What Do They Teach in Parenting Classes?

I still remember taking parenting classes with my wife before the birth of our 1st daughter. We were clueless about everything, but I still remember wondering what do they teach in parenting classes?

Parenting class curriculum depends on whether it was ordered by a court-ordered or voluntary and whether online or in-person. But most courses feature elements of improving communication, child development, improving the relationship between the 2 parents and learning non-aggressive disciplinary techniques.

But that’s just the beginning.

After all, not everyone takes parenting classes before becoming parents. Some just want to get better at it. A few may be doing it in the aftermath of a divorce and some might even be taking parenting classes due to a court order.

So in this post, we’re examing all the possibilities, looking at what’s covered and how online parenting classes might work.

But ultimately we’ll answer the question of  “what do they teach in parenting classes?”

What do parenting classes include?

There are many different parenting styles and there are a lot of different reasons parents might want to take a parenting class (including some that are court-ordered).

So it stands to reason there are a LOT of different types of parenting classes.

Some parenting classes are online. Others are done in a 1 or multi-day workshop setting. Yet others are done more in a multi-hour masterclass style.

That being said, there are some fundamentals that will be at the core of any parenting class, including:

  • Examining different parenting styles
  • Finding ways to improve the connection between you and your child
  • Looking at methods of disciplining the child (that does not cause physical or emotional damage)
  • Finding ways to improve the relationship with the other parent (even if you are not still together)

For in-person classes, you often find yourself in a group setting with a facilitator (often a therapist, religious leader, or teacher).

While formats can vary, often you can expect some, if not all of the following:

  • Role-playing scenarios (to help give us ideas of how to better handle situations)
  • Brainstorming on a given topic
  • Each person would introduce themselves and identify their challenges
  • Guided Q & A

The group might also split off into smaller groups with each group assigned a specific topic. Then the groups would join together later and report on what they learned about their assigned topic.

It’s also worth pointing out that often parenting classes are grouped by age range.

So someone with a 14-year-old isn’t usually in the same class with a parent of a 3-year-old since they both need to learn different things.

How long are parenting classes?

Online classes, like a defensive driving course, are often 6 to 8 hours in an online course and are often self-paced.

But then some offer a personal coach and can be spread out over the course of up to 8 weeks.

In-person classes are often 2 hours once per week in the evenings for a series of weeks, which was the case when my wife and I took our parenting class before the birth of our 1st daughter.

Can I take parenting classes online?

Most definitely! Even if you have been court ordered to take a parenting class, while you should always double check with the court, many courts allow online parenting classes.

Some online classes are purely self-paced whereas others have you accountable to a personal coach who works with you (online) throughout the process.

While some give you up to 8 weeks to complete an online parenting class, others allow you to complete it in as little as 4 hours.

If you’ve been ordered to take a parenting class and can’t find an online one that satisfies your court or caseworker, then it’s time to seek out local parenting classes.

A number of community colleges offer parenting classes. But you can also check at your child’s school, daycare, church or your pediatrician.

Some schools and daycare centers offer periodic workshops throughout the year as well. Just make sure they are an approved provider in the eyes of your court or caseworker.

Should parents take parenting classes?

Ultimately all of us are Imperfect Parents (click to see more information about my free online mini-parenting course).

And if we admit we aren’t perfect and that our kids deserve the best version of ourselves that we can be, why wouldn’t we want to take a parenting class if it could help us improve our parenting skills?

So yes; I think almost any parent could benefit from some sort of continuing education in the parenting area.

Now, I don’t think parenting classes are the only way to do that.

There are some great parenting books out there, including those from my favorite parenting author Dr. Meg Meeker. But there are also great parenting podcasts you could listen to on your daily commute or while mowing the lawn.

But there’s also a no better way of learning anything than hands-on. So as your schedule allows, volunteer in your child’s school.

Not only will you witness how the teachers lead a class of 15-20+ kids, but you’ll get firsthand experience seeing what techniques work and don’t work. PLUS you’ll get to spend extra time with your child.

As a parent who volunteered for years in my older girl’s classes, I can tell you that it’s truly a great experience and your kids will be proud of you helping their teacher and their friends.

Types of parenting classes

There are really 3 types of parenting classes and you may find online and local versions of all 3.

