Are Parenting Classes Worth The Time and Bother?

As with most things in life, the easy answer to the question if parenting classes are effective, is both yes and no.

Being a parent is the most important thing we will ask anyone to do, and we assume people get the knowledge by osmosis – and, of course, they do no such thing.  No-one has any idea as to what type of parent he will be until it happens.

This is what, after WW2, gave rise to the idea of the creation of parenting classes to support the family.

At Confident Parenting, we firmly believe in the idea of lifelong learning, and this applies to the value of taking parenting classes, as well. 

However, parenting classes are not always a slam-dunk success and a negative experience can actually damage parents’ faith in the whole concept of parent classes and can make things worse at home.

Psychiatrist R.G. Gordon was a well-known and respected American psychiatrist in 1918 who coined the phrase the ‘dangerous age of childhood’.   

Had you been an attendee at one of his parenting classes after WW1, you would have heard the suggestion that all children are maladjusted, best treated at special clinics by psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric social workers.

Not too many of today’s young parents would rush to sign up for such a parenting class.

However, parenting will always have natural concerns and will benefit from mentors.

In other societies and cultures, these mentors would have come from within the family and a tight-knit community.

In modern American society, these essential pillars are absent, and something is needed to fill the mentoring vacuum.

Who is to provide them with guidance? What is the value of parenting classes? How do parents ensure the right of their children to an emotionally secure family? What is the role of professionals in providing support to families and children? These will always be questions requiring answers.

For parents, this is made all the more complex by the fact that what society once deemed acceptable behavior in children, even a generation or two ago (in shorthand a form of ”be seen, but not heard”) is no longer a cultural norm.

A child now plays a much more central role in the family, and his/her voice is one that is listened to by parents.  Overall, this is a forward-leaning development, except when taken to the extreme when the child has an equal or dominant voice within the family.

Moreover, were a parent to explain to the parenting class her practice in her child rearing of spanking her child, washing his mouth out with soap, and locking him in a cupboard, she would find herself quickly isolated from the other parents.  Parents now seek new ways to raise their child.

The bottom line: it’s clear there is no established formula for creating good parents yet, and parenting classes can be a turkey-shoot.

questionQuestions To Consider

There are a number of considerations that a parent should take into account before signing up for any parenting class.

Why do you believe you need such a parenting class?  Are you doing so because nothing else has worked?  Are you simply exhausted and in need of moral support?  Will this parenting class be akin to taking the car to the garage for a tune-up to avoid future problems?

Are you and your co-parent (if one is around) agreed on the need and the goal of attending such a parenting class?  If there is a division of opinion between you, success is less likely.

What is the outcome you desire from this parenting class?   If all you desire is information, any parenting class is likely to be of value.  If you need to network, this goal should be possible.  If you need concrete help, a parenting class will likely not be the place that provides it.

Why is the parenting class being offered in the first place? Sometimes, parents sign up for a parenting class only to discover that it is more akin to a timeshare pitch with a lecture followed by the opportunity to buy a DVD at the end for $19.99.  Enough said.

Some classes are aimed at special groups and may be irrelevant to a parent’s needs.  Before attending any parenting class, check on its purpose.

In this parenting class, how is a “normal child” defined?  Without providing a clear understanding of what a healthy child looks like, it is impossible to begin to understand the type of challenges the parents may be facing, and how best to support them.  Too many classes treat every family as being the same.

What does the person running the parenting class define as acceptable behavior?   In my home, we eat together at the dinner table; a child insisting on eating in front of the TV would be unacceptable.  However, our next door neighbor may be just fine with such behavior.  Which one of us is right, and who decides?

What are the personal life and parenting experiences of the teachers? What are their parenting and temperament types?  What are their parenting beliefs?   What experiences do they bring with them?

In a school, one of the most difficult relationships is the novice, young, single teacher asked to mentor older parents.  The life experiences of each is different and the young teacher cannot possibly begin to understand the emotional complexity of parenting.

So too, with counselors and therapists who are “book smart” when it comes to leading a parenting class, but who cannot understand the emotional needs of a parent with, for example,  an ADD child.

How will success for participating parents in the parenting class be measured?  Is the intent simply to provide parents with general information on the subject?  How will you know that the time spent in class was worthwhile?  The danger is that you find out too late that it was a waste of time. Any program must be measured.

chalkboardHow will the parenting class meet the needs of parents coming to class with different concerns?

In a school classroom, the best teachers are trained on how to differentiate their classes to ensure that the needs of all students are being met.  Thus, the child that learns visually is supported in the same way as the student that needs to “hear “the lesson taught. 

In a parenting class, the teacher will have a room with parent-students that need help with all sorts of different issues and experiences and will need to be skilled enough to meet all the various needs.  Often, the person teaching this parenting class has no background in teaching, and it is quickly evident as they read through the handout for an hour.

How will the teacher of this parenting class set targets for parent progress?

Unfortunately, in most classes, this is a concept that goes unrecognized.  Classes tend to be simply presentations, a form of “talk and chalk” that schools discarded many years ago.   

Without setting a target, success for attendees in such a parenting class is unlikely.

Is this parenting class individualized or generalized?

Do you really wish to sit in a six-week parenting class for an hour each Wednesday evening listening to the stories of other parents whose issues are nothing like yours?  There is something to be said for misery loving company, and understanding that you are not alone in your challenges, but it is the rare parenting class that will be able to offer you a personalized experience.

So, why should a parent consider a parenting class?

The simple reason is that every family can benefit from parenting education.

It is why we exist at Confidential Parenting.

As mentioned above, parenting is something that everyone feels should come naturally.

Young parents know that there is much they do not know, but they also do not wish to look incompetent to family and friends, and they fear making fools of themselves.

Often, it is only when the parent has hold of the last blade of grass at the cliff top that he/she will take action.

Often, parents feel too embarrassed and “shamed” by their challenges to make use of a parenting class.

However, by informing themselves before the crisis through attendance at the right parenting class, parents will be in a better position to deal with the issue going forward.

What is the difference between a parenting class and what a group such as Confident Parenting offers?

The chief difference is that we have built our program to support the individual needs of parents and families. 

We personalize the experience and make it available to parents in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

We seek to personalize a program just for you, and we wish to be your partner.

We do not shame or blame.

Parenting has never been easy, and today is no different.

Grandma may be no longer around to help.  Someone needs to help a parent.

If there is a wonderful parenting class that meets the need, we at Confidential Parenting would urge parents to consider it.

If not, give us a call; we will partner with you for success.