Every family dreams of watching their child walk the stage and receive a diploma one day, but on Wednesday, students within Chatom Unified School District were able to see weeks of hard work come to fruition for not themselves, but for their parents during a special graduation ceremony.
Last spring, CUSD implemented a parenting leadership program at Chatom Elementary School, aimed at helping parents use practical tools to help guide their children to success. Each parent is invited to the program personally, said CUSD counselor Courtney Machado, and this week, the second graduating class of around 30 participants received recognition for their completion of the seven-session program.
“It’s not a workshop that teaches you how to be a parent, it just focuses on helping you to be a better one,” said Machado. “When you get together with other parents, you recognize what strengths you have and also what you may need to work on.”
The program used by CUSD is called “Practical Tools for Positive Parenting,” and provides participants with useful ways to strengthen their parent/child relationships. One pillar of the program is teaching parents not to argue with their children, said Machado, focusing on a “learning” process rather than a “telling” process.
“A lot of parents, after they complete this program, will come back and say, ‘I don’t yell at my kids anymore,’” said Machado. “Instead of telling our kids what to do, we should be teaching them what to do.”
The difference between punishment and discipline is another facet of the program many parents find valuable, she added.
“A lightbulb went off over their heads,” said Machado. “When we punish our kids, we spank them or put them in time out, but when we discipline them, we teach them a lesson instead of telling them what to do.
“No one wins when we argue with our children.”
The program also focuses on helping parents see their child’s point of view.
“We don’t understand how hurtful our words can actually be,” said Machado. “Sometimes when we reflect, we can say, ‘Oh, maybe that did hurt their feelings.”
The seven sessions of the program allow parents to get together and take a hard look at their own parenting methods, while relying on other moms or dads for support. There are two separate classes – one in English, and one in Spanish – and in total, Machado estimates that the two graduating classes that have completed the program so far will go on to impact over 80 students.
“We invite the students to the graduation as well so they get to see that their parents have worked hard to accomplish something, and see that their mom or dad has invested themselves in the school,” said Machado. “When you have discipline in the house and have routines – and parents learn that through this program – kids feel more secure and happier.”
Through enforcing positivity and increased family time (another message stressed in the program is for families to put down their phones while at home), the leadership workshop still remains effective, even months after the parents have taken the course.
“It takes a village,” said Machado. “It takes a community to raise a child, and through this program parents learn to be involved and keep in touch with teachers, coaches, church or whatever their child is involved in at all times.”
If the school district’s budget allows, the next parent leadership program will take place next spring, said Machado. Until then, CUSD will focus on implementing the program as part of their staff’s professional development.
“We want to spread the message through teachers to the parents about the program, but also, most teachers are parents, too,” said Machado. “We can all learn from each other.”