4. Why Bridge the Gap?
Research shows that there are tangible effects of different parenting styles on the growth and development of children. (Baumrind, 1967) Different parenting styles can also have a profound effect on a marriage or family. When two people cannot find common ground and learn to parent cooperatively, tension and resentment builds, which can lead to separation or divorce. There are many causes for parenting style differences including culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level, and religion. Considering all of these factors, it is easy to see to how hard it is for parents to reach agreement about how to guide their children and when to discipline.
It is important to create a cohesive approach to parenting that both parents learn to cooperate as they combine various elements of their unique parenting styles. In the next section, we will explore how Appreciative Inquiry can help parents to find common ground and work together to raise healthy and happy children.
5. Appreciative Inquiry and Coaching Application
Appreciative Inquiry is about the co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives ‘life’ to a living system, when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the ‘unconditional positive question’… In AI, the arduous task of intervention gives way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. AI seeks, fundamentally, to build a constructive union between a whole part and the massive entirety of what people talk about as past and present capacities: achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, elevated thoughts, opportunities, benchmarks, high point moments, lived values, traditions, strategic competencies, stories, expressions of wisdom, insights into the deeper…soul or spirit, and visions of valued and possible futures. Taking all of these together as a gestalt, AI deliberately, in everything it does, seeks to work from accounts of this ‘positive change core’—and assumes that every living system has many untapped and rich and inspiring accounts of the positive. Link the energy of this core directly to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly…mobilized. (Cooperrider, et. al., 2003)
Over the past 30 years Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has been researched extensively and used successfully in corporations, community organizations, and in some school settings around the world. It has a wonderful track record because the AI process supports positive, long-term change, offering much hope and unleashing new levels of creativity, innovation, and inspiration. (DeGaetano)
Appreciative Inquiry attempts to use ways of asking questions and envisioning the future in-order to foster positive relationships and build on the present potential of a given person, organization or situation. (Wikipedia) The Parent Coaching Institute has adapted the AI model and applied it to parent coaching.
The four cycle process of Appreciative Inquiry includes:
- Discover – Involves the use of carefully crafted questions to find out what is working well. “If you focus on problems you find more problems. If you focus on successes, you find more successes.” (Mac Odell) Through “unconditional positive questioning”, strengths, successes, and potentials then become key ingredients in the solutions to the parent’s challenge. (DeGaetano) The parent can now see the child in a positive light and is ready to approach solutions to behavior issues in a proactive and meaningful way.
- Dream – Involves helping parents create a clear vision for what they want and encouraging the positive feelings that would result from living that preferred future with their children. Picturing an ideal day and how it feels can create opportunities for unexpected insight. It also puts an image of goals at the forefront of the parent’s mind. (DeGaetano)
- Design – Encouraging strategies, ideas, behaviors, parenting practices, reflective exercises, and other applications to help parents design both external and internal activities that would best support fulfillment of their dream. “In the Design phase we coaches catalyze a building from the unformed to the formed. Here is where we find the unleashing of the client’s creativity, with each inquiry we make. It is a time of holding the client in a trusting bond, with expectations for responsibility to their own creative process and an understanding of what power they have to transform their lives. We, in a sense, give our clients permission, to go for it. To do what they think needs to be done. To not hold back any longer. To remember all the strengths within, to actually take all the energy built up from the Discovery and the Dream stages, to now, burn up with focused action toward what they value most and hold true in order to be their best selves.” (DeGaetano)
- Destiny (or Deliver) – “As a parent’s dream emerges into actual lived experience, the role of the coach is to point out the “evidence indicators” that show this is happening, to help the parent gather the qualities and resources to make sure the emerging dream is sustainable, and to acknowledge that deep change has occurred and that the parent is a primary cause of this change.”(DeGaetano) David Cooperrider writes “at some point apparently minor positive discoveries connect in accelerating manner and quantum change, a jump from one state to the next that cannot be achieved through incremental change alone, becomes possible.” (Cooperrider et al., 2003)
Using Appreciative Inquiry, parents can not only reframe their ideas about their children’s strengths, but those of their partner. Understanding the greatness about what each parent brings to the relationship is critical to creating a cooperative environment for the entire family. Imagine the possibilities for parenting in this environment. By focusing on what is right, a shared vision of what can be, and implementing practices that support that vision, parents can embrace their roles as leaders and change agents in their own family. However, children do not have to be excluded from the process. By sharing the vision and design for the preferred future, children can internalize the dream and play an integral part in making it a reality.
Appreciate Inquiry and its positive focus can only point parents to a more authoritarian parenting style. However, the style will most likely not mirror Baumrind’s definition exactly because the open-ended process lends itself to new ideas and possibilities. Focusing on strengths, positivity and potential goes hand in hand with a democratic or partnership style of parenting, in which temperaments and background are considered and incorporated into a new and unique vision that is authentic to the family. Therefore, Appreciate Inquiry can and will bridge the gap between parenting styles.
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Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Mongraphs, 75, 43-88.
Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.
Maccoby, E.E., & Martin, J.A., (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent-child interaction. In P.H. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington, Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.
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(DeGaetano, Gloria. (n.d.). Appreciative Inquiry: A Significant Tool for Effective Parent Coaching. (Online). http://www.thepci.org/articles/DeGaetano_AppreciativeInquiry.htm)
Wikipedia.(n.d.). Appreciative Inquiry. (Online). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appreciative_inquiry
Cooperrider, D.L., Whitney, D., Stavros, J.M., (2003). Appreciative Inquiry Handbook: The First in a Series of AI Workbooks for Leaders of Change. Lakeshore Publishers.