I will admit it. When I see a friend whose toddler is rocking the paci all day every day, I struggle not to judge. This, from a mom whose 7-year-old climbs in her bed with her each night. Parenting is a series of tough choices, choosing the battles worthy of fighting and those you can win, all while under the scrutiny of others like me who feel so strongly about the evidence regarding what is best for young children. When I see a young child at the store at night, my first thought is, “oh, poor little guy, should be home in bed.” And then I check myself. I have no idea what that child’s day is like regarding schedule, family routines or priorities. I know I am not alone, though. I know there are many of us who struggle to honor families who make choices contradictory to what we believe to be best for young children.
Check Your Biases
There are many “hot topics” in parenting and early childhood development. It’s arguably the period of development best supported by research and most flooded with tips and tools for navigating. Popular sites like Babycenter cover all these topics including sleep, feeding, potty training, play, technology, and behavior with listicles for solving all your parenting struggles. As early interventionists, we are only one source of parenting support, and we may not always be able to compete with grandma, environment, and the internet. So, how do we strive to honor families who make child rearing choices in conflict with our professional beliefs? I have developed my own listicle to add to the mix!
- Check Your Biases. Is this a safety issue? If the answer is no, consider your biases. We hold our professional beliefs dear, as we should! However, truly family centered practices build on family strengths and priorities. If the 2-year-old’s pacifier is not a priority or concern for the family, it does not need to be one for us either.
- Understand The Why. Talking with families about what motivates their decision making provides us with insight into why others do what they do. Why does the family choose co-sleeping? Are there enough sleeping spaces in the house for all family members? Is co-sleeping standard practices in the family’s culture? Listening first allows us to present the facts in a way that may support the family need while also addressing the concern, particularly if it is a safety concern.
- Broaden Your Lens. There is no one right way. Truly family centered practices trust families to be the expert on their own needs which simultaneously requires professionals to follow families’ leads. If we approach each unique family with our own narrow lens for what is best, we miss the opportunities each family presents to problem solve together, to extend our views, and to find strategies that work.
I know it isn’t easy. I know our professional and personal experiences have led us to these beliefs for good reasons, with a grounding in evidence and in best practices. The challenge, then, is in how we make ourselves available for the beliefs of the family, particularly when they are contradictory to our own.
How do you honor families in your work who make choices that conflict with what you know to be true?
For more info on this topic, be sure to watch Jen’s archived webinar, Unpacking our Biases in Early Intervention, on the Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center’s 2017 Talks on Tuesdays Recordings page.
Jen Newton is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Education in the School of Education at Saint Louis University. She worked as an early interventionist with infants and toddlers with disabilities or at risk for school failure in home settings before entering the classroom as an inclusive prekindergarten teacher in North Carolina’s More At Four program and later as a parent educator on an Early Reading First grant. She earned a doctorate in Special Education from the University of Kansas in 2011 and spent four years preparing inclusive educators at James Madison University prior to joining faculty at SLU. Her research examines inclusive teaching and learning, early childhood teacher preparation, and university/school partnerships.
I’m learning to wait for questions, rather than to provide my opinion. Especially when the family is not concerned. Its so much easier. Liberating!
I think that you honor families who make choices that conflict with what you know to be true, by truly listening and taking in their concerns. I feel like often there is a communication gap that once resolved can improve the quality of exchanges, the relationship dynamics, the support for one another, and refocus attention on the main goal – the well-being of the child. Additionally, I find that keeping up with explicit principles, validated practices, the best available research, and relevant laws and regulations will ensure you are maintaining your own professional development. That, I think, is the best way you honor the family. You are ensuring them that you are up to date with the best possible intervention techniques and practices in the interest of their children. You must also have an understanding that families are complex with intersecting identities that individualize their health and experiences. You. must always maintain cultural humility to ensure that the families priorities are addressed in an unbiased manner.
One thing I try to remember is that I will best tap into these families’ motivations and goals by following their lead and adapting my support to their routines. Suggesting radical changes to what is their “normal” from day one will likely backfire for everyone! But if I learn about them and work with them, they are more likely to come to the same conclusions that I have over time (e.g., getting rid of the pacie or leaving bowls of snacks all around the house).
Liberating! I love that as a concept for changing practice, Belkis. Sometimes we do get bogged down in the burden of changing everyone to fit our beliefs when it could be easier to partner with families for the journey! Lauren, I absolutely agree that it is all in the relationship – partner and collaborate to work on the family’s identified concerns together. Thank you both !
It is kind of funny. I am 38 weeks pregnant and started working as Developmental Specialist almost two years ago. The things I think are important BECAUSE of the evidence and best practice, my friends and family members constantly want to challenge because they think their way is better. Even though my baby isn’t here yet, it has given me a unique perspective on the concept of trying to change a family. It makes me more empathetic and willing to work with families because I understand how they will feel if I try to force my personal/professional ideals on them without them asking for it.
Yes, having our own children certainly can give us a new perspective! I had the same experience, Gabrielle. It can be a hard balance between doing what you think is best and being open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Our families in EI probably feel very much the same way.
Whenever I find myself in challenging situations I think of a quote my father always told me growing up: “Live and let live.” I think it’s important to acknowledge that we all have our own biases and that it’s ok to be passionate about our individual beliefs. However, we can’t let our own passion invalidate someone else’s beliefs. As people, it’s our job to be understanding and have faith that the choices being made by families are being made on the notion that that is what is right for them.
Thanks, Sarah, for reminding us about such a simple phrase. I think awareness like you describe goes a long way with building rapport and collaboration with families.
