Good beginnings for Kaua‘i’s keiki: parenting classes

As wonderful as KIDS School program and all it encompasses is, if we truly want to make a difference in the level of success a child experiences socially, emotionally and cognitively in these preschool years then parents must be actively involved.

Parents are the third leg of the educational tripod which consists of the child, the school and the home environment. Even though a teacher with a quality program can make a huge impact on a developing child, the biggest impact happens when the parents themselves are willing to participate.

Brookings Institute scholar, Isabel Sawhill, author of “Opportunity in America,” was quoted as saying, “Who your parents are has a very large effect on where you end up in life as an adult.”

The KIDS preschool core program is based on activities that stimulate the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Our first orientation meeting with parents relates this information in a presentation, complete with visuals, on brain development. A simple to follow explanation on the wiring of the brain and the all-important “windows of opportunity” and how those correspond to the daily play modules their children will experience helps parents relate it to the impact they are having on the development of their baby into a successful child — who in turn grows into a successful adult. Children entering preschool are at an age when brain development is most crucial. Some 90 percent of brain development happens before the age of five.

As parents understand how important the early years are for their children they want to learn more, asking, “Am I giving my child the proper guidance?”

Parenting is an awesome responsibility as you strive to mold your child into the best little person he or she can be. There is training for most all other jobs but not for the important job of parenting — where you are building a child.

What you do as a parent now will affect the success your child will have in the future. To help put this in perspective, I ask the parents to think about how the parenting topics influenced and played a part in their lives growing up. How did they influence their partner? In raising a child, each parent or partner calls on their past experiences, which may be similar or very different. This difference can often cause a conflict. Parenting classes offer both parents an opportunity to explore and communicate with each other to develop their own family plan of parenting.

It is important to note that if we want the child to change, the parents themselves must be willing to change.

In the eyes of children, their parents are the most important people in the world. What you do and say stays with them forever.

What you do, your children will do. If you don’t do it, they won’t do it. You are the model for them.

Feedback from those who have taken the classes show that some acknowledged being skeptical and reluctant at the start, but were glad they had taken the classes and felt they had gotten so much out of them.

When asked what they liked the most about the class, some parents remarked that instead of clashing with each other over differences of parenting styles, now they support and work together in a respectful manner with their children. Offering the child a choice and using logical consequences was also repeated as was being more positive and encouraging with their children. As one dad remarked “I felt awkward at first using choices but it really works.”

“Turning words around to make everything positive and coming up with logical consequences takes a little thinking,” said another parent.

Still others communicated better as they began seeing things from their child’s perspective.

Finally, when hearing one another as parents, there was a comfort in knowing you were not alone. Other parents were going through the same thing.

In teaching parenting skills many people think the word “discipline” means the same as “punishment.” It does not.

Effective discipline is teaching a learning process — the goal of discipline is self-discipline: to guide children to be responsible and cooperative.

Parents often think children will become unhappy if they are disciplined. They might not like you at the time, but the truth is they are unhappy because you don’t discipline them. They need you to be in control so they will feel secure.

Parenting classes can help parents build healthy patterns of belief and behavior in children; patterns that can form the foundation for a lifetime of positive growth.

For more ideas, information and resources on how to understand, help and enrich your child’s development, call Anna Peters, Kaua‘i Good Beginnings Coordinator at 632-2114 or Cathy Shanks, PATCH at 246-0622.

• This article is provided by the Kaua‘i Good Beginnings Council Public Awareness Committee comprised of KIDS School, PATCH, CFS/Healthy Start and Head Start, and DOE- PCNC and PSAP.

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