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									                                            FRAME
            Using Theoretical Frameworks to Enhance Parent Education
Kim Leon, Ph.D.
University of Missouri-Columbia

Slide 1: Using Theoretical Frameworks to Enhance Parenting Education
Hi. I'm Kim Leon and I designed this presentation to give you more information about the Priority
Practice of FRAME from the National Extension Parent Educator's Framework. The FRAME
presentation will focus on how you can use theoretical frameworks to enhance parent education
efforts.

Before we get started, I'll ask you to go ahead and open the Case Study page and print it out, if
you'd like. We'll be using the Case Study a little later during this lesson. After you have printed
the Case Study page, please restart this presentation. If you have already printed the Case Study
page, you don't need to do anything. Just continue listening to this presentation. I'll let you know
when it is time to refer to the Case Study.

Slide 2:
First, let's define FRAME. FRAME refers to a framework, theory, or model that is used to design
parenting education programs or to make recommendations for parents. A FRAME helps
organize and structure information into a meaningful whole. We can think about a house to help
us understand the FRAME concept. The frame of a house provides the structure for the house.
Without a frame to provide structure, the individual building materials—bricks, drywall, wood, nails
would not form a house. The same is true for parenting information. There is a huge amount of
information, advice, and tips on parenting available. Using frameworks helps us structure the
individual pieces of information into a meaningful whole.

Slide 3:
The FRAME module has three specific objectives. After completing this module and the
assignment that goes with it, you should be able to:
   Describe three major frameworks that are useful for helping parents understand and respond
    to their children’s behavior,
   Explain the general recommendations and appropriate uses of the three frameworks,
   Identify the frameworks that guide recommendations made by specific parent education
    curricula.

Slide 4:
Why is it important to understand frameworks? Theoretical frameworks can help parent
educators understand parents’ attitudes and behaviors, identify problematic patterns of behavior,
and choose parent education curricula that meet parents' needs.

Slide 5:
There's a saying “If you give a man a fish, he’ll have enough food for a day; if you teach him how
to fish, he’ll have enough food for a lifetime.” This saying provides an illustration of how
theoretical frameworks can be helpful to parent educators. You can’t give parents all of the “fish”
they need or want. In other words, you can’t give them a specific answer for how to deal with
every problem they will encounter. However, you can teach them how to fish by giving them
frameworks, which can guide them in figuring out their own answers.
Slide 6:
What are some important frameworks for parent educators to understand? In this lesson, we'll
focus on three major frameworks:

        1) Systems

        2) Social Learning/Behavioral

        3) Psychosocial

First, I'll discuss the major concepts of each framework and then provide examples of how the
framework can be used in parent education. We'll start with the Systems framework, which has
two parts: Ecological Systems theory and Family Systems theory.

Slide 7:
The main idea of Ecological Systems theory is that the family system is part of a much larger
whole. More specifically, Ecological Systems theory helps us understand how contexts outside
the family, such as school, work, and the cultural context, affect what happens inside the family.

Let's look at some of the key environmental influences on the family. Ecological Systems Theory
describes four aspects of the environment that affect individual family members' development.
The microsystem is the smallest circle, in the center. This circle represents the individual's
immediate environment, such as home or the child's school. The connections between the parts
of the microsystem are called the mesosystem. An example of the mesosystem is the
relationship between the family and school. Contexts that affect an individual indirectly are part of
the exosystem, which is represented by the middle circle. For a child, the parent's workplace is
part of the exosystem. The child may be affected by the parent's work hours or job stress, but the
child is not directly exposed to the parent's workplace, so the child is indirectly affected by the
parent's workplace. Finally, the outermost circle represents the macrosystem, which is the social
and cultural context. Cultural values that influence parenting practices, such as the belief that a
young child should be near the mother at all times, are part of the macrosystem.

