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  Frequently Asked Questions from RFTS Facilitators

Frequently asked questions from Parents

For information on RFTS 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 PARENTS ASK ABOUT HOW TO RESPOND TO CRYING?
  3. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT SLEEP ISSUES?
  4. WHAT IF PARENTS REPORT TRYING AN APPROACH THAT DID NOT WORK?
  5. WHAT IF PARENT SUGGESTS ABUSIVE STRATEGIES?
  6. WHAT IF A PARENT REPORTS USING ABUSIVE STRATEGIES?
  7. WHAT IF A PARENT IS CONCERNED ABOUT CONFLICT WITH THEIR PARTNER OVER PARENTING ISSUES?
  8. WHAT IF PARENTS ARE CONCERNED THAT SOME CHILDREN “ARE JUST BORN BRATS”?
  9. WHAT IF PARENTS EXPRESS FRUSTRATION THAT FACILITATORS ARE NOT GIVING ADVICE IN RESPONSE TO SPECIFIC PROBLEMS?
  10. WHAT IF ARGUMENTS DEVELOP BETWEEN PARTICIPANTS?
  11. 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 pick up my baby when she cries, won’t that spoil her?” Right from the Start is an attachment-based course that promotes consistent, sensitive responding (i.e., you can’t spoil a baby).

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 ‘A Simple Gift: Comforting Your Baby’ to help us think about this?”

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

“So when you pick up your baby that makes her feel secure.”

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.

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2. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT HOW TO RESPOND TO CRYING?
This type of question can be handled in a manner similar to questions about spoiling (see above). If it doesn’t come up in the group, make sure to elicit possible medical reasons for excessive infant crying (e.g., illness, teething, pain). In addition, facilitators should be empathic, especially in cases of excessive and/or nighttime infant crying.

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3. WHAT IF PARENTS ASK ABOUT SLEEP ISSUES?
This type of question can be handled in a manner similar to questions about spoiling (see above). If it doesn’t come up in the group, make sure to elicit possible medical reasons for sleep problems (e.g., illness, teething, pain). In addition, facilitators should be empathic. If there is time, ask parents to consider “what’s typical?”, “why may your baby not be a ‘perfect’ sleeper?”. Issues that may be discussed include: responding to cues versus helping the child to learn to fall asleep on their own, nighttime security, parental sleep deprivation... At what point does night waking and crying become a problem that needs to be fixed? Try not to let discussions about sleep take the group off on a tangent. Also, do not supply advice and/or suggestions, but help the parents consider sleep issues through their newly learned concepts of attachment. In order to get back to the session’s agenda, refer parents to resources on the Community Resource Table that they may look at during the break.

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4. WHAT IF PARENTS REPORT TRYING AN APPROACH THAT DID NOT WORK?
Many approaches yield their effects over time. Prompt the group to discuss: (1) whether immediate improvements should be expected, (2) how long improvement might take, (3) what lessons might the child learn from the new approach, even if there was no immediate improvement (e.g., child crying persisted despite parent providing comfort, was this a valuable lesson), (4) what would the child learn from long-term use of the new approach, (5) how long parents should persist in using the new approach, (6) what message parents communicate by applying the approach consistently over time, (7) the consequences of discontinuing the approach prematurely, and (8) the message communicated by giving up on a potentially beneficial approach.

Alternately, parents may wish to consider a different approach. In this case, prompt the group to consider alternative solutions. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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 infant, knowing who they are and what they can do, and building a healthy relationship, becomes automatic and more likely to be used at home).

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10. 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 (“Can a child be too attached?”) versus 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). 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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11. 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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