Family Magazine

Can Parenting Be Taught?

By Therealsupermum @TheRealSupermum

Can Parenting Be Taught?

Can Parenting Be Taught?

The recent introduction of parenting vouchers in the UK has caused quite a debate. The Government scheme, which is being piloted in a handful of British districts, is giving new parents the opportunity to receive £100 worth of parenting lessons. The question is, can parenting be taught? A colleague of mine was quick to ask, ‘Is parenting now a verb?’ as in, is it something we do rather than something we are?


Biology Vs. Social Construct

Sociologist Duane Alwin states that parenting is both a biological and social process. Biological, as becoming a parent is the natural outcome of reproduction, and social and cultural because the role comes with a certain set of rights, responsibilities, obligations and expectations of childcare. Therefore, it is both something we are and something we do and everyone takes on this role in their own fashion.

It could be argued that the relationship between father and child and mother and child is different because of the close physical connection between mother and child when she carried and gave birth to that child. But both relationships have changed dramatically in the last century as society has changed. We now see less formality in family relations and fathers are taking a more central role other than that of bread-winner.

Once someone becomes a parent their life will never be the same again, they can’t take away that moment. Becoming a parent is a major life transition and takes some getting used to. We often hear talk of what makes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parent but no individual situation is the same as another. The social construct of being a parent is a skill, I would argue, and like any skill it is something which improves with practice. Are parenting lessons the way forward then? Or is it better to learn through experience?


Parenting Lessons

Parenting lessons are currently compulsory for parents with disruptive children, and those in trouble with the law. The new vouchers available through high street chemist Boots, will allow all parents to access up to 10 hours of parenting lessons, run by organisations such as the National Childbirth Trust. Most agree that the classes are useful, but only if you attend all of them and take it seriously. Those parents who do attend the classes religiously are probably those who read all the books on parenting anyway, the worry is reaching the most disengaged parents that would gain most from the lessons.

Learning to be a parent is something humans have dealt with for all time. It is the earliest of skills, along with finding food, clothing and shelter. Alongside the excitement of choosing a crib and baby clothes, any new parent will admit to feeling terrified before having their first baby, and preparation will certainly help the transition but nothing can fully prepare you for that experience. It’s like thinking that you can be an expert driver when you’ve only taken your theory test. Being a parent is a road of discovery and is certainly never boring.

Parenting lessons may help with the facts and figures, but nothing takes the place of experience and enthusiasm, just like any skill.

Emma is a PhD researcher on parenting and consumption and freelance fashion writer for Read Clothes for clothing news and fashion advice.

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