Table of Contents page for How to Start and Promote a Parenting Education Group
HOW TO START and PROMOTE a
PARENTING EDUCATION Group
Starting Your Own Parenting
1: BE READY FOR THE QUESTION "WHY..."
Before trying to sell
the idea of parenting education to the community, its important
to have a clear plan of action that addresses potential questions
and concerns. Some of the people youre trying to influence
will be defensive, many will be skeptical, and all will have
One of the myths that
our society clings to is that anyone can be an effective parent,
that training isnt needed, that being an effective parent
comes naturally. As Dr. Michael Popkin, author of the Active
Parenting programs, puts it, "Its important to emphasize
that parenting is the most important, and the most difficult,
job we will ever have, and that part of tackling any job we consider
important and difficult is getting the training and support needed
to do the best we can."
points to emphasize:
Parenting education can have a positive impact on the entire
community. It will pull community members together as a team
and demonstrate a common focus toward helping parents be the
best they can be. For schools finding it difficult to get parents
involved, a parenting education program can be the positive catalyst.
Parents see school personnel in a different role and this increases
their ability to put aside their former fears and concerns. They
can then feel more comfortable with the school community.
For many years weve been primarily crisis-oriented, turning
our attention to something only when a crisis occurs. But statistics
have shown that simply treating crises does nothing to prevent
them. Weas parents, as educators, as people concerned about
childrenmust become more proactive rather than reactive,
"prevention promoters" instead of "crisis caretakers."
Nowhere is this more important than in the area of drug prevention.
The Office of Substance Abuse and Prevention (O.S.A.P.) has declared
parenting education an essential part of the prevention process.
in Todays Society.
A frequently-asked question is, "Why parenting education
now? My parents didnt have it, and I turned out all right."
If you consider the rapid changes in our society over the last
few decades, its easy to see that todays parents
face much greater challenges than previous generations of parents.
In the early 50s
the four biggest problems facing schools were talking in class,
chewing gum, running in the halls and making noise. In the 90s
these have been eclipsed by drug abuse, alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy
and suicide. These problems, along with the dramatic shift in
family status and security, make the job of effective parenting
more difficult than ever before.
Need for Positive
Parents, educators and counselors have the responsibility and
the power to make a positive change in our society through the
ways we influence todays youth. Cooperation, responsibility,
courage and self-esteem could become hallmarks of human behavior
if capable parents, supported by professionals and institutions
who care about families, had the training needed to raise children
and teens who embody these qualities.
Increasingly we are becoming aware of more effective, efficient
methods in bringing about change in a childs misbehavior.
Yet many times we unknowingly reinforce the very behavior we
are trying to change. In order to influence a positive behavior
change in the child, we must focus on our own behavior and understand
how our behavior needs to change. Both teachers and parents need
to be aware of the "negative" cycle into which they
can so quickly and innocently be pulled. They then learn to be
2: CHOOSING A PARENTING EDUCATION PROGRAM
you in selecting a parenting education program, here is a checklist
of criteria important to any effective program. Remember: all
programs are not equal. Be picky! This may be your only chance
to make an impact on these parents. It is critical that you feel
comfortable with the programs format and philosophy. In
addition, parents will place more trust in a program that appears
to be professional and authoritative.
- Concepts and skills
are based on sound theory
- Follows a step-by-step
approach to presentation of ideas
- Material covers all
essential concepts and skills
- Entertaining and stimulating
enough to hold parents attention
- Allows leader to meet
needs of parents who have different learning styles and modes
- Requires minimal preparation
- Manageable length
and number of class sessions (six seems optimal)
- Offers an easy-to-follow
- Includes a parents
guide with a reading level that is accessible to all groups
- Includes suggestions
and materials for promoting the program
- Offers additional
support from publisher
- Leadership training
provided upon request
- Author available for
- Is cost-effective
(usually the best program is neither the cheapest nor the most
use granted by Dr. Michael H. Popkin, author of Active Parenting
3: IDENTIFY WHO IS NEEDED TO BEGIN THE PROCESS.
determined your own reasons for establishing a parenting education
program and the ways it will benefit your community, youre
ready to take your presentation to those who can help you move
ahead: the people in your organization whose influence and support
you will need to make your program happen.
The best way to win
potential supporters and enlist their assistance is to meet with
them personally. However, it may be more time-efficient for both
you and those potential supporters to meet together as a group
for your presentation.
In a school setting,
for example, people whose support you need to gain could be directors
of guidance, principals or leaders of the Parent/Teacher Association.
Each situation may be slightly different, but its important
to keep in mind the political structure of your respective system
and to follow the established lines of communication. Take time
to keep all designated people informed and involved at each step
of the process.