This is an interesting post because it brings to light the biases that we subconsciously deal with every day. I agree that it is difficult to accept others’ beliefs and priorities sometimes, especially when they don’t align with your professional or personal views. However, I agree that it is important to get to the ‘why’ of many of these practices. Knowing why someone chooses to do something gives is justification. It also allows you to listen to the parent while they explain their side of things, and allows you as a professional to have a bit of empathy. It can also be powerful in educating parents. If they are telling you why they do something is just because they thought they read something that said to do that, they might be mistaken and actually looking for more guidance in this area. However, this is tricky, because you have to feel out the situation and be sure that the family is wanting this advice. If not, as mentioned above, it’s best to follow the parents’ leads as long as there is not safety concern involved.
I really like your idea about exploring the “why.” What we think of as why a parent believes or prioritizes something could be VERY different from the parent’s perspective, so it is really important to try to understand his/her point of view. Without that, it is really difficult to collaborate and provide support that is meaningful to the family. Using opened-ended questions and statements like “Please tell me more about that…” can help open the door to exploring the parent’s “why.” The trick is, as you said, to stay balanced, nonjudgmental, and open to wherever the parent’s explanation leads you.
I don’t think it is possible to fully remove all of a person’s biases, however it is possible to keep our biases in check. You should go about this by identifying your biases and making sure they aren’t interfering with your work. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and biases but it is necessary for us to respect the beliefs of the people we work with as well. I would also remember that the best way to motivate families is to show them that their thoughts are heard and respected.
Very well-said, Emily! Awareness and respect for others goes a long way in early intervention – and really just in life in general, don’t you think? 🙂
I think that rather than presenting it as a “you’re doing this wrong thing,” I would present it as a “have you given much thought to doing it this way?”
In my own personal experiences as a mom, If I learn something new, I generally share it with my mom friends because it’s interesting information. I do what I can to refrain from making it a judgey remark and just an aside of information from what helped me.
I think biases are inescapable but if your present them the right way, they can be very helpful to others.
Thanks Ava. I think another thing to consider, too, would be what the family thinks about what they are doing. Maybe even before presenting them with your idea, you might want to ask them a few open-ended questions to find out more about why they are doing something, where they learned about it, what they think about it, etc. Understanding their perspective can really give you some good insight and help you determine if your suggestion may be appropriate or helpful to them. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!
I personally think that checking your own biases is the first step. I do not think is possible to move past biases if we don’t first acknowledge them. It is also important to understand that we can never completely know what is happening within a specific family or why they made the choices the do. This is why respecting other people’s beliefs and values is critical. At the end of the day, we only know as much as they share with us or as much as we are able to observe.
Beautifully said, Maria!
This is a great post! Really made me realize how often we unconsciously judge others’ parenting styles and techniques based on what we know to be true. Although we all have internal biases that we can’t fully eradicate when considering a family’s dynamic, it’s so important to incorporate the ‘golden rule’ with families — a sense of treating others the way we’d like to be treated — with respect and kindness. Identifying our biases with a family should not interfere with the way we should work with them. We should instead try to understand WHY they believe in what they do — their parenting styles can be a reflection on their culture, socio-economic status, or any other factor that, just by looking at them surface-level, cannot be judged wholly without knowing the whole picture. We can honor families by not judging them to the best of our abilities and listening to their priorities that make them who they are, and focusing our work around their individualized family needs.
You make some great points, Loana. I don’t think we can completely avoid biases but we can use our awareness to monitor our judgments. Knowing the “why” for the family – and for ourselves – really helps keep us in check!
I feel like this situation is closely related to teaching in the classroom as well. As an educator, you must look at the child as a unique individual and different from others. There are many ways to teach the same thing at it is important to know what works best for each individual.
I work in an intervention program in which I work in a private preschool at a church. I provide support for a child that is three at that school that has autism and I struggle to watch the teacher make him sit for over a hour at circle time every day. He is not interested in the reading of any books or in watching her speak as the other children are, and the hour long circle time is too long for even the other three year olds. However, I am lucky to be able to provide services within the school and I have learned to be patient with the teacher and respect her teaching philosophy even though I know that it is not developmentally appropriate. I support her by sitting next to the child and providing him direction when he becomes too distracted from her lesson.
Nicole, I’m so glad you are there for him! I think I would have trouble sitting through an hour long circle time. 🙂 I’m not sure that what you are feeling is a bias since, as you noted, this isn’t developmentally appropriate. You are wise to respect the teacher because you are a guest in her classroom. Have you had any opportunities to talk with her, or the family, about what you observe? I wonder if the child you support is feeling stress in that environment?
I would definitely ask questions to understand more of their reasoning behind their choices, but I would be sure not to overstep my boundaries! I feel like it is important to understand each other in order for a smooth team interaction to occur, but I would not want the family to feel attacked or overly questioned for their own choices and beliefs. I would state my questions in a way that expresses my curiosity rather than a condescending tone.
Great ideas, Yvonne. It is a balance of being respectfully inquisitive in a conversational way and not making the family feel like they are being interviewed. What kinds of questions would you ask?
I think that I wouldn’t go into the conflict thinking that the different perspective is wrong. There are many safe and responsive ways that parents, well parent. I know that as a human being I am biased but I have to take the time to listen to other perspectives. Especially, when I’m expecting others to listen to mine.
Yes, it’s a reciprocal process! Leaving our biases and judgments at the door can be hard but is so important as an early interventionist!
I think as a professional I would try to check my biases as soon as I felt myself beginning to feel like I was judging (a) parent(s). I liked to the 3rd point on the list entitled Broaden your Lens. You never know what a family is going through or values until you get to know them and build a trusting relationship. It’s important to acknowledge that their beliefs and practices may not align with your personal beliefs and practices and that’s okay.
Usually I try not impose my beliefs and views on other parents while they’re parenting. If there is something that I see a parent doing that isn’t the best choice, depending on who it is, I try to approach with caution. Usually I would say “maybe you can try it like this” or “have you tried this?”. If it’s someone that I’m close to I offer my opinion, but mostly I let them just approach me with the questions.
