importance of effective communication

8Communicating with, Supporting, and Collaborating with Families

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Learning Outcomes

After reading this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

ሁ Explain the importance of effective communication for families and contemporary parenting. ሁ Analyze different approaches to child discipline and guidance, including spanking and

positive discipline. ሁ Describe programs for teaching supportive parenting, and the Head Start and STEP

programs in particular. ሁ Explain the criteria used to evaluate additional supportive parenting education programs.

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Section 8.1Family Communication

Introduction Two skills that positively impact family well-being are effective communication and a thoughtful, consistent approach to discipline. Few people inherently possess these skills, and most draw primarily on their own childhood experiences to inform their parenting strategies. Some of these strategies may be effective, while others may hinder their child’s development.

In this chapter, we will describe effective methods of communication within different family structures. To drive home the point, we also discuss what not to do, listing ineffective commu- nication practices. Next, we cover several discipline techniques. We discuss the effects of phys- ical punishment, specifically spanking, and explore positive discipline and mutual problem- solving. This is followed by strategies for professionals working with a diverse population of families on how to promote best practices when it comes to discipline. We conclude the chapter with a discussion of the many parent training and education programs that have been developed to reduce negative child outcomes as a result of ineffective parenting and discuss key program characteristics and training strategies.

8.1 Family Communication Effective communication is central to family well-being and changes over time as children and adults grow, develop, and mature. Communication in families includes parent–parent com- munication, parent–child communication, and child–child communication. In extended and blended families, other adults are involved, which often adds additional dynamics and com- plexities. However, communication within all families is an interactional process: It simul- taneously affects both the sender of the message and the receiver of the message. Often this interaction is less about the specific words that are spoken and more about how things are said (or left unsaid). In these ways, messages and communication can build and maintain family relationships and cohesion or cause these relationships to fray or even break down.

Children learn to use communication according to ways it is used and modeled in their home. How we resolve conflicts, share love, interact, express our needs, wants, fears, and frustra- tions, and use language to learn about the world around us are all initially patterned after interactions in the home. As discussed in Chapter 6, family communications also provide direct socialization messages about race, ethnicity and gender identity; the family’s culture, religion, and other characteristics; and a sense of belonging or outsider status with regards to different cultural groups (Cross, 1991). A socialization message is a form of communication that teaches children the appropriate behaviors, attitudes, and values to function as a mem- ber of a particular social setting, such as a family, work, social, or cultural group (Cushner, McClelland, & Safford, 2012). Further, messages, stories, anecdotes and fables about a fam- ily’s history, values, culture, and aspirations are directly communicated via verbal messages (Welch, 2010).

Communication Between Parents and Children Regardless of the cultural context of a family, communication plays a critical role across the developmental life cycle of the family. Parents and caregivers can use several techniques and methods to increase the effectiveness of family communications. These include helping chil- dren understand and express their feelings appropriately, engaging in active listening, and using I-messages. We explore these techniques in the sections that follow.

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Section 8.1Family Communication

Understanding and Expressing Feelings A central task for children as they grow and develop is to learn socially appropriate ways to handle their feelings, a concept known as emotional regulation. The development of emo- tional regulation begins in the prenatal stage, when all structures of the brain are estab- lished (Rathus, 2014). An appropriate diet by the mother, and lack of stress and exposure to drugs, alcohol, and other toxins during prenatal development contribute to this process. After birth, infant–caregiver interactions continue to shape emotional regulation, and opti- mal child development is enhanced by goodness-of-fit (see Chapter 4). Although much of this give-and-take is nonverbal, as the infant starts to make sounds and words, more verbal inter- actions between the infant and caregiver occur (Rathus, 2014). Achieving trust (rather than mistrust), the successful completion of Erikson’s first developmental stage, also contributes to emotional regulation (Erikson, 1963).

Gottman, Katz, and Hooven (1996) categorized parents’ responses to children’s expressions of emotions into three main groups:

• Ignoring or criticizing their feelings so that they are expressed outwardly as little as possible;

• Accepting all expression of feelings by the child but without providing the necessary guidance, direction, or understanding; and

• Instructing children regarding socially appropri- ate ways to deal with their feelings and their expression.

Children whose parents help them understand, label, and develop appropriate responses to their feelings (those in the third category) tend to be more successful academi- cally and socially as they grow older, and more physically healthy (Gottman & DeClaire, 1998).

Parents and professionals working with families and children can help children develop emotional regulation by following these steps:

• Recognize when a child is having a feeling, determine the nature of that feeling, and try to find out whether others in the child’s circle, such as family members, siblings, or peers, are having these same feelings;

• Use the child’s emotional response to an event or feeling as an opportunity for inti- macy and teaching. Empathize with the child and then teach appropriate responses to the feelings.

• Use active listening skills (see below) to validate the child’s feelings without trying to change them.

• Help the child to verbally label feelings. Labeling helps the child to clarify the feel- ings in his or her mind, but does not tell the child how to feel. Labeling also helps children understand that they can have different, even opposite, feelings at the same time. Children are often overwhelmed by a feeling, and labeling it can help them sort out what is going on (Gottman & DeClaire, 1998).

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock ሁ When children are encouraged

to understand and express their emotions appropriately, they tend to be more socially and academically successful, as well as more physically healthy.

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Section 8.1Family Communication

Gottman and DeClaire (1998) state that while parents should help children identify their feel- ings in a nonjudgmental manner, they should limit and model (a powerful form of scaffolding) to the child how these feelings are expressed (depending on the child’s age). For example, anger at a sibling may be acceptable, but hitting, throwing things, and verbally abusing the sibling may not be. Parents can also help children come up with possible acceptable responses to various feelings, depending on the child’s age. Consider a girl who is upset with her brother. Instead of hitting him she can say “I don’t like it when you take my toy.” Or when a child is sad about another child who is in the hospital, that child can be encouraged to make and send a greeting. When a child has trouble with a classmate at school, the parent can advise the child to talk to the teacher rather than attacking the classmate.

