Are Parenting Classes Helpful?

The UK is about to test pilot a series of parenting classes for the citizens of London and surrounding areas. The Prime Minister said, “It’s ludicrous that we should expect people to train for hours to drive a car or use a computer, but when it comes to looking after a baby we tell people to just get on with it.”

At first glance, it doesn’t sound so bad, but get this: The force behind these classes is coming directly from legislation in the government. The government will be supplying vouchers for parents to attend classes as well as being able to engage in online parenting services through a program called Can Parent. The parenting classes focus on the first five years. Apparently, they will even be sending text messages to parents. I can’t help but wonder what these text messages will say. “Whatever you do, don’t jump off a bridge today” or “Breastfeeding gets easier. Your nipples won’t always feel like razor blades are cutting through them.”

I don’t really like parenting classes. Gasp- what? I should qualify my statement a bit. I don’t like general parenting classes. I’m a fan of domestic violence classes or any classes that are targeted at specific issues or topics such as sexual education or teaching children how to be safe. Most very specific parenting classes can be quite helpful. However, basic, general parenting classes set up the idea that there is a right way versus a wrong way to parent. And Lord knows, the last thing we need is more divisive lines.

And here’s the thing about classes- I’m not sure how well they actually prepare you. I just keep flashing back to my pregnancy days and the classes we took then.

I was committed to giving birth without drugs. I prepared for natural childbirth like I was preparing for a final or my doctorate comprehensive exams. I poured through all of the literature, research, and books I could get my hands on. I learned about every phase of labor. I followed a special diet. I did all of the exercises. Yancy and I watched countless live birth videos to see how others had done it and to become familiar with the process. We took a Bradley classes every Sunday at 6:00 for 12 weeks. We never missed a class and I always did my homework. Our teacher assured us we were completely prepared. I was sure we’d gotten an A.

And then my due date came. And then my due date went. The days ticked off the calendar until I was 42 weeks past my due date and had no choice except to be induced. I’ll save my birth story for another time, but let’s just say it went nothing like I had dreamed or imagined. Not even close. Nothing in our classes prepared us for the real experience.

Besides the obvious implications of the government interfering in parenting (side note: believe me, I’ll address this later), do you think general parenting classes are helpful? Do you think you would have found them helpful in your early days of motherhood?

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