- Parenting Classes
- Definition of Parenting Classes
- What are Parenting Classes
- Benefits of Parenting Classes
- Court Ordered Parenting Classes
- Mandatory Parenting Classes
- Court Approved Parenting Classes
- Parenting Classes Online
- Cost of Parenting Classes
- Related Legal Terms and Issues
- How to be a better parent Tips from the experts
- Does Australia need parenting classes? Experts call for training for ‘the hardest job’
- ‘We think parenting should be instinctive’
Parenting classes are educational courses parents attend to learn about caring for their children. Parents attend the classes based on court orders, or simply as a way to learn better parenting skills. Parenting classes are found all throughout the United States, and they cater to parents with children of all ages. The primary goals of parenting classes include improving relationships between parents and their children, and teaching parents how to deal with the daily responsibilities of maintaining a home and family, in positive ways. To explore this concept, consider the following parenting classes definition.
Definition of Parenting Classes
- Educational courses provided to parents with the goal of improving family dynamics.
What are Parenting Classes
Parenting Classes are educational courses that teach parents general parenting skills, and help them develop and maintain positive relationships with their children. Many parents attending parenting classes are going through divorce, or are engaged in a custody battle. Parenting classes do not require students to maintain a relationship with the other parent, but focus on co-parenting skills, and nurturing the relationship the children have with both their parents. The specific course program differs by location, though the goals are the same, and they are all tailored to help parents struggling with parenting for one reason or another.
Benefits of Parenting Classes
As with all educational programs, the benefits of parenting classes are many and varied. Parents are not the only beneficiaries, as improved parenting skills have a lasting impact on the children they are raising. Divorced and married parents alike reap such benefits of parenting classes as:
- Learning about basic child development so they know what to expect at each stage in a child’s life
- Learning age-appropriate discipline, and how it is more effective than anger-driven punishment
- Learning to recognize their strengths as parents, and how to put those strengths to good use
- Learning how to work together as parents to raise their children, even if they are no longer in a relationship
- Learning how to deal with major problems that may arise
- Learning how to deal with a blended family
Court Ordered Parenting Classes
Court ordered parenting classes are required for a variety of issues that affect the children that are the focus of a custody proceeding. In some jurisdictions, parenting classes that educate parents on the lasting impacts of divorce, and the conflicts that come with it, are required before a custody order will be made, or before a divorce will be granted. In these instances, both parents are required to attend the classes and provide a certificate of completion.
The court may also order a parent to attend parenting classes if he or she has been charged with abuse or neglect, or if the court deems he or she completely lacks parenting skills. In these cases, the court determines that the child will be at risk if left in the care of that parent. Court ordered parenting classes work with these parents to teach them effective and safe ways to deal with such issues as discipline, anger management, and basic day-to-day parenting skills. By teaching parents these vital skills, abuse can be prevented.
Lisa and Steve are divorcing and embroiled in a custody battle. Lisa claims that Steve becomes explosively angry, and that he denigrates and belittles the children when they have problems, saying such things as “Well, if you weren’t so stupid, you wouldn’t have a C in math!” The family court mediator, after interviewing each of the couple’s three children, determines that they are afraid of their father’s anger, and afraid to tell him about their problems.
On the recommendation of the mediator, the judge orders Steve to attend court approved parenting classes to learn how to better parent his children, and orders him to attend an anger management program. Until Steve provides certificates of completion for both of these programs, his visitation is limited to every other weekend, with no overnight stays, and his mother (the children’s grandmother) must be in attendance to supervise.
Rebecca and Nathan are attending family court mediation to settle the matter of custody of their children. Nathan reports that Rebecca often becomes angry when she attempts to discipline the children, with such attempts commonly devolving into screaming matches. As the children have gotten older, the screaming matches have turned into a daily event. After speaking privately with the couple’s children, the mediator discovers that Rebecca simply lacks some basic parenting skills, such as age-appropriate discipline.
Based on the mediator’s recommendation, the judge orders Rebecca to attend parenting classes, and to provide a certificate of completion to the court within 90 days. The judge orders the status quo in custody, allowing the children to remain in their mother’s primary care, until she completes the parenting classes, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated.
Mandatory Parenting Classes
The term mandatory parenting classes often refers to parenting classes required of every parent before a divorce or custody order will be made. Mandatory parenting classes are also offered by many jurisdictions to adults who apply to become foster parents or adoptive parents. These classes teach prospective foster and adoptive parents how to handle the stress of the process, and how to deal with the issues that come with becoming a parent of a non-biological child. Many children in the foster care system, including those who are adoptable, have special needs, or have been subjected to abuse or neglect. Mandatory parenting classes teach prospective parents how to cope with these children’s issues, and how to help them grow into happy, healthy adults.
