Parenting comes naturally, right? Not so fast. Even if your motherly instinct kicks in the second your toddler reaches for a hot pan, you may still benefit from parenting classes. Whether you want to brush up on parenting skills or feel totally overwhelmed, knowing what to expect helps you breathe a little easier before you step back into a classroom.
Has it been awhile since you sat through a lecture? If you're lucky, your parenting class teacher won't make the instruction portion too painful. The instructor will follow a class curriculum, whether she uses a textbook or materials she's collected on her own. She may even throw in a video or demonstrate the parenting techniques she's teaching the class. The specific topics covered in class depend on the slant of the class. Are you taking a general child care class? Expect a little child development along with skills and techniques to care for your kiddo. Is the class for parents of kids with difficult behaviors? You'll likely learn techniques for handling your child's behaviors through discipline. Ask for an outline of the class if you want to know what the lectures will cover.
Chatting with your girlfriends about your parenting woes is a bit like free therapy. You get insight from someone else who's been in the trenches. Discussions with other parents in the class take advantage of this parenting camaraderie and add an interactive component to the class. Another student might have a different perspective on the class topics that others -- even the instructor -- haven't considered. You also build relationships with your fellow parents, potentially building a support network even after the class is over.
What good is all that instruction and discussion if you can't put those parenting skills into practice? A common activity in parenting classes is hands-on learning through role playing. In some classes, you'll role play with other parents in the class or your instructor. You get a chance to test out the techniques you're learning in a simulated parenting situation. Your instructor may pretend to be a preschooler throwing a temper tantrum while you test out some new techniques to diffuse the situation. In other classes, your kids might participate during a few sessions. You both get a chance to practice new ways to handle tough situations.
It's probably been awhile since you've had homework, but the teacher of your parenting class may ask you to do a little take-home work for extra practice. The extent of the homework assignments varies, depending on the purpose of the class and the instructor's teaching style. You may find yourself with reading assignments or written homework. In other classes, the homework may simply involve practicing the skills you learn in class with your own kids. If the class focused on different communication methods, your teacher might ask you to try those techniques with your own kids and report back at the next class.