Creating Parentology with the Help of the Co-Active Leadership Program
With Gönan Premfors
An early adopter and a pioneer of coaching, Gönan brought professional coaching to the Middle East. In addition to coaching executives and business leaders, including founders and entrepreneurs, she coaches and advises government leaders about coaching and how to create sustainable change. She is also the creator of Parentology and Trust, workshops co-created with Henry Kimsey-House that have been delivered in more than 30 countries.
We spoke to Gönan about the origins of the Parentology workshop and how joining the Co-Active Leadership Program helped her bring it into the world.
“Because we hold the role as a parent we assume that we have a relationship with our child. But that may not be true. Just because we are related to them doesn’t mean we have a relationship with them.”
What is Parentology?
Parentology is a workshop that explores the parent-child relationship in a whole new way, one that sees the child and considers their identity, self-perceptions and resulting behaviors. It’s delivered publicly to groups of parents, people who work with children and families, and even adults without children who want to unpack their own emotions about parenthood. In her TEDx talk on the topic, Gönan said, “Because we hold the role as a parent we assume that we have a relationship with our child. But that may not be true. Just because we are related to them doesn’t mean we have a relationship with them.” This consciously created relationship forms the basis of Parentology and it visibly transforms family dynamics, especially for the child.
“There's a power balance in Parentology. How we disempower our children without even realizing it through our rank, our privilege, and our size - all of that gets addressed. People get to see how we create a perception of this little person and their world, and within that they create their own perception within that world, and that creates their behavior. Most parenting programs talk about behavior of change, but that's the end result, and that's the wrong end of the stick to work with. We help people see what's going on with this child, and how they can actually understand what is their perception of themselves. Then they get to meet them where they are and create the relationship from that place. It's very powerful.”
How did Parentology come into being?
Gönan talked about her coaching career and how she’d seen many successful men and women who’d identified something missing in themselves: a lack of alignment or belonging that stemmed right back to childhood. Many people’s struggles with relationships stem from their childhood. That parent-child relationship is the child’s first relationship and they automatically - subconsciously and unconsciously - create the same relationships as they go through life. People often don’t connect with who they were or looked at the relationships they chose to build until they experienced coaching. So Gönan began to wonder what a difference it would make if people did know all of this from an early age.
“I came across coaching when I was in my 40s, and that's when I actually really realized who I was, and what I needed, what I wanted, and where I needed to go. And, when I saw those things, I thought this doesn't have to happen like this. We can erase all this unnecessary energy going into restructuring your life to align more of who you are. So my whole aim with Parentology was to develop children who know themselves from an early age so they can live who they are.”
Once Gönan saw that there was this need in the world, she set about trying to make it happen.
“It was a revelatory moment in which Gönan realized that this was her purpose and that she needed to step up and lead it.”
How did the Co-Active Leadership Program help?
When Gönan first imagined Parentology, it never crossed her mind that she’d be the one creating it. She saw the need, but she assumed it would be someone else who would take the idea forward. At first, she spent her time reaching out to others who she perceived as having more authority to champion this cause.
“I was collecting information and going to people in my network to talk about this parenting program. But I never thought I could do this myself. I thought it would be someone else with the right knowledge and skills and I would simply be supporting the launch. But nobody said yes. I was stuck.”
Then, at the start of her Co-Active Leadership Program, Gönan had an encounter that changed everything. She was talking once more with all of her passion and conviction about why this workshop needed to be created and her companion turned to her and said, “Nobody else is going to do this. This is yours.” It was a revelatory moment in which Gönan realized that this was her purpose and that she needed to step up and lead it.
“It was my project, and no one else had the passion that I did. But I still didn’t believe it until I went to the Leadership Program. Then I started to really own it, build confidence and know that I was the right person to make it happen.”
Over the course of the 10-month Co-Active Leadership Program, Gönan gained the confidence to follow this direction she’d set for herself. Halfway through the program she reached out to Henry Kimsey-House, one of the program leaders and a founder of the Co-Active Training Institute, to co-design the workshop with her. As she continued the program with the support of her peers and program leaders, Gönan grew her leadership, moving Parentology from a vision to a well-constructed plan of action.
“The Leadership Program is a skills development program, but the leadership is really personal growth. To be successful in anything you do - whether you're a coach or a CEO of a company, or you are raising your kids and you’re not doing another job at the moment - all of this requires you to know exactly who you are as a leader, and how you would actually bring that to action in the world. That’s what I found in the Leadership Program for myself.”
“Giving parents the tools they need to have meaningful and empowering relationships with their children contributes to society on so many levels."
The Impact of Parentology
Parentology has now reached thousands of people. It’s been translated into 3 different languages and has been delivered in countries from Mexico to Canada, the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Turkey, Egypt, and Singapore. Every home has its own culture: what the workshop does is show people how their child experiences the world and their relationship with their parent, so it’s easy to adopt across very different cultures. The solutions to whatever challenges the family faces are always rooted in the relationships. The workshop gives parents the information and skills to be able to find answers together.
“The workshop gives new information and with that information we gear them up with a lot of skills. So in the evening they sit down, and the next day they come back to say ‘That was amazing! I've learned so much about my child that I haven't learned all these years.’ And they have this intimate moment, perhaps for the first time. We're not just impacting the people in that room: we are also impacting all the children who will experience something different because of what’s happened there. So that is the most amazing part for me. We often receive emails and letters from children saying, ‘Thank you so much for my mother coming to your workshop: she has been amazing. She was a great mom, but she's awesome now.”
Some organizations have the workshop delivered in-house to give something valuable back to their employees and Gönan is often approached by organizations who’ve heard from former participants how impactful the workshop has been for them. From a corporate social responsibility perspective, giving parents the tools they need to have meaningful and empowering relationships with their children contributes to society on many levels: creating happier families, shaping whole and healthy young people, and ultimately laying the foundations for emotionally intelligent and secure adults.
Gönan continues to grow Parentology and its impact. She initially set out to be an advocate for children, but as she delivered more workshops and learned from different groups, she realized there were so many more ways it could benefit adults and families. The mission was hers, and as it’s grown, Gönan has welcomed each new application that has allowed Parentology to touch more lives. From the very start of this journey, Gönan had the passion for this work; the Co-Active Leadership Program simply helped her find the way forward.
“The Leadership Program helps you find out what are you here for: What is your bigger game? What is your bigger role in society? It helps you to figure out, ‘Okay, so I'm the leader. I'm creating all these things from within and from the other person. But what am I creating? What's my purpose? What am I here for? What do I need to create?’ So that's what I discovered in the Leadership Program: that deeper meaningfulness, and also that capacity to be able to lead this to the world.”