Parenting Education Programs

The National Parent Education Network defines parent education as “a process that involves the expansion of insights, understanding and attitudes and the acquisition of knowledge and skills about the development of both parents and of their children and the relationship between them.”

Parenting education programs offer multiple benefits to parents (and other primary caregivers) and children. Parents may develop new skills that can lead to increased competence and positive parenting practices, while children may indirectly benefit from changes or improvements in their parents’ behaviors. Parenting education programs teach parents how to keep their children healthy, safe, and ready to start school with the cognitive, social, and emotional skills needed to learn.

This content focuses primarily on parenting education programs that target parents of young children (0-5 years of age). Although programs may target parents of children 0 – 18 years of age, early intervention services for parents are favorable since development during early childhood can shape later physical, social and cognitive development.

The parent outcomes and indicators targeted by parenting education programs generally fall into the following two categories: (a) strengthening the caregiving and family environment; and (b) strengthening parent-child relationships. Outcomes and indicators falling under each category are outlined below.

Strengthening the caregiving and family environment

  • Improving parent knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions, by:

o Increasing parenting self-efficacy
o Improving attitudes toward parenting
o Increasing motivation to improve parenting skills
o Increasing knowledge of child development

  • Improving parenting skills and behaviors, by:

o Preventing child abuse and neglect
o Improving disciplinary practices
o Increasing caregivers’ involvement with child’s care and education
o Improving caregivers’ ability to cope with caregiving and life stress
o Improving the quality of the home environment

Strengthening relationships

  • Specifically, strengthening parent-child relationships, by:

o Improving parent-child relationship quality
o Improving parent-infant attachment
o Increasing time spent together

Since parents and caregivers play an important role in a child’s development intervening with parents directly can improve certain child outcomes, especially those related to learning and achievement.  Positive parenting behaviors help prepare children to enter school with the cognitive, social and emotional skills needed to learn. “Improving the literacy and learning environment of the home is therefore a promising path for fostering positive developmental outcomes for young children” (Child Trends, 2001). Child outcomes often targeted by parenting education programs generally fall under education and cognitive development, specifically improving child school readiness.

Questions your program should answer:
• Are You Enrolling the People Who Can Best Benefit from Your Parenting Education Program?
• To What Extent is Your Parenting Education Program Structured to Address Risk Factors for Child Abuse/Meet Participant Needs?
• To what Extent is Your Parenting Education Program Being Delivered by Competent and Qualified Facilitators?
• To What Extent are Participants Making Progress and Changing Parenting Behaviors?