Active Listening The basic communication model is composed of a sender (speaker), message, and receiver (listener). For effective communication to occur, both sender and receiver must be “active and intentional” (Gordon & Sands, 1978). Active listening on the part of the parent includes (1) listening to the child’s statement, (2) focusing on the feelings that statement expresses, and (3) designing a response similar to the child’s statement. Consider the fol- lowing example:

Child: “I don’t want to go to Bobby’s birthday party tomorrow.”

Parent: “Sounds like you and Bobby might have a problem.”

Child: “I hate him, that’s what.”

Parent: “You really hate him because you feel he’s been unfair somehow.”

Child: “Yeah. He never plays what I want to play.” (Gordon and Sands, 1978, p. 47)

When the parent’s response is correct, the child confirms it with a positive response; when it is incorrect, the child will let the parent know and then clarify his or her feelings. The parent then continues to actively listen to the child’s expressions of feelings.

Active listening has many benefits. It helps children express their feelings effectively; thus, children will feel understood because they are like others who also have strong feelings (Dunn, Brown, and Beardsall, 1991). Further, as the parent and child talk about the child’s feelings together, the child often learns that what appeared to be the problem was not the real problem after all. A child might blame a friend for what they are feeling, when the cause of the reaction was not the friend at all. As the parent helps the child focus on his or her feelings, the child begins to identify the real problem, and what can be done about it. Finally, sometimes all that is needed to resolve or address a problem is for someone to listen compassionately to the child. Often the child simply wants someone to empathize: “It’s really painful when your friend chooses to play with someone else.” This validates the child’s feelings (Brooks, 2011). Active listening should be used for all emotions, including deep feelings of sadness and loss by the child (Faber and Mazlish, 1975).

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Section 8.1Family Communication

Active listening requires the parent (or other adult) to have patience and to focus on the child’s words and behaviors rather than the adult’s reaction to them—no easy task. Sometimes the child does not want to talk about his or her feelings, and this desire should be respected. Sometimes the child has gone far enough with active listening and wishes to stop. This, too, should be respected by the adult.

I-Messages I-messages are communications between two or more people, children or adults, that begin with “I.” These messages have three parts: (1) a clear statement of how the first party (the person speaking) feels, (2) a statement of the behavior that has caused the first party to feel that way, and (3) a statement describing why the behavior is upsetting to the first party (Brooks, 2011). For example, a parent might say, “I worry that when you throw sand at your sister, it will hurt her eyes.” A child can learn to say, “I am upset because you keep taking my toy—I don’t like it when my toy is taken.”

I-messages are helpful for a number of reasons. First, they allow a parent or other speaker to acknowledge his or her own needs and concerns. Second, children learn that their par- ents or siblings also have feelings and reactions, and learn what they are specifically. And third, children have the opportunity to come up with solutions to solve the specific problems described in the I-message. Sometimes siblings can come up with solutions to a problem that parents might have overlooked (Brooks, 2011). I-messages also help parents clarify their own feelings and the cause of these feelings. According to Gordon (1989), when a parent is angry at a child, he or she may actually be feeling fear, disappointment, frustration, or hurt. For example, when a child comes home two hours after curfew, the parent may react in anger at the child, but is actually relieved because he or she was concerned for the safety of that child. Use of I-messages helps the parent articulate these fears and tell the child why he or she is so upset.

I-messages should also be used to express appreciation and understanding. To a 5-year-old, a grandfather might say, “I am glad you are walking with me on the canal. I always enjoy spend- ing time with you.” To a 15-year-old, a mother might say, “I like it when you help with the laundry because then we have more time to go shopping together.” I-messages can also be preventive—letting a child know ahead of time about the adult’s needs. For example, stating, “I need the music turned down when I am on the phone” is more effective than shouting, “Turn down the music!” after the fact.

P A u S e A n d R e F L e C t: M E S S A G E S F R O M C H I L D H O O D Think back to your own childhood and reflect on how you communicated with your parents.

Reflection Questions 1. Did either of your parents use understanding and expressing feelings, active listen-

ing, or I-messages with you? If so, how did they make you feel? If not, do you think they would have been effective?

2. For those who have children, do you use I-messages? If not, do you think they would be effective? Why or why not?

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Section 8.1Family Communication

Communication Between Adults Adults in a family, whether two biological parents, a parent and stepparent, two grandpar- ents, or some other household arrangement, must communicate effectively for the home to be a psychologically healthy place for the adults and children who live there. The active listener approach discussed in the context of adult–child communication also works well with adult–adult communication, as do I-messages. However, adults do not like to feel they are being talked down to or treated like a child, so care must be taken in using I-messages with adults.

Another approach that is effective is reflective listening. In reflective listening, people com- municating with each other pay close attention to both verbal and nonverbal messages and occasionally ask questions to clarify, such as, “What did you mean when you said . . . ?” or, “I want to make sure I understand what you said.” By repeating in one’s own words what someone has said, it is possible to clarify and validate the messages one is hearing (Brooks, 2011). Finally, reframing is an approach in which the listener (in this case, an adult) consid- ers an issue from the perspective of the person who is talking. Reframing is somewhat like I-messages, but with a more adult perspective.

Families are often too busy in their daily lives to spend time carefully communicating with each other. To encourage quality social interactions, family members can set aside a regular, relaxed time during which to connect. For adult–child communication, regular meals without technology distractions tend to work well for all members of the household. For adult–adult communication, regular visits to the neighborhood coffee shop or walks in the park are both ways to relax and engage in two-way conversations.

Communication Between divorced Parents and Parents in Blended Families or Stepfamilies Divorced parents face unique challenges in communicating with each other. If parents remarry, they may experience the extra stress of integrating children from one or both families into a new family structure. In all families, but especially in divorced and blended families, children excel at pitting one parent against the other. For example, when asking for a favor, a child may approach one parent, and then if that parent says no, the child will go to the other parent; alternatively, the child probably knows which parent is more likely to grant his or her wishes and approaches that parent first. To prevent this behavior, parents can develop a strategy to communicate consistent messages. Adults can respond to a child’s demands by saying, “Let me check with your mother/father.” This statement lets the child know that the parents are a unified front and also gives them time to come up with a mutually agreed-upon answer to the child’s question. While it may be difficult to achieve in some cases, this approach is also effective for divorced parents with joint custody.