Caution in the kind of situation you describe, Candice, is very wise. You can very easily offend a parent by judging what he/she does. I think it can be very helpful to try to learn why the parent is doing something that you think isn’t the best choice before offering an alternate suggestion. If you have the opportunity to ask about why the parent made that choice, why she thinks the child reacted a certain way, etc., you can often get some very helpful info that opens the door to a deeper discussion.
I am often confronted with situations that would have driven my dad up the wall. My bias definitely comes from culture. I have to remind myself, often, that I do not have all the facts about anyone’s situation and sometimes I am not the one to ask. In a professional way, I can often ask because I want to understand differences.
I think coming from a perspective of wanting to understand, rather than judgment, is what can make a huge difference. You bring up a great point – we don’t ever have all the facts. I often think about all that we DON’T know about families. When you have a strong relationship that is built on mutual respect with the family, it is easier to ask those questions that help you support them better!
Whenever things like this arise, I would make sure that I ask myself about why I feel this way and check myself of my bias. Like you have written, unless it is a safety issue, I’m going to need to broaden my horizons and research and read up on things like the benefits of co-sleeping etc.
Excellent point, Shion! Pausing to reflect on why you feel that way is something I bet many people forget to do. Checking in with yourself is the first, and maybe most important, step in learning about your own biases and beliefs.
Openmindedness is so important! I agree that understanding why parents do things a certain way is important. In most cases, we know that parents who seek these services care very much about their child’s wellbeing. Although everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, I think knowing how to respect another’s beliefs are also important. Because in the end of the day, the child takes priority.
Yes, an open mind and a healthy respect for and willingness to learn about other’s beliefs are great attributes to bring with you as you walk in the door of any family’s home (or classroom)!
I believe that understanding why certain cultures do certain things with their children is the first step into research about developmentally appropriate practices. We should have parents be open other practices, while continuing respect their traditions and values. When working with a family it is best to understand and ask why a parent teaches or informs their children the way they do. Understanding that would allow for planning the best course of action for that family.
Yes, that understanding will definitely help you plan for the most meaningful, useful, and appropriate intervention strategies. After all, it is the parent who is going to use them within the context of the family’s interactions where those beliefs and traditions play out.
This goes along with understanding the why, but I would focus on active listening and observation of the family to gain more insight into their cultural and personal practices, values, and beliefs. This would help me to keep an open mind and to try to put myself in the family’s shoes when providing interventions and appropriate services!
Well said, Megan!
We know that parenting is HARD. Parenting a child with special needs is even harder. Instead of placing judgement on the way a family does things, I believe that the best thing that you can do is to offer unconditional support. Sympathize with families and try to understand the burdens the family has without them even having to tell you. Then, use your skills as an ECI provider to help the family lessen their burdens instead of turning a blind eye because you believe they shouldn’t be struggling with something.
Parenting is hard. That is a great reminder Charlotte! Our job is to help support the families throughout the early intervention process.
If a family does something that contradicts with what I believe is best for a child, I would remind myself to take a breath and not speak before listening. I’d try to always step back and always listen to the parent’s point of view before I share my opinion.
Great strategy Rachel. Being aware of our biases and when we may be judging a family requires us to self-reflect as to not complicate our relationship with the family. Sometimes, the family’s reasoning for things may be an answer we never expected. Listening is key.
We all catch ourselves judging someone’s actions or choices from time to time. This is human nature and is inevitable. With that being said, I feel like we need to constantly remind ourselves that there are a million factors governing a person’s choices. A lot of time we come to realize that it was our own lack of knowledge about a person’s situation rather than a shortcoming of the individual. Unless its harming a child emotionally or physically, I think we should refrain from passing judgements on someone’s parenting. There are a lot of situational circumstances that can alter a caregiver’s behavior or different cultural practices.
Absolutely Bushra! It is human nature to have biases based on our own experiences, beliefs, or lack of knowledge. Sometimes parents have their own stress factors that can affect their behaviors or priorities we may not know about. It can be simply how they are going to buy diapers or receiving a shut-off notice for an electric bill. Caregivers may be less likely to disclose this information when looking for resources when they sense someone passing judgment.
I believe that you must honor families in your work by making sure that you listen to what they’re struggling with first before making any quick judgments to “fix” the situation. I would personally listen to families list their concerns that they believe is a problem for their child that way you can see and know what the family is struggling with first. Coming in with no expectations of the family is better than coming in with “typical solutions” others have used. It’s true when they tell you to not put the cart before your horse because if you put your bias first, it becomes apparent that you are not to be trusted. Establishing out loud what the parents’ needs are for their child helps make sure that you are both on the same page. Then after building this rapport with the parents, then see if your solution for the concern will work or if it can be compromised to meet their needs.
Great tips Natalie! This strategy helps individualize services based on the unique needs of the family and meeting them where they are.
I think this blog post is a great reminder to be open and non-judgmental when interacting with families, and really all individuals. To honor families I believe it is important to actively listen and observe before sharing and responding with your own ideas, remain open-minded, and constantly exhibit empathy.
Well said, Kori! I love the phrase you used – honoring families. That’s such a fundamental concept to early intervention, making sure that our behavior and our interactions with them honor their rights, opinions, priorities, and values.
I believe this is a great thing to keep in mind, we are always, even if just at a subconscious level, influenced by our own biases. I think it is important to provide the best, evidenced based care that we can for every individual family. That care can look different for every family. Although in every case, safety is really the biggest priority. So often we act upon our own biases that may not align with other’s beliefs and being aware of that is crucial.
