Father-Daughter Relationship Shifts From Fearful to Nurturing
Father-Daughter Relationship Shifts From Fearful to Nurturing

“When I started this class my daughter was afraid of me, she didn’t want me to hold her and I thought she didn’t like me — that she only liked my wife,” said Pedro, father of 16-month-old Gabriela and recent participant in our 8-week Incredible Toddlers parenting class. “In our family, I am the one who disciplines. I want my daughter to learn and do things right. I thought I should spank to teach her.”

Pedro’s lack of closeness to his daughter was apparent to TFC instructor, Karen Mulligan, LSCSW, Clinical Social Worker, Early Childhood Mental Health Coordinator. “Pedro was always attentive, but remained quiet during the sessions. During our time to practice skills, I noticed that his daughter, who is 16 months old, was usually held by her mother.”
The Incredible Toddlers program is a series of interactive parenting classes that teaches positive discipline, and then asks parents to practice building a positive relationship with their child during class. This offers parents alternatives to harsh physical discipline and teaches age-appropriate responses while promoting a child’s social, emotional and language development. It is a research-based curriculum approved by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and funded by Johnson County Alcohol Tax Funds, United Way and other private funders.

During the 8-week class, Pedro learned about brain development in children and that spanking does not help to discipline a child effectively. He learned to employ positive practices that do help a child learn the right behavior. He started talking more to Gabriela, setting clear rules, distracting and redirecting her and giving her appropriate choices.
In the last class in the series, Mulligan noticed that Pedro was holding his daughter and seemed engaged with her — something she hadn’t observed in the past.
“My daughter, she isn’t afraid of me now, she lets me hold her…. I know she does like me,” Pedro says.
This story illustrates so beautifully the importance of parenting education and the endless possibilities that can start from just one small change. This parent, who loved his child so much, felt rejected by her. Though his daughter was only a toddler, dad had begun to disconnect from their relationship. By this parent’s willingness to change, he was able to create a shift for himself and his daughter that will forever impact their relationship and open the door for positive connection for the rest of their lives. This is the foundation of drug prevention: when children are able to talk with their parents and experience nurturing, supportive relationships at home, they are less likely to ever feel the need to seek out drugs.

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Meet Pedro’s Parenting Class Teacher!

Karen MulliganTFC staff are known for their combination of expertise and compassion, and Karen Mulligan, LSCSW, is no exception. Karen has worked at The Family Conservancy for nearly 18 years and currently serves as Early Childhood Mental Health Manager.
Karen came to social work as a second career. Her first degree was in textiles and she worked in retail/merchandising/management.
“I started volunteering at a domestic violence shelter and quickly figured out that volunteer work was what I loved doing,” she said.
So Karen enrolled in a social work class at the local community college. “On the first day of class the teacher started talking and I had this experience where I just knew I’d found my people.”
She went back to school and earned both Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Social Work. Karen became an intern at The Family Conservancy and it wasn't long before she joined the team as a full-time clinician.
She taught her first parenting class in 1996 and has taught parenting consistently since. Karen also provides therapy and specializes in working with families and kids. She’s provided many valuable services over the years at TFC, including work with mothers of newborns who experience post-partum depression.
“What I really enjoy about a parenting class is it focuses on prevention, and on helping kids be healthy and helping parents to feel less stress and enjoy being a parent,” Karen said.
“There’s always this learning curve where parents come thinking ‘what do I do when my kid is bad,’ and what they really have to learn is how to make the most use of the time when things are going well,” she said. And that’s what Pedro’s story illustrates.
Thanks, Karen, for all the children and families you’ve helped over the past 18 years!

Help children and families achieve a lifetime of success by supporting the work of The Family Conservancy.