In blended families, children are naturally loyal to a biological parent and often struggle to bond with a new mother or father (Sweeney, 2010). When stepparents and other adults attempt to discipline or influence children who are not their own, they may not be surprised to hear statements such as these: “I don’t have to do what you say because you are not my real father!” or “Why should I? You’re not my mother!” Parents can discourage this type of manip- ulation by letting the child know it is inappropriate and showing the child that the adults support each other’s decisions.

P A u S e A n d R e F L e C t: I N E F F E C T I v E C O M M U N I C A T I O N According to Herbert Lindgren, poor communication is often the direct result of bad hab- its (Welch, 2010, based on Lindgren, 1998). The following are ineffective communication styles that tend to result from habits formed over the course of a lifetime:

• The faker. Fakers pretend to listen while letting their mind wander in and out of the conversation. They nod their head and smile, but their attention is mostly elsewhere.

• The interrupter. Interrupters rarely let the speaker finish his or her ideas, interrupting and refocusing the conversation on what they want to say. If they do allow the speaker to finish, they immediately respond without carefully considering what was said.

• Intellectual listener. Intellectual listeners focus only on the verbal message, and not on the nonverbal communication cues (body language, eye contact, tone of voice, etc.). They interpret the message from a logical or rational basis, ignoring feelings and emotions.

• Self-conscious listener. These listeners are focused on their own status as a listener. They are so focused on constructing their response that they fail to absorb what is actually being said.

• The judge and jury listener. These listeners focus on criticizing what the speaker has to say. They are fixated on letting the person know how wrong his or her ideas, facts, and feelings are. In doing so, they forget to really hear what is being said. A judge and jury listener may be the type of person who feels compelled to give advice when the speaker really only needs a sympathetic ear.

Reflection Questions 1. Have you encountered people with these communication styles? How did communicat-

ing with them make you feel? How did you react to them? 2. How might these habits be reinforced over the course of someone’s life? Why might

someone continue to use a style that is counterproductive? 3. What do you think people can do to improve their communication style and have more

positive interactions with their families?

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Section 8.2Discipline and Guidance

8.2 Discipline and Guidance In Chapter 4, we touched on various forms of discipline and guidance for young children. We explored natural and logical consequences, modeling, reinforcement and rewards, punish- ment and time-out and also described the conditions needed for various discipline approaches to be effective. Here we look at discipline in more detail. We will explore several approaches to discipline and guidance and discuss the use of spanking as a prevalent approach. We con- clude the section with strategies professionals can use to help parents and caregivers employ best practices when disciplining children within their unique cultural context.

Spanking and Other Forms of Physical Punishment Spanking is a discipline approach that falls under the category of negative reinforcement: It is aversive, and a child will typically change his or her behavior to avoid being hurt (Ormrod, 2011). Spanking, hitting, and other means of punishment that cause pain are termed physi- cal punishment (Smith, 2013). Some scholars distinguish between physical punishment

Communication Between Adults Adults in a family, whether two biological parents, a parent and stepparent, two grandpar- ents, or some other household arrangement, must communicate effectively for the home to be a psychologically healthy place for the adults and children who live there. The active listener approach discussed in the context of adult–child communication also works well with adult–adult communication, as do I-messages. However, adults do not like to feel they are being talked down to or treated like a child, so care must be taken in using I-messages with adults.

Another approach that is effective is reflective listening. In reflective listening, people com- municating with each other pay close attention to both verbal and nonverbal messages and occasionally ask questions to clarify, such as, “What did you mean when you said . . . ?” or, “I want to make sure I understand what you said.” By repeating in one’s own words what someone has said, it is possible to clarify and validate the messages one is hearing (Brooks, 2011). Finally, reframing is an approach in which the listener (in this case, an adult) consid- ers an issue from the perspective of the person who is talking. Reframing is somewhat like I-messages, but with a more adult perspective.

Families are often too busy in their daily lives to spend time carefully communicating with each other. To encourage quality social interactions, family members can set aside a regular, relaxed time during which to connect. For adult–child communication, regular meals without technology distractions tend to work well for all members of the household. For adult–adult communication, regular visits to the neighborhood coffee shop or walks in the park are both ways to relax and engage in two-way conversations.

Communication Between divorced Parents and Parents in Blended Families or Stepfamilies Divorced parents face unique challenges in communicating with each other. If parents remarry, they may experience the extra stress of integrating children from one or both families into a new family structure. In all families, but especially in divorced and blended families, children excel at pitting one parent against the other. For example, when asking for a favor, a child may approach one parent, and then if that parent says no, the child will go to the other parent; alternatively, the child probably knows which parent is more likely to grant his or her wishes and approaches that parent first. To prevent this behavior, parents can develop a strategy to communicate consistent messages. Adults can respond to a child’s demands by saying, “Let me check with your mother/father.” This statement lets the child know that the parents are a unified front and also gives them time to come up with a mutually agreed-upon answer to the child’s question. While it may be difficult to achieve in some cases, this approach is also effective for divorced parents with joint custody.

In blended families, children are naturally loyal to a biological parent and often struggle to bond with a new mother or father (Sweeney, 2010). When stepparents and other adults attempt to discipline or influence children who are not their own, they may not be surprised to hear statements such as these: “I don’t have to do what you say because you are not my real father!” or “Why should I? You’re not my mother!” Parents can discourage this type of manip- ulation by letting the child know it is inappropriate and showing the child that the adults support each other’s decisions.

