|A readers review (of The Parent Practice's courses)|
By Gail Macfarlane, Families SW, June 2007
When I cradled my newborn (now 10 years ago) in my arms I never thought about ‘parenting’. I expected it would be quite straightforward, and that I would be a relaxed, carefree, fun-loving, easy going mum. I thought that just the sleepless nights and endless nappies in the early months was the hard bit. I had, after all, done my NCT course - surely the only course I would ever need? I didn’t reckon on the temperament of my son, who by 2 was strong willed, oppositional and defiant, and seemed to want to cross every boundary I was trying desperately to set.
My Health Visitor told me that he needed more praise, so, for the next 2 years I told him he was a ‘good boy’ 100 times a day. Amazingly this seemed to make no difference, and by 4, and one little sister later, the family was out of control. I spent too much of my parenting life shouting, repeating, nagging, crying (me and him!) and bribing for cooperation.
I think life would have continued along those miserable lines, had it not been for The Parent Practice. I attended their 10 week Parenting Course in Putney and realised very quickly that my son was the one in charge at home (and if I’m honest, I would do anything to avoid one of his frequent tantrums), that I didn’t really follow through on my threats, that he probably didn’t believe that he was a ‘good boy’ and that we, as a family had to make some adjustments to regain control and learn some new skills.
Having read more ‘Parenting Self Help’ books than I’d like to admit to, I wasn’t sure what a course could offer, that the books or ‘Super Nanny’ hadn’t already covered.
The first thing we were encouraged to do, as a family, was to write down some rules, and include the children in this process. The second thing, and this bit was a challenge, was to stick to them. Sounds simple. Where The Parent Practice helped here, was in preparing me for what to do when the melt downs started because ‘mummy wasn’t giving in like she used to’. They gave me the strength and support, that you don’t get from a book, and coached me through a very different type of praise which was detailed and descriptive, but more importantly, they made me realise that there were many more smaller, less obvious things to praise for than I had realised. I learnt how to stay calm in the face of provocation, praising tiny little steps in the direction of better behaviour. I had to really work hard to see them, and when I did, this had the most startling effect!
Within days, he was learning that his exhausting tantrums weren’t working for him, and that his parents stayed calm(er!). He drank up the new style of praise like a thirsty plant and seemed happier and more willing to comply.
I learnt how to listen to him, whereas I’d never really made time for that, or perhaps I had always been too exhausted and fed up to even consider how he felt. The older my children get, the more I use this skill. It is like a key that can unlock a bolted door, and the feelings that can tumble out have often left me not only moved, and closer to my children, but that I have been given an amazing gift and I’d hate to think where I’d be without it.
The class attracted a mix of parents with tots and teens, and the facilitator skilfully adapted the class to address the needs of each different scenario and age group. I went because my family was in chaos, but many others were there for very different reasons; to boost their children’s self-esteem, to encourage self-reliance, to deal with sibling squabbling etc. I think we all came away with more enthusiasm for being a parent and definitely better behaved children.
None of us would dare say we had become perfect parents, or had perfect children (or, that it was easy) but we all had more confidence to deal with whatever challenges our children presented to us! They also have 2 brilliant CDs (Positive Discipline and Harmony At Home) which are great for sharing with reluctant partners and/or for listening to when you start to fall back into old habits when the course is over!)
Now, when I see a parent being challenged by their child, I want to rush up to them and tell them about The Parent Practice, and promise them that it will make such a difference. This method could make me unpopular, or at least a bit ‘born again-ish’ so writing this is my way of sharing what I (and my family) have got from this amazing course. Anyone reading this, who is unsure, can attend a free ‘taster’ class with no obligation to sign up for the full course. At first glance, it may seem expensive, but I see it now as an investment in my relationship with my children, the benefits of which, hopefully, will last for many years to come.
Contact The ParentPractice, UK based providers of positive parenting courses to improve your parenting skills.