Monday, September 15, 2008

An Idea for a Business: Parenting Training

Before you're allowed to drive a car, you must receive training and a license, yet no training is required to be a parent.

And most people find parenting far more difficult than driving a car. 

I believe that a business that offered high-quality parenting training would enable a person to do well by doing good. 

If you don't have the skills to offer such training, hire someone who does, and you take care of the marketing, accounting, etc.

Your Parenting School could offer one-on-one coaching and/or classes, or even a weekend-long parenting bootcamp aimed at pre-parents and parents of children at different ages, or with special problems: for example, drug or alcohol abuse, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, etc.

My favorite approach to training is to demonstrate model parenting and then provide the parents with supervised practice in dealing with critical incidents in parenting: 
  • a baby who won't stop crying
  • a destructive toddler
  • a child who won't do his homework
  • a child who hates school
  • a child who is mean
  • a child who is disliked
  • when your child asks about "the birds and the bees," 
  • a child with a drug problem
  • a teen who is or is contemplating having sex.
You could market your Parenting School by conducting free or low-cost introductory workshops at PTA meetings,  by writing articles in a local publication, especially one aimed at parents, or by emailing a brochure to local pediatricians and ob-gyns.

Whaddya think?


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about this one. In general, parent training is a good idea. We all know some parents that could use some extra training.

But I think that the people who would most likely pay for such a thing are middle- or upper-class parents who would already do whatever they could to be good parents. The people who might need this the most (teenagers, low-income families, new parents of any age that came from dysfunctional families and are more likely to continue bad parenting) are the least likely to pay for a set of classes.

Also, there are different ideas about what good parenting entails, even in America. The details and the basics can change from culture to culture, from family to family, and even from parent to parent. Such a class might not be able to cover enough, and if so, the parent will just end up winging it, like they often do now.

Marty Nemko said...

As with most businesses, the poor can't afford to buy your services. That doesn't invalidate the need. Working-, middle-, and upper-income people experience great frustration in parenting and are highly motivated to do a better job of it.

And, actually, among large percentages of people, there's agreement about most of the core principles of parenting. Yes, a small percentage of parents have aberrant views, for example, they believe in corporal punishment, but not too many do, especially among the middle- and upper income people who would represent a large percentage of your clients.

Dave said...

These days, most parents do a poor job. Years ago, parents would take their child to church. One important skill was taught there -- the ability to sit quietly for one hour. Also, by not being a part of a church or other faith-based community, parents no longer have access to the wisdom and experience of the older generations. Parents think they have all of the answers, but they don't. Today's households run like 1980s television sitcoms. Parents advise and give guidance to their children, but never lay down the law. And this is why parents end up with the Theo Huxtables and the rebel teen from Growing Pains. Even the Alex Keaton character was a rebel. Parents do everything short of laying down the law and that is poor parenting. What happened to spanking??

Marty Nemko said...

I do not believe that spanking has much place in good parenting. I believe that most parenting experts would agree. I believe that if we want our kids to grow up resolving their problems with reason, we need to model that in our parenting.

Nor do I think that making a child sit completely bored in church for an hour a week is the best way to teach self-control. Better to give them chores around the house, projects, and require they do their homework in a timely manner.

Dave said...

Sitting in a church has worked for nearly two-thousand years and so has spanking. It is effective and I speak from experience. I grew up in a church parsonage and many of my friends were the children of clergy. It is the church kids that can sit still for more than five minutes in auditoriums, meeting houses, and just about anywhere else. Also, you can't reason with a three year old.

I don't think it is wise to give a child numerous chores and projects. Their lives are more structured today than mine ever was. Let a kid be a kid. I wouldn't give a child chores and I would let him make his own projects. That was what kids used to do. Today, kids look to their parents to entertain them with special projects. I think that's bad.

Dave said...

Dr. Benjamin Spock did not believe in spanking either. He later changed his mind.

Grace said...

