Project launched to change the conversation about parenting
Helping Australians understand that improving parenting is an achievable goal will require a radical communications shift for those who work with and for families, a major new research project shows.
The project, involving more than 7600 Australians and building on five years of child development research, is a partnership between the Parenting Research Centre and the FrameWorks Institute. It shows that many current efforts to communicate about effective parenting are counterproductive. This is because most people see parenting as an innate and individual pursuit and don’t see parenting support as the responsibility of society more broadly.
This view prevents us from thinking strategically about investing in parenting support. Also, it prevents parents from seeking help when they need it. So, in order to increase public support for actions and changes that will improve parenting we need to change the way we talk about supporting parents.
The research has found that we need a new ‘master narrative’ that involves talking about parenting in terms of child development rather than parents being effective.
Building on productive thinking
“There are rich and productive ways of thinking about parenting; the problem is they exist alongside more dominant and negative ways of thinking,” said Dr Nat Kendall-Taylor, CEO of the FrameWorks Institute and lead author of the research.
“These are unintentionally ‘switched on’ by what we choose to highlight in our communications about parenting so our communications need to consider this. We need to tap into the productive thinking and avoid triggering widespread misconceptions about parenting. These include ‘parenting comes naturally’ or ‘how you were parented determines the type of parent you will be’.”
Dr Kendall-Taylor and colleague Dr Emilie L’Hote recently led two Reframing Parenting summits held in Sydney and Melbourne. Leaders from government and community agencies came together at the summits to discuss a new communications approach.
More than 150 guests attended the events and workshopped how they might communicate differently with parents in their work.
Acting CEO of the Parenting Research Centre Associate Professor Julie Green said the research shed new light on current communications practices.
“The findings from this work are unequivocal,” Associate Professor Green said.
“They show that we need to reframe our messages to focus on how children develop, what supports them to develop well and how parenting impacts on this.
“If we want to give children the best chance of development we need to better support their parents. Communicating this way significantly changes how people think about what parents need.”
Government and community backing
The research project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, the Department of Education and Training Victoria, the NSW Government Department of Family and Community Services and The Benevolent Society.
It builds on previous work from the Parenting Research Centre and the Frameworks Institute that mapped the gaps between what the science says about parenting what the community believes.