Great point, Sarah. EI looks different for each family but should be grounded in our field’s best principles and practices. Each family we meet will affect us in a different way. We want to be sure that the effect we have on them is unclouded by our own biases and judgments. That’s not always easy, but if we come from a place of respect and awareness of best practice, we are more likely to have that positive effect we hope for.
In my opinion I feel that instead of forcing new things onto a family if they are not familiar with it is better to ask questions and see how this way works for them. It can be a hard balance of trying to do what you think is best and being open to new ideas. If there is evidence based information that one way works better than another I might make a suggestion, but I don’t want the family to feel like at the same time I am intruding on something they feel is working for them.
Each and one of use our experiences, values, and perceptions to shape our beliefs and opinions. Throughout life we believe certain things but time gives us lessons, and it allows us to constantly shape our opinions. I do think that making snap judgments is part of being human and not much in our control but the way we react consequently is. In terms of working with families, I do think it’s important to keep an open mind and acknowledge that we have different truths because we have different value systems. It’s okay to give some suggestions but it’s also important to listen to the family and learn about their values.
Suspending judgement can be extremely hard- especially when it comes to something so personal and important as raising a child. I think as humans we tend to believe that our way is the right way, if we’ve done it and it worked, then that’s the way it must be done. For something like this, I think its is important to remember that there is so much information out there, so much research and methods, and that every family is different. Different schedules, resources, family dynamics, etc… all of these can help shape and determine how a child is raised and as long as the child is safe and cared for, the family should never be shamed for it.
I think it is immensely important to go into each meeting with a new or current family with a clean slate. Clear your mind of all opinions and focus on what is best for the child and their family. Service providers are not only available for the child, but it is also their job to provide support and comfort to the families. We should always structure everything around the families goals and expectations, not our own.
I think one of the most important aspect to remember is that the parents are the experts on their children. So if it not an issue of safety, than taking into account of what the parent values is important.
If I was a provider, I would honor the family’s choices by asking and listening to them to why they would make that choice for their child. I would also explain to them to the choice I would make, and try to make a compromise if possible. I would always respect the family’s decision and they have the final say in the decision making, I could only give them recommendations and guidance.
I would honor the families wishes regardless of my own opinion. Families have many different ways of approuching things and it is not our place to tell them differently just because it conflicts with our own ideas.
Yes, honoring the family’s wishes is always our priority. The family members are the ultimate decision makers within what the early intervention system can offer. This can be a careful balance, though. I think we are there to find out what families think, what they’ve tried, and what they want for their children. We can share information, and sometimes that info is different from what the family thinks, but when shared sensitively and without the expectation that the family HAS to change or do what you say, can provide info to families to help them grow. We just have to be sure we aren’t sharing it from a biased point of view.
I practice cultural sensitivity. I try and take on the passenger role and let the person tell me about themselves. I have to remember that they are the ones that know best.
Love that image – the passenger role! Do you ever struggle with what the person says about themselves? I think sometimes, we almost have to take the same perspective with ourselves and really listen to our inner voice to detect any biases. Not always an easy ride but you are starting from a good place, being culturally sensitive.
I would honor families who make choices that conflict with what I know to be true by respecting them. Like you mentioned, I would first check safety, then any bias that I may have. But ultimately I tell myself that the family is the one that knows their child the best. Also, I know that the family is the child’s number one teacher. I will only educate the family on what I believe and respect what they believe, and find a way to work together by respecting the families wishes.
I think the best thing to do is be there emotionally and give as much support as possible. As the provider it is important to bracket those subconscious emotions and judgements that we may have and make sure our mind and our skills are focused solely on helping that family’s needs. As a provider I would make sure to find the family’s priorities and remember that we are there to lessen family burdens and provide the best bias free care for the family.
I think as the article even mentions, we don’t know what a typical family’s routine or schedule is. There could be reasons a family is making a certain choice, I think this also depends on the temperament of the chid and what the child will comply to. As long as the practice is safe for the child, we shouldn’t be exerting on our biases on the parents of the child.
As a kindergarten teacher, I often have found myself thinking “why won’t so and so’s parents put them to bed earlier?” or “So and so is obviously not feeling well and shouldn’t be at school”, without stopping to think that just because I did things differently when my children were in school, doesn’t mean that this child’s family should make the same choices. I know that every family has different circumstances and knows their child best, so who am I to decide that their choices are not best for their own child?
I’m glad this post caused you to reflect, Sallie. I would imagine that it must be really hard to see the children struggling at school. To push your thinking a bit further, I wonder why the parents aren’t putting the child to bed earlier or why the child was sent to school? This is thinking beyond just the “should”. It could be that the parent doesn’t get home from work until late or the parent’s job is at risk if she misses another day from work. These reasons still might not feel like they justify the effects you see on the child, but trying to empathize and understand the “why” can go a long way to checking our biases and then working with the family to solve the problem, now or next time. Thanks for adding your perspective here!
How do you honor families in your work who make choices that conflict with what you know to be true?
I would try my best to respect each families opinion and how they make choices because I know not everyone has the same opinions and viewpoints on different topics. Furthermore, I would try to listen to each families concerns and how I can convey my knowledge to them so that they are able to make more informed decisions. Moreover, in order to check my biases, I would always try to keep in mind that everyone is in a different situation and I do not know every little thing going on in each of these individual’s lives. Finally, I think it would be important for me to try my best to always help each and every family no matter what decisions they make and how much I may disagree with the choices made.
Thanks Ethan. I really appreciate the self-reflection you are doing in your comment, especially thinking about how you convey information. That’s so important for an ECI practitioner!
