Zero to Three, the national nonprofit, decided to tune in to parents by going largely “to Millennials and Generation X mothers and fathers—to learn more about the challenges they face, the help they seek and how satisfied they are with the parenting support and information they receive.”
It was “a comprehensive research effort” that included “a series of in-home discussions and a large national parent survey” of a diverse range of parents whose children were ages 0 to 5.
One goal: to help parents put the powerful science of early childhood brain development into action.
“I want to be the catcher,” one father says about the role he plays for his children, explaining that when he was young, his father wasn’t there to play football with him.
“I just thought it was going to be like this TV show and it was great and everything was wonderful,” one mom says. “I read the books. I felt super prepared and then reality hits. You are like, what the hell happened? None of that stuff is as it was planned. Things go wrong and things change.”
These are some of the responses in the report, “Tuning In: Parents of Young Children Tell Us What They Think, Know and Need,” which comes with infographics and videos of parents sharing their thoughts.
Specifically, Zero to Three asked parents:
• “What they understand about brain development and the impact that early experiences have on children’s long-term development”
• “Whether they believe that parenting skills can be learned”
• “What they struggle with most when it comes to childrearing”
• “How their own childhood experiences affect how they approach parenting,” and
• “What kind of information they want to receive, where they go for parenting help, whether it’s serving their needs”
Common themes emerged in parents’ answers, including:
• “When it comes to attitudes, aspirations and parenting challenges, there is more that unites than divides parents.”
• “Parents universally believe that parenting can be learned and that if they had more positive parenting strategies they would use them.”
• “Dads are more than babysitters. They love being involved fathers, and want—and deserve—more credit.”
• “There is a ‘missing’ first year,” because parents don’t realize “how young babies are when they can begin to feel complex emotions, and how deeply they can be affected by the way parents interact with them in the first months of life.”
• “There is an expectation gap when it comes to understanding children’s capabilities.” Parents sometimes “overestimate the age at which children master some important developmental skills,”
• “Parents face a discipline dilemma.” They “want to use effective approaches, but many say that finding the right way to discipline is hard,” and
• There’s also a trust gap: “Parents want advice, but are overwhelmed by sources of help and underwhelmed by the quality of what they’re getting.” In addition: “Half of parents aren’t getting the support they need when they feel overwhelmed or stressed—the time when help is most important.”
To address these challenges, the report issues a multi-step call to action that asks professionals who work with families to:
• provide parents with clear “science-based information about early development” and ways they can use this information to nurture their children”
• Use “the voices and experiences of real parents in any efforts to support parents of young children.”
• “Help parents find positive disciplinary strategies that work.”
• “Celebrate and harness fathers’ commitment to be involved in raising their young children.”
• Develop media that presents child-rearing advice in “relatable ways,” and
• “Create opportunities for parents to learn from each other—to share challenges, brainstorm solutions, and offer support.”
The need for creative, engaging, community-based opportunities to learn more about parenting can be summed up by one father’s comment about his son.
“Teach me now. You show me. And at the same time, I’ll teach him, and we’ll teach each other. I want that.”
To join the discussion on social media, use #ParentForward.