|Some things are important, OK?|
The class I attended was The Incredible Years - Basic programme aimed at parents of children aged 3-8, and it was run by the parenting team of my local authority. There were a group of 6 of us on the course, I already knew a couple of the other mums, all with children much the same age, and it was really easy to talk to them. I think the first week we all felt a bit nervous, and it can be quite difficult to admit that there are times when you feel out of your depth, but the two course leaders really put us at our ease, and we were soon chatting like old friends. In fact, there was a really funny moment towards the end of the course where we'd all arrived & were having a good old gossip session over our coffees, and giving our respective partners & in-laws a bit of a pasting, when one of the girls' phones rang. It was her partner, her phone had accidentally called him from her pocket & we'd left him a 5 minute answerphone message of our conversation. Oooops!
It's a real relief to find out that other people have the same difficulties with being a parent as you, that everyone else's child does the same (really annoying) things, we all face challenges, and you're not alone. Equally it was great to get feedback where you're not sure whether you've handled a situation well, only to find out that, yes, you're doing OK, and it's a good way to deal with it.
The focus of the programme is on positive behaviour management, that rewarding positive behaviour, and spending positive time with your child is not only more rewarding, but also much more effective in managing their behaviour than punishment & negative attention. Yes, there are times when you need to take action with a negative behaviour, but that is the exception, rather than the rule. By investing positive time with your child, you develop a better relationship with them, they learn that positive behaviours get attention, and you are able to remain calm when they do act up, because you already have a strategy in place to deal with it.
Wherever you attend the Incredible Years programme, it's the same content, the same course. The DVDs and course information come from a central source, and while the course may be tailored to a group's specific needs, the main structure, elements & methods remain the same. There's lots of DVD to watch in the group and discuss. Honestly I could have watched the short films all day, the films we watched were shot in the US in the 1970s, and the haircuts, clothes & furniture were beyond entertaining! Humour aside, they serve a great purpose, as even though they're in an artificial setting, they use real children, real families to show ways to implement the methods used in the course.
I asked permission from the course leader before I wrote this post, I wanted her to know what I was doing. She was more than happy for me to write about the course and told me that the Incredible Years programme is used around the world, and that every local authority in the UK has a parenting team. While they may not be running this exact course, they all offer parenting classes, and you don't have to be at risk, or a failing family to take part. If anything, recognising that parenthood is difficult & seeking out support to deal with those challenges is, in itself, a strength, and shows that a family are further from risk. There's groups for parents of children of all different ages, and those with certain other difficulties.
If you're thinking "I wish I knew what to do when ..." or "I'm sure mine is the only child who ...", it's worth getting touch with your local authority's Parenting Team, and finding out about parenting classes in your area. I really would recommend it, even if you're a parent to more than one, and think you've seen & done it all before. I would never have known about this course without a colleague mentioning it, but it's made a real difference to my confidence as a parent - all I need now is a similar course in how to manage husbands!