Many of the people
you approach may not be as enthusiastic as you are, but remember
that its a new idea for them, and they may need time to
become comfortable with it. If you recognize this fact from the
outset you can continue to move ahead with confidence.
people I need to contact:
||Date to Meet
4: ORGANIZE A SUPPORT SYSTEM.
is crucial to the success of your program, because one person
working alone cannot possibly do an effective job of selling
it. Youll find that the best way to reach potential supporters,
keep them focused on the topic and get your message across is
to meet with each one individually. This takes time, and youll
need help to do it.
Your support system
could be made up of anyone in the community, but some possible
candidates are: PTA/PTSA/PTO leaders, teachers, principals, social
service agency employees, church education directors, service
club leaders, bank officials, judges and juvenile court system
One very important
point: when forming your support system, be sure to have people
representing all parts of your community. Dont overlook
different income levels and cultural backgrounds; identify community
leaders and grass-roots organizations which can assist you in
reaching different kinds of parents.
The important thing
to remember when presenting your proposal and enlisting support
is to allow each individual to have ownership in the project
itself. If they like the program you are presenting, and they
have the opportunity to make a choice about it, they will no
doubt give their support and encouragement.
You might preface your
presentation by telling supporters that youve just discovered
a new parenting education program and that you would like them
to take a few minutes to view it with you. After viewing the
video, you can discuss the possibility of a parenting education
program in your community and get their feedback on the idea.
Its been my experience that when people view the video
they are very positive and eager to be involved any way they
can. At this point, you can present your plan of action and discuss
their degree of involvement. By allowing them ownership and a
choice as to how involved they want to be, youll gain a
||Date to Meet
5: PROMOTE THE PROGRAM TO PARENTS
ideas have proved very effective in promoting a parenting education
program. Success will be augmented by your taking a more active,
assertive approach to marketing your parenting education programespecially
if you are trying to establish a program for the first time. (Note: if you are using Active Parenting programs for your classes, be sure to use some of the promotional tools created just for those classes. Click here to get started.)
- Use any time you have
with parents as a way to build rapport and promote parenting
education. When they come in for meetings, you might have a preview
of your parenting education program playing just loud enough
to catch their attention. Display a sign or poster and sign-up
sheet to capture the names of interested parents. Ideal opportunities
- Open Houses
- PTA/PTSA/PTO Meetings
- Conference Time
- Develop a cost-effective
flyer, or use one provided by the publisher of your program,
to send home to every parent in your organization. Posters can
also be distributed to social service agencies, churches, schools,
mental health centers, hospitals, juvenile detention centers,
court system employees and other people or places that could
be appropriate referral sources. Also try banks, grocery stores,
fast food restaurants, coffee shops, laundromatsanywhere
with a community bulletin board. (See below for tips on how to
design a successful flyer or poster.)
- If youre teaching
a class at a company, make a flyer small enough to be included
in statement or payroll envelopes. Three mini-flyers will fit
onto one 8½ x 11" sheet of paper.
- Offer the class through
a local adult-education program, which will do a lot of the promotion
- Ask local utilities
companies to send out promotional materials with their monthly
- Ask for a chance to
do a program/presentation for community service clubs such as
Junior League, Kiwanis, Lions Club, Moose Club, Elks Club. These
groups and others are always looking for good programs to sponsor.
- Provide a press release
about your upcoming classes for local radio and TV stations to
read as a Public Service Announcement. Include the name of the
class, the purpose of the class, date, time, location, sponsor
and contact information.
- Give a press release
to local newspapers and encourage them to interview school officials,
parents or other members of the community for a community announcement
or human-interest story.
- Send a press release
to local religious institutions to be printed in church bulletins
- Call the producers
of local talk shows and inquire about the possibility of an appearance
by you or a designee to talk about your action plan.
- Encourage uncertain
parents to come to a preview session. Provide refreshments, play
the video, and have a light discussion about their concerns about
parenting. Give out the parents guides for the upcoming
- Keep your class size
to a maximum of twenty people (fifteen is optimal). This allows
you to do a quality job of facilitating and to give each member
individual attention. The benefit of this is that the participants
in your classes will give you the best free promotion you could
ever want: word of mouth.
- When the first program
ends, ask for testimonials from parents to use in future marketing.
If you work in a school
- Putting a notice in
the school paper or sending a note home with the students will
motivate many parents to attend your programbut dont
over-rely on this method.
- At the beginning of
the school year (possibly at the first staff meeting), be sure
to let teachers know about the implementation of parenting education
classes and the benefits to them. Ask for their support and they
will be a strong referral base for you throughout the year.