Great idea but I don't think it would be successful, because parenting is one of those things that everyone thinks they can do. Why? Because they get positive reinforcement - "My kid loves me so I must be doing a good job". Many kids in abusive homes still love their parents and many bad parents can still find ways to justify their parenting style.

Most parents needing parenting advice are educated, willing and able to find out more information on their own through books/articles and networking with other parents.

You might find a parent who is willing to take a class, but he/she might be too ashamed to admit it. It would have to be marketed according to specialties or one issue at a time (like a baby who won't stop crying, etc.) so they don't feel like complete failures.

Parenting, like faith, is such a personal issue. When challenged on it, most parents become defensive.

Grace said...

By the way, I bring my kids to church, but I don't expect them to sit still and quiet for an hour. I bring along colouring books and quiet toys to keep them busy.

My former pastor asked why I did this (he also thought they should just sit quietly like the adults). I said that at this stage of parenting, my goal is not to see my chidren struggling to sit quietly and listen to a message that isn't age appropriate. My goals is to create an experience that allows them to feel welcome, comfortable and safe in a faith community.

I've seen too many church kids grow up to be unsuccessful adults who resent churches or other service organizations. This is because they were under more pressure to LOOK good than to actually BE good.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. This one is a post hoc requirement from the state already, primarily directed at the poor (bad lawyers) by DCFS after over-the-line bad parenting has happened.

Yes, like driving over the speed limit, you too can avoid more serious repercussions for the kind of bad parenting that results in someone being concerned (or, granted, vindictive) enough to call the police about what they're seeing (or claim they're seeing) by taking a parenting course.

These trainings are not good, and I would be surprised if there was much curriculum to them beyond "feed regularly. Do not apply coathanger regularly."

They are, like the speeding / low grade reckless driving courses, targeted to the lowest possible level of participation.

Quite honestly, I'd like to see parenting licenses, with photo IDs, proof of insurance, ability to pass both a written and a practical test. Then and only then would the vasectomy be reversed and the norplant removed. (This is an ideal world here, where reversible vasectomies exist.)

I'd also like to see all of the above for gun ownership (and some of my public health colleagues would add that the birth control stays aboard as long as the firearms stay in the house.) Especially the proof of insurance, which would let actuarial tables drive the risk discussion.

I'm aware that the right to spawn predates the Constitution, and that the right to keep and bear arms is written right into it.

The right to travel also predates the Constitution, it's a very old piece of English common law. And yet we have extensive regulation of it, with the right to drive and more recently to fly or even to take the bus increasingly restricted.

Claudette said...

I think it's a great idea!! If it wasn't such a needed commodity, there wouldn't be the present proliferation of "Nanny" shows on TV.

I would love to do such a school, but my only credentials are as a successful (lucky) parent with a great teenager who has elected to attend military school. I'm afraid I've had no parenting hurdles or problems, as of yet, to overcome, so I wouldn't be able to say or preach "been there, done that".

Good idea though. I especially like the parenting boot camp.


Claudette said...

In regards to the parent who advocates spankings and children obediently sitting in church, I must disagree.

I am Afro-American, grew up with spankings and later, leather belt beatings. Very damaging. To this day, 50+ years later, I still occassionally feel the urge to do something physical to end an abusive situation -- even if it's verbal abuse. Just ask my ex.

There are nonviolent ways to discipline children that will net a more positive lesson learned. Spanking is more usually an adult who immaturely "loses it" and, without any thought to the violence that racks our present world, resorts to physical violence rather than a reasoning conversation (son/daughter, could you have done that differently? What do you think is wrong about what you did/said?) For example, depravation of TV or computer for a period of time gives a child quiet time to reflect. He/she can't think about what they did wrong during a violent parent-induced episode. Their focus changes to pain, humiliation and anger towards the parent. The lesson learned is shallow and singular: just avoid getting spanked.

