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"LEADER" Online: Vol. 8, No. 1

Ken Lake: Making a Difference
with Parent Education


by Diana King

Parent education, drug and substance abuse prevention, school safety and crisis intervention…on any given day California educator Kenneth Lake wears many hats. As the Projects Manager for Prevention Services for the Placer County (CA) Office of Education, a Field Colleague for the California Department of Education on School Safety and Crisis Intervention, and a parent educator for Kaiser Permanente, Ken is committed to helping children and families.

He is also noted for his energetic and dramatic teaching style. In fact, in a recent evaluation a parent awarded him an “A” and concluded he “must have been in the theater at some time.”

Ken began using the revised Active Parenting Today program in 1992 to bring state-of-the-art parent education to families in his community and has been going strong ever since. LEADER magazine recently caught up with this teaching dynamo to discuss the changes he’s seen in 20 years of teaching parenting education classes and his experience with the new Active Parenting Now program.

Q. After teaching parenting education classes for 20 years, what do see as the core issues and benefits for parents?
A. First, parents are looking for someone to listen to them. During the six-week course they get to talk to other parents and see that theirs is not the only family with problems. Second, when we show the video segment about mutual respect you can literally see jaws drop as parents observe the effect their own behavior has on their children. Third, many parents are using demands and ultimatums as discipline. When we clarify the difference and talk about the power of choice and how to come up with a list of logical consequences, they start to see changes in their child’s behavior. Fourth, improving active listening and communication skills impacts both the parent-child and couple relationship. I like that Active Parenting Now gives greater emphasis to the importance of words, tone of voice and body language so parents see earlier and more clearly how these factors influence their child’s behavior.

Q. What changes are you seeing in your parenting classes?
A. I’m seeing many more parents in blended families, and also grandparents who have been thrust back into the parenting role. The average age of the parents is also going up due to parents having children later in life. We are also seeing more attorneys recommending that divorcing parents attend parenting classes, and more court-ordered cases.

Q. What issues are parents concerned about today?
A. More parents are expressing concern about their children not working up to their potential in school and the influence of the media. They say their kids are growing up too quickly and are exposed to too much sex and violence. This touches on one of the concepts emphasized in Active Parenting Now—that it is important for parents to act as screens or filters to prevent dangerous events from influencing their children. This is particularly important in the areas of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, reckless sexuality and violence.

Q. What are some of the other differences you see between Active Parenting Today and the new Active Parenting Now program?
A. Now the skill development sections—giving choices, mutual respect, active listening and setting logical consequences—have been moved to the beginning of the program. This gives parents more time to practice these techniques at home and then come back to class to discuss their success and learn from the other parents. Family meetings have also been moved up to the first session, so parents have time to experiment and see what works with their family. Leading a family meeting takes skill, and when the parents come back to class they share their experiences. The additional emphasis on family meetings as a time for compliments and planning fun activities, as well as discussing schedules, chores and problems, helps children and teens to buy into the process.

Alfred Adler and parenting education

Like all Active Parenting programs, the new Active Parenting Now program is based on the psychology of Alfred Adler (1870-1937). Adler was a colleague of Sigmund Freud, and his groundbreaking theories of psychology form the basis of modern parent education. In fact Adlerians have been innovators in developing new and better products for leading parenting groups since Rudolf Dreikurs and Vickie Soltz wrote their groundbreaking guide, 1964’s Children: The Challenge. A decade later, in 1976, Don Dinkmeyer and Gary McKay broke ground again with the publication of Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP), a well-designed audiocassette-based program that made it easy to offer Adlerian parenting groups everywhere. In 1983, Michael Popkin moved the field forward again with the production of Active Parenting, the first video-based parent education program. (For more information about Adler and his theories, try the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology: www.AlfredAdler.org.)

Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2003 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.