Do We Need Classes In How To Be A Good Parent?

Do Parents Need Classes?
15 June 2016

Most mums and dads have found themselves longing for an instruction manual at some stage in their parenting 'journey' but while that's one wish we're never likely to have fulfilled, what if we could get the next best thing: lessons in how to be a parent?

I know I'd sign up in a heartbeat. In fact, having dabbled in various parenting classes over the years, I'd go so far as to say that I agree with the idea that parents should have to take a course before they can have a child. And it seems those days might not be that far off, according to a Guardian report:

The government should give parents lessons on how to raise their children, according to Britain's leading public health expert. Prof John Ashton, the outgoing president of the Faculty of Public Health, said today's children are being neglected by schools and bad parents. He said the state must step in to help prevent the next generation being crippled by conditions such as anxiety, anorexia and obesity.

Comparing children to farm animals, Ashton remarked on the fact that between 10-15% of children suffer from "obesity, eating disorders, anxiety and stress" by the time they leave school.

He said: "So having produced healthy babies we then set about neglecting them. I can't imagine a sensible farmer doing this with livestock."

I don't agree that the health conditions cited by Ashton are necessarily the result of poor schooling or bad teaching but I feel strongly that most of us could do with some resources to help develop our parenting skills at some stage or another.

I found parenting classes invaluable and routinely draw on the things I learned and observations I made whilst being 'schooled' in the art of being a good parent, so I don't really understand why so many people are quick to reject the notion that parents should be offered classes in the task of raising a happy, healthy child.

But what's your view? Have you ever taken a parenting class and if so, did you find it useful? If not, is a parenting class something you would ever consider signing up for? Leave us a comment below or join the debate over on our Facebook page.

33 comments

  • Jessica L.

    Yes. You have to have lessons on everything we do in life. For jobs, to learn to drive. But not on the most important job in the world? The job that if we mess up it has the biggest consequence. If everyone had to undergo a few 'lessons' there would be less parenting problems later on in childhood and more support. Also, maybe there wouldn't be so many neglected and abused children.

  • Jane W.

    To those who ask/seek them out only.

  • Sue J.

    I'd like to see increased funding for Children's Centres. I'm still learning new things at our local centre now, and my son is almost 4. In the early months of his life, the staff there were a vital source of support and advice on everything from feeding to the best wet wipes to use! There needs to be better funding for community midwives too, to enable them to visit new parents and offer to show you how to bath baby, or check the temperature of a bottle for example. "One size fits all" classes aren't the answer.

  • Lisa D.

    The Government needs to give us time to be a parent! #valuecare Parenting classes are not needed for the vast vast majority! Another waste of funds! Tut tut!!

  • Toni B.

    This so what your health care providers are for. Your health visitor can give you all the info you need and if they are unsure on anything they can find it out for you. People don't use there health visitors enough they see them as nasty people telling them how to look after there children. I went to see my health visitor once a week with my first child right up till she was a year old some times just for a chat. With my second I was so much more confidant and able to cope easier. You don't need lessons you just need to use what's already available to you.

    • Kathryn S.

      Yes. This! When my daughter turned 3 in March, her behaviour totally changed. Everything that used to work, no longer worked. I was at my wits' end and I was in tears when I rang the health visitor. She came to our house, observed my daughter and gave me so much advice but most importantly, she listened to me. In nicer words, she told me I needed to back off as my daughter was craving independence and I wasn't letting her have it. I had to totally change my way of parenting, and that was damn hard, but it worked.

    • Toni B.

      It's such a shame that health visitors have such bad names when clearly not just from my experience but from yours as well they are trained to a high standard and are there to give you all the advise and guidance you need. They will put you into contact with people if they can't help. Yet people see them as judgmental and unhelpful it's a shame. People need to Make better use of the fantastic people we already have.

    • Emma P.

      It so is a shame. I'm a HV and makes me really sad when people speak negatively of us. Thanks for the nice words :) pleased you've had a positive experience to share x

    • Kim S.

      I've seen both sides. My son is 5 weeks old but was 5 weeks prem (due today!), and when I visited my local clinic this week, I got no support from the HV there at all... Yet when I rang my HV yesterday in tears on the first day being alone with him all day coinciding with the first night he'd had me up all night, she was at my house within half an hour to allay my worries and generally keep me company for an hour - just what I needed.. Cue much calmer mummy during this night feed!

    • Sue J.

      My experience of HV has been the opposite. When I rang for health advice, it took a week for someone to call me back and then two weeks for someone to have the time to visit. The person who came was not from a health background but a nursery nurse and was unable to offer any helpful advice on the issue I'd raised.

