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Parenting course teaches new understanding of child behavior

As much as children learn as they grow, so do parents. As Head Start programming strives to include the family in every child’s learning experience, part of the Head Start experience involves helping moms, dads, and all family members and caregivers improve their parenting skills.

For the past three years, Great Lakes Community Action Partnership (GLCAP) Head Start staff began offering regular Conscious Parenting/ACT Raising Safe Kids classes to teach positive parenting skills and help parents learn more effective strategies for managing child behavior.

Courses are open to parents or caregivers of children ages 0-8. The course is typically offered in two sessions of about four hours each. GLCAP provides lunch and gift cards for parents and caregivers who attend. The most recent class took place in Fremont in early February with 24 parents and caregivers in attendance.

Class attendees learn how to better manage their emotions, speak with children on their level, practice breathing techniques and calming exercises, and develop other skills to help them become more effective parents.

GLCAP Parent, Family, and Engagement Coordinator Michelle Foos said an integral part of the course involves teaching parents to understand behavior in a new way.

“We learn how to look at children’s behavior differently,” Foos said. “We think of behavior as a form of communication.”

If a child is acting out or being stubborn, parents can more effectively and positively manage these behaviors by viewing them as the child’s means of communicating, as opposed to viewing the child as simply “being difficult.”

“Suppose a child tells on another child for something minor. We could assume that the child is trying to get another child in trouble and being a ‘tattle-tale.’ But, depending on the situation, a child could really be saying ‘I feel unsafe’ because of another child’s behavior,” Foos said.

“The more effective way would be to acknowledge the child’s feelings, let the child know that you heard what he or she said, and let them know that you will take care of the situation.”

One of the class participants, Joan, a grandmother of a Head Start student at the GLCAP Stricker Family Development Center in Fremont, thought the course was beneficial. Joan has two adult daughters as well as two other grandchildren who also attended Head Start preschool at Stricker. Even with her experience as a parent and grandparent, Joan said she learned from taking the course.

“Things have changed and we’ve learned different ways of doing things,” Joan said.

“Every child is different,” Joan said. “This helps refresh you on how to help children out and do it in a positive way instead of a negative one.”

“We’ve had so many positive feedback comments,” Foos said. “Parents share that they feel empowered to become a better parent and develop their skills. When we look at it differently, we can respond in a different way, and just become a better parent.”

GLCAP Early Childhood staff will continue to offer Conscious Parenting/ACT Raising Safe Kids courses in the future. Details on GLCAP Head Start services are available at

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Great Lakes Community Action Partnership

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