Here is the breakdown of each kind:

Court Ordered – Ordered by a judge as part of a divorce proceeding or by CPS if the child’s welfare was questioned by someone (but not to the degree that they felt the child needed to be removed from the home).

Because they will issue a certificate of completion that you are likely required to show the court or caseworker, each parent will have to enroll individually.

Specific Issue Parenting Classes – These are voluntary parenting classes and will be specific to a certain kind of issue or challenge.

Examples of this kind of specific parenting class would be:

  • Potty Training
  • Dealing with the Terrible Twos
  • Anger management for teens
  • How to deal with young girls and body image issues

Comprehensive Parenting Classes – Lastly, you may find some comprehensive courses that are designed to cover ALL the issues that parents are most likely to encounter, including all of the above.

How much does parenting classes cost?

Again since there are several different types of parenting classes and reasons to take one, the prices will vary accordingly too.

We just laid out the 3 basic types of parenting classes above. So here are the average prices for those 3. Generally speaking, you may find that online classes are cheaper than local in-person classes.

  • Court Ordered – $100
  • Specific Issues Courses – $50-$200
  • Comprehensive parenting courses – $200-600

Are some parenting classes mandatory?

Yes is the short answer.

They can sometimes be ordered by Child Protective Services if they have been alerted to possible issues with the child’s welfare but don’t feel like completely removing the child from the home is appropriate.

Beyond that, sometimes when a couple divorces, a judge may order one or both parents to attend parenting classes during or following the divorce proceedings if they feel the animosity between the 2 spouses could affect the child’s well-being.

Some states, like Arizona, actually require all couples who are divorcing to take a parenting class.

CPS ordered parenting classes

In the case of Child Protective Services mandated parenting classes, the classes will have to be from an approved provider and will cover some, if not all of the following:

  • Teach basic child development
  • Help foster non-aggressive methods of disciplining the child
  • Encourage parents to know their strengths and to rely on those
  • Get parents in touch with local support networks and programs
  • Help parents connect with others in the same boat so they can support each other

In most states, there is not a central agency that oversees or regulates parenting classes when mandated by CPS, so if you are in this situation, just know that the courts and caseworkers will be the ones to give direction.

Court-ordered Divorce-related parenting classes

If your judge or court or state requires you to take a parenting course as a result of a current or pending divorce, you can expect these classes to cover some or all of the following:

  • How to effectively communicate with your kids
  • Learning to accept your feelings about your life, your child and the divorce
  • The challenges ahead if you or the other parent move away
  • How to foster an effective support network
  • The best ways to deal with an unpleasant co-parent
  • What to do if the other parent will no longer be in the picture
  • Examining the challenges for unmarried couples who are separating
  • Realistically looking at child support and visitation issues
  • Helping both parents find a quick and amicable resolution through the divorce process

As needed, in either type of mandated parenting classes, depending on you or your co-parent’s situation, you may also be able to get help with:

  • Anger management issues
  • What to do when 1 parent speaks poorly of the other in front of the child or uses the child as a bargaining chip

What are the benefits of parenting classes?

Whether you are taking a parenting class by choice or not, ultimately by going in with the right attitude, anyone can walk away a dramatically better parent.

And I don’t think there’s anything more important than being as good a parent as we can be to our kids.

Some of the best benefits you can get from a parenting class include:

  • Improved communication – both with your kids and your spouse or ex
  • Boosting your and your kid’s self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Expands your positive social network (applies primarily to in-person classes)
  • Can help both parent and child develop a calmer more even temperment
  • Improved behavior from your child
  • Helps you set healthy boundaries for your kids (which they desperately need and want)
  • Better performance at school (emotionally and academically)

Final Thoughts

In this article, we took an in-depth look into the world of parenting classes.

We explored the who, what, when, where, and why, and touched on different types of classes and the different reasons you might want to take a parenting class.

Ultimately we answered the question of “what do they teach in parenting classes?” so you know what to expect and can make the most of it if you start parenting classes.

What’s your reason for being interested in parenting classes?

If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to take a moment and check out my Recommended Parenting Tools Page (click to see on my website).

It’s just a simple page that lists out all my favorite stuff for parents and I KNOW there are things on there that can help you!

Jeff Campbell

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