P A u S e A n d R e F L e C t: I N E F F E C T I v E C O M M U N I C A T I O N According to Herbert Lindgren, poor communication is often the direct result of bad hab- its (Welch, 2010, based on Lindgren, 1998). The following are ineffective communication styles that tend to result from habits formed over the course of a lifetime:

• The faker. Fakers pretend to listen while letting their mind wander in and out of the conversation. They nod their head and smile, but their attention is mostly elsewhere.

• The interrupter. Interrupters rarely let the speaker finish his or her ideas, interrupting and refocusing the conversation on what they want to say. If they do allow the speaker to finish, they immediately respond without carefully considering what was said.

• Intellectual listener. Intellectual listeners focus only on the verbal message, and not on the nonverbal communication cues (body language, eye contact, tone of voice, etc.). They interpret the message from a logical or rational basis, ignoring feelings and emotions.

• Self-conscious listener. These listeners are focused on their own status as a listener. They are so focused on constructing their response that they fail to absorb what is actually being said.

• The judge and jury listener. These listeners focus on criticizing what the speaker has to say. They are fixated on letting the person know how wrong his or her ideas, facts, and feelings are. In doing so, they forget to really hear what is being said. A judge and jury listener may be the type of person who feels compelled to give advice when the speaker really only needs a sympathetic ear.

Reflection Questions 1. Have you encountered people with these communication styles? How did communicat-

ing with them make you feel? How did you react to them? 2. How might these habits be reinforced over the course of someone’s life? Why might

someone continue to use a style that is counterproductive? 3. What do you think people can do to improve their communication style and have more

positive interactions with their families?

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Section 8.2Discipline and Guidance

(anything that causes pain in the child) and a milder form of spanking (Smith, 2013), which is termed conditional spanking. This technique consists of parents giving open-handed swats on the behind only after a child has not responded appropriately to nonphysical forms of pun- ishment, and not using it as the only form of punishment (Smith, 2013). However, as many parents and professionals working with them can attest, milder forms of discipline can quickly escalate to physical punishment, and it is difficult for the parent always to maintain emotional control (Gartrell, 2012). Also, from a behavioral perspective, if spanking did not cause some kind of negative reaction by the child, it would cease to be effective (Ormrod, 2011).

Many parents throughout the world believe that spanking is acceptable and necessary at cer- tain times and in certain situations (Berger, 2011; Durrant, 1996; Levinson, 1989). Spank- ing is more prevalent with children aged 2–6 years than at any other age. However, many child development experts see spanking as a form of violence. They believe that violence of any kind in the home—whether it is spanking, letting siblings fight, or insults and hitting between parents—may increase the tendency of children to behave aggressively at home and in school (Lansford et al., 2009; Smith, 2013). Another major criticism of spanking and other forms of corporal punishment is that these approaches to discipline and guidance do not teach children the appropriate way to behave but simply punish them for inappropri- ate behaviors (Ormrod, 2011). The American Academy of Pediatrics supports parents’ use of nonphysical methods for disciplining their children and opposes the use of severe or injuri- ous physical punishment of any kind. In 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a directive calling physical punishment “legalized violence against children” that should be eliminated (Smith, 2013).

A study was conducted of 273 children aged 4–6 years and their parents from a variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Parents were asked how often they used physi- cal punishment with their children; 6 months later, the researchers recorded the children’s behaviors in kindergarten (Berger, 2011; Strassberg et al., 1994). Table 8.1 outlines the types of aggression children displayed depending on how they were disciplined:

table 8.1: Relationship of aggression to discipline

Type of aggression description Relationship to discipline

bullying aggression extreme aggression This type of aggression was clearly associated with being severely punished (i.e., harsher than spanking with an open hand).

instrumental aggression

aggressive behav- iors to get toys and other things

The study showed no relationship to spanking, largely because children this age are naturally predisposed to this form of aggression.

reactive aggression retaliation against another child for a real or imagined wrong

This type of aggression was common among children who were spanked. They reacted twice as much as children who had not been spanked. These children reacted by shoving, kicking, and pushing at any provocation—or even imagined provocation. The researchers concluded that children react with physical aggression when provoked (real or imag- ined) because the use of spanking has conditioned them to respond in a specific way to certain behaviors.

Source: Strassberg et al., 1994

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Section 8.2Discipline and Guidance

These results have been borne out by further research in the past two decades. In a report that synthesized 100 years of social science research and hundreds of pub- lished studies on physical punishment (Gershoff, 2008), little evidence was found that such punishment improves children’s behavior in the long run. Such discipline may, in fact, make it more likely that the child will engage in defiant or aggressive behavior. Further, these children are at greater risk for mental health problems, serious injury, and physical abuse (Gershoff, 2008, p. 7). Physical punishment also tends to perpetuate itself; a parent who was raised with physical punishment as a child tends to use it on his or her own children (Smith, 2013).

Physical punishment is not the only form of negative discipline. According to Gartrell (2012), conflict, pun- ishment by removing affection and love, and verbal put- downs all have negative consequences for children. Guilt and shaming, insults, comparing one child’s behavior to another, “better” child or sibling, consistently holding inappropriately high behavioral expectations, screaming, shouting, threatening, and similar behaviors can have long-term negative effects on children (Gartrell, 2012; Wardle, 2013b).

Most academics and practitioners agree that physical punishment is not an appropriate dis- cipline approach (Smith, 2013). However, some dissent. Several researchers have questioned the validity of studies that connect physical punishment with a variety of negative outcomes, pointing out that these studies are correlational (a necessity, as it would be unethical to con- duct causal studies) and do not directly show a causal link (Smith, 2013). Further, these stud- ies do not discriminate among different levels of physical punishment or the use of physical punishment combined with other discipline approaches (such as time-out and logical conse- quences, discussed in Chapter 2). For example, conditional spanking (a milder form of spank- ing) has been shown to be effective when combined with other, nonphysical forms of disci- pline (Smith, 2013).

