Why Everyone Can Benefit from Parenting Education

Loving may be instinctual, but skills are developed. From the prenatal period through adulthood, parents can continually learn skills and gain insights that improve relationships, optimize each other’s growth and development, and create family well-being, even during difficult transitions.

The parent role has many components:

· Parents and children form children’s first relationships and influence of these first relationships last through the child’s life.1,2 “…safe, stable and nurturing relationships are essential to children’s healthy development.”3  

Have you, as a parent, been able to establish and maintain that close relationship? Have you been able to keep it strong as your child has grown? Most of us find at times along the way we need to pause and work on that relationship. Talking with others helps.

·  Parents are their children’s first teacher. From birth onward, parents communicating with their children and offering interesting environments for them to explore builds the architecture of children’s brains.4,5 

What else do you as a parent need to be teaching your children? Are there ways of doing so that are more effective than others? What is your role as children enter school, whether preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college? Parenting education provides opportunities for exploring such issues. 

· The parent role includes keeping children safe. 6,7,8

Obviously, we don’t let our children run into the street, but there are so many ways in which we protect our children. And, what is our role, for example, around technology, and in what ways can we help our children be able to use technology effectively and safely?  Parenting education sessions can help parents identify possible sources of danger and experts on specific topics related to safety can give you the tools to best protect your child without severely limiting their activities.

· Parents provide for their children’s physiological needs — including nutritious meals, good sleep habits, safe housing, suitable clothing, and opportunities for exercise.9,10  

How can you be assured that your child is getting a healthy diet? How can you provide your child with the exercise they need given the circumstances of where you live, busy schedules, etc.? Talking with parenting educators and other parents often opens up ideas for answering their child’s needs including promoting healthy eating habits and exercise.

Each component of the parental role raises questions for parents. Parenting education programs provide parents with ways of searching out answers.

Parenting education positively influences the following:

  • The health, safety, wellbeing, and economic success of children through adulthood [as well as of their parents]
  • Improves childhood and student outcomes
  • Reduces at-risk behaviors
  • Promotes students’ academic growth
  • Improves the environment of the family, supporting an optimal setting for family well-being.

1 Greenspan, S, (2002). The Secure child: Helping our children feel safe and confident in an insecure world. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing,.p. 21.

2 Hrdy, S. (2009). Mothers and others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University. p.68

3 Knudsen, E., et. al. (2006). Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America’s future work force. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, July 5, 2006 103 (27) 10155-10162. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0600888103.

4 Pas, A. van der (2003). A Serious case of neglect: The Parental experience of child rearing: Outline for a psychological theory of parenting. Uitgevertj Eburon: Eburon Delft.p 133-135.

5 Stevens, (2017) Neuroscientists at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child. Early adult-child interactions  “determine whether a child’s developing brain architecture provides a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health.” 

6 Hrdy, S.(1999). Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 408 – 418.

7 Pas, Op. cit.p. 120- 125.

8 Pas, Ibid. p.126-130.

9 Shonkoff and Philips, (2016). Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts: A Science-Based Approach to Building a More Promising Future for Young Children and Families. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu.  Parents are expected to provide for their children’s specific needs.

10 Skenazy, L. (2009), Free Range Kids. New York: Wiley. As our way of life has become more sedentary, there is increasing recognition of our children’s need for exercise