Parenting Classes – What Are They And Should I Be Taking One?

Becoming a parent is scary! We don’t have a handbook or guide hardwired into our brain on how to be a parent, and for many of us, it is brand new territory. If you are nervous for the arrival of your baby, and all that comes with their arriving, you should look into taking a parenting class.

Parenting classes are available in so many different forms now, online, in person, in a group or one-on-one. There are many options available to parents of different backgrounds and lifestyles, so there is no doubt you will be able to find a parenting class suited to you.

And, fair enough, humans have got through thousands of generations now without parenting classes so you may be asking yourself why you would need one yourself? Isn’t it an admission of failure?

Actually not at all.  For a start life is very different now. We, most likely, live in a smaller, nuclear family without the extended network of relatives and friends that our forebears would have relied on. The old, wise women of the tribe that would have cajoled and nudged new parents in the right direction aren’t around any more.

Plus, parenting is one of the most important, challenging and rewarding things we’ll ever do in our lives.  We don’t think twice about investing in our ‘book’ education or getting a golf or cookery lesson. 

How much more challenging and more important is parenting? How much greater is the ‘return on investment’ from a parenting course likely to be?

Before jumping in headfirst, you need to know exactly what parenting classes are and whether or not you should be taking one.

Here is everything you need to know before making the decision!

What Are Parenting Classes?

Parenting classes, as the name suggests, are courses which parents, or parents-to-be, attend to learn about birth, how to look after their baby, and to gain a little more experience before their little one arrives. Parenting classes teach you all you need to know before your child arrives, as well as the important milestones to look out for, and some handy knowledge and tips you will need to know once they are born.

Some of the things you will learn in parenting classes are how to manage labor, how to swaddle a baby, how to change them, how to feed them, how to burp them, and so many other things, some which you never knew you would even have to do!

Other than learning the practical aspects of looking after your baby, you will also gain more insight into understanding the fundamental parts of your baby’s development, proper discipline, and how to use this information to better yourself as a parent.

There are also parenting classes for older children, and for parents from different backgrounds. These classes help to deal with more in-depth content, such as co-parenting, discipline and even for single parents as well.

What Are The Benefits Of Taking A Parenting Class?

Modern parenting classes like to incorporate new research, philosophy, experience and knowledge to give a more holistic approach to parenting. This method of teaching, or giving advice, is really successful, and means that there are some great benefits of taking a parenting class.

These are some of the benefits you can expect to take away from a parenting class:

  1. Using the latest research for the best parenting method

If you spend any time online, you will see that there are many different parenting methods out there, and there are advocates and those who are against, for all of them. However, parenting classes will help you stay up to date on the different studies and research done for the different parenting methods, helping you better understand how each could affect your relationship with your child.

This gives you the information to make your own decision on how you want to approach parenting your child.

  1. Basic parenting skills

Learning basic parenting skills is one of the main reasons why many choose to attend parenting classes. Not everyone has had the experience of changing a diaper or feeding a baby, and it is a completely new experience for them. Parenting classes teach you the basics on how to care for an infant, and help to ease the overwhelming feeling of a baby being fully dependent on you. Knowing basic parenting skills can help ease fears and anxieties you might have with becoming a mom or dad and give you confidence that you have the right skill set to provide for your baby.

  1. Understanding breastfeeding

As natural as breastfeeding is, it really does not come easily to many moms. It is one of the best connections to form between a mother and baby, and breast milk has the best nutrients your baby needs, but breastfeeding can be really hard. A parenting class will help you understand breastfeeding better, and give you some skills and knowledge to use to ensure that you manage breastfeeding well.

  1. Preparing for labor

Parenting classes will prepare you for labor, helping you with techniques to deal with pain, informing you of the different types of labor, and complications that may arise. They also teach dads how to be supportive during childbirth.

  1. Preparedness for emergencies

Fear and anxiety are both incredibly common emotions for parents to have before their baby is born, the world seems to be a much more dangerous place once you have a baby on the way. Parenting classes are an amazing way to overcome these feelings of fear and anxiety, by covering the basics such as CPR for your baby and toddler. They will also help you learnt to deal with these situations in a calm and composed manner, which is such a great skill to have.

  1. Building a support system

Parenting classes are a wonderful way to meet new people in your area who are also expecting. So many parents remain close friends after their parenting classes, and it is an especially great way to bond as you will have babies of the same age, so you will be going through the same parenting journey together. Your friends might not be having babies yet, or might not have an interest in babies, whatever it is, attending parenting classes gives you an opportunity to make friends in the same situation as you.