Positive discipline The underlying expectation of the positive discipline approach is that children can behave appropriately without the use of threats, bribes, yelling, or physical punishment. However, this method will not work unless the child is securely attached to the parent(s) and has devel- oped a solid sense of trust with the parent or other caregivers (covered in detail in Chapter 4). For professionals who work with families, positive parenting is another tool in their box. It can help parents and other adults in the home understand their children’s behaviors, their own reactions to these behaviors, and some positive approaches for addressing them. The following are some positive discipline techniques (Sizer, 2014):

Understand the meaning behind the behavior. Most children want to behave well and please the important adults in their lives. The majority of children do not set out to annoy or upset the adults in their lives, but often inadvertently do so while struggling to resolve

JackF/iStock/Thinkstock ሁ Studies show that most forms of

negative discipline, including guilt and shaming, insults, and shouting, can have long-term adverse effects on children.

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Section 8.2Discipline and Guidance

problems, learn appropriate behaviors, and get attention. Although adults may label the behavior as “bad,” the child may be doing his or her best. So adults need to (a) find out why the child is behaving a certain way and (b) find a way to remove the causes, heal the emotions, or help the child understand what is happening and why it is inappropriate.

Focus on controlling yourself and not on controlling the child. Parents need to model the types of behavior they expect their children to engage in. Yelling leads to yelling, and hit- ting spurs on hitting, because the adult is modeling how a problem should be addressed. Never do or say anything in front of a child that you do not want them to say or do.

Be consistent with expectations. Parents sometimes overlook a child’s negative behaviors, with the expectation that they will pass without intervention, when they will not. Tell the child why this behavior is unacceptable, and if it continues, remove the child from the situation.

Focus on the behaviors you like in the child and not on those you dislike. Children want a parent’s attention, and sometimes the only way to get it is to act out inappropriately. When children have tantrums or whine, parents can ignore them or simply walk away. The children will learn that there is a better way to communicate.

Redirect. Children quickly tune out when adults continue to repeat “No,” “Don’t do that,” and “I told you not to.” Instead, parents should provide a positive, acceptable alternative behavior to a negative one. For example, a child who is acting out in the grocery store might be asked to “go and find the paper towels to save us time.” A child who wants to leave the library before the adult is ready might be told “See if you can find the book you need for your homework so that I can check it out before we leave.”

Don’t bribe with things, money, or activities. This sends the message to a child that chil- dren are naturally bad and will engage in good behaviors only if they are paid to do so. However, giving children choices, providing them with constructive activities rather than expecting them to wait patiently, and accepting their help when shopping or doing other chores are not bribes, even if the child enjoys these activities (which most do). Also, while parents do all sorts of things around the home without rewards, if children are rewarded for everything they do, they will soon learn that they do not have to con- tribute to the welfare of the house unless they are compensated.

According to Sizer (2014), the best reward children can have is quality time with their par- ents. When there is more than one child in the family, it is important that parents find ways to spend regular, uninterrupted, one-on-one time with each child.

Positive Parenting Guidelines In their seminal book, Promoting Positive Parenting, Juffer and colleagues (2008) presented some additional guidelines for positive discipline and guidance, which can be used with chil- dren at any age. These guidelines can be employed by professionals working with families in a variety of settings, such as early childhood education programs and other community agencies that serve children and families. These ideas can be provided through formal parent education and training programs, individual family counseling, or informal advice:

• Use reason to help children understand the purpose of rules and routines and the benefits if everyone follows them. For example, “We all need to eat at the same time

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Section 8.2Discipline and Guidance

in the evening so that I know when to cook the meal, and so that the food can be hot.” Young children have limited ability to reason, so this approach works best once children have achieved Piaget’s concrete operations stage at approximately 7–8 years of age (Rathus, 2014). However, even for young children, this approach teaches that expectations and rules are not simply arbitrary.

• Help children focus on positive alternatives when frustrated, such as when a child is in a hurry to go somewhere, you might suggest “If you help me finish the dishes, we can leave earlier.”

• Compliment children when they follow the rules and engage in positive behaviors, including problem-solving with peers.

• Empathize with a child’s feelings as appropriate at their developmental level. For example, “I know it’s hard when your sister takes your brush, and then you cannot find it when you need to get ready for school.”

• Help children get out of a tantrum or angry confrontation by taking time-out in a room or the hallway. Stay calm and say that you will be available once the time-out is complete, to address the problem or engage with the child. With older children, parents may also need time to cool down and discuss the problem later.

• Talk to children during unpleasant experiences, such as a dentist or doctor’s visit or school conference, explaining to them why it is necessary and answering any ques- tions they may have.

• Give children advanced warnings when it is time to change or stop an activity, and give as many choices as possible.

Mutual Problem-Solving Mutual problem-solving is a technique parents can use when they feel something needs to change (Gordon, 1975). Parents can use I-messages to express their con- cerns or frustrations, such as a father say- ing to his family, “I get frustrated when I need to take Johnny to high school and he is not ready, because I lose my parking space and then I am late to work. My boss is beginning to give me a hard time. What do you think we can do to solve this prob- lem?” Children can pitch in with their own solutions, such as Johnny saying, “I can never find my homework in the morning,” and then another child suggesting, “Maybe you can get your homework together the night before?” This approach can then be agreed upon for a week to see if it works. The aim of mutual problem-solving is to find a win-win solution agreeable for all involved. Six steps are involved in the process:

• Both parents and children define the problem, using I-messages; • A variety of solutions are suggested;

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Thinkstock ሁ When families can work together to find a

solution, every family member can feel that their opinion is valuable.

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Section 8.2Discipline and Guidance

• Each solution is carefully examined and evaluated; • The best approach is decided upon; • A follow-up evaluation is conducted after a set time period (Brooks, 2011).

If the agreed-upon solution is not followed, then parents could address this in an effective way, such as communicating an I-message of disappointment. Maybe there is a way to help the child keep his agreement; maybe another problem-solving session is needed. It is best practice to avoid using threats and other various forms of punishment to enforce the agree- ment, as this shifts the focus from teamwork to one of power and authority (Gartrell, 2012; Gordon, 1975).