So, to you I say: look back to your own childhood. Chances are you suffered spankings and/or beatings. I broke the "spare the rod, spoil the child" tradition and, as a result, I have a wonderful kid with whom I can sit down and have intelligent conversations about right and wrong. He is mature, intelligent and unafraid to talk to me when he has made a mistake. He has no reason to fear me.

And as far as church... When I took my toddler to church, I would allow him to quietly lay on the floor under a pew and play with his cars. He was quiet, peaceful and just happy to be with me. Let's face it, a young child can't follow an adult sermon. Why make him sit upright and zone out for an hour? He benefits from the overall environment and being with his parent(s). He'll then have far better memories and feelings about church for use later on as an adult.

Marty Nemko said...

Claudette, I agree with everything you wrote. Thanks for posting.

Dave said...


Your child's temperament is an exceptional one - especially for a Afro-American child. You're very lucky. 'Time outs' and other alternative methods used for disciplining children are not as effective. I think today's parenting style has emboldened children when dealing with teachers, school bus drivers and other child support workers. I speak from experience. I drove school buses and there was a general consensus among my fellow drivers that child behavior has worsened over the last twenty years. Bus companies no longer get the level of support and cooperation from parents they once had. The company I worked for had to invest tens of thousands of dollars for video cameras on its buses. Again, I think the time outs and the attempts to reason with children are to blame.

Dave said...

Also, I do NOT believe in using belts or any other tools on a child. A smack on the behind that creates a feeling of discomfort is enough.

Dr. Nemko,

I must say that I am surprised that a man your age condemns this tried and true punishment. It is usually the younger parents that have replaced spanking with reasoning and bribes of many sorts.

Marty Nemko said...


My aversion to any sort of corporal punishment comes from:
1) What I learned in my Ph.D. program in educational psychology at Berkeley
2) The common sense that was presented by another commenter: that if you use violence to deal with your child's problem it teaches your child that's an acceptable way to deal with problems.
3) My own experience as a parent.

Dave, I know that you survived corporal punishment, but that doesn't make it the best way to parent a child.

Dave said...

It is likely that your daughter's temperament made corporal punishment unnecessary.

I live with a family as a lodger (I rent a room). The couple has a moody three year old son. He HITS THEM when he does not get his way. He also punches. These people do not believe in corporal punishment, but they take it from their child! Like you and Claudette, they believe that by spanking the child, he will learn to use physical force when dealing with people. But he's doing that right now! I told them that they need to make it clear to their son that only they can hit/smack. They are the ones in control and they need to make that clear to him. Of course they won't lay a hand on him. He will end up on drugs or in jail.

Marty Nemko said...

Two wrongs don't make a right. Toddlers routinely test limits. If I had one who hit me, I'd quietly look him in the eye and say "You are being bad. I'm disappointed in you." and walk away.

The older he got, the more sophisticated my explanation, and the more guilt I'd invoke as a way of developing intrinsic motivation.

Grace said...

I want to weigh in on the spanking issue. When my son was a pre-schooler, he used to have tantrums where he hit and kicked me. He was what you call a "spirited" child. Some people said that what he needed was a good spanking. So,my husband and I decided to try spanking. We laid out two rules:
First, we decided that I was going to be the one to do the spanking (my husband can have a temper and he didn't want things to ever get out of control). Second, I was never to spank him in the heat of the moment. I was to wait until I had calmed down.

I didn't spank my son until he was 4 years old and I spanked him only 3 times over the span of one year. The first time I spanked my son was very effective. A couple of swats on the bottom and he was very sorry. The second time, he said, "That's it?", said an obligatory "sorry" and ran off to play. The third time, he looked me in the eye and said, "Do it again!" Then I looked HIM in the eye and said, "Son, I will NEVER spank you again."

I have never spanked my younger children and while I know a few families that have found spanking to be effective, I have found that alternative discipline works better for my family.

Dave said...

