The six week Parent Gym programme covers a range of core issues from managing behaviour to supporting children’s learning and development, resolving family conflict and healthy lifestyles. The sessions are practical and interactive, helping parents develop the skills and confidence needed to tackle the daily challenges of raising children and family life. Parent Gym 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.
100% of schools which gave feedback in the last year on running a Parent Gym programme said that they hoped to work with us again.
We have now run nine Parent Gym programmes. The impact of the course can be seen with improved behaviour of the children in school. We hope to continue to work with Parent Gym for a very long time.