You often hear parents bemoaning the fact that children don't come with instructions. Many people become parents without the skills needed to be effective parents in their children's lives. It is important to support these parents in developing the skills and strategies they need to nurture their children. As we have discussed in prior posts, research consistently shows that parenting quality is the strongest factor contributing to children’s success (for examples see theses prior posts 1, 2, 3, & 4). In a recent post, we explored the role of parenting quality in language learning. A longitudinal study showed that while many things impact a child’s learning of language, such as word counts, environment, income, education, and social status, none of these affected a child more than parenting quality. Parenting quality can include feedback tone, responsiveness, symbolic emphasis, and guidance style. Improving parenting increases the likelihood that children will succeed educationally, socially, and economically.
Having children is like living in a frat house - nobody sleeps, everything's broken, and there's a lot of throwing up. ― Ray Romano
A parenting assessment can accurately gauge a parent's current strengths, as well as his or her weaknesses. With this information, assessing parenting can guide parents to greater success in nurturing their children. The potential value of parenting assessment is so great that the Department for Education in the UK has called for universal parenting assessment. For a few examples of the value of assessing parenting, read more below.
Finding Strengths & Building Partnerships
In one Voices from the Field article in KIPS TIPS, Nohemi Ortega, Program Supervisor at Yuma Parents as Teachers, Easter Seals Blake Foundation in Arizona, shares how assessing parenting with KIPS helps parents identify their areas of strength, as well as areas that they can improve. The Parent Educator partners with parents to help identify areas themselves. Nohemi reports that assessing parenting creates an environment where the parents are more active participants in goal planning. Settings where pre-set generic questions are asked and parents are evaluated on their answers can cause a defensive stance by parents. The feeling that they are being judged creates a formidable lack of cooperation from the parents. In contrast, actively partnering with parents around the parent assessment results in a dynamic supportive interaction that helps parents evaluate themselves and explore possible improvements. Presented in this way, assessing parenting helps overcome the hurdle of parental resistance to participation sometimes faced by staff and organizations that are there to help.
Resistance is not typically the case. There are many times when parents are seeking help when they feel there is a problem. In instances such as these, the parents are eager to participate and identify opportunities to improve. In another Voices from the Field article in KIPS TIPS, Yolanda Beltran from Catholic Charities in Santa Clara County, California, a First 5-funded program, shares a story of a father seeking help. Dad had been mostly absent from his four-year-old daughter's life, then reached a point where he was able to have regular visits every other week. However, because Dad was remarried with a new child as well, his daughter struggled to make the adjustment. By observing and assessing his parenting, Dad and Yolanda were able to not only identify his strengths, but also where his skills were weak, so they could work together to strengthen the skills he needed to build a better relationship with his daughter.
Helping the Helper
Families receiving services are not the only beneficiaries of parenting assessments. In another Voices from the Field article in KIPS TIPS by Nicole Buchholz, an Early Childhood Program Evaluator at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Nicole shares how, as a mother of two young boys and a KIPS coder, she gained insights that improved her own parenting. The tools she uses to assess other parents helped her improve her parenting as well.
For a detailed discussion of the value of assessing parenting for service programs see our paper, Building a Strong Program for Families and Staff By Assessing What Matters to Children: Their Parents’ Behavior.
While no parent is perfect and there is always room for improvement, the higher the parenting quality, the better the chances the child has for success. James Heckman, Nobel Laureate, claims supporting parents of young children is the best investment we can make.
By improving parenting we change the course of that child for a whole life time. Because people tend to parent how they were parented, by using parenting assessment information, we can improve the course for future generations as well. Using a validated assessment tool in working with parents to identify, improve, and implement new parenting skills results in children who have better skills in their lives, including social-emotional skills, learning skills, language skills, and more. With so many aspects of a child’s life affected by the skills parents possess, it is essential to help parents develop their skills to be the best they can be, for the sake of this and future generations of children.
Assess What Matters to Children
Download our paper on Nine Ways Parenting Assessment Can Make a Difference in Your Program.
Learn How Parenting Assessment:
1. Documents evidence of parenting outcomes
2. Tailors services to individual parenting strengths and needs
3. Monitors progress and guides service planning
4. Reinforces parenting progress and confidence
5. Serves as a parenting check-up as children develop
6. Shifts staff focus from child to parent-child interactions
7. Offers a common language for staff , families and programs
8. Builds reflective practice during supervision
9. Informs continuous quality improvement for staff and programs