Parent Gym is a series of six workshops proven to increase parents’ skills and confidence and so improve the behaviour and wellbeing of their children.
The two-hour sessions run in primary schools located in areas of multiple deprivation, not because these parents are in any way less effective (sometimes, quite the opposite) but because wealthier parents have easier access to other sources of guidance and advice.
Our work hopes to support families so that their children are given the best start in life. At the moment only 16% of pupils who are eligible for free school meals progress to university (Sutton Trust 2010). Great parenting plays a part in changing this and so increases social mobility for the next generation.
Each Parent Gym session comes with a free full colour magazine and is delivered by a volunteer Parent Gym Coach who has been through rigorous assessment and training, all provided without any charge to the school or parent.
Parent Gym is a course of six 2-hour workshops with ‘missions’ to complete in between each one. Each ‘gym’ has up to 20 parents and one Parent Gym Coach.
Each week’s session is devoted to a different topic and comes with its own unique Parent Gym magazine packed with practical tips. The highly participative sessions explore a vast range of questions such as "how can I get my child to open up?" "how can I resolve family disagreements in a positive way" or how can I build my child's resilience"
How to communicate
Communication such as active listening by parents relieves social frustration later since children find out what they are feeling and how to express it (Gordon, 2000)
How to balance warmth and discipline
Many who are violent or with a history of criminality are so because they have not had meaningful attachment relationships in early life that would allow them to identify with others (Gerhardt, 2004)
How to be consistent with limit setting
Poor parental discipline and monitoring puts children at risk for later delinquency by setting in motion a chain of impact that progresses the development of antisocial behaviour (Patterson et al., 1989).
How to raise healthy children
Parental intervention such as rewards can be an effective way for parents to improve their children’s diet. (Cooke et al, 2011)
How to encourage learning
Parenting influences children to view mistakes as challenges rather than stressors to become resilient learners (Brooks and Goldstein, 2001)
How to build a support network for parents and children
Family stressors have been identified as creating pathways to disrupted family management practices putting children at risk for developing antisocial behaviour, including unemployment, family violence, marital conflict and divorce (Patterson, 1998).
Parent Gym is a course of six 2-hour workshops with ‘missions’ to complete in between each one. Each ‘gym’ has up to 20 parents and one Parent Gym coach.
Parent Gym is a philanthropic programme that is funded entirely by Mind Gym. Its growth and continued success is made possible by the generous contribution of many others.
"We have helped over 1m people at work. We wanted to see if we could help parents with the hardest job in the world - at no cost to government, schools or parents themselves." - Mind Gym CEO and Parent Gym founder Octavius Black
In order to do this, the Mind Gym’s team of psychologists, led by Dr Rebecca McGuire-Snieckus, combined a comprehensive review of national and international academic studies and popular literature with parent interviews and the Mind Gym’s expertise in instructional design - to come up with the Parent Gym programme.
The first Parent Gym programmes were run in Belfast and London in the spring of 2010, with a tremendous response from participating parents. Find some of our parents' stories here.
In response to demand from schools and parents, the Mind Gym’s team of psychologists have since developed the content into a six-week programme which fits easily into a half-term.
Parent Gym was independently evaluated by UEL in 2011, and Canterbury Christ Church University in 2012 – which found that two months or more after they had completed the programme 100% of parents interviewed reported that their relationships with their children had improved. Parent Gym has subsequently been independently evaluated by the University of Hertfordshire (2014) and the University of Warwick (2014 & 2016). See some of the research findings here.
In 2014 Parent Gym was awarded the national CANParent Quality Mark in recognition of the standard of the programme. This means that Parent Gym is a trusted provider of evidence-based, universal parenting classes. In the same year the Mind Gym was "highly commended" at the prestigious Business in the Community Awards for its contribution to building stronger communities through Parent Gym.
In 2017 Parent Gym expanded its delivery area, with programmes running in Leeds, Bradford, and the Greater Manchester area. Over 200 programmes were run in 2017, supporting approximately 2000 families. Hear some of the participating school’s stories here.