    • Michelle H.

      My HV is overstretched as she's serving a growing village by herself! (It's pretty much a market town now) I love her advice but trying to get to see her is hard.

  • Helen R.

    Definitely yes. Although people parent differently, and have the right to do so, some things are non-negotiable in my eyes. Simple things like read to your child no matter how tiny, eating healthily, playing with your child, talking to your child. It is surprisingly scary how many parents don't do any of the above then wonder why their child is struggling as they grow.

    • Kirsty T.

      I would like to think all those come naturally to parents :disappointed: My eldest has loved books since she was tiny, she's now 4 and has such a great imagination, it's lovely :relaxed: If you need a lesson on how to do spend time with your child perhaps those people aren't quite ready to be a parent.

    • Helen R.

      As a teacher Kirsty, i know those simple things don't happen for many children and it is heartbreaking. There are too many people out there that don't deserve to be parents who end up having 5 or 6 children and too many people who are great parent material that are unable to have any children. It is all so wrong :cry:

  • Rhiannon A.

    The health visitor should give more info and support. In lucky with my health visitor but I've had ones that don't seem to care in the past

    • Sarah P.

      True. Some health visitors are lovely and really supportive and others seem really judgy and bossy. But saying that, not all people get on so someone I liked might not have been liked by someone else. Each to their own

    • Rhiannon A.

      Yeah true. I feel not enough info is given in the lead up to baby or immediately after only about sids and feeding. A friend is petitioning for info to be given on nursery furniture placement.

    • Katie C.

      So true. Some seem aware and ready to help. Others make you feel like your wasting their time. Also the range of advice (esp breastfeeding) is so mismatched. One will say that's perfect and then next weeks it's a big mistake. But also had midwives like it some that help some that just judge.

    • Rhiannon A.

      Wish it was just based off of what is 100% the best and then also helped you if you need the alternatives. They can scaremonger rather than support too

  • Cara W.

    Can i recommend a book called the incredible years available on amazon,i have just finished the course,and i cant praise enough.weve had a lot of changes and complex issues to deal with in our family and this book is a bible for us.x

  • Rowan D.

    I think it should begin at school

  • Caroline S.

    Yes definitely. More information and support needs to be given pre natal and during the early days. I've worked with children for years but parenthood is a whole different ball game. I went on the early days course at the children's centre but my son was nearly 5 months old by the time we got on the course so it was a bit late by then.

  • Nicola S.

    Maybe David Cameron should take some lesson then he might not leave his child in the pub in future. #governmenthypocrites

  • Jacqueline H.

    Looking at some of the children I have taught I would say yes.

  • Abbie L.

    I think the biggest thing parents should be given above anything else is compulsary infant first aid, more babies die from choking on silly things when if parents new how to give first aid they could save them before it becomes fatal!! I wasn't offered any when pregnant with both my babies had I been asked id have jumped at the chance!!

  • Hannah C.

    My daughter was 18 when she had her baby & in Oxfordshire there is fantastic support for under 20's with a dedicated family nurse who visits every other week from 16 weeks pregnant to the baby's 2nd birthday. Even though I have raised 2 children I have also learnt a lot through this project.

  • Rachel L.

    Is that's what grandparents are for?

  • Kirsty T.

    First aid is a good idea... Personally I'm a private person and I didn't want people in my face and pestering me all the time. I've not long had my second child and I had visits I neither wanted nor needed yet these people come to my home whether I liked it or not. If I felt I wasn't coping, then I'd see a doctor. No parent is perfect, especially new, first time parents. You learn as you go and do your best in which ever situation. I understand there is a job to ensure every child is safe, but parenting lessons? Maybe not.

  • Pam D.

    We had 'home economics' lessons at school which included, cookery, bills and child care!! Xxx

    • Jacqueline H.

      I did too. Still remember it today. Now that is what should happen today. Mereway school had a child care area where children were using it as a crèche/nursery, kitchens bays complete with sink, cooker and fridge and a teaching classroom. Needlework was also taught. Metalwork, woodwork and car maintenance too.

  • Lj S.

    Haha and the people teaching these classes probably don't have kids. I don't think so parenting is something you learn day in and day out. Not something some one can teach you.

  • Karen G.

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people are terrible at parenting. Read today that one local school to me are banning packed lunches, for key stage one children entitled to free lunches, because parents are sending their children to school with cold McDonald's and packets of biscuits for their lunch! Sadly, we can't just trust all parents to do the right thing by their children. Maybe classes would help the children of these moronic parents and offer general support and advice to the rest of us.

  • Heidi J.

    Lol... funny... how did people cope 40 odd years ago??

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