Could we all benefit from Parenting Lessons?

A UK professor has called for all parents to be offered state funded classes in how to bring up their families by asking could we all benefit from Parenting Lessons? In an interview with the Telegraph, Prof John Ashton, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said “We need to give children a good start in life. Parenting is the most important thing you do but people are just left to their own devices – and then the state picks up the pieces when it goes wrong.” Ashton’s main concerns relate to psychological pressures on children, information overload from the internet and video games, and levels of serious distress and self harm among teens “The days when you grew up in big extended families, surrounded by aunties and uncles with children, so you absorbed what it was like to be a parent long before you became one, are no more,” he said. “We need to replace it with some kind of emotional, psychological and practical support for parents, especially in the early years but also later on – parents often don’t know where to go when they find that teenagers are going off the rails.”

Programs for Parents will only Help what is the most difficult job in the world

It is his belief that, with intervention and the provision of programes and telephone helplines, parents would be better guided in raising their children and more likely to avoid situations whereby teens go off the rails. So is this something that could or should be adopted in Australia? Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert, Dr Karen Phillip, thinks so. “I do believe it is time for a major parenting shake up and the government needs to step up and provide comprehensive knowledge for the most important job in life,” she says. “Parents need support and help. So many are struggling to deal with the pressure of trying to be the best parent they can be and community scrutiny on parents only adds to their pressure.” Phillip believes that the challenges posed by children can often leave us feeling lost and confused, and questioning how to do our job as parents. Without a classroom to learn these things she says that parents are struggling, and many are unsure how to manage their children’s behaviour. “We really need to do something and, while this may seem extreme, until someone comes up with another bright idea to help parents and society, why not trial this?” she says.

Future Generations are worth the Investment

Phillip says that future generations are worth this investment, and the only thing parents have to lose in partaking is a few hours of dedication to their child’s future. “Our parents are doing such a great job, it is just sad there is continual pressure on them without the opportunity to really learn the right information.” Professor Matt Sanders is director of the Parenting and Family Support Centre at the University of Queensland and founder of the Triple P Positive Parenting program. He says that attendees on his parenting courses are a mix of ‘parents with significant concerns about their children’s behaviour and everyday parents dealing with the normal challenges of raising healthy, well adjusted children.’ On the courses parents learn how to use positive parenting principles to teach their children the social and emotional skills they will need to handle everyday situations with their parents, their siblings and with their peers. “Parents learn simple and practical strategies that help them confidently manage their children’s behaviour, prevent problems developing and helps the establishment and growth of strong, healthy relationships,” explains Sanders. “For example, parents learn specific child management strategies that are alternatives to coercive and ineffective discipline practices such as shouting, threatening or using physical punishment.” Through his teachings, Sanders has seen first hand the benefits reaped by parents. He says that in learning to develop specific coping strategies for various situations, parents walk away with the confidence and skills to manage their children’s behaviour and help their children to reach their potential. Triple P has also been shown to have an impact on parental levels of stress and depression in a number of trials and evaluations around the world. Sanders believes that parents should be able to access parenting programs freely and at different stages of a child’s life, stating that ‘good parenting is to mental health as clean water is to physical health.’ “Australia is the world leader in the development of evidence-based parenting programs, yet these programs are not consistently available across the country,” he says. “Governments should be paying closer attention to programs developed in this country which are being used around the world.” Sanders concludes that the benefit of parenting programs to the health and wellbeing of both children and their parents is widely accepted, yet only a very small percentage of parents access parenting programs. “Parents need to view accessing help as a normal thing to do, and if we can take away the stigma attached with receiving parenting support, the benefits to the entire community will follow.”   Essential Child by Jo Hartley

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