Slide 8:
When a parent educator is confronted with a problem in a family, Ecological Systems theory can
guide the parent educator to ask questions such as: What is happening at school? Have there
been any major changes in the parent(s)' jobs? Are financial problems affecting the family?
What are this family's cultural beliefs about childrearing? These kinds of questions can help the
parent educator understand the family as part of a larger whole, get a better understanding of the
problem, and understand what aspects of the environment may need to change.

Slide 9:
Now let's look at the second part of the Systems framework, which focuses on what happens
inside the family. Family Systems theory views the family as an interconnected whole. This
means that change in one part of the family will affect all of the other parts. For example, the
birth of a child leads to changes in the marital relationship. There are more demands on the
couple and less time to spend together, which usually leads to a decrease in marital satisfaction.
Couples tend to shift to more traditional gender roles after the birth of a child. Women tend to do
more childcare and housework, while men put more energy into providing for the family. These
changes can also create tension in the marital relationship, if the couple is not satisfied with these
roles. Family Systems theory helps us understand the dynamics of relationships within the
family.
Slide 10:
Family Systems theory describes several key processes:

Triangles: When two people are in conflict, they often will involve a third person. This decreases
the tension between the two people. For example, a mother who has a hard time directly
expressing her emotions, may express her anger with her older daughter by complaining about
and criticizing the older daughter with the younger daughter. This alleviates the tension in the
relationship between the mother and older daughter, but creates unhealthy relationships in which
feelings cannot be openly expressed.

Communication: Indirect communication can lead to problematic patterns of interaction. People
often have difficulty directly communicating feelings such as sadness, anger, or fear, so they may
act in ways that relieve those feelings, but have negative consequences. For example, it is very
frightening for a child if a parent becomes depressed or withdrawn. The child may "act out,"
which engages the parent, but results in negative parent-child interactions. Family Systems
theory highlights the importance of understanding what emotional messages are being
communicated by problematic behaviors and learning to directly communicate those feelings.

Boundaries: Appropriate boundaries between family members and between relationships within
the family are essential for healthy family functioning. Families function better when adults rely
on other adults for emotional support, rather than relying on a child for emotional support. For
example, when parents have a distant or conflicted marital relationship, and a parent develops an
overly close relationship with a child, this boundary dissolution overburdens the child and
increases the tension in the marital relationship. In single-parent families children also do better
when their parent seeks emotional support from other adults, such as friends, relatives, or a
support group.

Self-Differentiation: Self-Differentiation refers to the ability to separate thoughts from feelings.
People may react with extreme emotion to something a partner or child does when the situation
reminds them of something that was difficult in their childhood. In other words, "old" feelings are
triggered by what is happening now. Usually when people have an extreme emotional reaction,
they are not consciously aware that the situation is similar to something that happened in the
past. They are only aware of their current feelings. Becoming aware of emotional responses that
are rooted in childhood and learning to differentiate the "old" feelings from the reality of the
current situation are important processes for developing healthy family relationships.

Slide11:
Family Systems theory can help parent educators understand how a change in one part of the
family system affects all of the other parts. Parent educators can use this concept to help a
family anticipate changes in the family system. For example, when a couple is expecting a child,
a parent educator can help the couple anticipate how this event might change their marital
relationship, and plan for how to deal with those changes. Family Systems theory can also help
parent educators recognize problematic patterns of family interaction involving triangles, indirect
communication, boundary problems, and lack of differentiation.

Slide 12:
The Social Learning/Behavioral framework highlights two processes by which behavior is learned:
observational learning and reinforcement. Observational learning happens when children imitate
or model what they see and hear other people do. Children are especially likely to imitate
behaviors when they see other people receiving positive reinforcement for those behaviors. This
applies to behaviors observed on television, as well as behaviors observed in real life. For
example, in a family I worked with, the younger child refused to sit at the table to eat a meal and
the parent reinforced this behavior by following the child around the house and offering the child
bites of food in order to get him to eat. Eventually, the older sibling began doing the same thing,
after seeing the younger sibling getting reinforcement for not sitting at the table.
Children also learn from reactions to their own behavior. Providing a positive consequence
encourages a behavior to continue. In the example above, the parent reinforced the younger
sibling's behavior by following him around the house feeding him. However, removing the
positive consequence can encourage a behavior to stop. Mom could have responded to the
younger child's refusal to sit at the table by simply letting him go play instead of eating. If he
wanted a snack later, Mom could give him a snack, telling him that he needs to sit down at the
table to eat it. Here, Mom removed a positive consequence (following the child around feeding
him) that was encouraging his behavior to continue.

