Why take a parenting class?

Ask the Experts by Kathy Rager, executive director, CARE

Q: My mother tells me that I am spoiling my six year old.  She has encouraged me to take a parenting class.  I don't understand her concerns.  I know that my daughter is a little high strung and I do try to keep her happy by, perhaps, giving in a little too much.  I am able to provide very well for her and can afford to give her what she wants.  Do I need to take a parenting class?  I thought they are just for parents who have big problems.

A: Have you thought about taking a parenting class?  This seems like a dumb question.  Parents would take a parenting class if they are having trouble with their children.  Some examples include

  • They can't get them to eat their peas.
  • Children are throwing tantrums.
  • They can't get their children to do their homework.
  • Somehow their teen child has gotten in trouble at school.

You may be surprised to know that these are all the wrong reasons to take a parenting class! 

To get a clearer picture of what I am talking about, think to the future.  Parents can ask themselves two questions:  What kind of a relationship do you want with your child twenty or thirty years down the road? and What kind of characteristics do you want your child to exhibit?   Most parents will say that they want to have a friendly caring relationship twenty or thirty years down the road.  Most parents say that they want their children to be capable, kind and able to support themselves.  These are noble goals but are not achieved without hard work, over time, on the part of the parents.

Take the following true/false quiz to access your knowledge of what the experts say is "important" steps in parenting.

1.  It is important that my child feel special.      
2. I need to do everything to make sure my child has a high self esteem.
3. I need to give my child as many choices as possible so that he learns to make good decisions.
4. Rewards are an important way for me to motivate my child.

Number 1.  While some experts feel that is important for a child to feel special most agree that it is more important for a child to learn that all people are unique and that he is not more special than anyone else.  He needs to learn to fit into a world where character and contributions are valued above being special.     

Number 2.  Actually a "healthy" self esteem is what is important.  An overly inflated or high self esteem can give a child an unrealistic vision of his abilities, an elevated confidence and a public presence that boarders on arrogance.

Number 3.  Too many choices confuse a child.  Choices need to be provided based on age, ability and reasonableness.  Giving a young child a choice between 10 toothbrushes doesn't make sense.  Neither does it make sense to give a teen ager the choice of a curfew, drink a beer or have sex at an early age. 

Number 4.  Stephen Glenn, one of the earliest experts says clearly that if a child is over the age of seven, gold stars don't work.   Motivation follows success.  If a child has few opportunities to be successful, tangible rewards will not move the bar.  Glen does suggest encouragement in the form of words, hugs and smiles.   
Wow.  Parenting is serious stuff.  It is not about making a child do what we want him to do.  It is about raising capable, contribution people.  It is about the long haul.  These are the reasons that parents need to take a parenting class. 

Kathy Rager, Executive Director at Community Assessment Referral & Education (CARE) and parent educator has provided advice on raising competent, capable children for the last 25 years.   Her advice is based on a formal education, experience with highly stressed families and raising her own three children.  She can be reached at 586.541.0033, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Visit CARE's website at www.careofsem.com for parenting class information or call 585 541-0033. CARE is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals.

The Family Center, a 501C 3, non-profit organization, serves as the community's hub for information, resources and referral for families and professionals.  To view more Ask The Experts articles, please visit our website www.familycenterweb.org.

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