This series of short essays is intended as an introduction to TAC or as a refresher course for everyone around babies and infants who need special support for their development and learning. The article can be translated for use in newsletters, networks and websites in any country
SIXTH PRINCIPLE: It is the responsibility of parents to bring up their child. It is the responsibility of TAC practitioners to support them when they ask for help. TAC offers respectful partnership rather than authoritative ‘intervention’ and helps parents find an evolving balance between the needs of the child and the needs of the family.
Human society in its infinite variety of cultures recognises that parents have the right, the responsibility and the skills to bring up their children without interference. This is the respectful starting point in the TAC approach and practitioners do not move in to help with the child’s development and learning until they are asked to do so. After that, the helping relationship begins by acknowledging the family’s knowledge, strengths and skills.
Local cultures determine broadly how families bring up children and, within their culture, each family has their individual way of doing things. Support cannot be effective unless this is understood, respected and explored. Practitioners, who might come from a different culture and might have different levels of education, social status and income, will fail to establish a helping relationship with parents if they try to impose their own way of doing things. The task is to start with what parents know about their child and with the skills they already have in helping their child develop and learn.
While this work in the past has been called ‘early childhood intervention’, any insensitive attempt to intervene between the child and the family or between the parents and their natural skills will be disempowering and result in a loss of trust.
Here is an extract from Bringing up babies and young children who have very special needs under the heading ‘Whose child is it?’
‘It is not an inappropriate question. Parents often report that practitioners move in on them, sensitively or insensitively, when the baby or infant has very special needs in a way they would not do with other parents. Parents of typically developing infants are left largely to their own devices with freedom to use their natural parenting skills and learn as they go along. If parents stay within the very broad limits set by their culture and society, they are not checked or taught or challenged.
‘Parents might lose this freedom when their baby or infant has very special needs. From the first hours or days of the child’s life, there can be an expanding host of experts telling parents what to do and how to do it. The assumption is that practitioners know best and that new parents know little or nothing. There is an unspoken message to parents that bringing up the child must now be a group effort led by experts.
‘Few parents at this time can resist this takeover and will take to heart the message that they are not up to the task of bringing up their new child. The result can then be a very dangerous mix of an infant with very special needs and parent or parents who are undermined, deskilled and feeling out of control....’ (Pages 78-79)
An important part of the child- and family-centred approach is to help parents achieve a working balance between the needs of the child and the needs of the family as a whole. The balance will change as the whole situation changes. A new baby might have to be the focus of attention for weeks or months at the expense of family relationships, the needs of siblings and even family finances. But this is not sustainable and parents might welcome support in finding a balance in which the family increasingly has some quality of life and avoids breaking apart.
This will be an on-going process in which parents and other family members have opportunities with a trusted TAC practitioner to discuss such topics as ‘disability’, inclusion, anxieties, aspirations, future prospects and, for some, life and death.
Just as TAC practitioners can support families with their child’s development and learning, so can they offer to support staff members when the child enters a nursery or first school. These staff members will almost certainly value the special knowledge and skills held by members of the child’s TAC. The family will value some continuity in the child’s opportunities for development and learning.
First TAC Principle here
Second TAC Principle here
Third TAC Principle here
Fourth TAC Principle is here
Fifth TAC Principle here
Sixth TAC Principle here
Seventh TAC Principle here
Eighth TAC Principle here
Ninth TAC Principle here
Tenth TAC Principle here