There is so much to learn when you become a parent. How to feed a child. How to decode an infant’s cries. How to put them to sleep properly. Kids don’t come with instructions, but parenting classes can help. When it comes to the life-changing ordeal of parenthood, finding a group of like-minded individuals going through the same thing can be a huge help — and that’s what the best parenting classes provide.
Solidarity is important, and most parenting classes offer lessons and advice as well as a safe space to talk about anxieties and other such issues. Plus, there’s research to suggest that parenting classes are crucial in helping fathers develop good relationships with their children. In one study from the University of Auckland, families with fathers who attended a parenting class proved less likely to report behavior issues and displayed an increase in positive parenting practices. Even if you feel prepared, attending a parenting class could have the ancillary benefits of your partner being more confident in your skills as a parent — something that will go along way in the early, anxious months of new parenthood — and also give you said confidence to be the best dad you can be.
But because every parent and baby are different, you’ll need to find the right parenting classes for your particular circumstances. Parents can check with their local hospitals for classes, or search online for nationwide and local classes, many of which are free or low cost. Look for your child’s age group, specific content covered in the class, and teacher qualifications like a degree in psychology or early childhood education.
If you’re wary of committing the time and energy needed for an in-person parenting class, or are worried about finding childcare, look to the wealth of online parenting classes available. You’ll get all the information without leaving the house. The biggest barrier? Telling quality from bullshit.
The issue is not that internet-based parenting classes lack efficacy. Research has shown that online parenting classes increase feelings of parental efficacy and, in some cases, simultaneously reduce reports of problem behaviors in kids. They can work if you choose wisely. The five online parenting classes below are exceptional in providing coherent, actionable lessons.
Who It’s For: Parents who are concerned about dealing with problem behaviors and parents who are looking for expert-level tactics and are willing to put in the work.
Why It Works: Dr. Alan Kazdin works with kids that lesser men might describe as “hard cases.” These are often children with incredibly violent or destructive behavior who need immediate intervention before they become admitted to mental institutions. He is on the front lines of helping kids get better. He does his work as the director of the Yale Parenting Center giving parents the tools they need to make their households more calm, more loving, and more stable. His Everyday Parenting course on Coursera, offered by Yale, offers free, pro-level information complete with concrete tactics for parents that are based on his years of experience and research.
Who It’s For: Parents facing divorce who want the best outcome for their kid and a continued parental relationship.
Why It Works: The University of Minnesota developed this course in response to the effect of family transitions on children. The 8-hour course educates parents on how best to navigate the new family dynamic after divorce. It includes information on co-parenting, managing stress and money and putting children first as a family breaks apart. The full course with videos, reading, and quizzes costs $89.
Who It’s For: Parents who want to raise kids based on good sound scientific research and those who have trouble making sense of scientific parenting studies.
Why It Works: In the preview to his course, Dr. David Barner acknowledges that parenting research can be both hard to understand and at times contradictory. His online class helps parents navigate current research on topics that are near and dear to every parent’s heart, including screen time, sleep, self-control, and homeschooling. Those topics and much more are explored over a free, 5-week course laid out to give parents the tools they need to make the most informed decisions based on sound research.
Who It’s For: Parents who prefer to be highly self-directed in their research and learning and those who feel they’d benefit from personal coaching.
Why It Works: Less a course than a bare-bones website that operates essentially as a parenting school, the Center for Parenting Education is a non-profit dedicated to helping parents raise the best human beings they can. It’s not a pretty site, but it is chock full of free resources that include full recordings of parenting classes that address everything from discipline to parenting as a team. And if there’s something a parent requires specific help on, the center offers online coaching, though there is a fee involved.
Who It’s For: Parents who want to raise their kid without anger, aggression, or punishment, and parents of faith.
Why It Works: The man who originally taught the Power of Positive Parenting at Utah State University, Dr. Glenn Latham, passed away in 2001, but his course lives on the school’s website. Latham was a man of faith and largely ahead of his time with parenting tactics that were largely based on positive reinforcement rather than punishment. The style of parenting didn’t become popular until just recently, but Dr. Lantham was ahead of the game, and his ideas still very much stand the test of time. The free course includes reading materials and recorded lectures which can admittedly get intense. In the introduction, he states, “The environment is now your enemy. And if you don’t have the skills to defend your role as a parent, your defenses will be quickly dashed and your home family and marriage will be in grave danger.”