Parenting is an immersive experience. It's the biggest job most of us will ever do in our lives. And for the most part, most of us rely exclusively on on-the-job-training to muddle through. Crazy, isn't it?
But the research is pretty clear. Parent training and education – often referred to as Behavior Therapy -- makes an enormous difference for all children – especially those with complex needs. Statistically, for kids who use ADHD medication, Parent Training increases the effectiveness of medication – and is part of recommended treatment!
When parents take the time to think about and focus consciously on how they parent, they're going to get more effective results. Good, solid content doesn't hurt, of course – you want the training to impart new information. But to be honest – and I can say this because I am a parent educator – I think parents get almost as much benefit just by pausing long enough to think about their parenting!
One group coaching client of ours said it best: “That's what I appreciate about these calls. Often times, I forget what I know -- its hard to keep it in perspective – and these calls remind me."
Now here's the thing -- parents are busy, overwhelmed, and distracted by the chaotic nature of family life. You get a huge amount of information thrown at you from schools and extra-curricular activities. There is a tremendous amount expected in terms of processing information and responding in a timely manner.
Parenting is a bit of a wild ride, don't you think?
So to be an effective parent you've really gotta maintain a general sense of calm and consistency— and THAT's where parenting education can help the most.
6 Criteria of Good Parent Education
- Accessible — you won't go if it's not easy to access, whether that's online or in person. Does the time of day work for you? Is it in the middle of rush-hour, or homework time? Is it in person or online? Parents don't have time to waste, and you won't take advantage of a program that does not work for your life-style.
- Interactive — how does it meet with your style of learning? Do you learn best by reading? Watching? Listening? All of the above? Is there an opportunity to ask questions? To learn from your peers? Parents LOVE to hear what other parents are doing — and it helps for you to learn from your peers when there is an educator present who will provide feedback, or redirect the conversation to the learning points at hand.
- Affordable — Parents are often hesitant to invest in themselves. Somehow you think you SHOULD know this stuff, and you are often full of embarrassment or shame around getting support for parenting excellence. While I do believe that parents need to learn to invest in your selves and your parenting just like you would for a paying job – I understand as well as anyone (after all, I've got 3 complex kids so I've taken a class or twelve!), that a good training experience has to feel like you're getting a good value. For any program to be effective, you want to feel comfortable, like you're making a good investment.
- Specific to your child's needs – there is some amazingly great general parenting education “out there” that just doesn't work with complex kids. Some of it can be adapted quite well, actually, but when your kids are complicated, you've got to take that into account. Our kids are generally not naughty, and they should not be treated that way. If a parent education course doesn't specifically address complex kids, ask some questions to make sure it's going to apply to you – so you don't end up feeling frustrated and disappointed.
- Clear, concise, actionable with an approach that makes sense to you — parents want strategies and skills that you can put into practice right away. But to be honest, strategies can get you into trouble if they aren't used in a framework that makes sense to you. Whether it's taking a coach-approach (which is what we teach), or positive parenting, or celebrating calm, a good parenting program offers more than just information – it teaches an APPROACH. So you want both -- concrete take-aways AND an approach that speaks to you.
Accountability/compliance component — what's going to prevent you from going home and putting the notebook on the shelf? Is there peer support? Check-ins to see how you're using the materials? Follow up to help you tweak what's working, and what's not? Education is not enough – results come when you put training into action. And that happens best when there is time to plan, practice, and tweak what you're learning. Dr. Barkley's research showed, many years ago, that Parent Training was key – but compliance was a serious problem. So look for a program that includes some structured accountability for you.
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