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How to Listen so Parents will Talk and Talk so Parents will Listen Working Effectively with Parents John Sommers-Flanagan, Ph.D.Department of Counselor Education, University of Montana – firstname.lastname@example.org Tip sheets and resources: johnsommersflanagan.com
Why a Workshop on Working with Parents? • Opening survey • Maybe . . . • It’s easy to be afraid of (or angry at) parents • Parents have special needs and interests • Parents can be very critical consumers • Parents sometimes say things that throw us off our helping/counseling game (Bite-back)
Workshop Overview • This workshop is rated “PG” • A blend of personal discoveries and evidence • Caveats and excuses • This is YOUR workshop • Talking and not talking • Communicate respectfully • We will never get finished
Role Play Volunteer • Just come up and tell me about (and you can exaggerate) some hassles you’re facing at work.
A Way of Being with Parents • The Principles • Empathic understanding – Avoid premature problem-solving • Radical acceptance – Avoid judgment • Collaboration – Work with, not on • Summary: Listen before you educate
Empathy • Two forms of empathy with parents • General – It’s hard to be a parent; parents are judged – Dear Abby example • Specific – Clean your room story • Some parents REALLY NEED to tell you a parenting story
Radical Acceptance as Attitude • Radical Acceptance as an Attitude (from DBT) “I accept you as you are and am fully committed to helping you change” • Don’t say this, but use it especially when parents say something extreme
Radical Acceptance as Skill • Parent Volley: “I know it’s not popular, but I believe in spanking. When I was a kid, if I talked back I’d be picking myself up off the floor. Kids don’t have any discipline these days and as a parent, I have a right to parent my kids any way I want.” • Teacher/Counselor Return: “Thanks for being so honest about what you’re thinking. Lots of people believe in spanking and I’m glad you’re being straight with me about your beliefs.”
Radical Acceptance Follow-Up • Parent Response: “Yeah. Okay.” • Teacher/Counselor Return: “But I’m not all that positive about the picking yourself up off the floor thing.” • Parent Response: “Oh no. I didn’t mean I think that’s right.”
Practicing Radical Acceptance • Group participation – Volunteer example • Thank you . . . because . . . • What words work well for you? • Practice this . . . It won’t just happen spontaneously
Collaboration • How do we facilitate collaboration? • Collaboration as an attitude: Not knowing or understanding too quickly [Difficult] • Ask permission • Tell parents YOU WANT TO work with them • Tell parents you respect their knowledge
In Sum: The Philosophy • Because parents are vulnerable . . . • We are empathic, accepting, collaborative • We look for positive goals and love [Reframe] underneath anger and imperfect parenting • We join with the most difficult parents to help them support their children’s education
Self-Preparation • Preparing for button-pushing • Responding to questions about your credentials or competence (or lack of parenthood) • Self-disclosure: When and how much and what kind? [Joining, empathic]
Initial Contact, Connection, and Assessment • Meet, greet, and comfort: What do you use to countercondition fear? • Role induction: As needed, explain the terrain • If needed, obtain and provide a problem description (homework, classroom behavior)
Video Clip 1 • Watch for: • Expressions of support and compliments • Identifying goals • Backward behavior modification
Understanding the Parent-Teacher-Adult Influence Model • What parents want • Parents generally want to know how to be a positive force or influence in their children’s lives . . . So their children turn out relatively happy and free (e.g., not in prison)
Approaches to Power/Influence • Direct Power: Behavior modification, etc. • Indirect Power: Modeling, manipulating • Problem-Solving Power: Mutual problem-solving; solution-focused questions • Relationship Power: Special time
Parenting Techniques • The new attitude (eliminate the dread) • Grandma’s Rule and passionate rewards and boring punishment (direct power) • Character feedback (indirect power) • Special time (relationship power) • Mutual problem-solving (problem-solving power)
Video Clip 2 • Watch for: • Who’s talking now • What parent-child dynamics are being addressed • Mutual problem-solving
Closing Comments • What will you remember? • What will you try out? • You’re the kind of teachers/counselors
For Free Parenting Tip Sheets and Homework Assignments go to: • To access 10 tip sheets and/or “follow” John’s blog go to: johnsommersflanagan.com