18 December 2023

An inspiring journey to better parenting

Being a parent can be a bumpy ride. Parents can easily feel isolated, and powerless to help their children. More than anything else, many parents lack the confidence to be the parents they would like to be.

Parents attending activities at the Baytree Centre in Brixton, South London certainly felt that they wanted support on a range of issues they were facing with their children. Good communication in the family, setting boundaries around technology and managing teenage emotions were some of the areas where they saw the need for help.

Baytree Centre’s mission is to “inspire and support women and girls to gain the skills, confidence and wisdom they need to thrive in life, work and family”. So, with this mission in mind, the Baytree Centre team lost no time in looking for someone who could deliver this important project.

Time-tested strategies

They found Caroline Candia, a DHEF volunteer and co-founder, with her husband Ciro, of ProParent, a new outreach which gives parenting guidance around the UK.  In partnership with ProParent, local mothers were invited to join six “empowering workshops”, from October to December 2023, which aimed to take them on a “Journey to Confident Parenting”. 

Caroline was keen to be part of this venture. “I think it is essential to have programmes which give parents the confidence to engage with their children positively by putting into practice time-tested mindsets and strategies,” she says. As a mother of seven children and having worked as a teacher for 30 years, Caroline has a wealth of experience to share. 

17 local mums from the Brixton area signed up for the workshops, each bringing her own needs and challenges. Some of the mothers are single parents, some have several children across a large age range and many of them are immigrants with English as their second or third language. All came with the desire to improve their parenting skills.

Different parenting styles

“Where are we going?” is the first question Caroline put to the group. The direction she suggested was towards a family culture of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices.

Looking at different parenting styles gave the mums an opportunity to assess their own style and think about what might work better. Overprotective parents risk stifling their children, while authoritarian parenting can be overbearing. The child is not in charge of the parents, so permissive parenting, where the child rules the roost, is not good. A good style is authoritative parenting, which is about a loving discipline approach that allows parent and child to grow. 

Growing in virtue

At the heart of the six workshops was a focus on growth in virtue. So whether the discussion was about managing technology, developing good study habits or creating a peaceful home, they all hinged on implementing four essential virtues; right judgement, responsibility, courageous perseverance and self-control. These are also known as the cardinal virtues; prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

“I found the main issues which mothers brought to the sessions were communicating effectively with their children, discipline, and also setting boundaries and managing emotions,” says Caroline. In tackling all of these, Caroline wanted the mums to set high expectations. “Nobody rises to low expectations” was a motivational quotation included in one of her PowerPoint presentations.

First educators

Caroline is passionate about helping parents to get into the driving seat of their children’s lives. “As the first educators of their children, parents need to be empowered to raise their children according to their family values, so that they can form young men and women of integrity in an age of confusing parenting theories and messages.”

For the women who travelled with Caroline along the “Journey to Confident Parenting”, the workshop sessions made a real difference. “Gaining an insight into better parenting”, was the positive feedback from one mum. Another mum came to realise that the solution to an unwanted behaviour from a child was “not to withdraw your love” but to give “unconditional love”. 

Other mums found it helpful to hear about different styles of parenting and understand how the teenage brain develops, thereby finding patient solutions to the challenges posed by teenagers’ impulsive and sometimes unpredictable behaviour or emotions. One participant welcomed being able to “reflect on and assess my parental journey with my kids”, while another valued “becoming more confident in setting boundaries and chores around the house.”

And for Caroline? “For me, the highpoint of this project was meeting inspiring mothers who want to be the best parents they can for their children. It’s never too late to help form your children in the virtues.”

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