I aspire to become a nurse practitioner specializing in psychiatric and mental health. In an occupation such as this the safety and health of our patients are extremely important. I will be working with patients of all different ethnic groups, cultures, backgrounds, experiences, and values; being able to separate my views from their own is vital. Also being able to put myself in the patients shoes is something that I will need to do. All I can do as a practitioner is give the best possible information to the patients and make sure the patient knows how important following through with the treatment or medication is to their overall health. If the patient chooses a conflicting path then at that point it is out of my control. I will have to learn not to take my work back with me to the home because that would have a negative affect on my well-being.
I aspire to become a nurse practitioner specializing in psychiatric and mental health. In an occupation such as this one has to be able to see from very many diverse view points. I will be working with patients of different ethnic groups, cultures, backgrounds, and values. I cannot let my own perspective conflict with the patients perspective. The patients choice and safety is very important to the treatment they will receive, as well as the outcome of that chosen treatment. All I can do as a practitioner is advise or inform the patient of the most recent suitable treatment for their diagnosis and then converse with the patient about their thoughts. Of course, the goal is for the patient to acquire the most healthy mentality and well-being; sometimes a patient might not do what is advised and at that point it would be out of the practitioners or physicians control.
I appreciate you adding a different perspective here, Meagan. Awareness of the effects of biases is important, no matter what your profession!
Primarily, honoring the families despite knowing what to be true is a difficult situation. Nevertheless, respecting and understanding the family’s choices would help me have different perspectives. Second, I would provide my concerns to the family just so they understand my perspective on certain situations. However, if the family disagrees or chooses to go forward with their decision, it is what they want and choose to do. I am here just to provide concerns and hear them out as to why they choose to do certain things. Importantly, the family knows the child best and are trying their best to cope with their circumstances. Truly, there is no right way to do things so understanding different perspectives of others/families can broaden our horizons.
I think we also have to reflect on what we think we know. What we know might not always be applicable in a given situation or could translate into a bias. For example, we might “know” that parents should read books to their children because it’s good for development, but we have to be careful not to impose judgment on a family based on whether what they do or don’t do matches what we know. We need to try to understand their circumstances, meet them where they are, and build on what they already do (which might be reading street signs or cereal boxes instead of books). It can be hard but reflecting on the connection between our thoughts and feelings and those of families is an ongoing process for early interventionists.
I loved this article because it can be really difficult to not put one’s own bias and opinions on a situation. If there was conflict between what I know to be true and in my work, I would ask further questions to see the reasoning for the family to have made the choice they did. Of course, I would make sure to be within boundaries and not ask anything that would offend or hurt the family, however furthering one’s knowledge is always helpful. If I still had a differing opinion, I would try and explain to the family my reasoning and if they did or did not want to take my advice would be up to them. I would support the family in their decision because they are the most important aspect of the situation.
Yes, it’s often a balance of sharing information so families can make informed decisions while honoring the choices they make.
As a professional, you have to be able to separate your personal beliefs and biases from those of your clients. A service provider’s job is to help the family live their life as comfortably as they can. That doesn’t mean that we should pass on judgment, especially if the family does something different than us that is not a safety issue. What I know to be true could be the complete opposite of a family, and it would be my job to broaden my thinking and try to accommodate the services I provide to the way the family does things normally.
Yes! Reflecting on your own thinking and how you can adjust the support your provide to help the family are so important!
I would make sure that I’m not being ethnocentric; understanding others’ actions according to their own culture and beliefs are important to make unbiased decisions. I would also gather more information about the family’s routines and traditions to better understand the intentions and motives of their actions. I can also share my opinions about the issue with a loving and caring heart instead of judgemental eyes. It is crucial to suggest in a tone that is not condescending or rebuking. It would be also important to make sure your information is also proven through a reliable source.
You’ve added a lot of great points here, Heewon! Thanks for bringing the lens of cultural understanding into the discussion. I really love how you describe how you would share your opinions!
As a college student, the majority of interaction I have with children would have to be through babysitting jobs. One thing that always seems to vary from family to family is electronics and television time. I am very big on assuring the kids I look after spend some time outside and reading, however there have been some parents who have shrugged off my suggestions and instead directed me toward the child’s tablet as a means of keeping them occupied. Now, there are some parents who limit their children’s access to educational apps/videos only, and others who provide them the freedom to surf the web. During circumstances like these, I find that I internally have a hard time willingly cooperating with the parents. However, I do as they say because I must remind myself that the parents know the child best. Even though I encourage alternative activities during the time I spend babysitting, I always remind myself of my job position and that it would be inappropriate to overstep my boundaries.
Your internal struggle is very common among us with knowledge of healthy early childhood development! I’m glad to hear that you are reflecting on it while also doing your best to balance what you believe with what the family does.
Every family is unique unit that operates in different ways. What works for one family may different to the next. Additionally, if one thinks about the example of the child in store at night maybe the kid is sick or its a one off experience. It’s important to keep an open mind and realize we don’t always have all the facts.
Great point, Noah!
As a service provider, I would have to remind myself that I’m there to support the family and their beliefs while coming up with the perfect plan for their child’s needs. I can always advise them on certain things but would never force anything on them. If it was something that boiled my blood, for whatever reason, I would remind myself that if the child is not being harmed in any way then there’s no reason for me to be upset. To check my biases, I would ask the parents why they make the certain choices they do. After listening to their explanation, I would try to understand why they do what they do and if I needed to I would address the concern. Knowing there is no right way to do something, then I would just broaden my horizon and accept their choices as one of my own for future experiences. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn something that’s a better choice than my initial choice.
Thanks for sharing your openness to consider another point of view! Taking that “learner” point of view can really help as you examine your own biases and monitor how they can pop up in your interactions with families.
I would make sure to listen to the family concerns and respect the choices they make. I feel like it is important to know the family’s daily routine and cultural beliefs in order to understand the reason why they might make certain decisions. However, I would also maker sure I share my knowledge of the topic so they are able to learn new things as well. At the end of the day it is the family choice and it is important to respect and support that choice.
