Even if you’re already a parent, chances are you’ll add to your child-rearing toolkit in the series of First Five Years Active Parenting classes at 6 p.m. Wednesdays at the Banner Payson Medical Center administrative conference room May 8, 15, 22 and 29.

Lessons will include:

• Discipline won’t work if you don’t have a relationship with your child

• Positive ways to set boundaries

• You can’t be too soft or too hard with your parenting style

• Nutrition plays a huge part in your child’s brain development

• Interaction and time spent with your child help with their brain development (be present in their lives)

• Setting up routines with your child helps them feel safe and secure

• How to analyze previous parenting mistakes — yours or mistakes made by your parents

Tawnee Johnson arranges these classes in Payson, Charlene Becker in Globe and throughout Gila County for the Arizona Youth Partnership. Johnson and Becker are certified as instructors in the Active Parenting Program.

“What’s special about these classes is easy-to-follow instructions in the curriculum and the tools that provide help for parenting,” said Becker.

“Of course, every parent has to grapple with discipline, and there are many great ideas on how to deal with temper tantrums. We teach routines and how that helps the child feel safe and secure. Nutrition is another subject we teach our parents and the importance of giving your child healthy choices. Early literacy is also a big part of the Active Parenting curriculum and school readiness,” she continued

Early development

Even experienced parents are surprised when told that a 1985 nationwide study confirmed that “the single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.”

Additionally elements for success include:

• Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level (Research in Social Stratification & Mobility)

• By age 2, children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers.

Arizona Youth Partnership promotes reading to children, helping sign up families with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library — a “book of the month club” for kids under age 5, and totally free.

“We have class discussions on being present in your child’s life and ways to interact and bond with your children — one of the simplest is to put down the phone and play with your child. We go through an ages-and-stages questionnaire with parents to make sure children are meeting certain milestones, these can help a child having development issues — and we can offer resources and suggestions for the child to get extra help they might need,” Becker said.

Kids are welcome at these classes — while parents learn, talk and exchange ideas, children get to play with the other children in the class — making the sessions a combination support group and play date.

Does it work?

Becker responded, “Here’s an example — we had a father who felt he was not bonded with his 2-year-old son, he told us that despite always being with his son, they did not get along. Our next class was about routines and spending time with your child; assigned homework after that lesson was to spend at least one hour a day playing with the child — and that did not mean sitting in the same room while you look at your phone or computer or video game while your child tries to find ways to entertain themselves. Instead, get on the floor and play; take your child outside or to the park. Part Two of that dad’s homework was to set up a bedtime routine and do the same thing every night before bed. We explain to parents that not only did they have to spend at least an hour with their children, they also had to eat healthy foods together as a family — and have a predictable, stable bedtime hour and routine.

“The following week I asked the parents if they did their homework and tried to set up a bedtime routine, the young father said that he did — he played with his son for an hour without any distractions, and by day three his son was getting excited about their time together, it ended up being more than an hour. Bedtime routine and changing the boy’s diet were still goals to achieve, but the bonding was amazing, with fewer temper tantrums — and I asked the father for his thoughts. He said his son was trying to communicate with him all this time, asking for him to pay more attention to him.

“After that conversation, you could see a lot of light bulbs going off. One parent commented that changing her daughter’s diet has actually changed her attitude. The first few days were hard, but by the end of the week, she was a happier child. As part of the bedtime routine they had to read a book to their child every night at the same time. By the end of the week the child would actually bring them the book to read; parents who apply lessons from the class report stronger bonding with their kids.”

Active Parenting: First Five Years classes are relatively new, the first was taught in Globe last September — but Becker and her crew have already reached more than 100 parents and caregivers of pre-school age children in less than four months. May brings the fifth class series to Payson.

The Active Parenting program is brought to the community by First Things First and is part of the program called Starting Out Right, which also provides Healthy Pregnancy and Childbirthing classes for teens and adults. These classes are free.

Charlene Becker is a certified childbirth educator, certified lactation educator and certified car seat technician.

AZ Youth Partnership

Connect with Charlene and other instructors online at facebook.com/ArizonaYouthPartnership to read more about how Arizona Youth Partnership builds solid foundations for youth and families by partnering with Arizona communities to prevent and solve local issues such as substance abuse, youth homelessness, lack of educational opportunities, teen pregnancy, and challenging family dynamics.

To register for classes this month, or be on the email list for the next series email Tawnee@azyp.org or call 928-970-0019.

Contact the reporter 

tmcquerrey@payson.com

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