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  Frequently Asked Questions from CWTB Facilitators

Frequently asked questions from Parents

For information on CWTB parent groups in Hamilton or any other questions, please call 905-521-2100 ext. 77406, or visit www.communityed.ca or
McMaster Childrens Hospital
.


  1. WHAT IF PARTICIPANTS ASK ABOUT SPOILING?
  2. WHAT IF PARTICIPANTS ASK ABOUT SPANKING?
  3. WHAT IF PARENT SUGGESTS ABUSIVE STRATEGIES?
  4. WHAT IF A PARENT REPORTS USING ABUSIVE STRATEGIES?
  5. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT IGNORING?
  6. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT ‘TIME OUT’?
  7. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT HITTING OR OTHER COMMON CHALLENGES?
  8. WHAT IF PARENTS REPORT TRYING AN APPROACH THAT DID NOT WORK?
  9. WHAT IF A PARENT IS CONCERNED ABOUT CONFLICT WITH THEIR PARTNER OVER PARENTING ISSUES?
  10. WHAT IF PARENTS ARE CONCERNED THAT SOME CHILDREN “ARE JUST BORN BRATS”?
  11. WHAT IF PARENTS LABEL THEMSELVES AS “BAD” PARENTS?
  12. WHAT IF PARENTS EXPRESS FRUSTRATION THAT FACILITATORS ARE NOT GIVING ADVICE IN RESPONSE TO SPECIFIC PROBLEMS?
  13. WHAT IF ARGUMENTS DEVELOP BETWEEN PARTICIPANTS?
  14. WHAT IF PARENTS CANNOT ATTEND ALL OF THE SESSIONS OR WISH TO ENROLL AFTER THE FIRST SESSION?

1. WHAT IF PARTICIPANTS ASK ABOUT SPOILING?
This is inevitable. For example, a parent may ask, “If I let my child make choices, won’t that spoil her? She needs to know who is in charge.” or “I praise my child all the time and I think it has spoiled him”. COPEing with Toddler Behaviour is a course that promotes positive parent-child relationships, not harsh discipline.

Facilitators should avoid giving advice, which would set up a situation where the facilitator answers parents’ questions (didactic, top-down, expert role). Didactic responses can elicit resistance from parents (e.g., the “yeah, but” phenomenon) and become confrontational. Although some participants may prefer direct answers from the facilitator, responses elicited from the group are more acceptable and parents are more likely to act on, and commit to, solutions they and/or their peers have come up with themselves.

So instead, when a parent asks about spoiling, encourage the group to consider the issue generally. For example,

“What does the group think about that?”

Try to use the opportunity to review what has been learned so far in the course. For example, you might ask

“What ideas did we get from our discussion in Session 1 about the different parenting styles and how they make children feel and behave?”

Repeat back any appropriate answers that parents give. For example,

“So when a Backbone parent gives his toddler age-appropriate choices, that gives the toddler the practice he needs in being independent and makes him feel important... And why is that important?”

or

“So when a toddler behaves in an appropriate way and a Backbone parent praises her, that encourages her to behave that way again, makes her feel good about herself, and helps to build a positive relationship.”

Consistently redirect the question to the group. For example,

“Any ideas about that? Do we have any clues from...?”

If appropriate, ask “leading” questions. For example,

“What would the child learn if this were a pattern?
How would that make the child feel?
What would the short- and long-term impact be?”

Tolerate and accept any “inappropriate” answers, allowing the group members to respond and deal with differing opinions.

Don’t let this discussion go on too long, as this could prevent you from covering that session’s agenda within the group time. When cutting off the discussion, it is important that the tone be respectful and appreciative, i.e., don’t let the parent feel that this was inappropriate to bring up, as it is a central question:

“This is a really big topic, one that probably every parent has wondered about. In fact, on the Community Resource Table we have information about spoiling, so please feel free to have a look at the break, but right now we need to move on to....”.

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2. WHAT IF PARTICIPANTS ASK ABOUT SPANKING?
There is a great deal of controversy in our society about the use of spanking as a behaviour management strategy. Currently, it is not illegal and not considered child abuse to spank a child as long as you do not use a tool or weapon, do not hit the child’s head, and do not leave a mark. However, research shows that spanking is not an optimal strategy, is less effective than other strategies, and can have negative outcomes for children and for parent-child relationships. When parents ask about spanking (e.g., “I was spanked and I’m ok”, “If we don’t spank our kids, they’ll have no discipline and end up joining gangs”), it is important to allow the group to explore this topic for themselves. Again, encourage the group to consider the issue generally:

e.g., “What does the group think about that?”

