Parenting 101: The Benefits of Parenting Classes
Written by Tera Schreiber
Always wished for a manual to tell you how to parent? You’re not alone. So what’s a knowledge-hungry parent to do? Where do you find some solid parent-ed classes?
Begin at the beginning with birth and early parent preparation. These classes are full of useful information about what to expect during labor and birth. Most birth classes now include newborn care and feeding along with information to help new parents in the first blurry weeks of parenthood.
“The day your baby is born is one of the most significant days of your life,” says Seattle childbirth educator and doula Penny Simkin. “Prepare for it and take part in your care, so that you will look back on this day positively and proudly.”
Maternity care today is complex. Professionals disagree over what the safest practices are, says Simkin. “If you’re informed about the options that are available, you’ll probably discover that you have preferences and will know how to get the kind of care you prefer.”
If your family grows through adoption, check out Great Starts’ “Baby Care for the Adopting Family,” taught by an adoptive parent and nurse who will help parents prepare for their new babies.
Potty training and more
Those baby days fly past. Suddenly, parents find themselves with little people who are developing at a rapid pace. Child development classes can help parents understand what to expect at each stage and teach parents how to navigate common developmental hurdles.
“Our children are growing and changing every day,” says Janelle Durham, M.S.W., Great Starts trainer and program designer for Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS). “Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Taking parenting classes helps to give you a foundation of skills — a toolbox you can apply to each new situation.”
You’ll find classes for every interest and parenting approach. For example, parents can take potty-training classes at Seattle Children’s Hospital. They can take a natural infant hygiene classes and find out how to go “diaper free” at Big Belly Services, an independent birth and parenting education center in the Eastlake neighborhood of Seattle.
As kids grow older, they’ll go through phases that are less obvious than potty learning, but just as important. Fremont mom Mary Balmaceda found courses through the Neufeld Institute, which offers a variety of parent education programs, including books, DVDs, online courses and groups facilitated by local parent educators.
Developing as parents
Other classes focus on parent development. Programs such as Reflective Parenting, offered at Wellspring Family Services and the Stroum Jewish Community Center, help parents understand not just their children’s thoughts, feelings and motivations, but also their own. Reflective Parenting classes help parents understand the role that they play in their child’s behavior, whether it is the example parents set or the underlying issues that parents carry through all their relationships.
Other programs offer both child and parent development aspects. The Gottman Relationship Institute, for example, focuses on the science of relationships and how the concept of emotional intelligence benefits children.
Some parent development courses give parents tools for addressing their own behaviors to become better parents. When you hold your newborn in your arms for the first time, you can’t imagine losing your cool. But by toddlerhood, most parents can imagine why anger management courses could be useful for parents. As children grow, they push our buttons in ways we never anticipated.
“Even though anger at our children is normal and common, it clearly stands in the way of effective parenting,” explains Elizabeth Pantley, parent educator and author of The No-Cry Discipline Solution. “Unresolved and uncontrolled anger can even grow and evolve into a pattern of behavior that could be potentially dangerous, both emotionally and physically.”
Pantley says parents who feel anger is getting in the way of calm parenting should consider anger management classes.
As children grow older, parents often need tools to help them deal with their child’s challenging behavior. Classes such as Love and Logic to Positive Discipline, the Neufeld Institute’s Power to Parent series and STAR Parenting focus on discipline. Individual parenting coaches also teach classes and provide counseling for parents.
Lake Forest Park mom Kristina Smart took a positive discipline class from Sahara Pirie, a certified Positive Discipline trainer. “I still value the experience,” says Smart. “Each week, one parent or family was able to present a conflict or problem, and then the entire class would brainstorm creative positive discipline solutions. It was deeply helpful to hear that other families had the same challenges that we did.”
Parent educator Carolyn Pirak says parents should consider their child’s age, development, and their family’s goals and values when selecting classes on discipline. “For many families, the best discipline methods are a blend of what research suggests that kids will do in certain situations as well as what parents know about how children usually respond. This is the art of parenting.”
Finally, parents should consider the many health and safety courses available, such as CPR and baby safety classes, vaccination awareness classes and courses to help parents keep kids safe from predators, such as those taught by Savvy Parents Safe Kids.
Tera Schreiber is a freelance writer and self-proclaimed education geek.
Seattle-Area and national parenting education and resources
1. Anger Management Associates
2. “Why Hang Onto Anger!” from the Break Through Learning Center
3. Atlantic Street Center
4. STAR Parenting
5. Love and Logic
6. The Neufeld Institute
7. Parent Learning Link
8. Parent Trust for Washington Children
9. Savvy Parents Safe Kids
10. Great Starts Birth & Family Education
11. Big Belly Services
12. Lamaze International
13. Birds + Bees + Kids
14. The Gottman Relationship Institute
15. Seattle Children’s Hospital Babysafe classes
16. Great Conversations
17. Wellspring Services
Looking for more parenting resources? Check out our Golden Teddy Parenting Resources winners and finalists for parent-approved local services near you!