Jo Anne Renton, Prince William County’s Parent Education Program Manager with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, said the old idea that children don’t come with an owner’s manual is true, but there is an opportunity for parents to get some learning beyond the “on-the-job training” most parents hope will suffice. “We’ve not gotten any true training. It’s the most important job we’ll ever have in our lives. I think it’s the most complicated. It’s definitely the longest job you’ll have.”
Renton said parenting classes are designed to help parents “learn a little bit more about being a parent.”
In today’s society, Renton said, parents and children face challenges unique to contemporary life that they may not have faced in the past. “I think the hardest thing is to take time in our busy schedule to do something before we have an issue that we have to deal with. It’s a different world we live in now. I think parents need a lot more support. It’s an opportunity to learn new skills, new ways of looking at things, and the new issues that youth are facing at a younger age.”
While parenting classes have something to offer to almost every parent, Renton said people worry about signing up because of the perception that others will judge them. “I think the hardest part about registering for parenting class is actually getting there the first night. Once you’re there, you find out that you’re just like all the rest of the parents, and that everyone has things that they’re wondering about and worried about.”
Mike Hamar, who recently completed a class, agreed that parents in the classes have much to offer to each other. “You can pull from the group if you have concerns. You have shared experiences. You can learn a variety of different methods to deal with your children and help them be successful adults. I would recommend that parents do take this class for the parenting skills that they may need. I came here to be a better parent.”
Wileta Tibbs, a nanny training to become a special education teacher, said the class taught her to listen to her children and to get more involved, which she said would be good for everyone. “Not everybody is an excellent parent. People need skills.”
Renton, echoed Tibbs’ idea that parents need to be involved. “Parents really are influential. The latest research is that your children want to hear from you. They want to know from you.”
For more information about parenting classes, call 703-792-6288 or visit pwcgov.org/parenting to download a registration form. The $40 evening classes that run six to eight weeks include “Systematic Training for Effective Parenting,” “When Families Get Angry” and “Juvenile Justice Parenting Program.” Classes are offered at various locations across the county.