Suggest they consider what has been discussed so far in the course. For example,

“What type of parenting style would this strategy represent?”
“How would spanking your child make her feel?”
“If this strategy is used regularly, what would your child learn about himself, about you, about your relationship?”

Participants often have strong positive or negative feelings about spanking and discussions could go on longer than you have time for. Again, in a neutral, respectful manner, acknowledge this as a very important topic and the different opinions in the room. As this topic often comes up within the first half of the course, mention that each week other strategies will be discussed and can be used as a comparison (e.g., Session 5 – Model good behaviour). Finally, redirect parents to information about spanking on the Community Resource Table.

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3. WHAT IF PARENT SUGGESTS ABUSIVE STRATEGIES?
These strategies will usually be rejected as an option by the subgroup in which the parent is a member. If the strategy is accepted by the subgroup or you believe that parents may consider the strategy as a viable alternative, you should summarize the suggestion to the larger group (without identifying the parent suggesting), ask the group to consider the risks or negative consequences of the strategy, summarize the group’s conclusions, add risks or consequences which participants have not suggested, and conclude with a statement advising parents not to use the strategy.

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4. WHAT IF A PARENT REPORTS USING ABUSIVE STRATEGIES?
In this case you will need to follow provincial guidelines and report to child protection services. You may consider speaking first with the parent to discuss your concern and the guidelines which require you to report.

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5. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT IGNORING?
“Ignoring undesirable behaviour” is a parenting strategy that is included in several topics in the course (e.g., during Session 6: “I whine because it works”). Parents may question whether it is a positive parenting strategy (e.g., “It doesn’t work” OR “My worker told me I shouldn’t ignore my child”). Use leading questions to explore this strategy. For example,

“When you pay attention to whining, by telling your child to stop, what lesson does your child learn?”
“Should you ignore your child completely or just the whining?”

Ignoring is an important strategy to eliminate inappropriate behaviour because even negative attention is a form of attention and, therefore, a reward. A powerful combination parenting strategy is to ignore undesirable behaviour and praise desirable behaviour. Through leading questions, encourage participants to combine their use of ignoring bad behaviour with praise and attention for positive behaviour. For example,

“What else can you do while ignoring bad behaviour to encourage positive behaviour?”
(i.e. redirect, praise, model)

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6. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT ‘TIME OUT’
See Session 7 handout.

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7. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT HITTING OR OTHER COMMON CHALLENGES?
Parents will ask about common challenges (e.g., hitting, not listening, bedtime resistance, mealtime problems, sibling rivalry). These questions may be addressed in similar ways. For example, if a parent asks about hitting (e.g., “My child hits other children and I can’t get him to stop no matter what I do”). Keep in mind that toddlerhood is the most aggressive age group (even more so than adolescence). Ask the group for validation:

“Do any other people have toddlers who hit?”
“What do we know about typical toddler development and behaviours from Session 2 that would help us to think about this?”

and suggestions:

“What suggestions does the group have about dealing with hitting?”

Other parents sharing that their toddlers hit will normalize this behaviour. Help parents to make the link between hitting and temper tantrums (i.e., limited ability to handle and communicate strong emotions), and draw on the strategies discussed in the course as positive ways of preventing it or dealing with it (e.g., plan ahead, redirection, time out together). In Session 5, ‘modeling’ is discussed as a prevention strategy. Parents may find it helpful to see the connection between spanking and hitting;

“If you spank your child, what do they learn about hitting?”

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8. WHAT IF PARENTS REPORT TRYING AN APPROACH THAT DID NOT WORK?
Many good strategies yield their effects over time. If the approach seems appropriate but not used long enough, prompt the group to discuss:

  • whether immediate improvements should be expected;
  • how long improvement might take;
  • what lessons might the child learn from the new approach, even if there was no immediate improvement (e.g., when “setting limits,” challenging behaviours may initially escalate as the new limit is tested);
  • what would the child learn from long-term use of the new approach;
  • how long parents should persist in using the new approach;
  • what message parents communicate by applying the approach consistently over time;
  • the consequences of discontinuing the approach prematurely, and
  • the message communicated by giving up on a potentially beneficial approach.

Alternately, parents may wish to consider other strategies or approaches. In this case, prompt the group to consider alternative solutions (see Session 6: Solve Problems with PASTE). When a range of alternatives are available, explore the lessons taught, message communicated, and long term effect to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.

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9. WHAT IF A PARENT IS CONCERNED ABOUT CONFLICT WITH THEIR PARTNER OVER PARENTING ISSUES?
Parents often share their concern that their partner, who is not attending the course, is not willing to adopt the positive parenting strategies being discussed. Using group discussion, ask participants to consider the potential impact on their toddler of parents using different parenting styles. You may lead a discussion on the impact of inconsistency in parenting responses between parents vs. inconsistency by the same parent. The potential benefits of using joint problem-solving could be discussed, as well as the potential negative effect on the child when exposed to parental conflict. Ask the group to come up with some potential alternatives (e.g., taking home some handouts from the course, talking about issues at a time when the discussion can be calm, etc.)

