Parenting is the most challenging job we will ever have and the one for which we are the least prepared. Having been a kid and having parents is not enough training. We tend to parent the way we were parented or as a reaction against it.  

 

In most families today, both parents are working and working longer hours, leaving less time with their children. There is a wide range of seemingly contradictory information about child rearing in books, magazines, television and online. Lack of knowledge regarding child development has parents using “time-out” and its derivatives as the only discipline tool, regardless of a child’s age. There is confusion over the difference between discipline and punishment. As the number of single parents and blended families proliferates, parents and children are often dealing with multiple discipline styles and approaches to parenting. At every turn, there are headlines about what parents should and should not do and the influx and influence of technology and the media leaves parents overwhelmed. Parents are left wondering how they should respond and prepare their children for an increasingly complex, time-impoverished, techno-world. Parents need strategies to thrive that bring joy and confidence to their parenting. Where do they learn these strategies? At a parent education course - particularly one that takes place once a week over a number of weeks where the information provided and relationships formed build over time. Parenting is after all, a process and there are no quick fixes.

 

There are many types of parenting groups based on different theoretical models being developed daily – like building a better mousetrap. The ideal parenting group is one based on democratic values that once learned are enhanced over time as children mature and families change. We do live in a democracy where today’s children know their rights and are entitled to be treated as equals, at least in terms of human worth and dignity. As s a result, the parenting programs at Family Services of the North Shore have embraced the Adlerian/S.T.E.P. (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) model that is based on mutual respect, the social consequences of misbehaviour, self-discipline not punishment, and encouragement. These programs too, are aimed at promoting greater understanding of the various stages of child development so that as children grow older and change from tots to teenagers, parents learn practical and effective ways to promote and maintain harmony within their families. Today, the autocratic/authoritarian model is doomed to fail. An equal relationship with children means one based on mutual respect and cooperation not rewards and punishment.

 

Participation in the group process has many benefits. Parenting is not left to chance but is based on research and a theoretical framework from which parents can bounce their own ideas of childrearing and develop their own parenting plan. It gives parents an opportunity to vent and share feelings and experiences with other parents of children the same age and stage and most of all know they are not alone. This normalizes what parents and children are doing and whether more help is needed and where this help can be found. A sense of trust builds with each session through meeting with familiar faces and the confidence inspired by a knowledgeable and experienced facilitator. It gives parents an opportunity to exchange information and clarify techniques and strategies such as the use of natural and logical consequences that can turn into punishment by a parent’s tone of voice. Groups provide a safe, confidential environment to practice parenting skills. Regardless of what we say to our children, our body language gives us away and supportive group members may draw this to our attention. Once relationships in the group are formed there is a sense of commitment and focused learning. It is easy to put off reading a parenting book or watching a CD but if people are counting on the presence of each group member each week, it is more difficult to procrastinate. Although many parenting programs including S.T.E.P. have specific learning outcomes and are accompanied by a book, parents do have input into the weekly agenda. As a result, groups are tailored to the needs of the group and not limited by a structured curriculum presented in an online program, for example. According to research in learning methods, parents are more likely to implement what they have experienced, seen, done and discussed with others than by what they have read or seen on video without group support.

 

People often say that children don’t come with operating instructions. Families may not be machines but assistance is available in parenting groups. Register for one today.

 

 

 

Mimi Hudson, M.A., R.C.C.

Director of Community Programs

Family Services of the North Shore

604-988-5281, ext. 216