Parenting Programs: The Complete Guide

Editorial Team By Editorial Team
parenting programs for a happy family

Parenting programs create stronger bonds between you and your kids. Because parenting never ends, everyone needs a little help figuring it out.

Raising kids can be challenging whether you’re a first-time parent or you’ve been down that road before. Every child is unique and the problems they’ll face in their growing years differ. Our hang-ups as parents also vary. Our past experiences and current circumstances influence how well we get along with children.  

Parenting programs can support you through the tough spots so you can enjoy more meaningful relationships with your little ones. This article will help you understand Parenting Programs and what your family can benefit from them.

What Are Parenting Programs?

 Parenting programs are also called parent education programs or parent training programs.

These are education programs designed to teach positive parenting attitudes and techniques. They support parents in dealing positively with a child’s unruly behaviors and promote healthier family interactions. 

Parenting Programs provide a more hands-on, real-time approach to becoming a better parent than simply reading books on the subject. They’re also more demonstrable than merely getting advice from loved ones which is often easier said than done.

Psychologists and other mental or social health professionals often facilitate these programs. The facilitators have extensive training and experience working with both parents and children.

What do positive parenting programs do for a family?

Later in this article, you will see that Parenting Programs have different structures. However, their overall effects on the family as a unit are similar.  

Each program empowers parents and guardians through :

  • Use of positive reinforcements
  • Understanding how  kids’ behaviors are influenced by age, health, and other factors
  • Accessing other support services and communities for better parenting

Do Parenting Programs work?

Yes. All good parenting programs are based on evidence or research. This means that their methods are scientifically proven to yield results. What’s more, the evaluation of parenting programs is continuous as they hope to help more families.

Many parenting programs are recognized internationally. The WHO also recognizes the benefits of teaching parental guidance in the development of children.

What makes Parenting Programs Effective?

The uniqueness of each child and parent prevents most Parenting Programs from adopting a one-size-fits-all model. That said, general qualities define the most effective training programs. 

Parenting matters is an extensive report written by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in 2016. The report identifies the following as markers of effective Parenting Programs.

Parenting Programs work with parents

A good training program lets you play an active role in deciding the needs of your family unit. Parents often understand their kids’ behaviors and actions better than anyone else does. Even facilitators acknowledge that fact. More so, they use this insight to design programs so parents are more likely to continue in the program.

Parenting Programs focus on parents too

All programs try to zero in on the specific needs of each child and teach you to modify your responses. But just as important is fitting the training to your own needs. Programs are more effective if they factor in your health status, gender, sexual orientation, finances, and culture.

Parenting Programs bridge the gap between Parents and other Support Services

Parenting programs can link you up with other services that you need to be a better parent. Some programs incorporate services such as substance abuse support or liaise with other organizations providing them. You are more likely to remain in a program that offers more than just parenting tips.

It helps parents see they’re not alone.

It’s reassuring to meet other parents who also struggle in dealing with their kids. You can trade stories on what works and what doesn’t. Parenting Programs often encourage some level of parent-parent interaction. Research shows that this increases participation and improves training outcomes.

8 Effective Parenting Programs

We’ve put together a list of highly effective parenting programs. There’s also a breakdown of what’s special about each one so you can figure out the best for you. 

The programs include:

  • The Incredible Years
  • Positive Parenting Program (Triple P)
  • ACT-Raising Safe Kids (ACT-RSK) program
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
  • Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14)
  • Nurse-Family Partnership
  • Nurturing Parenting Programs
  • Behavioral and Emotional Skills Training (BEST)

The Incredible Years: Parent Training Program

The Incredible Years is an organization that uses research-based modules for parental training. Parents hone skills to deal with child aggression and other emotional problems. You’ll also learn to participate positively in your children’s school activities.

The parent-teacher-child triad is a delicate one and The Incredible Years knows this. So, it integrates training for children as well as their teachers. There’s also a special program for parenting autistic kids and those with ADHD or conduct disorders.

The Incredible Years delivers its Parenting Programs in fifteen countries. The program runs for at least 12 weekly sessions. Each session is 2-3 hours long. You’ll join one of four groups based on the age of your child from 0 to 12.

Positive Parenting Program (Triple P)

Triple P works hard to make parents and communities see that it’s okay to have parenting help. The final goal is to train you to be confident and skilled enough to raise your kids independently.

The program encourages parents to carve out positive parenting goals in line with their own beliefs and values. Facilitators are rigorously trained to be sensitive to parents’ needs.

