When I found out about ParentWorks my first thought was simply: “Finally”.
- Finally a parenting support program you can access even if you work.
- Finally something that doesn’t require paperwork, waiting lists, wads of cash or navigating a maze of different service providers.
- Finally a program that mums and dads can do together at home on their own time.
- Finally a service that doesn’t just acknowledge the importance of dads, but makes a real effort to include them.
ParentWorks is a self-directed, free online program for parents who are concerned about their child/ren’s behaviour or just want to learn more effective parenting skills. It grew out of a survey of fathers across Australia conducted by the “Like Father Like Son” research project at the University of Sydney. It found that only 10-15% of fathers turn up when their child is seeing someone about behavioural issues (for a bunch of reasons, work being a major one), but also found that most dads would happily participate in an online program if one were offered.
So, what’s it like? Before you start there are a bunch of detailed questions to answer about you and your children. This information will feed into future research and future programs; so it’s important you do it and take it seriously.
The program is set into modules, each designed to be looked at in one go and then put into practice over a week. The modules take under half an hour and are a series of videos, and short questions finished off with a task for you to focus on for the week. You cannot access the next module for one week, which gives you the chance to hone in on one aspect of parenting at a time.
As for the advice it gives? It is practical, positive and realistic.
For example: Module One asks you to identify 5 positive behaviours you want to see in your child, and try to reward them through the week in different ways. Not that complicated, right? But it can make a world of difference as your child starts to get attention for positive, rather than negative, behaviour. Later modules include: responding to misbehaviour, sibling conflict and bullying. There’s loads of useful, highly relevant, and effective stuff.
The program is pitched really well. The tone is informative, without being patronising, and is built on authentic research into effective parenting. At no point did I watch it and think, “oh god, I’ve really screwed up my kids”. Instead I found myself thinking, “oh, that makes sense” a lot.
I loved this gem of a quote:
“We can’t change children’s genetics and biology, but we can change what we do as parents”
ParentWorks is a great initiative that can help a lot of parents, especially dads who have difficulty accessing traditional services. So, if you have concerns about your child’s behaviour or development, ParentWorks is certainly worth a shot. It’s low-pressure, self-directed and it is built to work around the rest of your life.