Classes Show Good Parents How to Be Even Better ; Parenting Classes Today Are Drawing Parents Who Are Already Doing a Good Job - but Who Seek the Skills That Will Allow Them to Excel

Article excerpt

Kim and Jay Frost finally admitted that when it came to disciplining three-year-old-daughter, Rachel, screaming and spanking weren't working. "She started getting really feisty, and we wanted to learn other ways to deal with her," says Ms. Frost.

In September, the Frosts headed back to school to learn new parenting skills. The couple signed up for a five-week seminar called, "10 Steps to Positive Discipline" through Parent University in Arizona.

"The class taught us that parenting is an ongoing learning process," Frost says. "It has been really helpful; we are much more patient and I'm not yelling as much."

Frost also says the class taught her how to discipline her children in more positive ways. "We are trying to be much more communicative instead of just giving out punishments," she says. "The class taught us that when we are calm, the kids are calm."

Parents across the country are signing up for parent education programs that offer instruction on everything from discipline and anger management to improving communication skills.

Parenting courses have been popular for some years now, but parent educators say that today they're seeing a different kind of parent filling their classrooms. "Ten or 15 years ago it was more about court-ordered sessions or people who had to take [parenting classes]," says Lynne Ticknor, a certified parent educator in Maryland. "These people who are already very good parents, really good parents. They just want to be even better."

Once upon a time, Ms. Ticknor says, parenting classes stayed focused on the basics. But now they've had to branch out. "We don't even talk about neglect with these parents, or about how often to change a diaper."

Instead, she says, today's classes are apt to narrow in on topics like fostering good reading skills, learning how to encourage children, and honing better communication skills.

"Parent education programs encourage [parents] to add two or three action items to their lives to make their parenting work better for themselves and their families," adds Peggy Senn, parent education specialist at Parent University.

Last year more than 4,000 parents signed up for classes at Parent University, a program offered through the Mesa Public School District.

Many reasons for attending

Senn believes the reasons parents attend classes are varied. "Some parents are at the end of their rope and need help with a specific problem and others are trying to head off a problem before it starts," she says. "Some parents only want one session on a specific topic and others want more in-depth learning."

A desire to sharpen their parenting skills drew Alan Bennett and Lea Keohane to sign up for the Incredible Years, a 12-week parent education class offered through Morrison Child and Family Services, in Portland, Oregon. …