t do that we regret.

I’m Val Mullally, founder of Koemba, and I will be facilitating the training, with two of the Koemba team, Florence Burns and Anca Lupu.  I am an accredited Parent Coach and a mother of two adult sons. I was a qualified teacher before having my children, but I wish I had known what I know now when my children were young. And I know it’s much tougher to parent now than when my children were young. Don’t miss this opportunity. This is your time and your opportunity to be the parent you really want to be. To be the one who will successfully take the pioneering journey of parenting in a new millennium.  An amazing adventure – and one you will always be so glad you took! CLICK HERE to  find out more. (EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT TILL 10 APRIL!)

Last edited April 08th 2013

What do you do if your child seems to be showing ADHD type behaviours?

How do you cope with the outbursts and the excessive energy?

I felt distress as I watched the Prime Time RTE programme dealing with this heartbreaking subject and saw the despair that some parents are experiencing.  I imagine these parents WISH that they could receive an immediate response from those who could make a difference, instead of horrifically long delays before they receive any support.

Any person with an ounce of compassion would be wondering how these parents cope with the unrelenting energy of their child and the torment of ‘How do we get through today (or even the next ten minutes)?’ I admire the courage of these parents who allowed the television crew to capture some of the frustration and anguish, that I imagine many experience daily.

I’m writing this blog not only to express my concern and appreciation for these parents, but also to encourage parents that things can get smoother. I’m not saying ‘perfect’, I’m not saying there won’t be bumps and sharp turns on the journey but there is hope. The good news is that, as parents, we CAN DO SOMETHING to create calmer homes and more happiness, while we are waiting for the services to respond. We can discover how to support children to behave more cooperatively. I know from my own experience, that parenting isn’t easy. And I imagine that it’s particularly challenging if you have a child who is wound up like a clockwork toy and who seems to push against every boundary.

‘wound up like a clockwork toy’     Clipart by Ron Leishman – http://clipartof.com/435819

As I watched the RTE PrimeTime television documentary, I spotted some simple, subtle ways in which parents can create more harmony and connection.

So here’s TEN PRACTICAL TIPS, based on interactions observed within the film footage of the Prime Time programme, to support you in taking little steps creating smoother relationships and more cooperative behaviour.

1. What I observed when the child is acting out.

Parent: ‘This is not you.’ But this IS part of who the child is, right now, at this moment.  His behaviour does not need to define him. He’s so much MORE than only this behaviour. But when we deny that this is ‘him’, we are, in a sense denying part of who he is.

A response you could find more helpful:

‘You’re angry right now.’ Help him to NAME and CLAIM his strong emotions. As he can CLAIM his feelings, over time he’ll learn also to TAME them – to be in control of his emotions, instead of his emotions being in control of him.

2. What I observed when the child is in tears:

Parent: ‘You don’t have to cry anymore.’

A response you could find more helpful:

Focus on being present to your child, show sympathy and give support. Let the tears flow naturally. Apparently the tears we cry when we are emotionally upset are chemically different to the tears we cry when we peel an onion. The ‘upset’ tears contain stress hormones. So ‘Have a good cry’, ‘Cry it all out’ make sense. The tears will be healing when the child senses our gentle, loving support alongside him, when we’re relaxed with his tears and not trying to stop them.

3. What I observed when the child is distressed, as she remembers the awful thought she had, which were a side effect to the medication she’d been given: Parent: ‘Those thoughts are gone.’ But they’re not gone. She’s still upset about them!

A response you could find more helpful:

Acknowledge the experience. Give her a safe space to talk about them. Then reassure her that the upsetting thoughts were brought on by the medication. In life, it is not so much the bad things that happen to us that are the concern, but rather that we have not yet woven them into the fabric of our lives. Like embroidery that was knotted and tangled at the back, the child needs support to gently untangle these threads and to weave them into her ‘narrative’, her story of her life. Daniel Siegel’s book ‘Parenting From the Inside Out’ is a great resource to understand this more fully. Making sense of our own unique life story is rather like a beautiful Persian carpet – provided it is well woven, the dark patches are an integral part of the beauty of the design. In a similar way the ‘dark patches’ of our lives, when worked through so that we understand this part of who we are, have the potential to become part of the richness and beauty of our personality.


4. What I observed when the child is energetically bouncing on the seat, as the parent is trying to interact with someone else:  Parent: ‘Can you stop it please.’

A response you could find more helpful:

Anticipate moments like these and have activities to attract his attention and keep him busy. With younger children, playdough is ideal and tends to have a soothing effect on the child. Crayons and paper are great to have on hand. With older children construction toys like Lego and K’nex can keep their attention. Also keep in mind that still periods probably won’t be long. When you hold an awareness that your child is probably doing the best he can right now, it’ll be easier to adapt to his needs, even if that means inviting the visitor to walk and talk, so that your child can work off some energy.

Also, rather than giving a negative comment say what you do want. Instead of ‘stop it’ give the child a choice, directing his attention to something positive he can do. ‘You can choose to sit next to me and listen or you can choose to play with these toys.’ When the child is given a choice he’s far more likely to cooperate.


