Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

'Parents rarely dare to speak up'

How do you get parents from different backgrounds to talk to each other in the neighbourhood?

At the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), we work with organisations and companies on the major social issues of today and tomorrow: sustainability, digitalisation and diversity. That sounds good and it is good, but what exactly does it mean?

Amsterdam Zuidoost is home to people from many different backgrounds, and values and standards relating to parenting vary widely. Sanne Rumping, researcher in the Youth Care research group of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law is developing a tool with welfare partners to initiate dialogue between parents about parenting issues in the neighbourhood.

The neighbourhood children grow up in plays an important role in their development. When the neighbourhood children live in has a positive influence on their development, we call this a good pedagogical climate. Parents, teachers, youth workers, neighbours, and also volunteers create that climate together, but research shows that working on a pedagogical climate in the neighbourhood together does not happen automatically. Parents and professionals often don’t know how to open the dialogue about parenting situations.

Parents often want to say something to other people’s children about what is and is not allowed, or to help them. But they don’t always know how to go about it.

Dialogue between parents for a better parenting climate

“In the early 2020s, the Zuidoost urban district asked us whether we could investigate effective ways to work on the pedagogical climate in the neighbourhood,” says Rumping. To create a good parenting climate, it is essential that parents engage in dialogue with each other. “We first looked at how people respond to parenting situations on the school playground, and in other places in the neighbourhood, such as playgrounds and on the street. We saw that parents often wanted to say something to other people’s children about what is and is not allowed, or to help them. But they didn't always know how to go about it, or didn’t dare.”

Rumping started off by collecting a number of existing methodologies and tools and analysing the important elements from them. She then worked with practice partners Swazoom (welfare organisation in Amsterdam Zuidoost), Trias Pedagogica (expertise agency on parenting, intercultural pedagogy and fatherhood) and welfare foundation Dock and with other scientists to test whether these methodologies work in practice.

Increasing equal opportunities

Lisa Harinck (head of Policy, Quality & Innovation at Swazoom): “we see increasing equal opportunities among children as one of our most important tasks. Having a good foundation is important in this respect. We are always looking for new ways to improve the pedagogical climate in the neighbourhood. This project is very useful in that respect.”

We are always looking for new ways to improve the pedagogical climate in the neighbourhood

After testing the information gathered from the practice partners, a prototype tool was developed: an interactive PowerPoint presentation that shows various parenting situations in comic form with the aim of getting parents to talk to each other about these situations.

Rumping asked the practice partners to test the tool. “I let them decide how and where to do that. This resulted in many great stories, and: the pictures turned out to spark good conversations.” The feedback received was used to create a new version of the tool, ready to be tested again.

Alternative testing round

Students Oceanna Kersting (Applied Psychology) and Ceriese Cranendonk (Cultural and Social Development ) are involved in the project through the Youth Care minor. “The intention was for us to participate fully in the second round of testing with the practice partners. Unfortunately, the coronavirus put an end to that,” said Oceanna. So what could they do? Ceriese: “Sanne asked us to head out with the presentation, and ask parents in playgrounds and parks what they saw in the pictures; did their interpretations match what was intended? We also asked them what they thought of the form, and whether they would prefer something different.”

The parents did not find all of the pictures clear and stated that more text could be used to improve this. Pictures with dilemmas were found to be very interesting, as were situations in which a choice had to be made and/or action was required. Parents also stated they would like to use the tool to prevent certain situations.

Tool and card game in use after the summer

The final improvements are now being made. The practice partners contributed twelve new parenting situations and also recommended developing a card game so that parents can actively engage with the material. Rumping: “The practice partners will start using the tool and the card game after the summer. I’m going to observe how they’re used and ask the parents questions. We’ll complete the project by the end of this year.”

Harinck is looking forward to working with the tool, which can be used in one-on-one conversations as well as in workshops for groups. “It will help us identify new trends and developments. We can then work on these ourselves, and we can advise on possible solutions for the future in consultations with partners and the municipal authorities.”

Did the students learn much in this project that they do not learn in their courses? Ceriese: “Yes, quite a lot. Cultural and Social Development does cover youth care in the first year, but I’ve had quite a bit of in-depth theory now. I also learned a lot from interviewing parents, because after I graduate, I want to work with young people and will also have to deal with parents and other external parties.”

It found it very interesting to learn from parents how they deal with their own children and those of others

Oceanna also wants to work with young people in the future, including those with problems. “Parenting is an important topic in youth work. It found it very interesting to learn from parents how they deal with their own children and those of others.” While she also carries out research in her degree programme, she says “this research was really next level. We really did it independently and had to actively search for information due to coronavirus. This experience will help me be better prepared when I enter the field.”

Published by  Communication 10 November 2021