Work with parents has been defined as:

Services which aim to enable parents to enhance their parenting. These included formal and informal interventions to increase parenting skills, improve parent/child relationships, parenting insight, attitudes and behaviours, confidence in parenting and so on. (Barlow et al, 2007).

Some other definitions of work with parents are:

  • Work that specifically supports the parents relationship and management of their child.
  • Work which enables parents to be more effective in their parenting.
  • ’Treatment’ for a range of child conduct and attention problems
  • Work that develops close attunement between parents and infants.
  • Work which equips parents to manage behaviour more effectively.
  • Work which enhances parents confidence.
  • Work which improves parent-child interactions.

Other terms that are often used interchangeably (and in combination) but often mean different things include parenting support, family support, parent education and parent training.

It is important to make a distinction between parent support and parenting support. The former could refer to a wide range of activity which supports someone who is a parent, the latter is working specifically with a mum, dad or carer to enhance their parenting role - i.e. work with parents.

There are a large number of universal, targeted and specialist support services planned and commissioned, which are provided in different ways by a variety of agencies and partnerships throughout the UK.

Work with parents takes place in both group and one to one settings. There are a range of structured parenting programmes and interventions which have been developed for practitioners to use with parents, some of which have been assessed to evaluate how effective they are by the parenting commissioning toolkit.

Parenting programmes and interventions cover a range of topics and the right parenting programme or intervention needs to be selected for each parent, but typically they involve working together with parents to support them to:

  • Be more responsive to the needs of their children.
  • Have an improved (strong but warm) relationship with their children.
  • Use behavioural management techniques appropriately and effectively.
  • Use a range of tools to help manage their children's behaviour (learning and practicing ways of parenting that are not harsh or inconsistent).
  • Be more self-aware so they can improve family relationships.
  • Improve their own emotional health as well as their children’s.
  • Develop a better understanding of child development and how to use positive discipline techniques and strategies to promote children’s social skills, self-esteem and self-discipline.