Court Approved Parenting Classes
If a judge has ordered one or both parents to attend parenting classes, the course they choose must meet specific requirements set forth by the court. Commonly, the court will provide parents with a list of court approved parenting classes from which to choose. If the parents attend a course not approved by the court, they may be required to retake the course with an approved provider. Parents are typically required to provide a certificate of course completion to the court after they have successfully completed parenting classes. The court may also specify a minimum amount of time in which a parent must complete a parenting course before adverse action is taken.
Parenting Classes Online
Enrollment in parenting classes online is becoming more common, and more popular, as people rely heavily on technology. Many of the online parenting classes contain the same information as “in person” classes, yet they provide parents with more flexibility, as they can study and learn on their own schedule. Taking parenting classes online also helps save money in transportation and babysitting expenses. Not all courts approve online parenting classes, however, especially for “troubled parents,” as an instructor working face-to-face with the parent can evaluate how well the information has been assimilated.
Cost of Parenting Classes
The cost of parenting classes varies depending on the exact situation and the class provider. Many parents find that taking parenting classes online is less costly. When in-person classes are required, the parents themselves are responsible for paying the cost of parenting classes, though assistance is provided in many jurisdictions for low-income parents ordered by the court to attend. Many organizations sponsoring parenting classes base their fees on a sliding scale to accommodate families of all income levels.
In the event parents cannot afford even that lower fee, the court or family services can help them locate free, court approved parenting classes. As an additional resource, many churches and other non-profit family-centered entities offer free parenting classes to serve their community. Parents should check to be sure these courses are approved by the court before enrolling.
Sarah and Tom have recently become very young parents, at ages 17 and 18, and are no longer in a relationship. Sarah has been living in a run down apartment with friends, and has had sole custody of the baby. Tom has filed a motion for custody of his 3-month old son, feeling that 17-year old Sarah cannot take care of him. After the family court mediator interviews both Sarah and Tom, as well as each of their parents, who are willing to help, a recommendation is made that both parents attend in-person parenting classes that focus on the care of infants.
Finding that, with no reliable income, and no safe place in which to live with an infant, neither parent is currently able to provide a safe and loving home. Sarah’s parents have agreed to allow her and the baby to reside with them, and to help care for the baby. The judge orders Sarah and the baby to live with her parents, with scheduled visitation granted to Tom, until the couple can complete court-ordered parenting classes, and get themselves situated with employment and suitable living situations. At that time, they will return to the family court mediator, and their situation re-evaluated.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Divorce – A legal dissolution of a marriage.
- Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
Because the notion of teaching people how to be good parents is relatively new in this country, much of the teaching material currently being used is imported from America, which can make participants squirm.
The parenting programme taught by Save the Children in high-poverty areas of the UK is the Fast (Families and Schools Together) scheme, which was conceived in the US and involves, according to Peter Bryson, who runs the programme, “a lot of yahooing and clapping”. “There is a cultural resistance for the first few weeks; you’re aware that it’s a bit embarrassing, but you begin to have fun anyway. By the end of the course, parents are yahooing at each other when they meet in the supermarket,” he says.
This is a sight we may begin to witness more frequently over the next couple of years. The Save the Children scheme is one of a number of programmes that the government announced this week it would be rolling out in three areas of the country, as part of a two-year trial of free parenting classes for anyone with a child under five who wants them.
At face value, it’s hard to find much to dislike about the concept of parenting classes. Given that most parents sit through hours of antenatal lessons, it seems crazy that the classes stop at birth, and that there’s nothing to help with the much bigger task of bringing the child up.
Except that beneath the cheerful prospect of supervised play sessions and coffee mornings, simmers the politics of the parenting debate, which is surprisingly highly charged.
The announcement of parenting classes came the day after headlines in the Daily Mail and elsewhere announced that “Poor parenting gets the blame for riots”, which selectively quoted from the independent inquiry into the riots, to pinpoint parenting, over the other riot triggers: lack of opportunity, failures of the police and the justice system, growing materialism. “We heard from many communities who felt that rioter behaviour could ultimately be ascribed to poor parenting. We need to consider what can be done to ensure that all children get the right support, control and guidance from parents and guardians,” the report said.
The government’s focus on parenting as the cause and possible solution to many of society’s problems predates the riots. A number of government-commissioned reports have highlighted the need to improve parenting, and have often carried an uncomfortable subtext of blaming parents for children’s failures, and sometimes a peculiar conflation of being poor with being a poor parent.
