To find out what parents think about the booklet we have communicated to them face-to-face and have carried out a questionnaire survey in the three project partner countries, Poland, Germany and the UK.Our main goal was to find out whether the booklet succeeds in
- Promoting non-violent, positive parenting
- Increasing parents’ arguments against smacking
- Helping parents to understand why children behave in certain ways, to see the child’s perspective
Each partner organisation carried out three focus groups with between 15 -18 parents participating per country. The questionnaires were disseminated together with the booklet (see Dissemination) and could also be downloaded from the project partners’ websites. In the UK, 136 questionnaires were received and evaluated, in Poland 200 of the 350 returned were evaluated and in Germany 700 of the 1100 questionnaires.
Parents were not asked to provide information on their socio-economic or ethnic background.
Do Polish, German and British Parents think alike?
In general, parents gave very positive feedback on the booklet. Regardless of their nationality, the majority of parents considered the booklet to be useful and important. It was interesting for us to see that, despite the three countries’ different historical backgrounds and socio-political developments- which respectively shaped each society and its relationship to children and child-raising- the trans-national similarities of parents’ responses outweighed the differences.
When parents in all three partner countries were asked if they think that the letter highlights the advantage of positive parenting, over two third of UK parents, 67,5 % of Polish and 91,7% of German parents answered that it did.
For one third of Polish parents, 17,6% of UK parents and 7% of German parents it highlighted the advantage "to some extent".
The majority of parents in all three countries agreed on the usefulness of the concrete advice and support contained in the booklet to prevent or handle conflicts positively (GER 86,3%, PL 65%, UK 69,9%). Parents’ responses show that there is a great demand for concrete advice based on real life scenarios of common family stress situations.
Parents' feedback on the question as to whether the letter helps them to understand their children's needs and the reasons behind child's challenging behaviour better showed virtually unanimous responses; only 0,9% of German parents, 3,7% of UK parents and no Polish parent felt that the booklet did not help them to better understand their children's behaviour.
Based on the answers, especially to the open-ended questions, we were able to draw out some central themes.
I am not alone
“The booklet is comforting, it shows I am not alone, others have very similar problems.” (Parent from Poland)
The booklet’s emphatic style and its “can-do” rather than “must-not-do” approach received many positive comments. Highly appreciated were the real life scenarios of common family stress situations that run through the booklet. Parents felt relieved to see that many of the difficulties and insecurities that they face are common and experienced by a majority of parents.
“In every situation I saw myself - I’ve had exactly the same.” (Parent from the UK)
On a scale of “not important at all” and “very important”, 76% of parents from all three countries together judged the real life scenarios as either an important or very important part of the booklet.
Understanding children’s behaviour better
“Sometimes I treat my son as an adult. I forget that he is only nine and that he doesn’t understand the adult world.” (Parent from Poland)
Parents’ feedback demonstrated that understanding children’s need and the reasons behind a child’s challenging behaviour diminishes parents’ frustration and anger- which in turn helps to prevent the escalation of conflict.
“Understanding how things affect children leads to a closer relationship.” (Parent from the UK)
The written comments we received suggest that seeing the child’s perspective brings parents closer to their children and allows them to respond in a manner that respects the child’s specific developmental stage and needs more appropriately.
Demand for concrete advice
The responses show that one booklet is not enough to quench parents’ thirst for positive parenting advice. The comments demonstrate that there is a great demand for concrete advice and support to prevent or handle conflict positively. The great majority of parents stated that they had believed in raising their children without smacking before reading the booklet. Nonetheless, the feedback we received shows that even parents who are opposed to smacking don’t always find it easy to adhere to their principles.
“I never wanted to do it but it has happened a few times” (Parent from the UK)
Many parents said they would like to be provided with even more real life scenarios and pointers on how to handle difficult situations more adequately - i.e. addressing a greater variety of potential conflict situations and catering for a wider range of children’s age groups. Some parents’ from the UK and Germany commented on their positive experience with parenting classes and found that the booklet was a good means of refreshing what they had learned previously.
Taking the responses from all three countries together, the booklet’s information on “what to do when a situation escalates” received an 81% scoring in terms of its importance (UK 59,6%, PL 91%, GER 90,2%).
“The booklet serves as a reminder of how important it is to stay calm in stressful situations and to respond to the child in a just way.” (Parent from Germany)
Providing concrete guidelines and instruction on parenting is not always possible. Parents are not all the same and neither are children. For many situations there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and what works for some might not work for others. However, some generally valid principles do exist, such as the importance of setting boundaries, praise not punishment, securing quality time together, etc. And since a great need for more information and support on positive parenting could clearly be identified in all three countries, addressing this demand should become an integral part in the fight against corporal punishment, for both governments and civil society organisations in Europe.For further direct feedback from parents see Parents' Quotes