Talk less, listen more is key advice for parent group facilitators

One of the things I really enjoy doing is being a nationally sanctioned SENG facilitator trainer. I have trained hundreds of people, from many different districts, in how to run SMPGs: SENG Model Parent Groups. These are structured support groups for parents of gifted children.

SMPGs are led by educators, mental health professionals and parents who have been trained by SENG to facilitate a focused discussion on various topics regarding parenting gifted children. The topics come from the book A Parent’s Guide To Gifted Children and the discussions that ensue are based on the chapters in the book.

I am one of eight trainers in the U.S. that trains people to lead SMPGs in their local school communities. I received my training from Jim Webb and Arlene DeVries in 2003. Since then, I’ve led my own SMPG discussions, along with training others to do the same.

Recently, I co-facilitated, with Sheri Plybon from Plano, TX, a SMPG training in Denver with 20 people from Colorado, Utah, California, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Iowa and Connecticut. Yes, people fly-in for this valuable two-day immersion into gifted support. The goal is to educate and equip these people to go out and organize their own SMPGs in their states.

SENG training group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of this training, I asked participants, “How different do you think your style of group facilitation would be if you had been asked to facilitate a group without this two-day training?” They all said the same thing… they would have talked MUCH more TO the parents. They would have felt they had to TELL parents what they needed to learn instead of LISTENING to what the parents had to share.

One of the key points of training facilitators is communicating to them that “less is more.” Instead of being the expert in the group that the parents rely on, facilitators are trained to orchestrate the parents’ discussion, rather than to make it about themselves giving advice. There is certainly a time and a place to offer suggestions, but facilitators are trained to talk seldomly, and when they do talk to do so very subtly, and to always draw the attention back to the parents.

Another key point in training is to help the parents realize that, as important as school is to the well-being of their children, the parent’s role has a much greater long-term impact on their gifted child than school. The focus is about turning the finger inward toward themselves and asking “What things are going well in my child’s and my relationship that I want to continue to do” and “What things about our relationship could be improved”

SMPG facilitators are trained to listen, model openness and warmth, and encourage participation.

This particular group of people at the recent Denver training session was an amazing gathering of caring, intuitive individuals. They are exactly the type of people that I would want to help guide ME in becoming more aware about effective parenting skills. I am so grateful that these SMPG groups exist to help parents guide their gifted children and to strengthen their relationships. And I’m proud to be a nationally sanctioned SENG facilitator trainer.

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