Using Parenting classes to make you a better parent
Before I was a parent, I had all sorts of ideas about how to raise children. My children were going to be adorable: the happy children that never threw tantrums over the (cruelly placed) giant lollipops at the grocery check out. The ones who always willingly shared their toys during playdates. The ones who ate a wide variety of food with smiles on their faces at every meal. If you had asked me back then if I would ever need or want to take parenting classes in order to have a better family life, I would have confidently said NO.
But then I actually became a parent…and my children were adorable, but many of those other wonderful ideas flew out the window. Instead of staring wide-eyed at the mom in the grocery store who would allow her toddler to flail on the floor screaming like a banshee, I began to feel a kinship with her. As I experienced my own parenting struggles, my ignorant judgement turned to profound sympathy. After all, we’re all in this parenting adventure together.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting in the past six years, it’s that each of us needs all the help we can get.
Parenting isn’t always natural, and it certainly isn’t easy. I remember driving home from the hospital with my oldest child and thinking to myself, “I can’t believe they just let me walk out of there with him. I have no idea how to be a mom.”
We become parents in a moment, but it takes a lifetime to develop the skills and knowledge needed to raise our children well.
Many of the skills that make effective parents are learned. That’s where parenting classes can help.
Are parenting classes worth it?
I think that sometimes parents shy away from the idea of parenting classes because they think it makes them seem incompetent somehow. For some reason, many of us think we should just know how to be good parents. And if we don’t, maybe we weren’t cut out to be parents in the first place.
But think about it. If you were trying to learn to scuba dive, would you just try to figure it out on your own? Not likely. You would take a class. In fact, not taking a scuba class would be considered unsafe and irresponsible. The same principle applies to learning to drive, or ski, or almost anything…including parenting.
Even with something like learning to play the piano, while it’s probably not dangerous to be self-taught, you can learn more effectively and efficiently if you take lessons.
Parenting is no less important (and certainly no less complicated) than any other skill you could pursue in life. So why is it that we so often try to go it alone?
Just go with your gut, some people say. Well, at the risk of sounding awful, sometimes my gut tells me to scream right back at my screaming child. Our natural “gut” reactions are not always the best choice. I believe in mother’s intuition, but I have found that my intuition can work more effectively when I have a toolbelt full of research-based ideas to choose from.
That’s what parenting classes have given me—a variety of strategies that I can utilize as needed to handle the daily challenges of parenting. My intuition tells me which one to use in a particular situation, but I have to know the strategies first.
Even effective parents can benefit from reminding themselves what is best practice when it comes to raising kids. Sometimes, we know what is best, but we forget when emotions run high in difficult situations (cue screaming toddler). Our brains can’t possibly hold on to all the good ideas in the world. As our children grow, it can be helpful to review practical parenting skills and consider how our approach needs to change to meet the needs of our developing children.
Where can I take parenting classes?
You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to get quality instruction on parenting. Thirty years ago, you would have had to give up your weeknights to sit in a gymnasium and attend a parenting class in person. Not anymore. Modern technology allows parents to take classes at the push of a button on their own schedule.
Just remember to choose quality sources. The Internet is an amazing tool, but it can be overwhelming when you’re trying to navigate all the challenges of parenthood. There are so many conflicting ideas and opinions, and a plethora of well-meaning people who will happily tell you the “best” way to do everything and anything in parenting.
Smarter Parenting is part of a non-profit organization that has been helping families for over fifty years. They offer free parenting classes online that present evidence-based techniques in short videos you can watch anytime. In these lessons, you will learn skills to communicate more effectively with children, to reinforce good behavior and improve bad behavior, to get kids to follow instructions, and more.
Each video includes step-by-step instructions to implement practical strategies. The lessons also provide links to helpful checklists and workbooks that enable you to adapt the lesson for your own family.
What are you waiting for?
Being a parent is a wonderful blessing. It’s also the most incredibly difficult challenge you will likely ever encounter. Every parent sometimes feels like waving the white flag of surrender when things gets rough.
But you don’t have to surrender. You can learn core skills that will enable you to create a better family life with less drama. It still won’t be easy, but you can do it…with the help of a toolbelt full of research-based parenting techniques.