Finding Unity in Diversity Throughout this book, we have emphasized cultural diversity. Each one of us lives within a variety of dynamic cultural contexts, and children develop their cultural identity in many ways, including by being taught by their family (Hall, 1976, 1983). One way that culture mani- fests itself is through parenting styles and how parents discipline their children (Gonzalez- Mena, 2009; Mann, 1999/2000; Wright, 1998). Whereas some cultures and societies gener- ally disapprove of the use of physical punishment, others consider it common practice.

How then should professionals who work with parents and families apply best practices for discipline and guidance on the one hand but be culturally attuned, competent, and respectful on the other? First, it is important for professionals working with families to get to know their families in an objective and nonjudgmental manner (Mann, 1999/2000). Second, it is best practice for professionals to refrain from imposing their own views and ideas about race, cul- ture, values, and behavior of people in certain groups on the families they work with (Wardle, 2011, 2013b) until they have assessed the situation more closely. However, as Lansford et al. (2009) have suggested, certain parenting approaches, regardless of cultural context, should not be supported by parenting professionals. Parent education and training programs, the topic of our next discussion, should be carefully selected based on the program’s goals and the parents who will be served by them. Of most importance, professionals need to remind

R e S O U R C e S F O R W O R k i n G W i T h F a m i l i e S : I N E F F E C T I v E D I S C I P L I N E When working with families, it is important to be able to recognize areas where par- ents and caretakers can improve in an effort to enhance family well-being. Based on Chamberlain and Patterson’s (1995) meta-analysis of 300 studies, the following is a list of approaches to discipline and guidance that are considered unproductive and potentially harmful:

• Inconsistency, both on the part of an individual parent, and between two parents (or other adults in the home)

• Irritable, harsh, and explosive discipline such as hitting and threatening • Inflexible, rigid discipline, such as using the same techniques for all negative behaviors

regardless of the level of the infraction • Poor supervision and low involvement of parents with their children

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Section 8.3Programs for Parent Training and Education

themselves of certain characteristics of diversity, especially the reality of “diversity of diver- sity” and the need to move away from cultural dichotomies and toward cultural complexities.

8.3 Programs for Parent Training and education As mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, effective parenting requires many skills that few people inherently possess. Recall in Chapter 3 we discussed parent education as an inter- vention or training that helps parents improve their parenting skills in order to reduce the risk of negative outcomes for their children. In this section, we will explore a range of training and education programs intended to help parents improve their communication skills and develop strategies for discipline and guidance that will enhance family well-being.

key Program Characteristics The most effective parenting programs are those that focus on family strengths and resil- ience rather than family weaknesses and problems. Resilience is a family’s “ability to with- stand and rebound from crisis and adversity” (Walsh, 1996). These programs emphasize existing protective factors that reduce the negative effects of risk factors and help prevent child abuse and neglect (Center for the Study of Social Policy, 2013; Seifer et al., 1992). Fur- ther, such programs focus on family skills training and specific family activities to help chil- dren and parents communicate effectively. These programs also help families take advantage of a variety of community resources. These family-centered programs respect the family’s traditions and values while tailoring their approach to the parents’ learning style preferences and cultural beliefs (Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center Workshop, 2008).

Evidence shows that individualized par- ent training programs are more effective than group programs for parents at high risk for child abuse and neglect (Lundahl, Nimer, & Parsons, 2012). However, a com- bination of individual and group training seems to be the best approach for chang- ing parents’ attitudes about child rearing, the use of strict and/or corporal punish- ment, children’s expectations, and beliefs about children’s responsibilities (Lundahl et al., 2012). Regardless of the setting, qualified staff members are essential. The training staff needs both a theoretical understanding and hands-on experience in working with families and groups in a variety of settings. These trainers must also be able to provide culturally competent training (Lundahl & Harris, 2006; Lundahl et al., 2012).

Effective parent training programs also stress the importance of identifying the unique needs and backgrounds of participants. This enables the trainer to select appropriate materials and

monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Thinkstock ሁ Individualized parent training that focuses on the

strengths of a family can be an effective resource for parents.

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Section 8.3Programs for Parent Training and Education

provide targeted instruction (Samuelson, 2010). Further, to be effective, parenting programs need to consider all the influences on a family and its health, including the neighborhood, community, school, extended family, employment, socioeconomic status, family dynamics, and other factors (Samuelson, 2010).

Finally, successful parenting programs have clear program goals and continuously evaluate their progress toward these goals using both qualitative and quantitative methods. They also gather feedback from parents or guardians and use this feedback to regularly improve the quality of the program (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013c).

training Strategies To be effective, parent education and training programs can use a variety of training strate- gies to reinforce protective factors and positive parenting. These strategies should promote an increase in positive parent–child interactions while aiming to decrease parent–child directives and demands (Lundahl & Harris, 2006; Lundahl et al., 2012). Research shows that fathers’ involvement in parent training leads to better outcomes and increases family coop- eration and cohesion. Thus, fathers should not be excluded from parenting training programs (Lundahl, Tollefson, Risser, & Lovejoy, 2007). Active learning opportunities have greater suc- cess than passive approaches (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009) and include group discussions, role playing, modeling, homework activities, and watching video examples of effective parenting methods and behaviors (Brown, 2005).

Participants in parent training programs need ample activities in order to practice new skills and approaches during training sessions. Specific skills that have shown to be effective include developing emotional communication skills, the use of time-out for discipline, and becoming more consistent as parents (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). These were shown to be more effective than teaching problem-solving skills or ways to promote cognitive, academic, and social skills in children (Kaminski, valle, Ilene, and Boyle, 2008).

