Labelling parents is negative and doesn’t help children, psychologist says
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Labelling parents is negative and doesn’t help children, psychologist says

by Freya Lucas

April 16, 2019

Labels for specific parenting styles, from the over protective “helicopter” parents, to the lackadaisical “free-range” parents, are often negative and unhelpful to parents, Parenting Research Centre CEO,and child psychologist Warren Cann has said.


Speaking on the Feed Play Love podcast, Mr Cann said that applying negative parenting labels is nearly always based on anecdotal observations, and can be counter productive in supporting parents in their complex and challenging roles.


Mr Cann cautioned that over generalisation can sometimes mean parents are criticised by professionals and onlookers for doing “perfectly normal things”.


“How do you decide if you are an overprotective parent? Do you tick enough of the boxes to qualify? And when do you qualify? Being labelled in this way could potentially damage your confidence and I don’t think that is very helpful. In the end I think we need to move away from these broad unhelpful labels and focus more on what is happening for the child.”


He recommended that early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals, and others in the circle of support for families focus on what works, and what is effective for each child and family, being able to adapt advice, support and strategies according to each child’s needs.


Child temperament matters


Mr Cann also noted the role that temperament plays in determining parenting style, saying that parenting is not a level playing field, and that any child is going to bring to the table a set of characteristics that are going to impact on the way they are parented.


“So, first of all accept this is not just about the parent and beyond that, it is good to learn to value and accept a child’s temperament. It is what makes them different and special. So, learning to appreciate that style can be helpful so families and professionals then won’t inadvertently or deliberately put pressure on a child to be someone they’re not,” Mr Cann said.


He added that having an awareness of a child’s temperament can help ECEC professionals and parents to predict where a child’s strengths and challenges lie, and anticipate (and provide extra support for) challenging situations.


“That doesn’t mean totally reinventing our approach for every child but it does mean tinkering or tailoring our approach so our child does get the best opportunity to learn the lessons that we are attempting to teach them as they grow up,” Mr Cann said.


The podcast is available to listen to here.

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