Parent Gym is a series of six sessions proven to increase parents’ skills and confidence and so improve the behaviour and wellbeing of their children.
Parent Gym provides parenting programmes free of charge to schools and children's centres in the state sector. Our programme has been designed by leading psychologists and is suitable for parents of children aged 2-11. The sessions are highly interactive and participative. (See the 'Six week programme' section below for more detail on what is covered during the six weekly sessions of our programme).
Parent Gym programmes are facilitated by our Parent Gym Coaches. Some of these are volunteers from the community, others are in-house staff members based in schools or children's centres. All our coaches go through rigorous screening, training and assessment to prepare them to deliver Parent Gym; they then receive ongoing support, mentoring and training.
Parenting makes such a big difference to children's lives; our work hopes to support families so that their children are given the best start in life. We know that every parent faces challenges and times when they struggle, and also that every parent has the capacity to grow and reflect on the way they parent. All parents should have the support they need with their parenting; we believe that parenting programmes should be seen as an integral part of parenting, just as ante-natal classes already are.
The foundations for almost all aspects of human development – physical, intellectual and emotional – are laid in early childhood. Political leaders, social scientists and professional experts alike have all agreed that parenting has a powerful impact on this development. The effects of parenting range from academic performance and school attendance to health, social confidence, future career success and the ability to maintain stable relationships (Marmot Review, 2010; Scott et al 2006).
For example, differences in parental involvement with primary school aged children have a much more significant impact on children’s development than variations in the quality of schools. This scale of impact has been found to be evident across all social classes and ethnic groups (Desforges 2003).
Studies have also shown that the long term impact of high levels of primary school age parental involvement include: higher earnings; less crime and delinquency; greater literacy; higher achievement test scores; higher employment rates; lower teenage pregnancy; and better jobs (CANparent 2014). The importance of parenting is so influential that the Social Mobility Commission recognises parenting as its first ‘key to unlocking social progress’ and ‘the most important factor in determining life chances.’
Talking and listening to your child in a positive way every day
Week 1 – CHAT Session
Developing effective communication skills to ensure that families are talking and listening to each other.
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)
Getting the right balance of closeness and independence
Week 2 – LOVE Session
Building self-esteem and independence through secure attachments. Establishing boundaries as part of love.
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)
Bring calm to your family with rules and routines that work
Week 3 – BEHAVE Session
Setting rules, and being fair and consistent when you discipline your child. Getting the balance right, with enough praise and quality time together. Building daily routines that make your child feel safe and secure.
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).
Keep yourself and your family healthy and happy
Week 4 – CARE Session
Looking after ourselves and our families, maintaining good physical and mental health for both parents and children.
Parental intervention such as rewards can be an effective way for parents to improve their children’s diet. (Cooke et al, 2011)
Help develop healthy learning habits with your child
Week 5 – DISCOVER Session
Supporting children to learn, explore, and make the most of their schooling.
Parenting influences children to view mistakes as challenges, rather than stressors, to become resilient learners (Brooks and Goldstein, 2001)
Keep your family feeling happy, supported and loved
Week 6 – TOGETHER Session
Looking to the future and recapping key techniques. Creating a strong family bond in a supportive and nurturing environment.
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 programme made up of six two-hour sessions, with ‘missions’ to complete between sessions. Each programme has up to twenty parents and one Parent Gym coach. Hover over each week for an outline of what we cover and why.
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 and 2019). 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.
Parent Gym has continued to expand nationally. In 2018, Parent Gym launched its city-wide pilot in Bristol. In 2019, Parent Gym programmes were run in Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Greater Manchester, London, and West Yorkshire (including Leeds and Bradford). Parent Gym has reached 10,000 parents since we launched in 2010. Hear some of the participating schools’ stories here.