Staff-Parent Relationships That Support Parenting

Step 1. Listening and Accepting

Mother and father speaking with someone.

The journey forward begins with fully accepting the other person’s starting point. Acceptance is different from agreeing with or addressing what the other person expresses. Acceptance requires an unbiased and neutral curiosity. It is a purposeful strategy for drawing out and fully hearing the experiences and perspectives of others.

Acceptance isn’t always easy. Staff’s interpretations of what they hear and their best intentions for addressing concerns can short-circuit a parent’s self-expression. For parents to feel accepted, they must be seen, heard, and believed without judgement, positive or negative. Without acceptance, parents may feel reluctant to identify areas where they might seek support.

Acceptance is an important part of a process that strengthens working relationships and allows deeper and perhaps more challenging exploration in the future. The more they learn the practice of acceptance, the more staff learn that acceptance is not the end goal. Acceptance is the first step in building relationships.

Applying the Strategy

Instructions: Review the following conversation starters. Choose one to use during an interaction with a parent. Then, take some time for self-reflection. How did using the strategy of listening and accepting make a difference in your interaction?

  • What skills and behaviors have you noticed in your child recently?
  • How are they expressing their emotions with you?
  • What new things are they learning?
  • How are they getting along with siblings and friends? 
  • What are some of your biggest positive surprises?
  • What are your worries or things you are unsure about?