Playtime Creates Space for Evidence-Based Parenting Classes

Posted by on Nov 9, 2015 in Featured Stories |

Playtime Creates Space for Evidence-Based Parenting Classes

Playtime and Children’s National Health System bring evidence-based parenting skills program to DC General

Thanks to our generous donors, the Playtime Project is able to fund parenting skills classes throughout the year for parents of children living at DC General. We are grateful to our funders who realize that, in order for children to thrive, programs serving children directly is not enough. Parents must also have the tools to help their children thrive. Parenting classes have been a core activity of Playtime Project’s operations at DC General for the past couple of years, but finding a relevant, effective, and feasible parenting class, within space and time constraints, was difficult.

The Playtime Project sought a curriculum that would cater to a diverse group of parents from different educational and family backgrounds, as well as one that would apply to families’ current situations. When asked what they hoped to get out of a parenting class, most parents stated something along the lines of, “I want to learn to deal with her behavior,” or “I want to know how to discipline him.” The Chicago Parenting Program (CPP) addressed these concerns directly. The program–developed for and with low-income Black and Latino parents raising young children in urban communities–is designed to reduce children’s behavior problems by helping parents become better and more confident parents. The program’s theory of change is that an increase in parent’s self-efficacy coupled with effective and appropriate discipline strategies, will increase a parent’s ability to use positive parenting behavior.

The CPP’s 2-hour sessions are facilitated by two trained group leaders and use video vignettes, more than 250 in all, to depict parent-child interactions at home and in various community settings (e.g., grocery store, Laundromat). The scenes, which present challenging situations parents typically face with their children, stimulate discussion and problem-solving related to child behavior and parenting skills. Sessions focus on building positive relationships with children (e.g., having child-centered time, maintaining family routines and traditions, using praise and encouragement), child behavior management skills (e.g., following through with consequences, using effective forms of discipline), stress management, and problem-solving skills. Following each session, parents complete practice assignments to help them apply the skills they learned.

One major strength of the CPP is that is uses everyday situations (including scenarios such as videos of parents at the grocery store or on the bus with their children) to help explain the expectations parents should have of children and how they can go about managing different behaviors and communicating with their children. The idea behind this is that the more parents understand their children and themselves, the more they are likely to engage in positive discipline practices, and the less likely they are to become frustrated by their child’s behavior.

The CPP class at DC General was facilitated by two nurses on staff at Children’s National Health System: Dr. Stacy Hodgkinson, and Tininka Rahman, BSN. Tininka is the manager of the General and Community Pediatrics program at Children’s National and oversees the Healthy Generations program, which provides medical care, family planning, case management, social work, and mental health for young parents and their children in the Washington, DC area. Stacy is a practicing psychologist.

Preliminary follow-up and observations indicate that parents who regularly attended the class not only enjoyed the class, but also felt more confident in their parenting and grew to better understand their children. One parent reported, “Now I know I have to get [my child] into a routine so he knows my expectations.” Another said that knowing some of the science behind why his five-year-old “acted up” sometimes made him feel more comfortable letting some things go. One mother said, “I just thought I looked weak if I let [my child] make some of her own decisions or tell me what she wanted to do but I’m learning that she’ll still know I care about her and I’m the boss when it’s a real situation.”

An incidental result of the parenting class was a strong camaraderie among parents participating in the class. Parents were excited to attend each week, and were eager to find out how they could stay in touch with the instructors. This highlights the need for parents to have opportunities to build community to interact and share their experiences, natural support systems that many of their housed neighbors may take for granted. The oft-stated maxim that “It takes a village to raise a child” is true in many ways: Parents need support from other parents not only to manage the logistical aspects of parenting (e.g., diaper changing, clothing swaps, babysitting, etc.) but also to talk about their experiences and realize they are not alone, and that their child is not the only two-year-old who “acts up.”

We are now working on renovating a parent resource room near our new teen program space at DC General to hold future parenting classes. Click here to learn how you can lend your support parents through these vital programs. By investing in parents, children grow stronger!

The Chicago Parenting Program has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and has received high ratings in Comparative Effectiveness Research. The CPP also received high ratings from SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), and is recommended as a program to improve family relationships and social functioning among low-income parents of young children in urban settings, regardless of race or gender.