When someone asks me what I do for a living, I can sometimes see them bristle a little at my reply.
It’s not surprising really – until a few years ago the word ‘parent’ only existed as a noun. Parent was a person, a mother or father, not something you did. The use of parent as a verb – a doing word – has only appeared in the last 20 years or so (like google). Before that the closest was child-rearing, which sounds more like something that farmers do with chickens and cows.
‘Parenting classes? That’s just for people whose kids are really out of control, is it?’
Very occasionally. But more often, it’s parents who simply want to get on a bit better with their children, to have more fun and less shouting in their family.
Parenting classes? But surely it’s just common sense?’
Ah yes, common sense. Less than 200 years ago, it was considered common sense that sending a 6-year old child up a chimney was by the far the best way to clean it. But, thankfully, times have changed and so has what we consider acceptable in how we treat our children.
It’s a cliché that babies don’t come with a manual – and if you look up ‘parenting’ on Amazon you’ll find that there are actually plenty of manuals to choose from. But by far the most influential parenting manual is the one that’s imprinted in our heads – what we learned, for good or bad, as we were growing up. I don’t believe any good parenting course can be effective without spending some time looking at what we experienced when we were young and the impact that has had on how we behave towards our own children.
And it’s not just how we were parented – working with couples the commonest cause of friction is people who have experienced completely different styles of parenting, both of which seem to them like ‘common sense’ or the only possible way to do things. Is it any wonder they find it hard to agree on how to raise their children?
So who needs parenting classes? In initial consultations with clients I frequently hear some variation on the phrase, ‘I’ve started to sound just like my mother (or father), and I always swore I’d never do that when I had children of my own.’
Parents often contact me because they want to consider different ways of doing things. The smart ones already know that parenting classes are about changing the way they react to their children’s behaviour (rather than trying to change their children). Simply doing that changes our relationships with everyone around us, not just our children. People enrol on a parenting course or have just a session or two of parenting coaching because it encourages them to look at different ways of approaches to what is the most important job they will ever do.
If that sounds interesting, then get in touch.