Over the past couple of years, the government has commissioned and endorsed two research papers, both written by Labour MPs, on the theme of parenting and early intervention. Frank Field called for all children to be given parenting classes at school, commenting: “Being a parent, apart from running the army in Afghanistan, is the most important thing we will ask anyone to do and we assume people get the knowledge by osmosis – and they don’t”; Graham Allen, who last year called for the launch of a national parenting campaign, remarking that “babies don’t come with a handbook”, made an explicit link between poverty and poor parenting, adding: “Parents have a strong desire to do the best for their children but many, especially in low-income groups, are ill-informed or poorly motivated on how to achieve this.”
For a while, Iain Duncan Smith liked to produce images of the cross-sections of unloved children’s brains, rather like shrivelled walnuts, in a dramatic (but controversial) attempt to show the effect neglectful parenting has on brain development. The new parenting classes will be available to everyone, the government said – neatly defusing any debate about whether the government’s attachment to parenting as a core element in its family policy implicitly blames poorer parents for their circumstances.
Children’s minister Sarah Teather said: “We want parents to be able to seek help and advice in the earliest years of their child’s life and for this to be a normal part of family life.” For the moment, though, they are being piloted in areas of “medium to high deprivation”.
The announcement left some key figures in the field wary.
Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, said she didn’t think there was clear evidence that good parenting was in decline and wondered whether the debate about parenting was a distraction from other problems that have a profound impact on children’s lives – unemployment and stretched family finances, for example. “You can give someone good driving classes, but if you send them out on an icy road they are going to find it very, very difficult. The road is very, very icy at the moment,” she says.
She also wondered how much could be delivered for £100, which the vouchers are worth, and how classes for 0-five-year-olds would help parents struggling with difficult teenagers.
Naomi Eisenstadt, one of the founders of Sure Start and now an academic at Oxford, is critical of the drift towards promoting good parenting as a key theme in the government’s child poverty strategy. Despite her own career-long commitment to championing parenting classes as a key element of Sure Start, she feels there has been too radical a shift in this direction, arguing that in the context of rising prices, frozen benefits and soaring unemployment, parenting classes do not feel as high a priority as helping people to find work. “I also think it is insulting to poor people to suggest that poor parents are bad parents,” she says.
But can good parenting be taught, or is it a bit like trying to teach someone to be a good person? I have very hazy memories of the three-hour, free, evening parenting session I sat through 18 months ago, which promised to make me a calmer, happier parent, but which turned out to be a protracted sales pitch for a set of 10 CDs. I can dimly remember one thing: if you want a child to do something, you need to stand close to them and patiently wait for them to do it, rather than shrieking at them madly from a distance, which is probably sensible advice if you’re ever calm enough to remember to take it.
What’s interesting about the government’s pilot schemes is the different approaches offered by different providers; it’s clear there is no established formula for creating good parents yet.
Octavius Black, founder of Parent Gym, one of the few home-grown courses in the government’s pilot, is convinced that skills can be taught. While he stresses there is no robust evidence, he believes parenting classes could ultimately contribute to preventing future eruptions of antisocial behaviour of the kind we saw last summer. Children who have benefited from good parenting “have a greater chance of succeeding at school, of getting a job, reducing the chance of criminal behaviour, and that would suggest that better parenting would lead to less social unrest”, he says. (Black, who is a school and university contemporary of the prime minister’s, says he has played no part in shaping government policy, but is “delighted” parenting has been given this high profile.)
The most difficult part of the programme is getting people to sign up; people are resistant because “challenging someone’s parenting skills is one of the strongest challenges to their identity”, Black says. Providers have to avoid any suggestion that the courses are created to help bad parents; instead they need to persuade people it’s about “building on their good points”.
Bryson, of Save the Children, says the Fast programme is less about practical parenting tips, more about improving relationships within the family, and between the family, the school and wider community. He is wary of talking about poverty, because the charity knows any overt linking of the courses and poverty prevents people signing up, but the programme’s literature is explicit: “Parents can support children to overcome the effects of deprivation.”
Angela Edwards, 39, from Manchester, says her time on the Fast course taught her the importance of spending time with her daughter without allowing distractions to interfere. Like many of the messages, it’s a simple and obvious point, but somehow the classes made her take the lesson on board and apply it to everyday life.
“I didn’t realise how much time you don’t spend with the children. I’d be at home cleaning, doing the washing and she’d be playing or watching a film. I was thinking I was spending enough time with her, but I wasn’t,” she says.