  1. Building confidence as a parent

Nothing provides confidence as much as preparation and planning, and that is exactly why taking parenting classes will help you build your confidence as a parent. You will know all the basics, understand how your baby will develop, and understand your role as a parent. Yes, you will make mistakes along the way, but nothing beats having the confidence you will gain.

  1. Encouraging teamwork

Parenting classes allow you to explore different parenting styles, and this is a great way for you and your partner to be on the same page with how you would like to raise your child. You will come across some important questions on parenting methods and techniques, which help open up the dialog of how you wish to raise your child.

  1. Understanding your emotions

As a new parent you will experience so many new emotions, some you never knew existed. It can be difficult to understand your emotions after childbirth, and it can become really draining, but parenting classes can help prepare you for all of this, and at least give you a heads-up that you will be going through some tough emotions, and how best to deal with them.

  1. Understanding discipline

Every family has a different style of discipline, and what type of discipline you use will really depend on what your child responds to. Parenting classes will help you understand different methods of discipline in a positive manner, which will help you choose one you are comfortable with, and then help you implement them with your children at a later stage.

What Are The Cons Of Taking A Parenting Class?

As with everything, there are some cons to parenting classes as well. Many parents are familiar with the fact that people will always try to tell you how to raise your child, and that as you as a parent will know what is best. Attending a parenting class might not be any better than this.

Whether or not parenting classes are right for you will be a personal choice, but it is good to understand some of the possible cons as well.

  1. There is no perfect way to raise a child. Every child is different, and every family situation is different. What a parenting class might push as the right method of parenting just might not be what is right for your family.
  2. Parents instinctively know what is good for their child, and will do what they feel is best for their child, even when there is nobody telling them what the right thing is.
  3. You as a parent will know your child best, and while experts can analyze situations, you as a parent will always know what is right for your child.
  4. There are other methods to learn how to be a better parent, such as reading parenting books or speaking to relatives or friends. Many parenting classes are just a business model who use new parents as a way to make some income, and do not always offer the best information. You need to research the class you are taking first to make sure it has your best interests at heart.
  5. Parenting classes might prevent you from the challenge of figuring it all out on your own, and instead making you feel like you are forced to practice a certain method of raising your child, even though you feel it is not right.

When You Should Take A Parenting Class

There really is no set time on when you should take a parenting class, but any time before your baby arrives is a good idea. There are some early bird parenting classes that you can take in the first or second trimester, and then there are classes that are 4, 6 to 10 week preparation classes which are taken from the seventh or eighth month.

Enrolling in a parenting class around the sixth month of your pregnancy is what is recommended, and the earlier you register, the more flexible you can be with the terms of class dates and times, and you never know if your little one will arrive early!

How To Make The Most Of The Parenting Class

You need to buy into the parenting class to make the most of it. There is no point attending the classes just to tick it off your list. Be active in the class, ask questions, and do your own research as well. Buy some extra parenting books and watch videos online.

The best way to take in the information is to ask the questions and really pay attention, otherwise it would just be a waste of your time.

What Do Parenting Classes Teach?

There are different parenting classes to take, but the chances are that you will be taught by an experienced instructor who will be able to answer all of your parents. This is what you can expect to learn in a parenting class:

  • Relaxing techniques – Parenting classes will teach you how to breathe and relax during labor, as well as how to distract yourself. They will also give your partner advice on how to assist you during labor.
  • Labor positions – You will learn about the different labor positions which will help your baby line up to your pelvis and speed up labor, and even to relieve pain.
  • Pain relief – Your parenting class instructor will explain the different pain relief options and how and when you can request them.
  • Stages of labor and delivery – This is so important to understand, to put you at ease during labor, knowing where you are at and what to expect.
  • Possible complications – Understanding the possible complications keeps you prepared for anything, and will help you understand how they might be handled.
  • Basic newborn care – This will include your baby’s physiology and anatomy, postpartum care, basic care for your newborn and breastfeeding advice.
  • Birth planning and assistance – Including how to draw up a birthing plan, and why you should draw one up, as well as different places to give birth, such as in a hospital or a home birth.
  • Medical interventions – The different medical interventions that may be needed during delivery, such as a C-section or the need to be inducted.
  • Hands-on lessons – Including breathing and relaxation techniques to deal with pain during labor.
  • Parenting methods – Some parenting classes will showcase different parenting methods, and help you decide which parenting method you feel comfortable with, and which you might want to use for your baby.
  • CPR – Parenting classes might also teach CPR to use on babies and toddlers.

How To Choose The Right Parenting Class

There are many types of parenting classes to choose from, so you need to make sure you will be choosing one that is right from you.

