Quite a few months ago, my daughter asked me if there was such a thing as a parenting class. I told her that there wasn’t and that as parents, we learn as we go along. My son laughed. I’m not sure if the funny part was because he thought it was a ridiculous question or whether he felt that I was falling down on the job.
Since then, however, it’s come to my attention that such a thing does exist and in areas where it doesn’t, people are thinking that maybe it should.
A few years ago I was a member of a woman’s networking group that hosted a series of forums designed to help parents deal with the many issues they face as their children grew and matured. The title of this post is taken from the name of the series that was presented by the group.
From helping children with schoolwork, to understanding the transition from primary school to secondary school, to coming to grips with our children’s sexuality, to matters of discipline (to spank or not to spank), it was dealt with. By having teachers, psychologists, nurses and counselors as facilitators, the parents were “schooled” in what to expect and what to do when it happened.
Back then, I was only a mother of a two-year old, and when I realized the many issues that some of the parents of older children were facing, I prayed that his early childhood years would pass slo-o-owly.
My mind was drawn to my daughter’s question because of the recent incident in the US where a mother left her two young children unattended in a car while she attended a job interview. It would be heartless of me to say that she really left the kids home alone, because the woman and her children are in fact homeless and actually live in the car.
The woman was arrested, and then the firestorm of comments began, with people questioning what support she had or could access, and whether she was in a catch 22 kind of situation in wanting to take care of her kids but not being able to take care of her kids.
One article discussing the case referenced British Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2012 Can Parent Initiative, which provided vouchers to help pay for parenting classes offering advice on nutrition, behaviour and development.
By saying that it was “ludicrous” that we are expected to train for hours to learn to drive a car or to use a computer, he was probably mirroring my daughter’s incredulity because even she realizes that parenting should be more than the crash course that it is.
With the changing times, a lot of us are swimming in the deep. When we were growing up, we had fewer temptations than our children now have that can lead them away from the straight and narrow. We can make all the jokes we like about what’s in the water or what’s being put into the food, and we can reminisce every day about the fact that one look, two harsh words and a hand to the bottom was enough to straighten us out, back in the day.
However, we need to find out what works for us and for our children, today.
I don’t want to give the impression that it’s all about discipline for me, because guidance isn’t only about punishment, but would I have appreciated a parenting class when my young ones were younger?
Would I have liked to know that academically, some boys need extra encouragement to read and that finding books about topics that they like is a good place to start?
Or that socially, both boys and girls become interested in their appearances much sooner than we did, and with it comes an awareness of their sexuality?
Or that as a parent I should never make a promise that I can’t deliver on because my children might accuse me of not telling the truth?
Or that I should never announce a trip or an outing until a few minutes before we get ready to leave because doing so is a sure way to eliminate all serenity until we do?
As you can see from these questions, there are some things that the experts could have told me in advance. And then there are other things that I wouldn’t know until I got here.