Dana Asby, CEI Intern
Many parents, especially first time parents, have low levels of self-efficacy in parenting. In fact, 79% of parents want more information about child-rearing (Zepeda, Varela, and Morales, 2004). Parent education programs typically involve a parent educator conducting a series of classes or workshops with new parents or parents experiencing certain contexts that can be risk-factors to responsive parenting. They have generally been proven to be effective in improving the parental skills toolbox, especially parental responsiveness (Votruba-Drzal and Dearing, 2017). Many early childhood programs offer parent education programs; however, the demands on a parent’s time and interest are often too great to retain parents for multiple sessions. One solution to this problem is to offer parent education workshops online at times that are convenient for parents. There is evidence that using technology in parent education may be more cost-effect and reach more parents (Magnuson & Schindler, 2016).
Licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist Ruth Freeman learned this lesson after more than 30 years of educating parents in person. One of Ms. Freeman’s clients, a large corporation, thought the content of her classes was so valuable that every employee in the company across the country should have access to her workshop online. Peace at Home Parenting, Ms. Freeman’s online parent education and consultation service, grew from this idea. Now, seven parent educators with various areas of expertise such as mindfulness, infants and toddlers, and attachment offer live online parent education workshops on a variety of topics. Parents are able to ask questions and interact with educators and other parents in real time.
Peace at Home Workshops Include:
- How to Take the Stress out of Parenting (Free)
- Brain Development & Why Parents Matter So Much
- ‘Establece un ambiente de cooperaciÃ³n (Set the Stage for Cooperation)’
(A Spanish language class being offered for free at 8:15 pm tonight.)
Ms. Freeman believes that the parent-child relationship is the foundation of how our children grow and thrive–or not. Peace at Home asks parents to reflect on their own childhood to better understand its impact on current parenting strengths and weaknesses. They know that parents are models for their children and that a parent’s striving for perfection can have lasting and negative consequences for a child’s development. Ms. Freeman thinks that it’s important for parents to understand that it is ok, and even helpful, to make mistakes. Many parents feel shame for being a ‘bad parent’ when they and/or their child are not performing positively in every aspect of their lives. This shame can become internalized and is often transmitted to the child. According to Peace at Home Parenting, an important step in building a positive parent-child relationship is recognizing and resolving that shame.
When Peace at Home Parenting began offering classes online, Ms. Freeman wasn’t sure how many parents would show up and whether or not these classes would actually make an impact on parenting practices. Researchers from University of Connecticut had the same questions about her online workshops offered to employees of a large nationwide insurance company. Russell, Maksut, Lincoln, and LeLand (2016) found that parents struggled ‘to feel an internal sense of control over their children’s behavior’ with most parents practicing over-reactive discipline. Participant satisfaction is a known indicator of future engagement with parent education services. The Peace at Home workshops studied here had higher than average levels of participant satisfaction, which was attributed to Ms. Freeman’s warm and attentive presence as well as her active listening and concern for the needs of the individual participants (Russell, Maksut, Lincoln, & LeLand, 2016). In addition to satisfying participants, these workshops actually improve parenting behavior. The clinically significant levels of dysfunctional parenting that participants reported before the workshop significantly decreased after just one of Ms. Freeman’s workshops (Russell & Lincoln, 2016). Offering parent education online may be the solution we needto arm more parents with the tools they need to keep the peace at home.
Magnuson, K. & Schindler, H.S. 2016. Parent programs in pre-k through third grade. Future of Children, 26 (2), 209-221.
Russell, B.S. & Lincoln, C.R. (2016). Reducing hostile parenting through computer-mediated parenting education. Children and Youth Services Review, 73, 66-73.
Russell, B.S., Maksut, J.L., Lincoln, C.R., & Leland, A.J. Computer-mediated parent education: Digital family service provision. Children and Youth Services Review, 62, 1-8.
Votruba-Drzal, E. & Dearing, E. (Eds.). (2017). The Wiley handbook of early childhood development programs, practices, and policies, first edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Zepeda, M., Varela, F., & Morales, A. (2004). Promoting positive parenting through parenting education. Building state early childhood comprehensive systems, 13.