Programs that include opportunities for parents to receive support from peers have also been found to positively impact children’s cognitive development and strengthen family bonds by giving parents opportunities to share and discuss their experiences in a supportive environ- ment (Layzer, Goodson, Bernstein, and Price, 2001). “Parent Cafés” and “Community Cafés” are forums for parents and caregivers set in a parent-friendly environment and are led by trained parent leaders. Their intent is for parents to discuss various ways to incorporate protective factors into parenting, child development, and self-care (National Alliance of Chil- dren’s Trust and Prevention Fund, 2013).

head Start One program that meets many of these criteria is Head Start and Early Head Start. Its approach to parent and family engagement is tailored to the Head Start community, meets program and funding needs and requirements, is evidence-based, and is evaluated on a regular basis (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). Since its inception in 1965, Head Start has focused on working directly with the whole child and his or her family (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). Central to the Head Start and Early Head Start mission is an understanding of the critical importance of the family to the child’s development and learning ability (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).

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Section 8.3Programs for Parent Training and Education

Guiding Framework Head Start’s guiding document, The Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework (PFCE): Prenatal to Age 8, is designed to achieve outcomes that lead to positive changes in families and children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). Its framework builds on the long and successful history of parent involvement in Head Start. The PFCE emphasizes the need for local Early Head Start and Head Start programs to imple- ment systematic, integrated, and comprehensive programs to make a lasting change for fami- lies and children and aligns well with Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (Bronfen- brenner & Morris, 2006).

The PFCE covers all the program areas related to parents and families, with family and par- ent engagement outcomes presented as subsets. It aims to realize these outcomes through what it calls program foundations and program-impact areas. These range from classroom activities to parent training sessions. Each Head Start and Early Head Start family is unique, and thus, their progress toward these outcome goals is determined by the interests, needs, and goals they have in mind for their children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Ser- vices, 2011).

Parent and Family Engagement Outcomes Head Start’s approach to engaging with parents and families resembles less a specific parent education and training program and more a broad framework. Family engagement outcomes are more likely to be achieved when program foundations are in place and activities occur across all impact areas. The program foundations include program leadership, continuous program improvement, and professional development. The program impact areas encompass:

• Family well-being • Parent–child relationships • Families as lifelong educators • Family engagement in transition • Family engagement with peers and community • Families as advocates and leaders (U.S. Department of Health and Human

Services, 2011)

Parent and family engagement outcomes are designed to support and develop school readi- ness skills, sustained learning, and developmental progress across early childhood and elementary school. These outcomes are based on the latest research and on the Head Start Performance Standards (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). Parent and family engagement outcomes are as follows:

• Parents and families are safe, healthy, and more financially secure. • Beginning with the transition to parenthood, parents and families develop warm

relationships that nurture their child’s learning and development. • Parents and families advance their own learning through education, training, and

other experiences that support their parenting, interests, careers, and life goals. • Parents and families support and advocate for their child’s learning and develop-

ment as they transition into new learning environments (for example from Early Head Start to Head Start, from Early Head Start and Head Start to other early learn- ing environments, or from Head Start to kindergarten through elementary school).

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Section 8.3Programs for Parent Training and Education

• Parents and families form connections with peers and mentors in formal or infor- mal social networks that are supportive and/or educational and that enhance social well-being and community life.

• Parents and families participate in leadership development, decision-making, pro- gram policy development, or community and state organizing activities to improve children’s development and learning (U.S. Department of Health and Human Ser- vices, 2011, p. 5).

the SteP Approach A more focused approach to parent education and training is the Systematic Training for effective Parenting (SteP) approach. This model is a prototype that can be used by a variety of community programs that work with children and families. It is adaptable to the unique needs of each program and the people it serves. STEP is a rigorous, well-developed program with a strong theoretical framework and research support (Dinkmeyer & Carlson, 2007).

Contemporary STEP programs come in three versions:

• Early childhood STEP for parents with children 6 years old and under • STEP for parents with children aged 6–12 years (in English and Spanish) • STEP/Teen for parents with adolescent children

Responding to Children’s Misbehavior The STEP Parent’s Handbook identifies four goals for a child’s misbehavior: attention, power, revenge, and inadequacy (Dinkmeyer et al., 1997). However, children are unaware that these goals are driving their actions. Let’s examine these four motives a bit more closely:

1. �Attention. All children, regardless of their age, seek attention from parents. If they cannot get atten- tion by engaging in constructive behaviors, they will use annoying or destructive ones. This is par- ticularly true if the child is not get- ting attention from their parents for any positive behaviors. Accord- ing to STEP, parents should either ignore the destructive behavior or respond to it in ways the child does not expect.

2. �Power. Children seek power because they feel they do not have any at home or because power makes them feel important. According to STEP, parents should respond to the child’s need for power by avoiding power struggles and confrontations with the child.

3. �Revenge. For children, revenge is a motive for destructive and cruel behavior they engage in when they believe they have been hurt. Parents should avoid retaliation,

Robyn Breen Shinn/Cultura Limited/Superstock ሁ Often, children act out as a method of seeking

attention. According to STEP, parents should ignore this behavior or respond in unexpected ways.

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Section 8.3Programs for Parent Training and Education

remain calm, and show goodwill. They should realize that revenge is a product of the child’s feelings of discouragement and not respond to it with punishment.

4. �Inadequacy. Children who demonstrate a sense of inadequacy have given up on trying to get their parents’ attention. These children will respond to parents passively, or not at all. To respond to their child’s sense of inadequacy, parents need to eliminate all forms of criticism of the child and focus on ways to acknowledge and support the child’s strengths, assets, and attempts at improvement (Dinkmeyer et al., 1997).

Because children are not aware that their behavior is destructive, they will change only if parents change their behaviors. Parents need to be very aware of their own behaviors in responding to their children. It is important that they provide opportunities for children to gain their attention through legitimate, prosocial behaviors, actions, and interactions, rather than by acting out.

Open Response and Talking STEP uses the term open response to describe a parent’s reflective listening to a child. In open response, the parent acknowledges the child’s feelings by listening to and understand- ing the child’s communication. Thus, parents validate the child’s feelings and also show that they understand what caused these feelings.

