Parents play a more important role than any choice of school in the mental health, well-being and even earning potential of children.
That is the belief of Matthew Sanders, the founder of the hugely successful Triple-P (Positive Parenting Program). The program, developed at the University of Queensland, has helped millions of families with the help of more than 30 years of research, becoming one of the Australia’s greatest social science exports.
Dr Sanders will launch The Power of Positive Parenting book, celebrating three decades of the program’s development, at the University of Queensland on Wednesday, 7 February.
As part of the release of the book, Dr Sanders is urging the Australian government to take a population-wide approach to parenting to improve the future of families, describing an emphasis on parenting as a major public health initiative.
“Statewide availability of The University of Queensland-developed Triple P – Positive Parenting Program in Queensland is an example of a forward-thinking, community health approach that supports parents to promote positive outcomes for children across the state,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there is not enough of this kind of thinking when it comes to government spending. Too often, when evidence-based or non-evidence parenting services are offered, support is limited to the most vulnerable, those who have been identified and targeted by agencies as needing help.
“While well-meaning, such an approach will never shift rates of children’s early onset mental health issues or child maltreatment. A mindset that views parents as the problem, rather than part of the solution and singles them out for attention is only going to send parents away from the very support we are trying to give them.”
Dr Sanders is concerned that parents’ about the outsourcing in public policy of parents’ responsibilities – of schools charged with improving children’s resilience and mental health and of the medical profession to deal with the common and everyday issues parents face in raising children.
He said that the way children are parented profoundly affects their long-term health, their ability to learn, their mental well-being and how they get on with others. Ultimately, it can determine their likelihood of ending up in jail, taking drugs, becoming violent, or alternatively, participating meaningfully in society.
“Evidence-based parenting programs can help parents and children regulate their emotions and behaviour, using competently trained and supervised staff, or robustly evaluated online interventions. They have an active coaching component and allow for the practice of skills as part of their core curriculum.”
Rather than blaming parents for society’s problems, Dr Sanders believes we needed to start supporting them with a public health approach informed by evidence.