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Do Parenting Groups Work?

Yes, Parenting Groups can work. Any reputable group will impart useful information about parenting and if applied by parents that information will help. However the reasons that parenting groups might not work in a given case are numerous, and they have nothing to do with the quality of the parenting group. Parenting groups work when the primary or only problem is a lack of parenting skill. Unfortunately there are often other problems present that are an obstacle to parents being able to parent effectively. If those problems are not addressed then learning new parenting skills will be of limited benefit because those same obstacles will be present. What are these obstacles? The more common ones follow:

 adult relationship conflict – if there is conflict between the parents in the home, whether that conflict is openly acted out or hidden and not dealt with, the conflict will get in the way of the parents co-operating and parenting effectively together. The same can be said if parents are separated.

 adult mental health or emotional problems – if a parent is depressed, anxious, has anger problems, or has difficulties coping with stress, those problems need to be addressed before parenting should be regarded as the primary problem.

 alcohol and drug abuse – similarly to adult emotional problems, if a parent abuses substances they will be very unlikely to benefit from parenting education.

 attachment difficulties – sometimes the problems with a child’s behaviour cannot be resolved with more effective management. The problems could be due to a relationship problem between the parent and child. That relationship problem might have its origins in the child’s early months of life if the parent was for some reason unable to form a good attachment with the child. That requires different therapy than parenting skills.

 stress –  sometimes the circumstances in which families live are stressful. It could be a lack of social support, financial or employment difficulties, or housing or overcrowding. These more practical problems need resolution before parenting education will help.

 child psychological problems – of particular significance here are the more pervasive developmental problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Major Mood or Anxiety problems can also be present in children and need to be addressed rather than a focus just on parenting.

 inadequate motivation – parents enter parenting groups with varying degrees of motivation. Sometimes they do so having been coerced or persuaded or even compelled to attend. Unless parents genuinely want to improve their parenting and make real efforts to put the new ideas into practice, they will be unlikely to benefit from the group.

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