Dr. Nemko,

I know I can be naive about a lot of things. I am not a parent and I have limited experience with kids. I drove the school bus for one year so I could fund my research leave. That's all of the experience I have. I don't know why kids are worse today than they were 20 or 30 years ago. But I would use the techniques my parents used on my brother and me because it is what I know. That is the only reason.

My brother and I stayed away from drugs, teen sex and smoking. Those subjects were never even brought up in my family home. Our parents did give us alcohol at the age of four. That’s why alcohol wasn’t a big deal for us. Our parents never had to tell us anything. We just knew. Alcohol is taboo for most parents and that’s why their kids binge drink.

In the UK, experts are advising parents to use the word 'silly' rather than 'naughty', when disciplining their children. So this is the next big experiment. You should never tell a child that he/she is naughty. You should use silly - as if both words have the same meaning!

Marty Nemko said...

Dave, you're guilty of generalizing from your own experience to the overall population. That's like an 80-year old arguing that he smoked and never got cancer that he's going to encourage his kids to smoke.

And re "silly" vs "naughty," as in managing all people in professional and personal relationships, subtleties of words do matter.

Claudette said...

Hi Dave,

You're right, I'm lucky -- my child is a sweet kid. I did spank him twice on his bottom with my hand when he was a toddler, that was a caving in to my own upbringing. It felt right (sort of) while doing it, really bad afterwards. Neither one of us got anything positive out of it -- just a lot of emotional stress. Messy. Ugly. That would be all that he'd remember. And I still feel the guilt of doling out those senseless and nonproductive lessons.

I divorced when he was 3 yrs old and, like most children, he was traumatized, angry and scared. He acted out a lot with me -- at nursery school, in stores (I hate you!!; You're not my friend!!). People were starting to not like him so much and accused me of spoiling him by not spanking him.

I was lucky to happen upon a book entitled, "123 Magic" by Dr. Phelan. Through that book I turned our relationship around. No more yelling, no more threats, no getting to the level of physical punishment. You firmly ask a child to stop the behavior or do a task, telling him/her that you will count to 3. This method nonverbally tells a child "while I patiently counted to 3, you had time to [stop your bad behavior], you chose not to, so it's time out". Quiet. Simple. I've over-simplified it here, but chapter 1 of that book was all I needed. I also found out that school teachers use this or a similar method. If you think about it, they control an entire classroom of children -- without corporal punishment.

I also wonder, Dave, if kids just naturally feel free to cut loose on school buses. In the morning it's a liberating period between the discipline of home and school, and at the end of the school day: prison break. And they know you're preoccupied with, well, driving the bus!

BTW, a gentle upbringing didn't spoil my son or make him a milquetoast. It's his choice to be a 9th grader in military school; he wants a military career. He wants to fight terrorism. Spanking or beating him as a kid would not have made him any tougher or more manly, only angrier.

Claudette said...

Hi Grace,

I was particularly struck by your comments concerning spanking your child. I remember as a child deciding, along with by brother and sister, that we would no longer cry during the spankings, no beatings, with the leather belt.

Wow, that really took the "fun" out of it for my mom. We ceased all reactions during the beatings and she ceased the beatings. I guess our howling, crying and jumping around had made the beatings seem effective.

Now my mom wasn't a violent person, (she was actually a nurse!) just repeating her own childhood. And she used to tell us how lucky we were with this "light" punishment because she has had it much harder growing up. Her stories would make you wince. In her days even the school teachers could take a ruler to you, and when you got home your parents would beat you for causing the teacher to beat you!

So, I guess we were lucky.

Dave said...

Each generation of parents thinks it can do a better job of raising children than the previous generation(s). This is because they see the past as inferior to the present. 'Progress' means having to cast off the shackles of the wisdom and experience passed down from their ancestors.

Grace said...

We don't always see the past as inferior to the present. We make new parenting decisions based on new research, old experiences, and cultural trends. We think back to our own childhood and make judgements about our parents' skills based upon our own perceptions. Right or wrong, it is what we do, and though I think I am a good parent, I know that my own children will probably want to parent in ways different from my own.


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