Ultimate Guide to Parenting Classes

Child-care expert teaching young parents parenting skills.
Be sure to choose a class that that is geared toward the age your children are. See more parenting pictures.
©iStockphoto.com/Chris Schmidt

Whether you're having your first child or dealing with an unruly teenager, it's OK if you don't always know exactly what to do. After all, kids don't come with instruction manuals. Sometimes, being a parent can feel like a never-ending process of trial and error. So how can you learn how to be a better parent? When you were a kid, you took math classes to learn how to add and subtract, so why not take parenting classes to learn how to be a parent?

When it comes to choosing the right parenting class for you, there are two basic options. You can take active parenting classes or online parenting classes. The goal of both is to give you the tools you'll need to raise respectful, responsible children by being a positive yet authoritative figure in their lives. Some classes teach specific styles of parenting while others help you discover your own. Both options come with advantages and disadvantages. Active parenting classes for example, require you to stick to a set schedule, whereas online classes can often be completed at your own pace when you have the time. However, the active classes allow for face-to-face interaction with an instructor and other parents, whereas the online version might feel less personal.


The class you choose should also be geared toward the age of your children [source: CICC]. Parenting a preschooler is a lot different than parenting a teenager, and you'll need a different approach to each. When it comes down to it, finding the right parenting class may be another process of trial and error, but in the end it could prove to be an invaluable investment in your family's future. Whatever you choose will require a commitment from both you and your kids.

Keep reading to find out more about active parenting classes and whether they seem like the right option for you.


Active Parenting Classes

Active parenting classes strive to foster respect between parents and their children. They try to teach effective disciplining practices along with productive ways to instill a sense of self-respect and responsibility in your children. Being a member of a family is sometimes a lot like being the member of a sports team: You have to work together to be successful, but that takes practice. Active parenting classes give you a way to structure your family practices.

Signing up for an active parenting class is similar to signing up for a college course or a training seminar. Depending on the class, it may take place over several weeks or a single weekend. Either way, your physical attendance will be required -- that's the whole point of an active parenting class. Beyond that, active parenting classes can differ as much as anything else. It all depends on the instructor's philosophy of parenting.


Keep in mind that most classes are geared toward learning how to parent children of a certain age, so you'll want to make sure the class you sign up for is age appropriate. There are also classes that focus on certain problem areas, such as tantrums in young ones or drug and alcohol abuse in teenagers. Whatever the case may be, active parenting classes seek to engage you in the learning process. They tend to require class participation, working in small groups and immediate application of the lessons learned.

Active parenting classes can provide you with the tools you need to be a better parent, but not everyone can make the time commitment they require. That's where online classes may be a better option as they tend to be much more flexible. Keep reading to find out more about online parenting classes.


Online Parenting Classes

Many parents juggle a job in addition to all the hustle and bustle that comes with raising a child, and that generally isn't easy. It probably doesn't leave a whole lot of extra time, either, and that can make it difficult to even consider taking a parenting class. If you have an Internet connection, however, you might be able to squeeze it in. You can take parenting classes online in the privacy of your own home and when you have the time. Not only that, but you'll be able to spend more time on the areas of the class that are most important to you.

The goals of online parenting classes are much the same as those of active parenting classes. The biggest difference is that online classes often allow you to move at your own pace and according to your own schedule. They also offer a wider variety of courses. By taking a parenting class online, you'll be able to choose the best possible class to suit your needs. With active parenting classes this isn't always an option, as you're limited to the classes being offered in your area.


Of course, with online parenting classes also comes a higher level of responsibility. No one will be holding you accountable, and that means you're going to need a certain level of self-motivation to be successful. If that's not an issue, online parenting classes might be the perfect answer to your parenting needs. You can learn the necessary techniques to effectively raise your kids without interrupting your already busy schedule.

Whether you choose active or online parenting classes, they both offer several benefits. Keep reading to learn more.


Benefits of Parenting Classes

When you get a new job, you usually have to do a good amount of training before you get any real responsibility. Unfortunately, being a parent doesn't work the same way. Nobody makes you take a training course on how to raise a kid, but it's not a bad idea. That's why there are parenting classes. It's next to impossible to be good at something without practice, so why not practice your parenting skills? Whether you have a newborn or a teenager, it's never too late to try and learn effective parenting techniques.

Your own parents might have taught you effective techniques as they were raising you, which you might choose to continue as your bring up your children. Parenting classes provide you with another option. One of the benefits of parenting classes is staying up to date on the newest and most effective parenting techniques.


Parenting classes can also help take some of the mystery out of being a parent. They can teach you what to expect, effective ways to discipline and the best ways to prepare your children for school. They can also help you work through specific problems you might be having or prepare for a transition in the event of a divorce or some other unforeseen circumstance. On top of all that, parenting classes also give you an opportunity to connect with other parents who are most likely going through a lot of the same experiences as you.

Deciding to take a parenting class doesn't mean you're a bad parent. It shows you care about your family and the future of your children. For a lot more information on parenting classes, check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Alaska Court System. "Parenting Classes." July 29, 2009. (Accessed 12/28/09)http://www.courts.alaska.gov/parentingclasses.htm
  • Center for the Improvement of Child Caring. "Active Parenting Programs." (Accessed 12/27/2009)http://www.ciccparenting.org/ActiveParentingPrograms.aspx
  • Guttmacher Institute. "Facts on American Teens' Sexual and Reproductive Health." September 2006. (Accessed 12/28/09)http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_ATSRH.html
  • Halsey, Claire. "Parenting Classes." BBC. (Accessed 12/28/09)http://www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/family_matters/you_lessons.shtml#why_take_classes?
  • Life Matters. "Improve Your Child's Behavior Overnight!" (Accessed 12/28/09)http://www.lifematters.com/parentnb.asp
  • Northern Illinois University. "Will This Divorce Affect Me?" (Accessed 12/28/09)http://www.cedu.niu.edu/~shumow/iit/DIVORCE.pdf
  • Pawel, Jody LSW. "The Importance of Educating Today's Parents." June 1990. Parent's Tool Shop. (Accessed 12/28/09)http://www.parentstoolshop.com/HTML/tips1.htm
  • Putting Kids First. "Online Classes." 2009. (Accessed 12/28/09)http://puttingkidsfirst.org/onlineclasses.html
  • Putting Kids First. "Putting Kids First." 2009. (Accessed 12/27/2009)http://puttingkidsfirst.org/
  • Rahh, Sherry. "Parenthood: Life After Baby." WebMD. November 19, 2008. (Accessed 12/28/09)http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/parenting-life-after-baby?page=2
  • Sacramento Family and Community Educational Services. "Course Offerings." Respect Net. (Accessed 12/28/09)http://www.respectnet.com/courses.htm#ap