A parent certainly doesn't neglect her child's education; likewise, she shouldn't neglect her own, hence the existence of parenting classes. But a lecture-only parenting course is not always as robust as a class that integrates activities. The responsibility of the teacher is to ensure the students learn and are able to actually employ the techniques taught in the class. To help parents of varying backgrounds and styles cope with the challenges of raising children, teachers of effective parenting should deploy a multifaceted learning approach, using activities from group discussions to role-playing.
Reflect for the Future
In a parenting reflection activity, have your students reveal past parenting mistakes related to the parenting strategies you are currently teaching. Have them explain how they can reduce the probability of reproducing the mistake and the potential consequences for the child if the mistake is repeated. For example, if the day’s class is focused on enhancing a child’s self-esteem, have parents talk about a time when they hurt a child’s self-esteem and suggest ways in which they could have improved their children’s self-esteem instead. Using a reflection activity after teaching a specific parenting strategy helps students understand the practicality of that strategy and envision actually using the strategy at home.
Start with the End in Mind
In an expectations activity, students explain what they hope to improve within their approach to parenting. For example, if the class is on child discipline, the parents can either speak or write their goals for improving how they discipline their children. The answers might range from “be less reactive” to “be more firm.” The teacher can then directly address each issue that comes up in the subsequent lecture. Use an expectations activity at the beginning of the course and the beginning of each topic. This activity sets the focus of the class and helps students form a tangible measurement of success.
Be a Child for a Minute
Role playing in which one student acts as the child and another parent can help parents become accustomed to using the skills they learn via lecture. A role play on parent-child communication skills could involve a student playing a difficult child, while the “parent” student employs the skills learned to effectively communicate with his child. Through such an activity, some obstacles and facets unmentioned in the lecture will often come up, such as, “What happens when the child simply refuses to listen?” The teacher can directly answer such questions after or during the role-play.
Often, a parent can learn new techniques simply through referencing the experiences of others via discussing these experiences in a group. For example, in a class discussing the stress of being a parent, ideas and techniques that might be foreign or unknown to even the teacher might arise. One parent might explain how meditation helped her become a calmer mom. Another might explain how relieving stress with his child through exercise was not only relaxing but allowed for parent-child bonding. Such group discussions can help parents share their ideas, experiences, and feelings in ways that help other parents.