Sometimes it is necessary for a negative consequence to occur in order to stop a behavior.
There are two types of negative consequences: 1) natural consequences and 2) logical
consequences. Natural consequences are very effective for changing behavior. If a child leaves
her bike in the driveway after having been told she needs to put it in the garage at the end of the
day, and the bike is stolen, the natural consequence is that she doesn't have a bike to ride. She
may need to save her allowance or wait until a birthday/holiday to get a new bike. Sometimes
natural consequences are not appropriate—they may result in a child being harmed or doing
something that is very detrimental. For example, the natural consequence for a child who refuses
to do his homework would be that his homework never gets done and he fails. This consequence
would be very detrimental to the child's future, so a logical consequence would be more
appropriate. An appropriate logical consequence might be that no TV watching is allowed until all
homework is completed. If the child still doesn't do his homework a privilege might be taken
away for a set period of time.

Slide 13:
The Social Learning/Behavioral framework is very useful for parent educators when working with
parents on discipline issues. Parent educators can help parents understand the importance of
modeling desired behaviors, avoiding modeling problematic behaviors, providing positive
consequences for desired behaviors, removing positive consequences that encourage problem
behaviors, and providing natural or logical consequences for problematic behaviors.

Slide 14:
Now let's look at The Psychosocial Framework. This framework, developed by Erik Erikson,
describes eight developmental stages. Each stage has a key developmental task to be
accomplished.

The first stage, which takes place during the first year of life, is Trust vs. Mistrust. The goal of this
stage is developing a sense of trust, or security, that others will meet one’s needs. Inconsistent
caregiving during this stage may lead to a sense of insecurity, or mistrust.

Next, around ages 2-3, is the stage of Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. During this stage,
toddlers are learning to be self-sufficient. A sense of shame may develop if children do not have
opportunities or sufficient adult support to master tasks by themselves.

During the preschool years, children are in the stage of Initiative vs. Guilt. Children's growing
skills lead them to take initiative to do adultlike activities, try new things, and initiate play with
peers. Taking initiative sometimes results in conflict with adults or peers, leading to guilt feelings.
Placing too many limits on children or allowing them to take too much initiative, such as making
adult decisions may result in excessive guilt.

In middle childhood, the stage of Industry vs. Inferiority occurs. During this stage, children master
increasingly complex skills. They gain a sense of industry from accomplishing tasks that require
sustained attention and perseverance. If children do not have sufficient support to master new
skills, they may develop a sense of inferiority and avoid new or challenging activities.
Slide 15:
The next stage, which begins during adolescence, is Identity vs. Role Confusion. At this stage,
adolescents strive to develop their own unique sense of identity, goals and values. This can
involve pulling away from the family. Adolescents need support from parents to explore different
identities, but they still need to know that their parents are there for them and are in charge. The
inability to develop a clear identity of one's own results in role confusion.

During the 20’s, young adults enter the stage of Intimacy vs. Isolation. Older adolescents and
young adults strive to form intimate relationships with friends and romantic partners. Inability to
form close relationships may result in feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Middle adulthood, from the late 20’s to around the 50’s, is the stage of Generativity vs.
Stagnation. The goal for adults at this stage is productivity, either in the workplace, or in raising a
family. If adults are unable to be productive and accomplish important goals, they may feel a
sense of stagnation.

Finally, the stage of Integrity vs. Isolation/Despair occurs in older adulthood. Older adults look
back over their lives and try to find meaning in them. If they view their lives as a series of
disappointments or unmet goals, rather than a meaningful and satisfying whole, a sense of
despair results.

