Not many YOTs have parenting workers these days. This is unfortunate.
So I asked my friend and parenting expert Kelly Cox to summarise why parenting work has a place in youth offending teams.
Here’s what she said…
Why is Parenting important within Youth Justice?
The parenting worker role…
Youth Justice Practitioners aim to reduce first time entrants in to the Youth Justice System and reduce re-offending.
Part of that role is to include parents. The Youth Justice Board’s Case Management Guidance states;
‘Parenting Interventions are designed to provide additional support to parents. The aim is to:
- Improve their relationships with their children
- Reduce negative factors
- Strengthen protective factors such as positive and consistent discipline and constructive supervision’
Whilst I agree with this being the ultimate goal for young people, we often forget that while consistent discipline and constructive supervision may be needed for young people, it is not always that simple.
A parent once told me that her Social Worker advised her to remove her son’s mobile phone when he is next verbally aggressive toward her and to return it when he has learnt his lesson.
This parent trusted this suggestion and removed the phone. What happened next led to this young person coming to Youth Justice for a pre-court intervention. The young person assaulted his Mum – when Mum tried to remain strong and keep hold of the phone that he was fighting to get, she was injured. He was arrested for assault.
This is lose, lose situation. Nobody wins. Mum gets injured, the child gets prosecuted – no-one is any further forward.
I am not for one minute saying that we do not punish a young person for misbehaving. What I am suggesting is that we must first assess whether or not a particular ‘punishment’ is going to help.
Meet the real needs…
As part of an assessment we learnt that this young man was functioning developmentally much lower than is normal for a 15 year old.
After completing a developmental mapping exercise with the family it appeared that emotionally this young person was functioning at about 4-5 years old.
Just imagine a 4-5 year old having their absolute favourite toy taken from them because of something that they did. We would get a tantrum – this boy was having a 4-5 year old tantrum, but in a 15yr old body! That’s why it got dangerous.
My support – as parenting specialist – was then tailored to suit this young man’s needs as well as his mum’s needs.
She was a single parent who had been in abusive relationships for most of his life and so much of their earlier experiences had not been so positive for this young man or for his mum. Mum was doing her best as a single parent and wanted the best for her son. But he was stuck in his development.
Why parenting work matters…
So why are Youth Justice Practitioners key to breaking this cycle of abuse and violence within the home?
Because we can help rebuild this relationship between parent and child.
We can assess the family’s needs and offer parent coaching. My training offers practitioners the tools to do this coaching.
Parenting is not about controlling your children it’s about guiding them to their positive path of choice.
Parent Coaching in a Nut Shell…
- Different responses – Responding to a child’s aggression with equal grown up aggression only adds fuel to the fire. Coaching parents to respond differently to young people, with their individual needs in mind can go a long way to rebuilding the relationship.
- Compassion & calmness – Responding to a child’s aggression with calmness and compassion will lead more in the way of dampening the fire. Coach parents to do this, don’t just tell them. Acting calmly to verbal aggression is extremely difficult, practice this with parents.
- Self-management comes first – When you shout your heart inevitably beats faster, therefore increasing your arousal levels. Give parents alternative ways to manage anxieties and emotions. Once a parent is able to recognise and manage their own emotions they will become more readily available to support their young people.
- Dump the control freakery – Parenting is not about controlling your children it is about guiding them to their positive path of choice.
Please visit my page for more information on training and parent coaching.
YOT staff are regular visitors to homes and families where bringing up the kids is a struggle.
Wherever possible, lending some support and advice to parents can be a real help in bolstering the strengths in the family, and in helping young people to avoid getting into further trouble.
Visit Kelly’s page for more information and advice on how to do this.
What do you think?…
- Do you work with parents? What advice would you give for doing this better?
- Are there particular things that YOT workers can do to help?
- Please let us know your thoughts (I’ll pass them on to Kelly, too!)… Leave a comment below or click here.
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