The Positive Parenting Program caters to parents of babies to teenagers. It operates in over 25 countries, is culture-sensitive, and delivered in at least 20 languages. Training is offered in different formats, from one-on-one consultations to large group sessions. 

In 2008, research showed that the Triple P training systems reduced problem behaviors in children. A different study in 2009 conducted in multiple countries showed lower rates of child abuse and foster home placements.

Triple P programs go beyond parenting. It also provides support systems for families navigating dysfunction (like divorce) and natural disasters. There are special series for parenting kids with weight problems like obesity.

Adults and Children Together – Raising Safe Kids (ACT-RSK) program

The ACT Raising Safe Kids program (ACT-RSK) was created by the American Psychological Association. It is a national intervention program that looks at how violence influences a child’s early years. 

It teaches you and other caregivers how to provide a secure and healthy space so kids can thrive. The program also has anger management support for parents.

The ACT-RSK Parenting Program is ideal if you’re particularly concerned about your kids’ exposure to violence in the media. The program will show you the best ways to keep them safe without being overbearing.

Training is offered to parents and caregivers of children aged 0 to 10. It is delivered over 9 weeks with each session running for 2 hours. This parenting program has a wide reach because it is delivered in partnership with various agencies including hospitals, schools, and churches. 

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

In PCIT, the parent and child spend time in a playroom as the therapist observes through a one-way mirror. You’re given an earpiece through which you’ll receive real-time suggestions on how to deal with your child’s behavior.

PCIT is appropriate for parents of children who are destructive, tantric, or have profound behavioral problems. It may also be adapted to suit children with selected mutism, autism, or anxiety. In this Parenting program, parents advance through two phases to complete therapy. 

The first phase of PCIT starts with easy objectives. The aim is to teach the parent positive reinforcement skills like the best way and time to acknowledge good behavior.

The second phase is more intense. It focuses on techniques to get the child to listen more and obey instructions. This phase also helps parents remain calm and in charge during discipline. 

PCIT is most effective for kids between 1 and 11 years and when families fully commit to 12 to 20 weekly sessions.

Nurse-Family Partnership

The Nurse-Family Partnership is a community health outreach that provides parenting support specifically for first-time mothers.

This parenting program is also unique because it starts to teach caregiving strategies before the child is born. A trained nurse visits the mother once every two weeks from pregnancy until the child turns 2.  

The nurse builds a warm relationship with the woman and helps her secure adequate prenatal care and delivery services. After birth, the nurse and the new mother work together to keep the child healthy. 

A trial in 2004 established that children born to first-time mothers were less likely to develop behavioral problems by age six if nurses visited their families.

The program is mostly funded by donors so mothers enrolled in the program don’t pay for the services provided. The women supported by the Nurse-Family Partnership are often vulnerable such as those with low incomes or substance use problems.

Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14)

The SFP 10 – 14 teaches caregivers how to successfully correct and support kids in their pre-teen and early teen years. It shows the kids how to cope better with peer pressure and appreciate their caregivers more.

A typical parenting session lasts for 2 hours and involves 7 – 10 diverse families. Parents and children meet in separate groups before forming a larger group to bond over games and family activities. 

The multi-family nature of the SFP 10-14 makes it ideal for parents who want peer support. The program is taught over seven weeks in all 50 US states and at least 20 other countries.

Behavioral and Emotional Skills Training (BEST)

The BEST model, run by the Child Mind Institute, is different from the other programs that have been discussed. It is structured to teach you behavior management skills in a single 5-hour session. Parents then go on to immediately apply skills learned in their homes.

The facilitators are often expert clinicians. Some of the training objectives are to understand the basics of behavior management and build confidence in handling serious behavioral situations.

The BEST training is offered as a webinar and also has the option for parent consultation if you want this.

Nurturing Parenting Programs

The Nurturing Parenting Programs have a family-oriented design to foster positive parenting skills.

There are over 30 models so families can choose the one that suits them best. The duration of the program also varies according to parenting needs and child age. The number of sessions ranges from 5 to 25 or more.

Lessons may be delivered in private sessions, group settings, or a combination of both. At different points during the program, the facilitator reassesses your family situation to ensure lessons apply to your needs.

Facilitators will only move on to another lesson when they are certain you’ve learned the objectives of the current one.

Can you find Parenting Programs online?

Yes. You can find parenting training online for some of the programs discussed in this article. The Incredible Years and Triple P have established online modules.


Every parent wants to be someone their kid can look up to and admire. It’s not always easy being that person but parenting programs help tons of parents. So, keep going! We hope your parenting journey turns out better than you ever imagined. 

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