Think back to the the biggest, most important endeavor you’ve ever taken on. Perhaps you were presenting to the Board, running a marathon or taking an entrance exam in hopes of getting into your dream university. Now the critical question—did you just wing it?
In most areas of our life, we wouldn’t dream of just throwing ourselves into something with no advance preparation and seeing what happens. We’d ask for advice, learn and discover strategies to perform better, and practice, practice, practice.
Yet for some reason, we feel hesitant to take the same approach to parenting. There’s a perception that mothers and fathers should just know what to do naturally—that everything will fall into place if we just love our children enough. The catch? It’s not always so intuitive which decisions are the right ones.
Parenting Classes Can Make a Big Difference
If you want to set your child up for success, it can be enormously helpful to take a parenting class or attend a workshop. Parenting classes can help you:
1. Master the Basics
Most parents, no matter their background or socioeconomic standing, are somewhat frightened when they welcome their first child into the world. Learning to feed and care for an infant is one challenge you’ll face. Preparing your child to enter and thrive in school is another.
Parenting classes can help parents learn more about what to expect in the coming years and prepare for each developmental stage. Since confident, decisive parents tend to raise confident, secure children, parenting classes can give you a much-needed skill set and help decrease your feelings of anxiety. Mastering the basics is well worth the time you might spend in class.
2. Stay Abreast of the Latest Research
As a busy parent, it can be hard to stay up-to-date on the latest scientific findings—but it’s so important to learn what you should be doing to set your children up for success.
For example, researchers have found that it’s easy for parents to accidentally cause harm with how they praise their children. Many parents instinctively tell their children that they are smart when they do something impressive or right on the first try—but research has shown that this can actually be counterproductive.
Motivation researcher Carol S. Dweck has found that when children are told that they succeed because they’re smart, they become discouraged when they are unable to solve a challenge. Instead, Dr. Dweck recommends parents should focus their praise on hard work and target specific parts of the project where your child specifically excelled at solving the challenge.
Attending a parenting workshop, such as our Parents as Partners parenting workshops, can help you stay abreast of discoveries such as these. You’ll get a chance to learn about parenting best practices from experts and ask them your questions—and then be able to apply their advice the next day.
3. Learn How to Engage
Recent research has shown that parental involvement is one of the most important factors in a student’s academic achievement. In a study which included more than 10,000 students,parents, teachers and administrators, researchers at North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the University of California, Irvine discovered that parents can make their children more likely to succeed in school by regularly checking-in, being involved in their homework and attending school events.
From giving advice on the questions you should be asking your child, to sharing strategies on how to engage meaningfully with your kids’ studies, parenting classes can help you learn ways to get more involved in your child’s learning experience.
4. Discover How to Match Your Parenting Style to Your Child’s Personality.
As a parent, you’ve quickly learned that a big part of parenting is matching discipline, praise and other parenting strategies to your child’s individual needs. In fact, how well your parenting style matches the personality of your child has a major impact on how well-adjusted they become later in life. According to a University of Washington study, parents can halve their child’s tendency toward depression or anxiety by using parenting style geared toward the particular personality of their child. Conversely, parents who use a style ill-suited to a child’s personality can double the likelihood that they’ll become depressed or anxious.
Naturally, most parents try to understand the needs of their children, but it’s not always easy to figure out, especially when behavioral or emotional problems enter the mix. Parenting classes geared toward children with specific needs, or of specific ages, can really help you nail the parenting style/personality mix that best suits your child.
5. Gain Confidence
Being a parent requires a whole lot of mustering courage and going for it—and pretending to know what you’re doing. In fact, confidence is crucial to good parenting. Your kids must believe you know what you’re doing, or they could feel insecure and have a harder time trusting others (which is regularly cited as a crucial factor in lifelong success).
Where do parenting classes come in? These classes can give you confidence in your actions so you can telegraph that confidence to kids. You’ll learn that you’re doing it right most of the time, get a chance to meet other parents who are in the same boat and discover strategies you can use when you do need help.
6. Develop a Support Network
Let’s face it, parenting is just plain hard sometimes! That’s why it’s important to meet other parents who face the same challenges you are. While learning new parenting strategies is important, sometimes you just need the listening ear of someone who knows what you’re going through. Whether you’ve got an 18-month-old who won’t let you set him down or a 10-year-old who is determined to take on the world, parenting classes can help you find other parents who understand what you’re going through.
There’s one caveat to this benefit: a parenting class isn’t the same as a support group. Don’t go into a workshop expecting the discussion to center on your feelings and challenges the whole time. Instead, use the class as an opportunity to learn new skills while simultaneously getting support. Sometimes it’s enough to just be in the company of other parents who are going through the same experiences.
Parent Your Way to Happier Children
Parenting workshops aren’t just for young or inexperienced parents; they’re for everyone who wants to be a better parent. Even if you keep up with parenting books and blogs, read the latest research and are very involved in your child’s education, parenting classes can give you access to a wealth of knowledge you’ll have a harder time accessing on your own. By choosing to spend a couple evenings in the company of other parents and parenting experts, you’ll gain access to the collective sum of their experience and knowledge.
At the end of the day, it’s true that every child is different. What works for one child may not work for another, and parenting classes can’t solve everything. They can, however, give you strategies that you can apply in your everyday life, help you meet other parents in the same boat and increase your confidence in your own parenting ability.