Structure without bullying: a parenting workshop

Parents play a fundamental but challenging role in their children's learning and well-being. The work of the research team Accroître le soutien à l'autonomie en contexte de thérapie, de la famille et du travail (Increasing Autonomy Support in a Therapy, Family and Work Context), directed by Richard Koestner from Université McGill, aims at identifying behaviours that allow people in situations of authority to provide the three key elements in the well-being and proper functioning of the other (structure, respect and acceptance) in various types of hierarchical relationships, and in particular in the parent-child relationship. 

The research team has worked on defining the key factors of a healthy parent-child relationship. It has contributed to the conceptualization of autonomy support and its role in an optimal parenting situation. According to self-determination theory, children whose autonomy is supported are not more free or independent than other children, but they feel more authentic when following a rule or adopting appropriate behaviour. The research team clarified the definition of "autonomy support" and distinguished between it and other dimensions of parenting, such as structure and acceptance. 

This knowledge was shared with parents during a parent-child communication workshop offered to four groups of parents. Better autonomy support by the parents was observed after the workshop, as well as an improvement in their general well-being. The parents also affirmed that they felt more competent, less guilty, less anxious and less depressed after the workshop. The family environment and the well-being of the children also improved, due to a reduction in the number of conflicts and a decrease in psychological problems in the children. As a matter of fact, the children themselves confirmed the positive changes at home and reported less criticism by their parents. These workshops are currently offered at elementary schools belonging to the Commission scolaire de Montréal.


Équipe de recherche Accroître le soutien à l'autonomie en contexte de thérapie


Richard Koestner, Université McGill

Regular members

  • Marylène Gagné, Université Concordia 
  • Nathalie Houlfort, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Mireille Joussemet, Université de Montréal 
  • Geneviève A. Mageau, Université de Montréal 
  • Debbie S. Moskowitz, Université McGill 
  • David Charles Zuroff, Université McGill