Agreed! It’s a balance, really, between providing information and respecting what families choose to do with it.
I would first check my biases and see if they are arising because of differences such as race or ethnicity. I would also educate myself on the family’s culture and how it relates to their decisions involving how they raise their children. I would ask the parents what motivates them to do what they do, so that I can better understand the reasoning behind their decisions. Most importantly, I would honor the family’s choices and adapt my services to the family’s preferences. The family is an integral part of the team and I want them to know that I will respect them throughout the entire process.
I find it important to make it a priority to understand and respect the families choices. There is likely a reason as to why they do things a specific way, so it would be beneficial to focus your efforts on understanding the family and adapting your approach rather than trying to impose your own beliefs. If we fail to respect the family’s wishes, we risk losing the trust that is essential for the services to be effective.
This blog post is incredibly important! Checking ones biases is something that needs to be done daily and in multiple aspects of life. I catch myself judging and have to consider the same points that you pointed out: check my biases, understand the why, and broaden my lens. It isn’t easy, but its necessary. It is important to remember that we are unaware of the circumstances that others are going through and the life experiences they have lived through. Nobody really knows what others are going through and this is what it is so important to live, because judgement may just be adding more stress for them!
If I were a service provider, I would honor families in my work and do my best to listen and support them. Every family is different. What works for one family them may not work for another. For this reason, I should not expect all families to closely follow my beliefs and ideals. I always strive to be more understanding and open-minded towards others especially since I do not know their situation. I would address concerns that I may have so that they can understand my perspective on the matter, but I would support the family in their decision as long as there are no safety concerns.
Like the article says we must identify our biases in order to prevent them from affecting our work. I think a big part of honoring the family’s wishes is understanding why, whether it is a cultural reason or even just a misconception. Also I would keep in mind that the families know what works best for them, so although some approaches might be better we have to give the family the power to decide because if they feel like they are not being heard they might get discourage or might not work well with the program.
I would need to remind myself that everyone’s situations are different and that the reason I would be there would be to support the family the best I could. I think it’s important to take a learning perspective to truly understand the position the family is in and to be empathetic towards the family. To truly respect the family I would need to know the family’s daily routine as well as their cultural beliefs that would be different from my own so that I could ten to their needs when making decisions.
As sentient beings, we all have our own thoughts and feelings. This also means we have our own biases, too. I think being aware and recognizing your biases is already a great step forward in understanding and, perhaps, changing the way we think. In that moment, it is important to process the information, think, and “understand the why” before we act on them. Every family is different; they have their own cultural beliefs/practices and their own dynamics. It is important to keep this in mind whenever we interact with families whether it while working on a case or in our own daily environments.
I would do my best to respect the family’s going to specially considering that the family knows what’s best for their child. On top of that I know that the family would only do what they assume is the right thing to do for their child, and as someone who was working for the family it is not really my place should decide or interject with their decision. I can almost provide them information and give them my advice but I would respect their official opinion.
How do I honor families in my work that make decisions opposite to what I believe? I feel as though, as long as I am providing them with the help and care that they need, and as my job is being done efficiently, any other choices the family makes does not concern me. Although it is opposite what I believe, I would just have to mind my own business because I am sure a few choices I make in my life conflict what others believe to be true.
As an intern working with Communities in Schools, we see a lot of students that come from very troubling and challenging backgrounds. Because of this, many of them struggle academically- whether it’s turning in assignments on time or they have trouble spelling simple words. It makes you wonder ‘are parents pulling their weight?’ Why do they allow their children to miss so much school? Why do they not make sure that their homework is being completed? After some time, I completely understand. This is a high Mexican-American population that does not speak much English, do not hold secure jobs, and do not have enough food to feed their kids. These families are struggling to just survive and barely getting by! When their stomachs are grumbling or rent is due the next day, helping their children with a homework problem is not a priority. There is much more context to be seen and learned about. Just like Dr. Newton said, we can not judge the surface of it all. We must approach our children with compassion and understanding, with care and kindness.
If I were to have some sort of internal conflict about what the parents are doing, I would try to understand what exactly the root of our difference in opinion is. I would seek to understand what informs their choices: their circumstances and cultural beliefs. I would do the same with my own opinion: is it driven by empirical evidence, cultural beliefs, or a combination of both? Finally, I would see what the differences between our beliefs are at the root. My job would be to empower the family as best as I can, not push my own beliefs. A solution would accomplish this first and foremost.
I think the most important thing to do when trying to honor families who make choices that conflict with what you know to be true is to practice patience and extend grace. I think you have to be quick to listen and try to have a teachable heart wherein you strive to understand the family’s perspective.
If I find myself struggling with biases, I first would as myself If I truly know what the child or family is going through (in most cases I wouldn’t). Therefore I must remind myself to not be so quick to judge. I would try to understand each aspect and component of the child and family’s daily life before I make a diagnosis and insist on improvement. Furthermore, to take a extra step, I would as the family what their suggestions to the problem would be and if they agree to change it.
I believe that it would be best to put your beliefs as secondary to the family’s beliefs and priorities. As mentioned, you never know what the child or family’s situation looks like. You should not come into the session with your own rigid agenda that is contradictory to the family’s agenda. Even if you do want to change something, if the family is not motivated to make change in that area, it will be difficult to make it happen. It may be helpful to ask questions about the topic of interest. This will help you to understand the family’s point of view better, and it may cause the family to think more about whether this area is a potential issue. However, I don’t believe that you should bring it up directly as a problem; this is the family’s job.
If I was a service coordinator, I would try to keep the mentality that the goal is progress and not perfection. As you said in the article, there are so many unique circumstances that may cause one parent to make one choice over the other. If you were in their situation you may even make the same decision as them even though from an outside perspective it does not look like their choices adhere to your training.
