No matter how hard moms, dads and caregivers wish or hope, children don’t come with instruction manuals or magic wands.
Sure, there’s some trial and error, best guesses and close estimates involved in parenting, but there’s strategy involved, too. That’s where Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension’s Active Parenting curriculum comes in.
“There’s a lot of science behind parenting that you really don’t think about and Active Parenting breaks down problems into basic needs of kids,” said Megan Anderson, OSU Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences/4-H Youth Development educator in Seminole and Hughes counties.
The insights from Active Parenting are so good that, in this case, Anderson brings her work home with her.
“As a parent myself that uses Active Parenting on a daily basis with my child, I know it works.” she said. “As a parent, you’re like ‘why are my children doing this?’ With the help of Active Parenting they can look it up, figure out the basic need their children are trying to fill and figure out how to help them meet that goal in a positive way.”
Active Parenting is actually a curriculum made up of three programs. The First 5 Years covers birth to age 5, Active Parenting 4th Edition targets ages 5 through 12 and then there’s Active Parenting with Teens.
Wide ranging topics are tailored to each program’s target age range. They include, but aren’t limited to, parenting styles, ages and stages of development, preparing children for school success, discipline, growing confident in the role of parent, prevention of alcohol and drug use, and maintaining open communication.
The research-based curriculum was written by parenting expert and father Michael Popkin and contributing authors include Laura Hubbs-Tait and Amanda Morris, OSU Cooperative Extension parenting specialists.
“With our fast-paced, technological society, it is really good to have something available that can guide us so we know with confidence that we are making the best decision on something for our child,” Anderson said. “Extension supports Active Parenting because it is a research-based curriculum that has proven to help families.”
Active Parenting is certainly helping Ruben Masso Ortiz, Seminole County, build a positive relationship with his girlfriend’s child. He participated in the First 5 Years program this summer.
“I don’t know about other parents but it has helped me with my girlfriend’s kid with things I can do with him and how to handle things the right way,” Ortiz said.
Active Parenting encourages participants to engage in healthy activities with their childen that don’t include screen time. He has taken that guidance to heart.
“I have a fun day with the kid. We go to the park, race four wheelers,” Ortiz said. “Then we go eat some food outside and do some more activities and play.”
Throughout the program, interactive activities, illustrative videos and lively discussion provide parents with helpful tips, tricks and strategies they are encouraged to try then come back share with others in the program.
“The groups are always so supportive of one another and always provide great discussion throughout the class,” said Anderson, who believes Active Parenting excels at helping parents understand some of the challenges their children face and explaining why children behave in certain ways.
The experience has been eye-opening for some participants.
“I’ve had parents say they didn’t realize they were doing something wrong until they saw it up on the screen and another parent was doing it,” she said. “There’s a section that makes parents think back on a memory they had with a positive adult and talk about it. I always hear such good stories from everybody and then we talk about recreating positive memories with their kids.”
Active Parenting is available through county Extension offices across the state. For instance, Dana Baldwin, Major County OSU Cooperative Extension director and FCS/4-H Youth Development educator, hopes to launch the curriculum this fall.
A desire to offer moms, dads and caregivers a chance to learn how to be better parents and, in turn, give children the opportunity to become more productive members of society spurred Baldwin to bring it to her county.
“In rural areas especially, these types of programs are limited and making this program available can only help our families be more resilient,” she said.
In fact, family resilience is one main focus of Extension’s FCS programming and the Active Parenting curriculum is an important, and effective, part of efforts to provide often free and low-cost resources designed to enhance the lives of Oklahomans of all ages.
“The Active Parenting curriculum does a great job of pointing out some of the changes in society, parenting over the years and what worked and what hasn’t and why,” Anderson said. “It understands that not every family is alike and that we need to do what’s best for our family.”
For more information on the Active Parenting curriculum, contact the nearest county OSU Cooperative Extension office.
Story by Leilana McKindra