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10. WHAT IF PARENTS ARE CONCERNED THAT SOME CHILDREN “ARE JUST BORN BRATS”? Sometimes parents come to the conclusion that their child was born “bad.” While this is an undesirable description, keep in mind that it reveals the parents’ feelings of powerlessness, frustration, and confusion. Reviewing what was learned in Session 3 about temperament (both toddler’s and parent’s) can help parents to get perspective on why their child behaves in ways that are frustrating and/or challenging (e.g., intense negative reaction to new things and/or places). How we label our children has an impact on how we respond to them, so a discussion about positive reframing can be helpful (e.g., “stubborn” = “persistent” or “not a quitter“ –see book “Raising Your Spirited Child”, Session 3 resource list, for more information and examples).

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11. WHAT IF PARENTS LABEL THEMSELVES AS “BAD” PARENTS?
Sometimes parents wonder if they are “bad” parents if their child behaves in undesirable ways. The foundational information in this course in the first three sessions should help them to gain perspective on why toddlers behave in certain ways and the importance of a positive parent-child relationship in guiding their child’s behaviour. Hearing that other people’s children behave in similar ways is often a relief, so whenever a parent raises a question about their toddler’s challenging behaviour(s), it is helpful to ask:

“Do any other people have toddlers who do this?”

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12. WHAT IF PARENTS EXPRESS FRUSTRATION THAT FACILITATORS ARE NOT GIVING ADVICE IN RESPONSE TO SPECIFIC PROBLEMS?
It is understandable that parents would hope for specific solutions to their specific problems. When facilitators step into an ‘expert’ role and offer advice, however, they inadvertently impede both learning and changes in parenting behaviour, due to the following:

  • resistence is elicited, taking form in “yeah but” responses;
  • parents stop trying to solve problems themselves;
  • parents step out of their role as ‘expert’ on their own child;
  • facilitators do not know the child (i.e., no formal assessment) and may give inappropriate advice; and
  • parents focus on situational solutions instead of using the positive parenting framework taught in the course through which to view and understand their own child’s behaviour.

Facilitators can respond to this frustration by restating it (to demonstrate understanding), by asking if others have similar concerns (to validate the feelings), and by asking the large group what the risks are when facilitators give advice and the benefits of reviewing concepts as a group each time a parenting problem is shared (i.e., considering concepts such as ‘connecting’ with your toddler, knowing who they are and what they can do, and building a healthy relationship, becomes automatic and more likely to be used at home).

Parents are hoping for a ‘once and for all’ strategy that, when used once, will eliminate all future occurrences of the undesirable behaviour. Ask the group,

“Can we eliminate all ‘bad’ behaviours?”

The inevitable consensus in the group will be that this expectation is unrealistic and this helps parents to put their child’s behaviour in perspective (i.e., typical) and to look, instead, at their overall parenting style and their relationship with their child as foundational to preventing and/or decreasing undesirable behaviours and encouraging more desirable behaviours.

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13. WHAT IF ARGUMENTS DEVELOP BETWEEN PARTICIPANTS?
While the group provides an important forum for the exchange of ideas, you may need to diffuse heated confrontations. This is particularly important during the early engagement phases of the group’s development when members are concerned that they be accepted by the group. Reluctant group members may find heated debates among more divergent group members quite anxiety-provoking. Disagreements may, for example, develop over issues such as spoiling versus practicing independence. If an intervention in the group’s discussion is deemed necessary, the facilitator might note that two alternative viewpoints have been proposed and encourage the group to reflect on the course content so far and apply it to the two different approaches. For example,

“How will it make the child feel?”

See also above regarding spoiling and spanking). Note that each member will ultimately decide what style of parenting he/she will adopt. During later sessions, the group will be capable of dealing more effectively with differing points of view.

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14. WHAT IF PARENTS CANNOT ATTEND ALL OF THE SESSIONS OR WISH TO ENROLL AFTER THE FIRST SESSION?
Parents often miss sessions, but facilitators should encourage parents to attend as many sessions as possible because the information is cumulative, and missed sessions early on will make it difficult to grasp concepts discussed in later sessions. It is recommended that parents not be permitted to join the group if they have missed the first two sessions. This is partly because they will have missed too much of the fundamental information to fully understand the more complex concepts, and partly because the addition of new members at or after this point on disrupts the development of a cohesive working group.

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