I was recently listening to a debate on CBC radio on the topic of whether parents should be allowed to spank their children. I have already made my thoughts on spanking clear. I don’t do it, and I don’t think it’s the best way to teach kids, but that’s not what this post is about. You see, as I was listening to the debate, at one point the two debaters came to an agreement around parenting classes. While they don’t see eye-to-eye on whether or not spanking is appropriate, they both agree that most parents can benefit from having some extra parenting tools in their arsenal.
Every parent knows that children don’t come with an instruction manual. Most of us are pretty much flying blind, doing our best to get through the day. We hope that in spite of the fact that we fail constantly, our children won’t be too damaged, and it will somehow all work out in the end. We rely on a hodge podge of tools, from medical advice to suggestions from friends and family to pure instinct. We might read some books, or turn to Google, in search of answers. But very few of us take classes.
Bringing my first baby home – I had no idea what I was doing
I tried to find numbers for how many people do take parenting classes, and I couldn’t. But based on anecdotal evidence I’d say the numbers are pretty low. I have never seriously considered it myself. I have, however, taken prenatal classes and breastfeeding classes and first aid classes and yoga classes. I’m no stranger to classes. And yet, while I’ve read a whole library of parenting books, it has never occurred to me to actually sign up for some lessons. My kids are okay, why would I have to?
It turns out there’s some pretty convincing evidence for the benefits of parenting classes. The research indicates that parent training can result in lower stress levels in parents. It also results in improved cognitive development in children, including an increase in child language, IQ, memory and attention. If so many of us feel at a loss, and there’s evidence that we can have less stress and our kids can be smarter, why don’t we take parenting classes?
In the hospital with my second baby – I had no idea what I was doing
I think there are a few big reasons we don’t sign up for training as parents:
- There’s a stigma in saying you need help with parenting
- We may feel that our kids are all right, so things must be fine as they are
- Classes mean time and expense
- Few of us have any idea which classes are good and which ones aren’t
The truth is that as controversial as the spanking debate I listened to was, telling parents that they should sign up for classes may be an even hotter topic. While I have been an avid reader of parenting books since my first child was born, not everyone takes the same approach. I know many parents who say that they prefer to rely on their own innate instincts. They feel that no book or class can possibly have inside info on their child, so the information is of limited value. And honestly, I can understand where they’re coming from. While I read the books, it’s very rare that I agree with every point an author makes. Kids are individuals, and there’s not single best way to parent them.
Last weekend with my kids – I still have no idea what I’m doing
In spite of the research around parenting classes, I’ll be honest and say that I’m not signing up for one myself – at least not yet. But I wonder if maybe they should be more widely offered to new parents. Many expectant parents take prenatal classes. I certainly did. There were a few minor points of newborn care covered in the curriculum, but by and large the focus was on labour and delivery. And yet, pregnancy only lasts nine (ish) months, while you’ll be parenting your child for years. Wouldn’t it make sense to shift the focus more towards what happens once the baby’s on the outside?
I wonder what you think. Do you think parenting classes should be recommended for all parents? Would you take them, knowing what the benefits are? Or do you think they’re just for parents who are obviously struggling? I’d love to hear your thoughts!