Great point, Taylor!
If I were a service coordinator and this situation arose, I would try to understand where the family is coming from. By understanding their context, culture, and education, I could work with them to provide them with the best way forward. We all have our own biases, our own way we have done things. Yet, when working with other families, I feel it is always important to understand that we have different backgrounds that have shaped our beliefs and actions. Only be recognizing these backgrounds can we move forward with the best solution.
This is such a great question, and one I believe should be talked about more. To honor those families who make choices that conflict with what you know to be true, it is important to educate yourself. As mentioned above, broadening your lens can allow for new knowledge and information that you might have never experienced, but need to understand. Each family is different and comes from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, etc. that can appear to have a very different schedule from yours. But by educating yourself and learning to not judge, but to respect, it can be easier to honor those who conflict with what you know to be true.
I think the most important way to honor the family and their opinions is to listen and remind myself that this is for the family’s benefit. Rather than dwelling on my personal opinions, it would be more sufficient to listen to what the family has to say and then broaden my lens in order to give the family the best possible options for their situation. Diminishing personal biases is hard, but if we keep them in check and understand where the family is coming from, then the outcome for the family will be far more positive.
Although I’m only learning about service coordination, I believe that this issue is prevalent in our society and has put on extra pressure for those trying their best to raise their children. I would honor families who make choices different than what I believe as true by attempting to find reasons behind their actions and working from there. Finding a motivation behind their action is not always possible, but asking can bring about information that I may not have been aware of prior to the meeting. If there’s a difference in culture, I would educate myself on their background to better understand them. From there, the family and I can find a solution that is best for the child given the family’s expectations.
How do you honor families in your work who make choices that conflict with what you know to be true?
I would honor families by listening to them. Every family can make decisions for themselves, even if I disagree. As long as the child is not being harmed, there is no reason to be judgmental to families parenting decisions. It is the job of a service provider to be understanding and accepting of families and their circumstances.
I think this article is much needed in care industries, and it is especially important as we grow into an increasingly diverse society in the US. Our socialized biases and personal preferences are sometimes pushed on to others when it’s not necessary, and this may compromise the relationship between service coordinators and the families they serve. I like the suggestions the author made for discerning whether a behavior warranted intervention by asking “is it harmful.” Even then, its important to prevent harm to the child while also avoiding unnecessary shaming.
I would work on respect and education. This is such an important topic! As the post mentions, broadening your lens and learning what’s important to family routines, cultures, etc. is very valuable. Working with what they consider to be issues, rather than what you believe to be a problem, provides for a better working relationship and progress with the family.
I enjoyed reading this piece for its vulnerability and honesty. Often it is hard to even recognize our own biases, let alone break them down and try to push against them. This is especially relevant in work regarding children and families. Cultures have their own timelines and practices that are unfamiliar to an outsider. I like how you mentioned the safety question, a question many of our judgements can be realized as a bit unfair once we see how limited our perspective is.
I think I would have to remind myself if I were a service coordinator that I am there to assist the family and meet their needs. I think a big part of being a service coordinator is active listening. I would try to hear where they’re coming from and what they need, then using my own expertise to guide them in the right direction. I think patience and understanding are also critical in a service coordinator role, which helps when you don’t necessarily agree with the family’s choices.
If I worked with a family that made a choice that conflicted with what I knew to be true, I would sit down with the parents to try and see where they are coming from. They might be making a decision based on something cultural that I need to educate myself on, or they might be making a decision on something that is not true, so I need to educate them. I think it is a learning experience for everyone.
I think it is important to approach all situations with an open-mind and a desire to find understanding rather than judgement. Everyone has different priorities, experiences, and cultural backgrounds, and we must acknowledge that there is no one way or right way to raise a child. I think about my friends and all the different ways we were raised. They are all kind, smart, healthy adults and not one of us had the same childhood experience, emphasizing my earlier point that there is no one way or right way to raise a child. It is important to check our biases because we never want to put ourselves on a pedestal or shame others. We are all doing what we believe is best for the child and if the child is safe and happy then we should respect the personalized decisions of each family.
As stated in the article, it is important to work with the family to support their priorities for their child and family. As a service provider, I would begin by having that conversation–what do they want for their child’s development, and how would they like me to assist them in pursuit of that goal? Although I may have ideas of what is “correct” or “best practice” developmentally, straying from these standards will not ruin the child’s life as long as they are not in danger. If I am working with the family to use their strengths to accomplish an outcome, that will help the child more than if I was dictating what the family “should” be doing.
I know my family had strong opinions on how children should be raised for the first couple of children, but gradually eased the rigidity as the children grew up. It is hard to understand other families’ traditions, especially if they differ from your own experience growing up. I hope I will be able to support the priorities of the family as well as listen and learn about new cultures
In cases like these, I believe it is definitely essential with checking our own biases and start with the question, “Is this truly a safety issue, or is it a preference that may derive from the needs of the family?” Regardless of how you view the instance, it is without a doubt that we are inclined to place what we’ve deemed right from wrong and apply it without checking if it is a bias first. If I were in this position, I would definitely approach the situation as stated. Initially, I would analyze if the action in question is something widely known to cause danger or inflict harm on the child. If I have said yes to any question mentioned above, I would approach the parent with a question about the action while still leaving any criticism aside. I would do this in case that there is a logical explanation as to why the child is engaging in this that may go against what I have already construed to be dangerous. If there is no logical explanation, I would attempt to give a brief and general understanding of why this may harm the child.
I am merely a student but I do think that it is important to educate oneself about different cultural practices. I know that there are some practices my parents did that we common in their culture that I later in life saw in blogs that they were discouraged. However like it was stated in the article as long as there is no risk of harm, it is important to keep an open mind. By not trying to impose ones beliefs onto the families, it will likely lead to better strategies that fit into their natural environment better that if they are shamed.