Before, there was a lot of shouting – mainly from her five-year-old daughter in her direction. “If I didn’t listen to her, she’d shout. It’s not very nice being shouted at by a five-year-old. We’ve got a much better relationship now. She actually listens to me.”
Edwards has found time to do extra spelling, reading, writing and maths with her daughter, and the course has simultaneously given her the confidence to become a school governor. “I know from the teachers that they have seen a change in her. The extra time I’m spending is bringing her on with her reading and writing. I’ve learned that it doesn’t cost anything to spend time with the children; it doesn’t matter if you have money or not. I wasn’t a bad parent before, but I wouldn’t have spent the time.”
Mostly she enjoyed meeting other parents from the neighbourhood, which chimes with Rake’s analysis that it’s not really what you learn in parenting classes that matters, but the friendships you make during them.
“We are living in increasingly fractured communities so there is an enormous value in parents coming together as a community,” Rake says. “When you’re put in touch with other people facing different challenges, you learn that you are not alone. We know those connections continue for years and years.”
How to be a better parent Tips from the experts
“Children have eyes and ears, hearts and minds – they see and hear more than we think they do, feel things deeply and have their own thoughts. Find time to talk and to play. Don’t be afraid to answer their questions honestly.”
Becky Hall, child psychotherapist
“Have clear, simple rules and limits, and be consistent in expecting them to be met. But praise good behaviour and give your children attention when they are being good – it will increase.”
Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness and promotion, NSPCC
“Look at the ways in which you do the bad things to your children that your parents did to you, and look for the ways you re-enact with your partner the bad stuff that happened between your parents as your children watch you.” Oliver James, clinical psychologist and author
“Listen to your child and try to see things from their point of view. Don’t mistake childish exploration for defiance. Love unconditionally. Relax and enjoy.” Annalisa Barbieri, agony aunt
“Put away your mobile, turn off your laptop and don’t even think about a BlackBerry or an iPhone.”
Justine Roberts, Mumsnet
Does Australia need parenting classes? Experts call for training for ‘the hardest job’
Posted September 16, 2016 21:21:30
Experts have called for parents to be given easy access to practical skills classes and support, saying Australians get no training for our toughest job.
Lateline this week asked viewers whether they thought Australians needed parenting classes. Feedback was mixed, with 58 per cent of Twitter respondents in favour of the idea compared with 69 per cent of Facebook respondents.
Currently, the independent Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) is available in some states, but there is no standard national program.
Earlier this year, then UK prime minister David Cameron attracted criticism when he announced plans to introduce a voucher scheme for parenting classes, sparking fresh concerns the “nanny state” was telling parents how to raise their children.
On tonight’s Late Debate, panellists were all in agreement that practical skills training should be made readily available in Australia. However, they all said classes should not be compulsory.
Sydney University Associate Professor David Hawes said parenting was a rare area where a short training course could have a major impact.
“This is one of the few areas in psychology and psychiatry where a brief intervention actually can be the best way to go and have a very powerful effect,” he said.
“There’s going to be some families where they do need intensive, ongoing support.
” for the majority of families, when you’re able to get in early enough … in the primary school or preschool years … they’re very powerful.”
Georgina Manning, director of the Wellbeing for Kids school support program, said programs had to fit all family types, including in cases of divorce or separation.
“There’s no such thing as that normal family anymore,” she said.
“We have to consider all the different kinds of families and supporting parents through those difficulties.”
Margaret Bell from the Mount Druitt Learning Ground, which provides free parenting classes aimed at helping parents better understand their children’s reactions, said it wasn’t about teaching parents to be parents, but offering support where it was needed and wanted.
“I don’t think we have to be taught all of a sudden ,” she said.
“But I do think that parenting is the hardest job we’ll ever have to do, and we get no training for it at all.”
‘We think parenting should be instinctive’
Cassandra-Joy Jackson is one of the parents who have completed the parenting program at the Learning Ground.
Her three-year-old son Ryder-James was diagnosed with autism. He is not verbal and Ms Jackson said she struggled to control his aggressive behaviour.
She said she was initially sceptical the program would help her.
“At first I thought, ‘Oh, here we go, another parenting class and so forth’,” she said.
“But it’s not. It’s completely changed my life.”
Melissa Hood, who helped write the program said she believed parenting classes needed to be “as common as antenatal classes”.
“You prepare for the birth of a baby, but that’s like getting ready for your holiday, not actually going on your holiday,” she said.
“We think that should be instinctive and we kind of beat ourselves up if it’s not coming instinctively.
“But the thing about instincts is that they are not really instincts as much as deeply ingrained behaviours.”
Topics: parenting, family-and-children, community-and-society, australia, sydney-2000