5. What I observed: television constantly on.

A response you could find more helpful:

Create a family culture where the television is off, unless you’re actually sitting and watching something together, and even then be thoughtful about what programmes you chose.  All children needs calm space, and particularly those with very high energy levels. Exposure to energetic or aggressive action is likely to evoke more of the same. (However, be aware that sudden changes in his routine, like suddenly stopping television viewing, are likely to trigger a strong emotional reaction. You need to discuss and plan other enjoyable activities to replace the television viewing, probably making this a gradual adjustment).


6. What I observed was the parent talking about the child’s issues to others in front of him. Children tend to live up to their parent’s expectations. Whilst it makes sense that you really need a space to talk about the challenges you’re facing, if he hears from you that he’s ‘out of control’ /’a challenge’/ ‘wrecking your head’ the message he receives is that this is what you expect from him, and he’s likely to live up to your expectations.

A response you could find more helpful:

You are facing such a huge responsibility it makes sense that you need a safe space to let off steam – but please find it away from the ears of any children. Also notice that talking with some people will increase your sense of frustration and powerlessness, whereas others will encourage you and help you to be the clear-headed, compassionate parent you want to be.  Find the safe, encouraging friends and professionals who will genuinely support you.


7. What I observed when the child acted aggressively:

Parent: ‘Upstairs! Don’t kick me.’

A response you could find more helpful:

There’s a fine line between giving him ‘time with himself’ to calm down and reflect on what’s needed and ‘time out’ as a punishment, which isolates him from you. When a child experiences being emotionally abandoned by the parent, he’s likely to protest. All conflict is a protest at the disconnection. This statement might seem strange when he’s acting out when you’re still physically present, but your child senses when you are angry or have emotionally disconnected from him, and he reacts. At other times, your child may have disconnected from himself; then he’s unable to take control of himself. Ironically, these times, when it’s hardest to stay emotionally engaged with him in a supportive way, are the times he most needs connection with you. He needs you to help him regain control of himself.

Also when we give negative commands the child doesn’t hear the ‘don’t’ – he tends to only hear the command, e.g. ‘kick me’. Rather say what you DO want, such as, ‘Peter, calm down.’ (in a calm, connecting voice).  (Using his name at the start of your sentence also helps him to reconnect and to focus on what you are saying).


8. What I observed when the parent is discussing the child’s experience of a situation:

Parent: ‘You love your teachers.’ Child: ‘NO!’

A response you could find more helpful:

Create a listening space for him to share his perspective. Hear how it is for her. The child needs to be able to make sense of her experience. If she is being rejected by other children or reprimanded at school it’s likely that she’s feeling frustrated and she needs to be able to process those feelings. She needs home to be a safe space to share how she’s experiencing what’s happening in her world. That doesn’t mean we encourage her take a ‘Poor Me’ attitude, but once she feels heard and connected she’ll be in a better place to reflect on what she could have done differently, that could have been more helpful.


9. What I observed was the child cavorting in spiderman clothes.

Over many years in preschool education I saw time and time again that when children are dressed in ‘invincible’ outfits, ‘invincible’ behaviours erupted.  Part of our school policy became ‘No spiderman, batman, etc outfits.’

Think too about the choice of toys. You may notice that when he is playing with certain toys it sparks OTT behaviour. Some toys are far more likely to evoke aggressive or hyper-active behaviours. Discover the alternatives that lead to calmer ways of playing.


10. What I observed was the parents’ pain when it is inferred by others that the child is ‘a brat’ or ‘bold’.

A response you could find helpful:

Whether a child is challenged with ADHD or not, labels like ‘bold’ or ‘brat’ are never helpful. Any child is likely to feel attacked when negative labels are used. In our minds, we need to separate out the behaviour from the child him (or her) self.  It ‘s more helpful to say ‘I don’t like it when you …   and I would prefer it if you …’

Likewise we need to beware of labelling ourselves. Self-criticism, like ‘Bad parent’, is only going to make us feel bad. The stress level with dealing with a child with challenging behaviour is already high enough, without the added pressure of self-punishment and self-criticism. It’s easier to be reflective about what’s working if you think in terms of:

‘What am I doing that’s helpful in this situation?’

By noticing what we do that creates more cooperative behaviour, we discover how to create more of the same. Particularly, we can start noticing the ‘good times’ and discover how to create more of this in our lives.

A final note:

The one small step that can make a huge difference is to recognise that we can’t change our children (as much as we might like to, particularly on some days!) but we can change the way we react or respond to them. The secret is to develop our own mindfulness in our parenting, so that we become more aware of what’s working and what’s not.

While you’re waiting for the help you deserve, the help your child needs, I encourage you – don’t just wait.  Use the time to develop your own awareness about WHAT WORKS to create connection, communication and cooperation between family members.

If this article has been helpful for you, make sure you are signed up for the Koemba newsletter. You’ll be just in time to hear about our January special: exciting new material about what to do when children’s difficult behaviour challenges you.

Val Mullally MA

CEO Koemba Parent Coaching



Last edited November 28th 2012