“You need to take a parenting class” is often used as an insult, typically aimed at a parent when someone disapproves of their childrearing choices. The other context in which we hear parenting classes referenced is when they’ve been court-ordered as a result of some poor choice made on behalf of an adult. More often than not, they are viewed as punitive and are perceived as an indication that a parent has fallen short in some way. In reality, we could all benefit from a series of parenting courses. Raising children is one of the single most important ventures that any adult will ever take on in their lifetime. And like anything else in life, our chances of finding success on this journey significantly improve when we have access to enriching resources.
Despite widespread belief in intuitive skills, the majority of us were not born knowing how to parent. Just like simply being a student doesn’t make someone a skilled teacher, merely watching our parents doesn’t make us skilled parents. While it’s natural to assume we should just raise our kids in the way that our parents raised us, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, significant developments are constantly being made in the field of child psychology. Second, times have changed. What worked for you as a child may no longer be effective. And lastly, some parenting practices that were praised 30 years ago are now found to be psychologically and emotionally damaging to children. None of that is to say we should completely disregard our upbringing or that all traditional parenting strategies are ineffective, but that they should not be is our only source of reference in raising our own.
An Oregon State University study found that participation in parenting classes resulted in greater better parenting outcomes, fewer behavioral problems, higher grades, better mental health, and greater social competence.
“Parenting education works across the board,” said OSU assistant professor of behavioral and health sciences John Geldho “All parents can benefit. The way people typically learn parenting is from their parents and from books, and often times what they’ve learned is out of date and not the best practices for today. All parents – high income, low income, mandated, not mandated – can benefit from evidence-based parenting education.”
Even better, there are high-quality, evidence-based parenting education courses that you can begin either today or in the very near future for free from the comfort of your own home.
Everyday Parenting: The ABCs of Childrearing – Yale University
Taught by Alan E. Kazdin, a research professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University, Everyday Parenting: The ABCs of Childrearing is a four-week course that is helpful to the parents of preschoolers and adolescents alike. It covers everything from behavior management to creating a nurturing family environment to spanking. Ideal for busy moms and dads, this course can be completed at your own pace.
Co-parenting – Up to Parents
Facilitated by Dr. Kylea Asher-Smith, therapist Charlie Smith, and Judge Michael Scopelitis, the Up to Parents co-parenting workshop is a free resource that seeks to equip divorced parents with the skills needed to provide their kids with “better futures by focusing on meeting their children’s needs.”
Child Nutrition and Cooking – Stanford University
Instructed by Stanford University professor, Dr. Maya Adam, the Child Nutrition and Cooking course informs parents on “what constitutes a healthy diet for children and adults and how to prepare simple, delicious foods aimed at inspiring a lifelong celebration of easy home-cooked meals” while exploring “contemporary child nutrition, “the impact of the individual decisions made by each family,” and “the health risks associated with obesity in childhood.”