- Target your effortsparents
of kindergartners and 5th- or 6th-grade students are especially
likely to be interested. People are more open to participation
when they are experiencing a life change or transition.
- Be sure to mention
that this is a great opportunity for parents to meet other parents
with children in the same grade.
require a little extra effort
Some parents are harder
to reach than others, whether due to work schedules, child-care
worries or other conflicts. Most parents, in fact, need a bit
of convincing about the benefits of parenting education. Try
the following ways to bring in those especially hard-to-reach
parentsand to keep them coming back:
- Hold classes at different
times of the day to allow parents with different schedules to
- Provide child care
during the classes or hold classes during school hours (if the
parents you are targeting are likely to have free time during
- Provide transportation
to and from your classes, form a car pool, or create a fund so
parents can use public transportation
- Place a free notice
in the events section of the local papers
- Offer mini-courses
for busy parents
- Offer classes on-site
at companies; get the employers endorsement of the program
and see if the employer will let the class be held during work
hours or during lunch
- Offer prizes: a weekly
door prize; a prize for parents with perfect attendance; or give
parents a raffle ticket each time they attend, and draw the winner
after the last class.
- Hold classes in neutral
territory: public libraries, community rooms, churches
- See if the public
library would be willing to host a story hour for children while
their parents are meeting in the librarys meeting room
- Offer parenting education
classes as an alternative to school suspension (the kids and
their parents could attend together)
- Offer reduced rates
for parents referred by previous participants
- Use as part of the
- Plan the final session
to be a celebration and invite the whole family
And, if all else fails,
- Broadcast Active Parenting
classes on local public television using our Broadcast Active
Parenting tapes (go to our Broadcast Active
Parenting page for details).
Top Ten Tips for
Designing an Eye-Catching Flyer or Poster
10. A posters
headline needs to be easily read from at least 10 feet.
9. Grab attention using
a single, striking graphic; a clever headline; or both.
8. Your headline should
be big, bold, and fewer than 10 words.
7. Pick a typeface
thats easy to readno cursives and not too much italic.
6. Be sure vital details
(program name, date, location, sponsor, cost) are easy to find.
5. The same goes for
contact information (phone number, e-mail address).
4. If using graphics
or photos, try to use people in them. Readers like to see something
they can identify with.
3. Its OK to
have text explaining the program, but dont go overboard.
Use "bullets" to highlight important points.
2. Be sure to state
clearly how the program will benefit parents. Its obvious
to you, but not always to them.
And, the number
ONE tip for the perfect poster or flyer...
1. Keep it simple.
. .readers dont want to spend a lot of time analyzing a
Make a Good Impression at the
Very First Session!
As the leader, your
first impression on the participants is crucial. Remember: you
never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Think about it: if
youre feeling nervous the night before the first session,
how are the parents feeling? Imagine what they are thinking
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Here are some tips
to make that first session go smoothlyand to bring those
parents back next week.
- In every class you
facilitate its essential that participants feel
- that they belong, that a community is being formed;
- that they can learn;
- that they can contribute something.
- As facilitator and
role model you want to demonstrate the positive behaviors you
would want them to take home with them. Remember to:
- be enthusiastic
- be encouraging
- genuinely care for people
- be non-judgmental ...accepting the parents where they are,
not where you want them to be
- Before the program
begins, take a moment to think about your feelings about the
group. Are there any assumptions or generalizations that you
feel you can make? Are they negative? Is it possible that you
are going to carry these assumptions into class?
Ive heard parent
educators describe themselves as teaching "the worst of
the worst." That may or may not be true, but whats
certain is that we tend to behave according to our beliefs.
Parents want support
and acceptance, and if they sense that the facilitator doesnt
offer this, they wont return for the next session. So before
every class begins, make a list of the groups strengths
and keep it in mind.
- Realize that reactions
to the material you present will vary from easy acceptance to
disbelief that the new parenting methods will work (some parents
might even be determined to prove you wrong!).
- Many parents attend
hoping you will give out the magic formula or wave a magic wand.
Be prepared to take time for them to discover that it is the
parents behavior that must change before the childrens
On a more practical note:
- Be sure to provide
all parents with directions and information about parking.
- Arrive early to set
up the room. Familiarize yourself with the TV, DVD player, remote control, laptop,
projector or other equipment. Are all the cords there? Test everything and give yourself enough time to fix something before class starts!
- Greet each parent
at the door.
- Have name tags printed
and clipped to a flip chart to demonstrate that you are expecting
them. Offer name tags for the first two sessions, or longer if
it seems useful.
- Refreshments send
a very welcoming message.
- Always use a circle
seating arrangement, preferably around a table. Use adult-sized