Written by Dr Meghna Singhal and published on 01 June 2021.
Parenting is a journey, filled with happiness and yes, sometimes heartbreak too. That is why it is vital for us to learn and better handle everyday challenges and changes, involving our children.
Do you remember those occasions when you undertook something significant? Made an important presentation at work or, took the final university exams or, ran a marathon? Chances are, you would have prepared yourself well before taking them up. You may have sought expert advice, engaged in self-learning, and practiced as much as you could.
Most of the time, we wouldn't think of doing anything important without preparing well for a successful outcome. So, why should it be any different for parenting, often described as the most important job in the world?
Attending parenting classes and workshops is one of the most effective ways of preparing for parenting and handling difficult parenting moments. The classes and workshops help parents, both experienced and inexperienced, learn what to expect at each developmental stage of their child. They help parents stay abreast of the latest research in child development, child psychology, and developmental neuroscience. They also help parents learn new parenting skills and practice positive guidance.
The group format of parenting classes and workshops facilitates the creation of a support network of parents who may be facing similar challenges. Additionally, they help parents gain confidence in raising children competently and also, troubleshooting when things don't go as expected.
However, often, there is resistance to attending parenting classes and workshops. Let us examine the reasons behind this resistance and examine why they are incorrect or biased perceptions:
Perception 1: People have been raising children for generations together and never required any classes.
Today's society is far more complex than before and is continuing to change, at a speedy pace. The advent of technology, breakdown in the traditional structure of the Indian family, increase of dual-career families, and rapid westernization are some of the major changes we contend with every day. We cannot always predict in what ways these changes will impact our children. Parenting classes provide scientific data on how our children are developing in this changing world. For example, attending a parenting workshop on screen time can help you understand why using devices can be unhealthy for children, how much is too much, and what a balance between offline and online activities looks like.
Perception 2: I have the right to raise my child the way I want. Why should someone else tell me how to do so?
Most parents do the best they can for their children, but no one has all the answers. So, it helps in being open to new strategies. For example, attending a parenting workshop could give you additional ideas on enhancing your relationship with your child or learning new techniques of eliciting cooperation from your child. Furthermore, parenting classes and workshops discuss ideas you can try, depending on your family context, your child's temperament, your own schedule, and a host of other factors. So, these forums educate parents on what is effective or beneficial for children.
Perception 3: Parenting comes naturally; it is intuitive and parents already know how to raise their children.
If parenting was so intuitive, we wouldn't have so many cases of child emotional, physical, and sexual abuse! There is nothing natural about child abuse or transmitting patterns of violence or anxious ways of responding from one generation to the next. Parenting classes provide an opportunity for parents to evaluate their methods in a safe setting, ask questions and learn about resources. It empowers them to choose the parenting method that works best for them.
Perception 4: Each child is different. Nobody knows a child better than his parents.
Sure, every child and family are different, and no parent knows everything. That is why we trust doctors and teachers to take care of our children. Also, parents have a strong desire to do the best for their children but many are ill-informed on how to achieve this. Consider this: a significant majority of parents in India still believe that spanking (or beating) their child is the right way of disciplining. However, research in child psychology has consistently demonstrated the adverse short and long-term outcomes of corporal punishment. There are many alternatives, yet effective, strategies to discipline a child. If parents attend parenting classes and workshops, they can make use of this knowledge in their children's upbringing.
Perception 5: People will judge me if I go for parenting classes. They will think that I'm a bad or inadequate parent.
Parenting is not easy, no matter what the age of the child is. It's hard raising children. The sooner we accept this, the better we'll be able to deal with all the confusing doubts, puzzling moments, and contradictory emotions that parenting entails. Parents need to remember that it's not a failure to ask for help. Attending parenting classes and workshops does not mean that something is wrong with you or your child. Rather, they are developed to build upon parents' current skills, that is, improve the skills of 'good' parents, rather than help 'bad' parents.
Parenting is a learning journey and children don't come with instruction manuals! Till the time they do, let us make the most of parenting workshops, which are crafted to help us learn and become more empowered parents.