Using Ara Mātua – Parenting Pathways

Practical insights into how to use 'Ngā ara mātua – parenting pathways' to support whānau.

Tui talks about using ‘Ngā ara mātua – parenting pathways’.

Where do you work, Tui?

I work in a programme supporting whānau with babies and young children who are having challenges and difficulties. My job is to visit them regularly, support them through the rough bits and help them to be the kind of parents they’d like to be. The Tākai website is a helpful tool for me in my work.

Tākai used the findings from a report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner called The discipline and guidance of children(external link) which is one of the main pieces of research behind the Tākai resources. It says that a positive relationship between parents and kids is a key to managing kids’ behaviour without resorting to hitting and yelling.

What are ‘parenting pathways’?

They’re checklists of goals available as a downloadable document for each age and stage in the Tākai website. They identify practical actions for parents to help strengthen their relationship with pēpi, and build their parenting confidence.

The suggestions are mainly taken from the ‘Whānau say’ and ‘Ngā tohu whānau’ sections in the age and stage related booklets. ‘Ngā tohu whānau’ are also known as the ‘6 things children need to grow into happy and capable adults’.

You can use the pathways to set goals for the whānau, and there are empty spaces for parents to add their own goals.

What’s the purpose of the parenting pathways?

Ara Mātua – Parenting pathways is all about building whānau who feel confident in their parenting and relate well with their kids. The parenting pathways help with the practical things parents can do that have positive results for their children’s development.

Why do you use the parenting pathways?

They’re a great help in highlighting the simple, everyday ways that parents and whānau build strong relationships with their kids.

In our support programme we do ‘strengths and needs’ assessments, and help parents set some plans and goals for their whānau. The parenting pathways help with ideas for these, especially if parents are struggling a bit with their parenting. It’s also really helpful for keeping us all on track.

How do you use the parenting pathways?

There’s no one way to use them, although it is important that we use them together with parents – they’re not checklists that we fill in behind their backs. We talk together about the ideas and which ones they may like to focus on between our visits.

It’s a negotiated process, not something I decide on. If the whānau are working on other stuff not suggested in a parenting pathway, we just add them in the spaces provided. We discuss each item to make sure the parents are clear about what’s involved and the reasons why they’re helpful.

I encourage the parents to make notes or tick off the items during the time between visits.

How do you introduce the parenting pathways?

Sometimes parents can do with some extra help. Some have limited experience of what is expected age-related behaviour, while others may need ideas for playing or interacting with their kids. Getting them thinking and talking about what they want for their kids in the future is a great place to start. Then, using the appropriate parenting pathway for their child’s age, I help them figure out what sorts of things they might need to do to help that happen.

I explain how there are similar ideas in the Whakatipu booklets. I sit beside them with the right booklet for where their baby’s at (which I will have looked through first so I know what’s in it). Then I’ll say something like, ‘Let’s look at this book. In the “Pēpi says” section I think we’ll be able to recognise some things.’ And then I ask them how it reminds them of their pēpi — ‘How does what’s written here relate to [their baby’s name]?’

I notice what they’ve picked up on, and we talk about it, noting how it relates to their baby.

Then in the ‘Whānau say’ section of the Whakatipu booklets we have the whānau and parents’ story. We get more ideas about the things parents are thinking about and doing for their pēpi at this age. Then I try to get the whānau talking about what they do, and if they recognise themselves in any of the paragraphs — ‘Do you see yourself here? Can you see yourself doing similar things?’

First, I like us to focus on the positive things they’re already doing. Then, after we’ve had a chat about that, I ask if there’s anything they’d like to try or to change. I say something like, ‘We use these pathways to keep track of how you’re doing with your parenting and what things might be great for baby at this time.’

I stress that this is a guide, not a set of rules, and we need to make sure that what’s on the list is right for them and their baby. So, what they want to focus on with baby at this time is really up to them.’

What happens on the next visits?

Overall, I check with the parents about how things are going at each visit. We discuss progress, celebrate successes and find ways to encourage further activity. I always give them an opportunity to talk about the successes and find out more about what things worked and why. I use conversations starters like these:

  • How did you get on with the parenting pathway ideas?
  • What are you most proud of doing since we last met?
  • What worked well?
  • What did you try that was successful?

On the other hand, I also like to hear about the challenges – what didn’t work and why, and what we can do to make it more appropriate for the whānau.

  • What didn’t work so well?
  • Would you like to talk about how that went?
  • Who else was involved in using the pathway?
  • Would you like to look at it alongside the Whakatipu booklet?
  • What changes have you noticed?
  • What have you learned through having this pathway checklist?’

What happens if baby isn’t making the expected progress, despite the parents’ efforts?

I’ve made quite an effort to get to know the organisations in our community who work with whānau. So, if I have any concerns about a particular pēpi, I know who to call and I already have a relationship with them. I’m not trained in child development (it’s not my field of expertise) so I’d always rather be sure than sorry when it comes to keeping track of a baby’s development.

Can you give us an example?

Sure. Just last week I’d been thinking about little Jamie who didn’t seem interested in moving around. He just sat propped up. I checked the ‘What’s going on for baby?’ column on the ‘Child developmental topic’ page for his age in this Parenting Resource, and the ‘Pēpi says’ section in the Whakatipu booklet. It looked like you’d be expecting him to be mobile, but he just sat there.

His parents seemed to be doing the things suggested in the ‘How can parents and whānau help?’ section of the ‘Child developmental topic’ page, and in the appropriate parenting pathway. They were giving their pēpi time on the floor and encouraging him to reach for toys, but Jamie just sat.

He wasn’t due for a Well Child Tamariki Ora visit for a couple of months yet, so I spoke about this with the whānau and we agreed I’d talk with their Tamariki Ora nurse. So I phoned the nurse and had a chat. Although she put my mind at rest, she did say it’d be a good idea to bring the next Well Child check forward.

Do you have any other examples?

Yes – another time I’d been thinking about Hera, who was very quiet. Apart from crying when she was upset, there were no babbles and gurgles like you’d expect. Mum asked me about it, because her sister’s pēpi was making all sorts of sounds. Once again, I checked ‘What’s going on for baby?’, and the ‘Pēpi says’ section in the Whakatipu booklet. It looked like you’d expect her to be making more speech sounds.

Mum was already doing the things in the ‘How can parents and whānau help?’ section – the whānau talked to Hera, used parentese and encouraged her to respond – but there was nothing. Mum and I looked at Hera’s Well Child Tamariki Ora My health book and then I suggested to mum that she could phone her Well Child nurse, or I would do it if she wanted. But mum was keen to do it herself. She got onto it straight away and made an appointment.

Overall, the parenting pathways are a great support for parents and how they can do the best for their tamariki and their whānau.