Having previously gained a huge amount by doing Alpha's "Marriage Course", we we intrigued when the same folks published some parenting materials. We had a brief taster of the course at a conference at our church last month - and were impressed by what we saw, so impressed in fact that we bought the DVDs that day and resolved to try out the course. It's taken a few weeks longer than we had anticipated, but we have managed to assemble a small group of other parents - and we met for the first time last week and ran through week one of the five-session course.
The evening began with a DVD, on which authors/presenters Nicky and Sila Lee introduced the course, and prompted us to think about some of the key issues involved in parenting 0-11 year olds. Their presentation was a mixture of their own experiences and research into child development, but was regularly interspersed with filmed clips from various experts - as well as interviews with both parents and children.
On the first week we were challenged about several aspects of the way in which we do parenting. These included time priorities in terms of our interaction with each of the children; the benefits of 'family time' and positive routines, as well as the recommended limits on the amount of TV/PC/Wii (etc) time that are appropriate for different age-groups. Research about minimum sleep requirements at different stages was also mentioned. Along with this there was some good stuff about the priority of modelling good relationships, especially between parents; coupled with the need to keep a united front and consistent line in keeping boundaries for behaviour. The thing which really grabbed our attention though was the suggestion that we consider keeping the long view in mind at all times, in terms of the kind of person we hope our child will be when he/she is an adult, and how they will remember our home in 20 years time. This was welded to the very searching assertion that the most powerful factor in shaping our children's values, is not our words, but their long-term observation of our characters and behaviour!
The Parenting Course DVD's are much more directive in their tone than the Marriage Course DVDs (despite being written and presented by the same people). The Marriage DVDs are pitched more in the language of 'which solution here will work for your marriage' (etc), while on the Parenting stuff the tone is more, 'all the research shows that exceeding these limits for TV consumption is bad for your child', for example.
Like the Marriage Course, there is also the opportunity to discuss the issues raised in the DVDs, using questions found in the course manual. Unlike the Marriage Course in which discussion is strictly private and takes place only between spouses - there is some group discussion on the parenting course. This was great, as it was fascinating to listen to other parents who are facing similar challenges - as well as to contrast experiences too.
Next week we go on to think about 'meeting our children's needs', followed by some stuff of boundaries and discipline the following week. We're looking forward to it - but first we have some "homework" to do - implementing some of the lessons from week one!