I completely agree with the points made in this article, and my #1 strategy would be to learn why parents are making the choices that they are. By listening to the why, we are able to figure out the root of the belief, and it might even change our own opinions! It’s important to be human and understanding before jumping to research, especially because I think that can make some people defensive. Another thing to consider is that everyone’s cultural beliefs are different, and as Service Providers, the wider our range of knowledge then the more families we are able to understand and work with.
I would honor families in my work by first trying to understand where they are coming from. Parents and children may be dealing with a plethora of life stressors that affect how they are acting. It would be important to show compassion and understanding to let them know that I am “on their side” and also want what is best for their child.
If I were a service coordinator and a family made choices that conflict with I believed to be true, I would first explore why this family’s approach differs from what I believe to be correct. I would try to see things through their lens and acknowledge my own biases. I would suggest an alternative option in a non-judgmental and neutral manner. If the family refused my recommendations I would respect their wishes and focus on my ultimate goal as a service provider- to help the family and child reach their full potential.
Personally for me, I remember having a lot of conversations with my mother of the different ways parents approach parenting. The majority of the conversation my mother let me know that just because she did some things one way does mean it is the only way or was necessarily the correct way. The idea of there being some idealized and perfect way to raise children is just not true. Each person and family has different cultures and approaches and reasonings that each deserve to not be judged, unless the child is in any form of danger. This article really reminded me to check my opinions before making any judgements on a situation I am not completely privy to.
If I was a service coordinator, I would honor my family in my work who make choices that conflict with what I know to be true by simply being open-minded and having respect for them. Being available and open to their choices and beliefs can help me become a more effective service coordinator.
I believe that some of the best ways to honor families who make choices that conflict with our own beliefs and ways of thinking is by listening and keeping an open mind, which I know is easier said than done. I also struggle with keeping my mind free of biases but by talking to the family and understanding their way of implementing a certain parenting decision, it eliminates most of the judgment and confusion. Keeping up to date with new research and recommended practices from different cultures will also aid in honoring families that parent differently than you would.
While I am a student and not a service coordinator yet, I believe that arguably one the most important aspects of this job is to be socially/culturally competent and aware of the different between familial practices in order to best understand and respect each family’s decisions. Unless it is directly endangering or harming the child physically/mentally, we must consider that certain practices differ based on culture, beliefs, etc. While there are surely many practices that are backed by science as being beneficial for all children, this does not mean they are the only ones that work for each family and their child. As a service coordinator, I would ensure that I always keep this in mind and check my biases before addressing something like this with a family, as it may just be something that I was not previously familiar with.
It can be very difficult to handle situations in which you disagree with choices being made. I think that as a service provider one would have to be able to compartmentalize their own beliefs from their work. Respect is the basis for all good relationships, work included. Allowing each family to make choices that are important to them or think that are beneficial to them has to come from a place of knowing that every situation can be handled a million different ways and have a million different outcomes there isn’t just one right way.
How do you honor families in your work who make choices that conflict with what you know to be true?
Family dynamics are complex and as the article said “pick your battles”. If the child is not in harms way, then let the parent carry their 4 year-old through target and the 3-year suck on the passi. Each parent has a reason for why they allow a certain behavior. It made be cultural, the lack of time in the day to break a habit or maybe they are just in a hurry and carrying the child just makes the most sense. As long as the child is developing well in other areas, one action that goes against the textbooks won’t kill them. We are all human and need to extend compassion to parents because they are just doing the best with what they have.
I agree that listening is very important in all aspects of our learning. Listening will help us understand what families need and their reasoning to why they choose to do or focus on certain things for their own children. We must understand that we are all different and we all share different beliefs. It is in the code of ethics that we must not give our personal opinion to the families. That is because we are respecting their beliefs and culture. Therefore if you find yourself judging or criticizing about certain people it is important that we check ourselves and remind ourselves that it is not okay to do that. We all come from different backgrounds and we all have different privileges. There is nothing wrong with checking others and ourselves. After that it would be a habit and you will find yourself learning how to address and view different situations. The thing is to recognize and practice it.
I constantly remind myself that as long as the child is not in danger from a practice or the practice isn’t a concern for the parents, it does not need to take up much space in my mind. Cultural competency is an incredibly important part of being a good early interventionist and recognizing that different cultures have different practices with child rearing is essential. Not all cultures have the same time line for transitioning away from breast milk towards solids, toilet training, independent sleeping, etc.. As long as the family’s current practices don’t pose a safety risk to the child, I try not to judge (despite the research I’ve studied begging me to do so). There is no one-size-fits-all approach to child rearing, and taking a step back to check the biases we have based on our education and personal culture/up-bringing can only make us better service providers.
I think I would go about it by reminding myself that there are multiple solutions to every problem. Things tend not to be black or white, and I understand that sometimes even if I feel strongly about something, doesn’t mean someone else has to too. It’s also good that I understand each culture is different and that some things are more urgent in them.
Although we are taught the best practices to ensure that the child has the best developmental outcome, I would remind myself that all parents start somewhere and there is a large learning curve when raising children, especially when each child is unique. I would honor and respect the family’s choices as long as the child is not in harm’s way. Being able to compartmentalize is important in this profession because extending this mindset that each child that we encounter would be better in another circumstance could lead to burnout extremely fast. Just try to remember that every family is unique and has different routines in place on how they think their child should be raised.
As a student learning about ECI and the role of service coordinators, this post was very helpful. I think it is very important that service coordinators remain unbiased as they help to serve this families. It can be easy for our own opinions to guide our decisions, but what is most important is to assure that we are meeting the families needs, not our own. It is very important that all service coordinators try their best to uphold the families wishes.