By Paige Trevor
Parenting classes can be great for parents with big challenges and just as great for everyone else. Let’s face it, parenting is a lifelong learning process. As soon as you get one age and stage mastered you move on to the next. Most people start going to parenting classes because they are frustrated. They sense there is a better way than nagging, yelling and power struggles. A good parenting class gives you a variety of tools for your relationship tool box to deal with problems big and small.
That’s true! And there is so much to be learned in a parenting class. For example, parents often spend a lot of their time and energy trying to stop behaviors that are irritating but developmentally normal. When they learn that saying, “No” emphatically over and over is normal for a 2-year-old, parents can ignore the “No” and move on to training the 2-year-old to pour a glass of milk or put on her shoes or pick up her toys. Knowing that teens roll their eyes can keep parents focused on listening to their teen, teaching her to drive or cook, all while being confident that the eye roll is just a normal teen tic and she will eventually grow out of it.
You don’t have to spill the beans, air the dirty laundry or confess anything in a parenting class. You can just show up and listen but, if you feel like helping others, sharing your stories and wrestling with your issues is one of the most generous things you can do for other parents. In class you learn that most of your deep, dark parenting secrets are actually very common issues. What a relief! The strongest and most poignant bond between folks at parenting classes is that they love their kids very, very much. The support and encouragement participants get from class can be energizing and useful to take home. Knowing you aren’t alone can relieve a lot of parenting angst. Jennifer Kogan, a licensed independent clinical social worker, says, “Often, we live far from our extended families so we don’t have a built-in support system. Parents can be very hard on themselves and often think that everyone else is doing just fine. The truth is that we are all vulnerable at different times during this journey and everyone needs a little help sometimes.”
They do take too long and you are too busy and it’s a major inconvenience to take a class. Sometimes, however, what’s most efficient in the short term does not get you the results you want over the long term. Consider all the time you spend yelling, reminding, nagging and cajoling, and it might add up to a few wasted hours. Those hours might be better spent in a parenting class or workshop that will give you the support and new ideas you need in order to practice patience and understanding while upholding your limits on your children’s behavior-all skills parents need for long-term success. Knowing you aren’t alone, knowing that you do some of this parenting job really well, learning a few tips from a professional or another parent pays huge dividends in your everyday life. Lisa Resch, a Washington, D.C., mother of two, says, “I was reluctant to sign up for a parenting class because I thought it would be stressful and potentially awkward but I loved it! The most unexpected thing that happened in parenting class was meeting other parents who shared similar experiences and child-rearing challenges.”
None of us really knows what we are doing. We take childbirth classes, driving classes, cooking classes and computer classes; parenting classes should be viewed in the same way. Parenting is a lifelong journey, so why not get a little help on the way? Jodi Ferrier sums it up succinctly: “The most unexpected thing that happened in parenting class . . . I wanted to take more parenting classes!”
April is the perfect time to try something new! PEP now has two online parenting classes, Encouragement! Building Your Child’s Confidence From the Inside Out and Redefining Discipline: A No-Gimmicks Guide to Raising Responsible and Respectful Kids. Click here for details and to register.
This article was originally published in Washington Parent Magazine