‘Parents these days’ are judged too harshly

The ConversationThe following article was first published in The Conversation. At the time of publication, it was the second-most read article authored by a University of Queensland staff member. It has been published in print in The Melbourne Age and online at The Washington Post.

I need to start with a confession: I’m not a parent.

I am someone who investigates how science can help parents deal with the sleepless nights, the fussy eaters, the sibling rivalry, the intrusive in-laws, and a career that favours fulltime hours.

I certainly don’t know what it feels like to hold your own child in your arms and to see that same child grow to become an independent human being.

I haven’t experienced these things.

What I have experienced, though, is the growing and seemingly widespread view that parents these days aren’t doing a good job – that in fact they’re doing a “crap” job.

Parents are out of touch, we’re told, and too soft. They give in to their kids too easily. They’re over-involved helicopter parents, or under-involved don’t care parents. Or they could be bulldozer or lawn-mower parents, the ones who smooth the way for their child’s transition through life and make life difficult for everyone else in the process.

This is the old “kids these days” narrative but applied to parents.

Read more

Independent evaluation of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program shows population-level health benefits across an entire community

It’s been years in the making but now that the findings have been released, it’s immensely heartening to see that those who deserve the credit in Ireland are gaining the recognition they deserve.

The results of an independent evaluation conducted by a research team from the National University of Ireland in Galway into a population-wide rollout of Triple P were launched in Athlone, in the Irish Midlands, this week.

And the findings, which included a 37.5 per cent drop in the numbers of children with clinically elevated levels of social, emotional and behavioural problems, show just how powerful local partnerships can be when they share a vision to support all parents in the task of raising their children.

Read more

When spanking is at the heart of controversy, so are the myths. Ron Prinz weighs into the debate in a South Carolina newspaper

Spanking and corporal punishment can set off a firestorm of debate under any circumstances.

Add a high-profile NFL case, and we have a recipe for a vigorous public dialogue about parenting, child abuse and best practices.

Public debate is healthy. Unfortunately, this one tends to be marked by myths and distracting generalities.

Myth No. 1: All spanking is child abuse and therefore should be banned. Fact: Most spanking episodes in fact do not rise to child abuse.

Myth No. 2: Parents who spank are bad parents, and spanked children will suffer poor outcomes. Fact: Parents who spank represent a very broad spectrum, ranging from effective to abusive. Generally speaking, children fare well if their families provide a warm, structured and safe environment with appropriate encouragement as well as discipline and limit-setting — whether parents spank or not.

Myth No. 3: Parents who do not spank are effective parents. Fact: Not necessarily. There are many other elements that go into what makes parents more or less effective.

We have all seen an out-of-control child running amok in the grocery store. And we have heard bystanders comment, “What that child needs is a good lickin.”

However, we also have observed parent-child struggles where the young child acts up in the market, is yelled at, continues to act up, gets slapped or spanked and a few minutes later acts up again.

In such common scenarios, the fundamental question is not whether to spank. Instead, it is how parents get into such predicaments and how they can extricate themselves or, better yet, prevent such events.

Read more

shutterstock_201856354

‘A society which views smacking as acceptable is one in which children are far more at risk of being exposed to abuse’

When it comes to parenting, no other issue seems to invite as much debate. Even the Prime Minister has an opinion. And many appear to agree with him.

“What’s wrong with a good smack every now and again?’’ I often get asked. Usually, the answer is provided for me: “It didn’t hurt me as a kid.’’

Because Triple P doesn’t try to tell parents what not to do, I’ve often avoided a confrontational approach when it comes to stating the case against smacking.

Rather than say that what they were doing was wrong, I would suggest to parents that the problem with smacking is that it simply doesn’t work and that there are plenty of other strategies that do.

But now I’ve changed my mind, simply because the evidence shows that a society which views smacking as acceptable is one in which children are far more at risk of being exposed to abuse.

Read more