The Stigma of Parenting Classes
“No thanks, I don’t need parenting classes“.
This is usually the standard response I receive when I suggest a ToddlerCalm course or workshop to parents.
My suggestion though is never unsolicited, far from it. Oftentimes it’s a response to “can anyone suggest how I stop my 2 year from biting all of them time?”, “help – how do I get my three year old to listen to me and stop tantruming constantly”, “any advice for getting my 2yr old to eat better?” or “Please can anyone tell me how I can get my 18 month old to sleep better at night” type question. Now all of these scenarios are where ToddlerCalm workshops and courses can be incredibly helpful and empowering for the parent – often providing real solutions to the problems they face – solutions that will be much longer lasting and more effective than the usual ‘naughty step’, ‘ignore it’, ‘send him to bed without any food’, ‘give her a sticker chart’ type responses the posts always receive.
So why are classes something that the parent in question won’t consider? More than this – why do so many find the suggestion insulting?
Several of our ToddlerCalm teachers have recently been discussing the embarrassment they feel when passing out ToddlerCalm class flyers to parents of toddlers, worried that they will insult the parents by somehow implying they are not a ‘good enough’ parent to their toddler.
Why do we feel like this? Why is it totally acceptable to attend antenatal classes, to learn how to cope with 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25hrs that we experience in order to birth our babies. A time when, if we can forget our modern day conditioning, leave our neocortex at rest, switch off the lights and have good support, really is (if we let it be) instinctual. When the baby is born though life often gets harder, particularly so when the little one starts to toddle, for many daily life with a toddler becomes far less instinctive and often like a battle of wills. It is acceptable to buy parenting books, watch TV programmes and discuss our parenting woes with our friends – so why then is there a stigma around attending parenting classes?
By attending these classes are we somehow saying “I’m not a good parent – I need help?” I’d argue quite the opposite, it is a parent that deeply cares for their child who seeks ways to better their interaction with them. Are we afraid that if we attend the classes our parenting skills will be bared for all to see in all their lacking tawdry details? Are we afraid that the classes will challenge our current beliefs and ways of doing things – perhaps leaving us to feel exposed and guilty? Are we afraid that the classes will be hard work? Are we afraid that the classes might hold us accountable (in part) for little Johnny’s awful behaviour? I honestly don’t know……….What I do know is that somewhere between our bumps becoming boddlers (a baby toddler!) it becomes unacceptable in society to ask for advice, the older our little darlings get the less parents ask for help – but in my opinion that’s when parenting really gets tough and help can make all the difference.
What I do know though is that ToddlerCalm‘s aims are very different to these fears, here are our main aims:
- Helping parents to form realistic expectations of a toddler’s behaviour.
- Helping parents to form empathy with a toddler’s feelings.
- Helping parents to find successful ways to communicate with their toddler.
- Helping parents to find gentle tools to prevent & shorten toddler tantrums, aid sleep & eating
- Helping parents to understand the limitations of current popular behavioural ways of thinking.
- Helping parents to understand the effect of their own feelings & the mirror effect.
- Helping parents to be respectful but not permissive ‘It’s OK to set boundaries’.
- Helping parents to cope with their own feelings and to find coping mechanisms.
- Helping parents to have calmer happier toddlers and to feel calmer and happier themselves.
What do you think?
Sarah Ockwell-Smith – Mum to Four, Parenting Author and Founder of BabyCalm Ltd & ToddlerCalm Ltd.
BabyCalm: A guide for calmer babies and happier parents released October 4th –pre-order your copy HERE with FREE worldwide postage