What to do When Parenting Views Differ


Culture greatly influences parenting attitudes and behaviors. Therefore, you and the families you work with probably have different ideas about what good parenting looks like.

Discussing Parenting

When discussing parenting with your families, it is important to create a safe space to respectfully discuss differences. Ask parents: “What values are important to you as a parent? What goals do you and other family members have for your children?” If you are introducing a new parenting strategy, be mindful of cultural norms that may have been in the family for generations, and how those norms might make it easier or harder to change parents’ behavior. Go to Curriculum -> Communication -> Stages of Change to learn more about stages of behavior change and communication strategies to use when having these discussions. ​

  • Explore family values and attitudes that may be relevant for parenting style and behaviors. Use the family of origin exercise for ideas about topics to discuss.

“What was it like growing up in your family? How do you think that has shaped the way you raise your child?”
  • Talk about the family members’ goals for the child. What are they trying to teach the child?

“What goals do you have for your child? What qualities would you like your child to develop? What kind of person would you like your child to become?”
  • Ask how well family members feel the child is reaching these goals already.

  • Acknowledge that everyone has the child’s best interests at heart, even when the family’s idea of how to raise the child does not align with yours.

“It is clear that you care a lot about your son and want what’s best for him.”
  • When introducing a new parenting strategy, consider the family member’s stage of change related to this particular parenting behavior

To see examples of stages of change, click on Tools and go to the Readiness Ruler
  • Use Elicit-Provide-Elicit to suggest new, alternative parenting behaviors that achieve the family’s goals.

Example: “Many parents find that spanking does not work as a long-term solution to bad behavior. Would it be okay if we discussed other ways of managing your daughter’s behavior?”
Visit the Curriculum -> Communication page for tools related to how to use Elicit-Provide-Elicit and other communication techniques to bring this up sensitively.

Example: Spanking

The following list provides talking points for when/if you talk to parents about trying a different approach to discipline than spanking. 

  • It’s good to have many strategies for how to handle behavior (e.g., selective attention, ignoring, time-out) and not just depend on spanking.
“It’s so tough being a parent sometimes. A main thing I try to do is to help parents have a lot of different ideas for how they might handle their child’s behavior. Usually trying more things before a spanking is needed can at least reduce how many times you get to a point where your child needs a spanking.”
  • Spanking doesn’t teach the correct behavior. It only discourages the wrong behavior and only when the parent is around.
“Spanking let’s your child know what (she/he) shouldn’t do. But, in terms of making sure it doesn’t happen again, it’d help your child to know what you want the child to do instead. Otherwise, you might get your child to stop acting that way when you’re around but not fully teach (her/him) what she should do.”
  • Spanking is often the result of an angry reaction rather than a thoughtful plan for how to teach the child good behavior.
“It can be a little confusing for children why you’re allowed to put your hands on them, but they can’t do that with others. Unfortunately sometimes kids take away the message that it’s okay to put their hands on someone to get her/him do what she/he wants.”
  • The child may learn that using physical means to handle problems is okay.
“I find that parents often spank when they’re at their wits end and unsure what to do. So, instead of thinking through a plan of how to handle a situation to teach their children to behave well in the future, they’re frustrated, and spanking is a quick fix to the stress.”