CO-PARENTING

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FT WORKSHOP: MOM AS GATEWAY

The objectives of this workshop are to:

  1. increase mothers’ awareness of what gatekeeping is, how it operates, and how it is sometimes misused out of anger and hurt;
  2. offer concrete examples that will facilitate mothers’ understanding of the negative impact of excessive gatekeeping and the importance of supporting father involvement; and
  3. engage mothers in exercises that will facilitate the reduction of restrictive maternal gatekeeping1 behaviors that inhibit father engagement.

Use this workshop as a stand-alone workshop whether or not you use a fathering program. It also serves as an ideal companion to NFI fathering programs such as 24/7 Dad™, Doctor Dad™, and InsideOut Dad™. This workshop helps mothers to gain awareness and learn skills that will help them support father involvement, as the dads learn what they can and need to do to actively and positively engage in their child’s upbringing. Mothers should participate in these sessions concurrently with the fathers’ participation in these NFI programs (e.g., as fathers start the program, mothers start these sessions). Ideally, you should conduct these sessions over several weeks (i.e. one session per week) and then bring mothers and fathers together when the mothers have completed these three sessions to discuss what they have learned and how they will act on it together. You can also use this workshop with other fathering programs.

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WHAT FATHERS HAVE TO DO WITH IT

Over the past decade, men and boys have been increasingly integrated into programs and policies nthat aim to empower women and strengthen gender equality. However, in most countries men and caregiving remains conspicuously absent from the gender equality agenda. Today, women represent 40% of the paid workforce and more than half the world’s food producers. But men are clearly not carrying out half the world’s care work. Global statistics suggest that the average time women spend on unpaid care work is two to 10 times that of men. Indeed, a core and enduring aspect of gender inequality globally is the fact that men are generally expected to be providers and breadwinners and that women and girls are generally expected to be responsible for caregiving and domestic tasks.

In addition, the relationship between men’s involvement in care work and violence against women and children has been largely neglected in research. Numerous studies confirm that men who witness and experience violence growing up are more likely to use violence against children and women later in life. However, research from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) and other sources suggests that boys who experience a positive caregiving influence from men in the household are more likely to have gender-equitable attitudes, more likely to participate in care work and less likely to use violence against a female partner later on.

The key point is this: If we are to advance on gender equality, men must take on their fair share of the costs, time and care work required in daily life. There is perhaps no other area of gender equality that offers us this opportunity of providing benefits to women, children and men themselves.

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ENCOURAGING POSITIVE PARENTING IN EARLY CHILDHOOD

Our youngest children are the nation’s most impressionable and vulnerable. What happens in these early years sets the stage for every other phase of life. Thus, establishing a firm foundation for healthy growth and development during this
critical time, and ensuring that children have the opportunity to thrive, is of interest to us all—parents, schools, community leaders and policymakers.

Unfortunately, for a range of reasons, many young children do not receive the nurturing that will enable them to enter school healthy and ready to learn. Parents’ interactions with their children are a primary driver of healthy development during these crucial early years. Yet research finds that parents who are financially or socially unstable often feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenting and struggle to provide the engaging opportunities and interactions that will foster healthy social, emotional, cognitive and motor development.
Individual programs that provide high-intensity education programming for parents, nested in broader support for families, have shown evidence of successfully improving parenting practices. Little is known, however, about whether such programs can be scaled up to serve entire communities and still maintain their effectiveness.

This report examines one initiative’s attempt to improve parenting practices across a city, in the context of a larger effort to improve the health and well-being of its young children. Although the initiative has proven successful on a number of other fronts—such as improving the quality of center- and family-based childcare, increasing rates of early
lead screening among medical practices serving infants and toddlers, improving other preventive medical care practices and increasing home visiting programs in the city (as documented in earlier reports)—it was not able to produce measurable changes in parenting practices citywide. This report suggests potential reasons why and, as such,
provides important lessons for those who are funding, implementing and evaluating future initiatives designed to serve parents of very young children— or indeed any initiative that aims to foster broadscale community change.