Family Caring Trust's approach

In developing Parenting Programmes, Family Caring Trust was able to benefit from studying the strengths and weaknesses of previous initiatives and to draw on the experience and research bases of a variety of psychological systems (see below). No one parenting model is espoused by the Trust. Like other forms of leadership, different parenting approaches appear to be appropriate according to individual circumstances, personalities, and child development stages. Parents, for example, might adopt quite a directive and supervisory role when introducing children to new skills or tasks, whereas they might adopt a more democratic and less directive role as their children grow in confidence and skill.

Whose ideas make up our parenting advice?
Courses developed by the Trust are eclectic, then, not rigidly tied to any one system but drawing on Adlerian psychology (goals of misbehaviour, discipline through natural and logical consequences), Bowen Family Systems (emphasis on changing self, not others, growing in self-differentiation and becoming a more non-anxious presence, also on reinforcing change by withdrawing attention from the more symptomatic elements in the family system and focusing on the more influential elements), Reality Therapy (negotiating and conflict management within the family), Re-evaluation Counselling (importance of parents working on their own childhood distresses and internalised oppression, value of tears, of play, and of expression of feelings), and Person-centred Counselling (active listening, expressing needs and feelings in "I" messages). 

The Trust has also drawn on the work of established researchers and writers, including Steve Biddulph, John Bowlby, Dolores Curran, Don Dinkmeyer, Rudolf Dreikurs, Gerard Egan, Eric Ericson, Edwin Friedman, R Forehand, John Gottman, Harvey Jackins, Gary McKay, Jean Piaget, Mary Pipher, Virginia Satir, Ron Taffel, Donald Winnicott, and Patty Wipfler. 

While there is a clear focus on improving communication within a family, there is also emphasis on change - changing the power basis and decision-making balance within the couple relationship and between parents and children. 

Developing an Adult Learning Tool 
These ideas are incorporated into a flexible programme which uses established principles of adult learning while emphasising "good enough parenting" that does not tend to create inappropriate guilt. There is a strong underlying emphasis in all the programmes on community development and empowering all individuals within a family to take increasing responsibility for themselves.

The programme is then tested extensively throughout Britain and Ireland with action research, using both quantitative and qualitative evaluation. This testing and consequent changing continues for at least two years in distinct phases. In the final phase, feedback from a variety of community organisations is incorporated - these have included the Pre-School Playgroups Association (now renamed the Pre-School Alliance), the Health Visitors Association, Barnardos, the Family Planning Association, the Mediation Network of Northern Ireland, Relate, the Trust for the Study of Adolescence, the Children's Society, Homestart, and mainstream Christian and Islamic faith community leaders with an interest in family concerns.

Each course is also checked out with an expert on reading age to ensure simplicity and freedom from jargon; and with a philosopher who specialises in teaching children to think and form values: also with a number of psychologists, family therapists and a consultant psychiatrist to ensure that the process is a healthy, positive experience for all participants.