Slide 16:
An important lesson from the Psychosocial framework is that the extent to which developmental
tasks are accomplished at previous stages influences the extent to which the tasks of later stages
will be accomplished. For example, a child who does not form a secure attachment in infancy will
have a harder time forming positive peer relationships in early and middle childhood.
Adolescents who do not develop a clear sense of identity have a harder time mastering later
tasks of intimacy and generativity.

Erikson’s Psychosocial framework is also useful for helping parents understand children’s
behavior at various ages. Let's look at toddlers' behavior as an example. Toddlers often engage
in behaviors that appear oppositional. They say "NO" and "MINE" a lot. They also insist on trying
to do things, such a tying their shoes that they cannot do without adult assistance. It is easier to
understand these behaviors when we recognize that developing a sense of autonomy is a key
developmental task of the toddler period. Saying "NO" and "MINE" are ways that toddlers assert
their independence. Trying to do things for themselves helps toddlers establish a sense of
autonomy.

Slide 17:
Now, let's look at a case study to see how we might apply these frameworks to some specific
parenting challenges. I will read the case study. Please refer to the Case Study page, or your
printout of the Case Study and follow along.

Maria is an eight-year-old whose parents divorced six months ago. Maria and her younger
brother, Robert, live with their mother most of the time, but spend every other weekend at their
father's house. When they go to Dad’s house, they are not expected to do chores or homework.
Robert gets to spend a lot of time playing video games and Maria gets to ride the new bike that
Dad bought her. However, going to Dad’s can also be stressful because Dad tends to ask a lot of
questions about what goes on at Mom’s house. When the children return home, Mom asks a lot
of questions about what goes on at Dad’s house.

Maria is having some problems with her schoolwork. According to her teacher, Maria daydreams
and fails to complete her class assignments. Maria has always gotten good grades before, but
lately she hasn’t been turning in homework on days after going to her father's house, and says
that her homework was left at her mother's house.
Robert is in preschool. He enjoys dramatic play activities with groups of children, such as
pretending to be firefighters or astronauts. Lately, his play has involved more aggressive themes,
such as fighting or killing “bad guys”, and he has been having trouble getting along with his peers.
They get into a disagreement, and Robert ends up pushing or grabbing someone.

Maria and Robert’s parents are unsure of how to deal with their children’s problems. When they
try to discuss these issues, they always end up arguing and blaming each other. Mom feels that
she is the one who has to be responsible for all of the discipline. She is tired and stressed out
when she comes home from work. She gets tired of telling Maria to do her homework and
doesn’t have the time or energy to play with Robert as much as she’d like, so the kids end up
spending a lot of time watching TV. Dad feels like he doesn’t get to spend much time with the
kids, so he wants them to have fun when they are at his house.

A question for you to think about is: What are the goals of these parents?

Slide 18:
There are some common goals that both parents probably have for their children. Both parents
probably want Maria to complete her homework and assignments so she can do well in school.
Both parents probably want Robert to express his frustration in non-aggressive ways so he can
get along with his peers. These parents may also have some different goals. Mom might like
some help with the responsibilities of raising children. She probably feels overburdened by the
stresses of balancing work and single parenting. Dad probably wants the children to enjoy their
time with him. He may be afraid that if they don’t have fun at his house, they’ll stop spending time
with him.

How could the frameworks presented in this module be helpful in meeting the parents’ goals?

Slide 19:
Let's look at the Systems Framework. We'll focus on Ecological Systems theory first. The
Ecological Systems framework can help us understand how the environment may be affecting the
family. At the microsystem level, the children may not be getting enough support to successfully
adjust to their parents’ divorce. A school counselor or therapist might be able to provide some
extra support. The TV and video games may also be aspects of the microsystem that are
contributing to Maria not completing homework and Robert’s aggressive behavior. Looking at the
mesosystem suggests that the children could benefit from a stronger partnership between home
and school. Two-way communication between the family and school about the stressors at home
and the problems at school is needed. At the exosystem level, the children would probably benefit
from their parents getting some extra support, such as counseling or a support group. At the
macrosystem level is the social and cultural context. Single mothers often have a great deal of
financial pressure and little support for raising their children. In addition, legal and social policies
have not traditionally encouraged divorced fathers to maintain an involved, parental role in their
children’s lives.