All share the same goal, to provide pregnant women and their partners with the right tools and knowledge they need to make the birthing experience positive, and how to care for their baby after. These are some things to consider when choosing a birthing class:

Philosophy of the class – You should have an idea of your ideal birth beforehand, so try to find a class that aligns with your beliefs and philosophies. Also check if the parenting class is affiliated to a hospital, so they might be more inclined to recommend medical intervention, and whether you are happy with this.

Teaching methods – Some classes are hands-on, some don’t require partners, and some have interactive instruction, see if the method of teaching is what you want from the parenting class.

Curriculum – Ask to have a look at the curriculum before committing to a class. A good course should have labor discussions, how to deal with pain, pain-relief options and should cover all the aspects of childbirth you would want to know.

Size of the class – It is best to stick to a class which has around five or six couples, any more might be a bit too large. This allows the teacher to pay more attention to each couple, and helps to build a better bond between the group.

Birthing techniques – There are a few different birthing techniques for moms to use, such as Lamaze, Bradley and Alexander techniques, so find out which technique the birthing class teaches.

The Different Types Of Classes

Parenting classes can be found at many different locations, such as at hospitals, at preschools, at pediatricians rooms, through social services and on the internet.

Parenting classes range in price as well, from free to hundreds of dollars. You can also choose to take a full parenting course, or a one-off class.

Another option for parents who do not want to attend a parenting class is to take a parenting course online. These can be listened to from the comfort of your own home, and you can fit the classes into your own schedule. Some of these classes are free, but you can purchase classes as well to listen to as you want. There are also often live webinars and live events that you can participate in and ask questions from home.  Check out our round-up of the best 30 online parenting programs here.

Parenting Classes For Dads

Many parenting classes are aimed towards mothers, but fathers deserve just as much attention when it comes to parenting classes. Dads might not be able to give birth, but they can be just as involved in every other aspect, such as feeding their baby, understanding their cries, and putting them to sleep. There are some parenting classes directed for dads only, but they are not as common as one would hope. The best bet would be to find an online course for dads, and find other dads in the class to communicate with and learn from.

There are also parenting classes for dads which focus on older children, and often single dads need to build a support system this way to help them weave through the different complications of raising a child.

Parenting Classes For Moms

There are quite a few parenting classes available for moms, and many don’t require the dads to attend. These are more focused on birthing and breastfeeding, and everything in between. These classes can be so beneficial for single moms as well, who need to build a support system leading up to the birth of their baby.

Parenting Classes For Divorced Couples and Co-Parenting

Going through a divorce is never easy, and it can be so difficult to keep up a positive attitude for the sake of your children. Taking a parenting class during a divorce can help you minimize the trauma of the situation for your children. The course will focus on how to minimize conflict and successfully co-parent for the sake of your children.

Many states require the completion of a parenting class for those who are going through a divorce before custody is finalized. These teach essential communication and parenting skills to help keep children out of the conflict.

Court Ordered Parenting Classes

Court ordered parenting classes are often required for a variety of issues that could affect children, mainly in a custody hearing. Some states require parents who are going through a divorce to attend court ordered parenting classes, to inform them on the lasting impacts of divorce, and how they can support their children through the divorce. These court ordered parenting classes are often required to be completed before a divorce will be granted.

Some parents may be ordered to attend a parenting class if they have been charged with neglect or abuse. By teaching parents basic parenting skills, anger management and discipline, it is hoped that abuse and neglect could be prevented. Court ordered parenting classes are also required at times to prove a parent is fit to regain custody of their child, if there was any doubt of their ability as a parent.

Should Parenting Classes Be Compulsory?

There is no clear answer to whether parenting classes should be compulsory. One side of the argument is that the classes will benefit both parents and the children, and will have a positive effect on their educational outcomes, and improve their health and life overall. These classes also work to ensure a close family, who is ready to tackle different situations with what they have learned in parenting classes. Parenting classes also help new moms through birthing and labor, which is a huge benefit. There is never any harm to learning more and trying to better yourself as a parent.

The other side of the argument is that parents should make their own decisions and that parents will know what is best for their children. There is such an abundance of information available online for parents to research and read up on to make their own informed decisions, that parenting classes are not that necessary. Many people also have prior baby-experience from younger siblings or family members, and might not need the additional help that parenting courses offer. One of the main parenting hurdles is learning to make your own decisions, and to figure out your way as you go, and parenting classes might get in the way of this.

The Importance Of Parenting Classes

For those who are expecting a new arrival, a parenting class can be such a great source of information and assurance for new parents. The first step is finding a class that you feel most comfortable with, and then immersing yourself in the information on offer and using it to better yourself as a parent, and to prepare yourself for childbirth and everything that comes after it!

With so many different types of parenting classes available, there is no doubt you will be able to find one that suits you and your family best, and hopefully you will take away as much as possible from the parenting class.