Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Parenting Skills

A 25‒30 minute activity to help participants identify how they were disciplined as children, examine how those experiences affect their parenting style today, and begin a conversation about effective alternatives to hitting as a means of correcting children’s behavior. From The Responsible Fatherhood Curriculum: A Curriculum Developed for the Parents' Fair Share Demonstration


  • Newsprint
  • Marker

Planning Notes:

This activity may stir up participants’ feelings. Be prepared for this, and be sensitive to both individual and group dynamics. People who were abused as children often have difficulty disciplining their own children as parents. If a participant needs help in learning how to be an effective parent, consider referring him to counseling or parenting classes. Agencies such as the YMCA, the Urban League, and United Way organizations may provide parenting classes. Also check whether your community has Parents Anonymous, a self-help group for parents who are concerned about the way they respond to their children’s behavior or who are abusive and need to learn alternative ways to discipline their children.


  1. Tell the group that today’s session will focus on ways to deal with children’s misbehavior. Ask the fathers to identify some of their children’s behaviors that cause problems, and post their list on newsprint. (If you have already talked about this, post the list to remind them of the kinds of behaviors that cause them concern. Just take a few minutes for this.)
  2. Next, ask the fathers to get into a comfortable position and to think about some time in their childhood when a parent or a relative corrected their behavior. Help the fathers to recall the details of their experiences by asking the following questions.
    • How old were you?
    • Where were you?
    • What were you doing?
    • How did the adult respond? (Did he or she respond physically, with words, or with silence?)
    • How did you feel about this experience?
    • What did you learn from this experience?
  3. Tell the fathers that in a couple of minutes they will be asked to share their experiences with the group. Then allow a few minutes of quiet time, and ask the men to tell their stories. First, model the process by sharing an experience from your own childhood: describe the incident and your feelings about it at the time. When everyone has talked about a similar experience, ask the following questions.
  4. Facilitate a discussion:
    • In general, how did your parents or caregiver try to manage your behavior? (Comment about the differences in family styles of discipline.)
    • Did your parent or caregiver say anything to you about the way he or she was managing your behavior? (For example, did the adult say things like, “I’m going to make sure you never forget what I said”; “This hurts me more than it hurts you”; or “I’m disappointed in you.”)
    • What feelings does this activity raise in you? Do you feel like an adult or like a child?
    • Do you think that your parents’ or caregiver’s style of discipline has influenced how you deal with your own children when they misbehave? (For example, do you tend to respond to your children’s misbehavior in the same way that you were treated? Or do you respond differently, because you didn’t like the way you were treated?)
    • What specific problems have you had in managing your children’s behavior?
    • How do you feel when your children don’t listen to you?
    • Does being a noncustodial parent affect how you deal with your children? If so, how? (For example, are you more lenient with your children because you don’t see them every day? Do your children react differently to your demands and expectations than they do to their mother’s?)
    • If your children did this activity 15 years from now, what do you think they would say about how you corrected their behavior?