Someone asked me the other day about the difference between teaching positive parenting skills and helping parents discover them intuitively. The mom who brought this up liked the idea of a support group where parents can gather regularly, talk to each other and learn from each other. It is free, and parents are supporting each other as they each discover how to parent intuitively based on their family’s needs. A parenting class, it may seem, is more about paying someone who claims to be an “expert” to give parents how-to instructions on raising their children…their unique children who no one has ever raised before.
Is this what I do? By teaching Positive Discipline classes, am I claiming to be an “expert” on parenting and have all the answers for parents needing help? Certainly not. I’m also an API Leader, and I do lead a monthly, free, support group for parents needing connection with other like-minded parents. So, as far as learning a new approach to parenting, what’s the difference between paying for a class and participating in a free community support group? Do parents really need to pay money for someone to tell them what to do with their kids? Can’t parents learn positive discipline on their own, for free, if they just apply themselves & work at it? Here is my story; how I clarified the issue for this mom who was asking, and for myself, because I hadn’t thought about it before!
I think all parents want to be good parents…no one tries to be a bad parent! We’re all just doing the best we can with the information that we have, right? I personally love being a mom, and I am inspired every day do be the best mom I can, to raise my kids compassionately, and to parent them in a way that teaches empathy, morals, respect, kindness, confidence, etc…all that good stuff, while simultaneously strengthening our relationship. Because if that relationship is strong, the rest of all that “good stuff” falls into place so very smoothly.
In starting AP when my children were born, continuing those principals now as they get older, and being “fluent” in positive discipline, I feel a very connected, respectful relationship with my kids. I don’t see the “battles” in our family the way other families do in theirs, and I credit that to our parenting philosophy & style…AP (which includes positive discipline; a huge aspect of our togetherness)!
So often I think about our family dynamics, our relationships with each other, our approach to raising children, and I feel like I am sitting on this great SECRET of effective parenting! Except that it is not supposed to be and doesn’t have to be a secret! I feel like we have what most families strive for, and I want to let everyone know that positive parenting is possible…parenting doesn’t have to be a chore–something you need a break or a getaway from all the time–it’s effective, and rewarding and FUN to be a parent!
OK, so how did I get to this point in my parenting career? Well, when Elia was born and I discovered AP, I read. And read and read and read. I seriously think I’ve read every positive/ AP-related parenting book out there. Then I started attending my local AP support group, joined API as a member, and eventually applied for leadership. I got on the discussion boards, studied and wrote. Basically, I educated myself on Attachment Theory & AP. You would have thought I was in college, writing a thesis or something! Then, with all that knowledge of what I was reading, studying, & writing about, I applied it and practiced it at home with my kids. The way I write that, it sounds like it was all very structured, as if I was actually in school and planned my time: “OK, I’ve read my homework assignment, now I have to go to the lab and ‘experiment’ with baby Elia!” But, of course it wasn’t like that; learning & living AP was a very organic process and flowed naturally throughout my life.
My point is that my parenting education was self-led. However, when it comes to learning a different approach to parenting, most people will not do that. For whatever reason; they can’t or won’t or don’t want to. Learning positive parenting just doesn’t happen for most people the way it did for me.
This is where I see parenting classes coming in handy. Like said before, parents are all trying to do their best with the information they have at that time. Parenting classes are a good way to get out information that someone might not be aware of. I see parenting classes as a very helpful means for this purpose…just to get information to someone who did not previously have it. It’s a different form of what I was doing when Elia was born, reading book after book after book, soaking in a ton of new info.
Now, how to apply that information to someone’s own family is up to each individual parent and each unique family. I agree that a parent educator should not teach a class like it’s a set of instructions: “Here’s what you should do…” I think it’s up to the educator to provide information and make sure parents have a solid understanding of it (such as attachment theory, stages of child development, brain research, research on attachment; all the reasons why AP and PD work in the long-run). But it should be up to each parent to decide how to best apply those techniques to their own family.
That’s where I see a support group fitting in. It is nice to be able to commiserate with other parents in the same boat and help each other see things in a different light, talk through challenges. It’s a ongoing opportunity to tune in to that parenting intuitiveness that develops from the information parents get out of a class taught by an instructor or books read on their own.
So, no, I’m not an expert on parenting and cannot claim to tell parents what to do with their kids! Not even close. Goodness, my own children are only 3 and 5 years old; I’d hardly consider myself a seasoned parent. But I do have a strong understanding of the concepts of Attachment Parenting and Positive Discipline. I understand the research supporting each approach, as well as the practical techniques that help put theory into action. I understand my role as an educator and as a support group leader. I understand what parents need out of each medium. I’m hoping that this knowledge will help improve my success in both roles!