Slide 20:
The Family Systems framework can help us understand how the family dynamics may be
affecting Maria’s school performance and Robert’s problems with his peers. Ongoing conflict
between parents, whether they are married or divorced, is very stressful for children. The
children are being triangulated into the conflict by the parents’ questioning. If the parents could
work out a way to co-parent more cooperatively, all family members would probably feel less
stress. It is likely that some of Maria’s and Robert’s problematic behaviors represent efforts to
indirectly communicate their feelings of sadness, anger, and fear related to the divorce, as well as
a need for extra attention during this time. The children may need help learning appropriate ways
to express their feelings and they may need extra one-on-one time with each parent.
Slide 21:
The Social Learning Framework guides us to consider how the children’s behavior is being
reinforced. Maria’s avoidance of her homework is reinforced by her parents' inconsistency. She
doesn't have to do homework at her Dad's house, but she does have to do it at her Mom's house.
Her mother tells her to do her homework but then allows her to watch TV instead. Robert’s
aggressive behavior may be reinforced by aggression that is observed on TV and in video
games. In addition, he is probably learning from observing his parents’ arguing and inability to
resolve conflict.

How can the parents use modeling and consequences to change these problem behaviors?
Removing some of the models of aggressive behavior that Robert is exposed to and replacing
them with models of cooperative behavior, such as children’s books on handling anger might
help. Teaching him appropriate alternatives to aggression, such as getting help from the teacher,
and rewarding him with positive consequences when he uses them might also help. Social
Learning theory would also suggest that the parents consistently implement negative
consequences for not doing homework. In this case, logical consequences, such as taking away
a privilege would be appropriate. This will be more effective if the parents also use positive
consequences to reward completion of homework.

Slide 22:
Finally, Erikson’s Psychosocial Framework helps us understand developmental challenges for
these children. Maria is in the stage of industry vs. inferiority. The Psychosocial framework could
be used to help her parents understand the importance of her successfully completing homework,
so that she does not develop a sense of inferiority. Academic success can increase children's
confidence and help them adapt to stressful life events, such as parental divorce. Maria’s
schoolwork may be suffering, in part, due to feelings of inferiority. It is common for children to
blame themselves when their parents divorce. Maria may be struggling with feelings of self-
blame and fear, which are preventing her from completing her schoolwork.

Robert is in the initiative vs. guilt stage. Conflicts resulting from children taking initiative are a
normal part of this stage, and occasional aggression is typical for preschool children. However, it
is important for children in this stage to learn to take initiative in ways that are not hurtful to other
people, and to balance their own needs with the needs of others. Learning to initiate play with
peers is an important part of this stage, so it is important that Robert learn to interact with his
peers without aggression. It is also important that he not be made to feel like he is “bad” because
a sense of guilt may result, preventing him from learning how to take initiative appropriately.

Slide 23:
In summary, this module has presented three major theoretical frameworks that can help parent
educators provide parents with tools to meet their goals. First, the Systems framework helps us
understand how the family is affected by the larger environment and how relationships within the
family affect one another. Second, the Social Learning framework provides an understanding of
how behaviors are learned, as well as techniques for changing behaviors. Third, the
Psychosocial framework identifies important developmental tasks that individuals face at different
stages throughout the lifespan.

Slide 24:
We will conclude the FRAME module with a question for you to reflect on. How can you apply the
three frameworks we have discussed—systems, social learning, and psychosocial—to your work
with parents?

The Links and Supplementary Readings pages list resources for more information about using
frameworks in parenting education. Now, please go to the Assignment page and complete the
assignment. Thank you.

								
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