Do parenting styles and beliefs influence approaches to support work?

26 February 2015

Do parenting styles and beliefs influence approaches to support work?

For a while now I’ve been curious about how people’s parenting styles may impact on their approaches to support work.  A recent comment during person centred thinking training has me pondering this again:

“I’ve always thought about work with clients in the same way that I’ve brought up my kids – that they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with bad behaviour.  Today has made me think that it’s different though.  Maybe sometimes it doesn’t matter whether someone gets away with something, because maybe it was us that pushed them to that behaviour in the first place.  In fact, maybe clients are actually making sure that us staff don’t get away with something we’ve done thatthey see as bad behaviour.”

If there are even some people who naturally relate their support work to parenting, perhaps it’s helpful to look at the similarities and differences between the two roles to help people think mindfully about the ways they support people.  I am not yet a parent, so I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on this, I do have parents though, and I have heard a bunch of people talking about what it means to be a parent, so I’m going to share some thoughts anyway.

Firstly and perhaps obviously, there are important differences according to the age of the person who is receiving support.  I’m yet to meet any adult that really appreciates discipline, lectures, unsolicited nagging or advice from a peer or someone younger than them.  My brothers have been known to remind me of their ages during moments when I’ve forgotten to credit them with the wisdom to solve their own problems and make their own decisions.  The doughnut could be used with people who may want to let their staff know that they already have parents, and they don’t need their paid staff dabbling in that role as well.

When people can transfer parenting experiences of thinking on their feet, juggling multiple demands at the one time, attempting enthusiastic participation in things that they may not necessarily enjoy, and being positive role models, surely this can be helpful.  If people have managed to be the sorts of parents who can step back enough to allow learning from risk and diverse opportunities, while still providing the guidance necessary for making informed choices, they truly do possess helpful skills and experience to contribute to support work.  Parents, who are able to respond with warmth and empathy in the face of what can seem like extreme emotional reactions, also surely bring valuable qualities.


My top 5 beliefs about parenting………………….

How does this help in providing an enabling approach to support work? What should I keep doing?……………

How does this get in the way of enabling approaches to support work? What should I change?……………….


I wonder if something like this could help people reflect in training or team meetings.  I imagine it could be quite challenging and would need to be facilitated with sensitivity.

The more I look at this, the more unqualified I feel to draw any kind of conclusion from my musings.  Instead, I’ve found myself moving on to wonder if in fact skills and experience from support work can be used in preparation for parenthood.  When I reflect on my own background in support work, I can at least recall the important tricks for preventing nappy leakage – although, I’m not completely confident that this will translate to the cloth nappies that we’ve chosen to use.  Perhaps it’s tiredness, or the mental fog of pregnancy, but I’m having trouble thinking of tangible things beyond this.  Those of you who have had the opportunity to both be parents and support workers, help me with out with some tips? Where is the crossover?  Where is the link unhelpful? Is hoping that a background in support work will serve as useful preparation for motherhood completely naïve or do I perhaps have some strengths to draw on here?  Fellow trainers, have you asked support workers about their parenting beliefs and had them reflect on how this influences their work?  If so, what have you heard? Is there something we can share more broadly in relation to this?  Email me and let me know, or leave a comment here…

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