In this program, the parents also use I-messages. However, a “we” statement should be used when the issue is of concern both to the child and the parent. For example, if two or more chil- dren have a conflict at home, a “we” statement communicates that there is not only a specific problem between the two children, but also an overall problem in their inability to resolve conflicts (Burr, 1990). “We” statements tend to diffuse any resentment and resistance that I-messages can produce; they suggest both a collective concern and the need for a mutually acceptable solution.

Natural Consequences and Logical Consequences The STEP approach to discipline focuses on natural and logical consequences as opposed to the use of rewards and punishments (addressed in detail in Chapter 4) (Dinkmeyer & Carl- son, 2007). Natural�consequences occur as a matter of course due to a child’s behavior, such

P A u S e A n d R e F L e C t: F A M I L Y C O U N S E L I N G In this video from 1960, Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D. (one of the STEP founders), conducts a family counseling session with parents of a young boy. Go to minute 29:27 and watch until 34:00.

Reflection Questions 1. How does Dr. Dreikurs teach the parents about the concepts of belonging, natural conse-

quences, and the child’s need for attention? 2. What is the mother doing that is keeping her son from improving his behavior? What

are the child’s underlying motives for being disobedient?

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Section 8.3Programs for Parent Training and Education

as being cold when going outside due to not wearing a jacket. Logical�consequences form an approach that parents use when they deliberately select a consequence to follow a child’s inappropriate behavior that is directly connected to that behavior. For example, a father’s 8-year-old son threw a stone at a window in the family’s house, breaking the window. As a consequence, the father and son purchased a new pane of glass, some putty, and a trowel, and then replaced the window pane together. A positive side-effect from this lesson is that the father and son spent some quality time together. For logical consequences to be effective, the child needs to see the connections between the behavior and the consequences.

According to Dinkmeyer, McKay, and Dinkmeyer (1997), when a child engages in an inappro- priate behavior, the parent should go through several steps: they should use active listening to understand and clarify the child’s feelings; explore a variety of alternative consequences; help the child choose a specific solution to fulfill a consequence; discuss all the possible results of the choice; and then get a commitment from the child to complete the task and an agreed- upon time for the parents to evaluate whether the chosen task has, in fact, been completed.

The use of natural and logical consequences is viewed as critically important in the STEP approach for a variety of reasons:

• They are based on equal rights and respect between the child and parents, whereas rewards and punishments are an expression of parental authority and power.

• They are directly related to the child’s inappropriate behavior, whereas punishments often are not.

• They are not based on moral judgments by the parents, whereas punishment con- veys to the child that he or she is being bad or that his or her actions are bad.

• They focus on the present behaviors and future behaviors, and improving those behaviors, whereas punishments focus on what has already occurred and therefore cannot be changed.

• They are based on goodwill and intent, whereas punishment is associated with threats and retaliation.

• They encourage choice, with the child’s input, whereas punishment demands obedi- ence to the parent (Dinkmeyer et al., 1997).

Other evidence-Based Programs In addition to Head Start and STEP, there are a variety of parent education programs listed by the Child Welfare Information Gateway of the Children’s Bureau (2013c). Table 8.2 summa- rizes the goals and target groups for each of these programs. Professionals working with par- ents who wish to use a parent education and training program need to select a program that matches their unique needs. These selected parent education programs fulfill one or more of the criteria established by the Children’s Bureau for being evidence-based or evidence- informed (Children’s Bureau, 2007).

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Section 8.3Programs for Parent Training and Education

table 8.2: Selected parenting education programs

Parenting program Focus Additional information

1-2-3 Magic Parenting http://www.123magic.com

Helping parents learn effective skills to control negative parent- ing behaviors and encourage good behaviors in children; strengthening parent–child relationships.

•  Delivery: Implemented in homes, communality agencies, hospitals, and clinics, residen- tial care facilities, and schools, in groups of 6–25 parents.

•  Target population: Parents of children aged 6–12

•  Recommended duration: 1.5 hours a week for 4–8 weeks.

Circle of Security international http://circleofsecurity.net

Enhancing secure attachment by children to parents through early intervention (birth to age 5), especially for children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start.

•  Eight discussion sessions, led by a trainer.

Common Sense Parenting http://www.cebc4cw .org/program/common -sense-parenting/detailed

Teaching parenting skills of communication, discipline, decision-making, relationships, and self-control; encouraging academic success

•  Target population: parents of children 6–16 years of age.

•  Duration: Weekly, 2-hour classes for 6 weeks, led by a certified trainer.

head Start http://www.acf.hhs.gov/ programs/ohs

Promoting school readiness of children under age 5 from low- income families through educa- tion, health, social and other services.

•  Target population: Low income families with children under age 5

•  Duration: Services are pro- vided every day, in centers and in homes.

the Incredible Years http://www.incredible years.com

Promoting children’s academic, social, and emotional compe- tence and reducing conduct problems

•  Delivery: Conducted in groups of 6–12 parents, in schools, clinics, and community agencies.

•  Target population: Parents of children from birth to 12 years of age, children 4–8 years old, and teachers and caregivers of young children.

•  Duration: 6 to 20 weeks.

nurturing Parenting Programs http://www.nurturing parenting.com

Building nurturing parenting skills, preventing recidivism of families receiving social services, lowering teen pregnancies, reducing juvenile delinquency and alcohol abuse, and stopping vicious cycle of abuse.

•  Target population: Families at risk of abuse and neglect of children all the way from birth to 18 years of age.

•  Duration: 5 to 55 sections, at home or in groups

(continued)

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Section 8.3Programs for Parent Training and Education

Parenting program Focus Additional information

Parent–Child Interaction Therapy (PCiT) international http://pcit.org and http://pcit .ucdavis.edu

Strengthening the parent–child bond and increasing children’s social skills while reducing harsh and ineffective discipline and control tactics and negative and maladaptive behaviors.

•  Target population: Children aged 2–7 years, those with behavior problems, in welfare settings, and exposed to violence.

•  Duration: 14–20 weeks. •  Delivery: Conducted in outpa-

tient settings with individual parent-child pairs, and direct coaching of the parent.