- is a six-week parenting programme
- covers a range of core issues (managing behaviour, supporting children's learning, resolving family conflict, healthy lifestyles etc)
- helps parents develop the skills and confidence needed to tackle the daily challenges of raising children and family life
- is delivered to parents through schools and children's centres in the state sector.
Parent Gym is designed to increase parental self-efficacy - a well-researched concept which measures parental skill and confidence. Improving parental self-efficacy is associated with improved sensitivity, warmth and responsiveness in parents. Each of these characteristics can protect against the development of child and adolescent behaviour problems, as well as promote children’s self-esteem, school performance and social competence. Academics conclude that high parenting self-efficacy is strongly related to maternal ability to foster a healthy, happy and nurturing child-rearing environment’ (Coleman and Karraker 1997).
Parent Gym was developed by a team of psychologists drawing on national and international best practice in parenting, as well as Mind Gym’s 10 years of expertise in instructional design. The programme covers core principles of evidence-based parenting and is delivered in an interactive, fun and engaging way. Its strong focus on encouraging behaviour change has shown successful results and is popular with parents. Parent Gym draws heavily upon Social Learning Theory, as well as including content which promotes secure relationships between parents and children and encourages reflective parenting. The programme also includes ideas from world renowned academics such as Carole Dweck.
Parent Gym has been evaluated independently on an ongoing basis since its inception in 2010. These studies have shown the positive impact of the programme in a number of ways.
A study by Hertfordshire University concluded that parents who go through the programme see a statistically significant change in self-efficacy. Warwick University (2014) concluded that the ‘level of change for parenting variables and mental well-being is impressive given the non targeted nature of the intervention’. The programme uses a validated questionnaire called the TOPSE (Tool to Measure Parenting Self Efficacy), which was developed in response to demand from Public Health Nurses.
Parent Gym’s approach to training is rooted in Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model. We believe that we learn best by doing, rather than merely watching or reading about theory. This is why Parent Gym is such an interactive learning experience. Exercises help participants to experience first-hand the positive and negative impacts of their behaviour with their children. For example, we contrast the impact of not being listened to with the effect of someone using active listening skills. Parents are encouraged to ask questions and discuss the impact of the approach they are using and most importantly, perhaps, they are asked to try out the ideas at home. This translation of knowledge into action is an essential element of learning transfer. This makes the final link, which increases the chances of learning being retained.
In addition, Parent Gym has a strong focus on quality monitoring across all the individual programmes which run. This means we can be confident that the key ingredients of our programme are replicated consistently and to a high quality. Our strategies to ensure this include monitoring parent feedback, regular observation and ongoing training and development for our coaches.
Parent Gym was in the first tranche of organisations to be awarded the National CANParent Quality mark for its six week programme. This certifies that our scheme is evidence based, monitored and evaluated to improve parent-child relationships. It also demonstrates that the programme is recommended by parents for its professional, responsive, warm and relational approach. The CANParent Quality Mark is the only quality standard that has been developed for the parenting sector, by the parenting sector. It certifies that you can rely on the integrity of Parent Gym: our professional conduct, competence and data protection
Since 2010, Parent Gym has been evaluated by four Universities including Canterbury Christ Church, Warwick, Hertfordshire and UEL. Research has shown:
All parents who were interviewed 2 months or more after they had completed the programme reported that their relationship with their children had improved.
All parents who took part also showed a statistically significant change in self-efficacy using the TOPSE tool. Research shows that this is a key predictor of parents’ ability to provide the warm, nurturing environment associated with positive child outcomes.
All parents also reported a significant decrease in the frequency of ‘daily hassles’ – a validated tool which measures a wide range of challenges faced by parents of young children, such as resisting bedtime, sibling fights and managing children in public.
Of the schools/centres giving feedback on Parent Gym in 2018-2019:
100% would recommend Parent Gym to another school or children’s centre
98% would like to run another Parent Gym programme
100% were satisfied with the content and structure of the programme
99% were satisfied overall with Parent Gym (90% ‘Very satisfied’)
Of the parents giving feedback over the same timescale:
97% rated their Parent Gym sessions as ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent’
96% would recommend Parent Gym to other parents
Parents reported they felt confident in parenting their children when it came to implementing strategies for behaviour. One parent said "I've learnt how to love and respect my child. This I never had as a child myself which made it difficult for me to show love and affection. I now love and cherish every moment I have and feel empowered." Parents are telling other parents within the school community about the programme and the impact it has had. Teachers have reported children whose parents attend the course are presenting calm and increased sustained concentration. Parents are also eager to become involved with their child's education.
Parent Gym has been a great success in our school. All of the parents who joined on the first week, completed the full programme, it was wonderful that there were no drop outs part way through. Vicky, the coach, was great - very organised and approachable. She clearly built up a good rapport with the parents. The parents who attended reported to have learned a lot, and made good friends along the way. They will be meeting monthly to keep in touch and talk about what they learned through Parent Gym. We would recommend the programme to other schools, it's a great way to bring parents together and support them in parenting their children.