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Table of Contents page for How to Start and Promote a Parenting Education Group


Table of Contents:

Starting Your Own Parenting Education Program:

Five Steps

  1. Be ready for the question "Why?"
  2. Choose the right program for your audience...and for you
  3. Determine whose help you need
  4. Develop a support system
  5. Promote your program to parents

Make a Good Impression with the Very First Session

Finding Funds for Your Program

Further Reading

Training to be a parent education leader

Starting Your Own Parenting Education Program



Before trying to sell the idea of parenting education to the community, it’s important to have a clear plan of action that addresses potential questions and concerns. Some of the people you’re trying to influence will be defensive, many will be skeptical, and all will have questions—primarily, "Why?"

One of the myths that our society clings to is that anyone can be an effective parent, that training isn’t needed, that being an effective parent comes naturally. As Dr. Michael Popkin, author of the Active Parenting programs, puts it, "It’s 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."

Some other points to emphasize:

Parent-School Partnerships. 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.

Parenting as Prevention. For many years we’ve 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. We—as parents, as educators, as people concerned about children—must 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.

Parenting Challenges in Today’s Society. A frequently-asked question is, "Why parenting education now? My parents didn’t have it, and I turned out all right." If you consider the rapid changes in our society over the last few decades, it’s easy to see that today’s 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 Influences. Parents, educators and counselors have the responsibility and the power to make a positive change in our society through the ways we influence today’s 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.

Positive Impact on Behavior. Increasingly we are becoming aware of more effective, efficient methods in bringing about change in a child’s 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 "cycle-busters."


To help 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 program’s 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 time
  • Manageable length and number of class sessions (six seems optimal)
  • Offers an easy-to-follow leader’s guide
  • Includes a parent’s 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 consultation
  • Is cost-effective (usually the best program is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive!)

(Permission to use granted by Dr. Michael H. Popkin, author of Active Parenting programs.)


Once you’ve determined your own reasons for establishing a parenting education program and the ways it will benefit your community, you’re 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 it’s 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 it’s 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.

The people I need to contact:
Name Position Date to Meet


This step is crucial to the success of your program, because one person working alone cannot possibly do an effective job of selling it. You’ll 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 you’ll 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 workers.

One very important point: when forming your support system, be sure to have people representing all parts of your community. Don’t 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 you’ve 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. It’s 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, you’ll gain a stronger commitment.

Support System:    
Name Organization Date to Meet


The following 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 program—especially 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 include:
    - 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, laundromats—anywhere with a community bulletin board. (See below for tips on how to design a successful flyer or poster.)
  • If you’re 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 for you.
  • Ask local utilities companies to send out promotional materials with their monthly statements.
  • 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 and newsletters.
  • 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 parent’s guides for the upcoming first session.
  • 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 setting

  • Putting a notice in the school paper or sending a note home with the students will motivate many parents to attend your program—but don’t 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 efforts—parents 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.

Hard-to-Reach Parents 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 parents—and to keep them coming back:

  • Hold classes at different times of the day to allow parents with different schedules to attend
  • 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 the day)
  • 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 employer’s 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 library’s 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 GED program
  • 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 poster’s 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 that’s easy to read—no 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. It’s OK to have text explaining the program, but don’t go overboard. Use "bullets" to highlight important points.

2. Be sure to state clearly how the program will benefit parents. It’s obvious to you, but not always to them.

And, the number ONE tip for the perfect poster or flyer...

1. Keep it simple. . .readers don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing a flyer.

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 you’re 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 smoothly—and to bring those parents back next week.

  • In every class you facilitate it’s 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?

I’ve heard parent educators describe themselves as teaching "the worst of the worst." That may or may not be true, but what’s certain is that we tend to behave according to our beliefs.

Parents want support and acceptance, and if they sense that the facilitator doesn’t offer this, they won’t return for the next session. So before every class begins, make a list of the group’s 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 parent’s behavior that must change before the children’s will.

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 chairs.