Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

August 19, 2013

Free parenting classes offered in Jacksonville

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — A free 10-week parenting education series that kicks off Sept. 10 at Jacksonville's First Presbyterian Church will provide tools needed to create a more balanced, healthy approach to parenting.

The Middle Way Parent Parent program, offered through Parents Anonymous of Tyler, Inc., helps people “find out 'how do we parent, how do we learn to do that?'” said Mary Thrasher, program director of the Tyler organization.

“It's parenting with a balance, and this program is really for anyone, because it builds up a relationship,” she said, describing how the Middle Way focuses at the different stages of parenting, from infant to young adult.

“You learn to parent differently” at each stage, she said.

Classes will be offered from 6-8 p.m. weekly, in both English and Spanish, with childcare provided.

“During the first week, we look at how we were taught to parent by our own parents, and look at the challenges we have as (modern-day) parents,” she said.

The program curriculum focuses on nurturing, discipline (“we want them to recognize family patterns (and) let them know they have power to make changes or adjust their parenting” to a more healthy style), communication and listening, family values, stages of development – both physical and emotional – choices and consequences.

And there's a component that focuses on “the tools we can use,” Thrasher said. “It's a behavioral management toolbox: Things like time out, lowing our own voice, positive touch – we spend a lot of time on praise and encouragement, and the impact of our relationship with our children.”

The goal, she added, is to “come from the middle,” using a parenting style that's neither too harsh nor too lenient.

“A lot of times if we're too harsh, children don't learn; if too soft, we let them get away with things – they don't learn rules or regulation. The middle way is a more balanced approached to parenting, where we have rules, and we are firm but loving” in keeping them, she said.

The Tyler-based office – founded in 1984 by the Smith County Medical Society Alliance to help serve as a resource for families dealing with abuse, dysfunction and out-of control behavior – is part of a national organization.

Classes are primarily offered in Tyler, Thrasher said, but parenting programs are also provided in area cities when a need is detected. In addition, classes are provided for children there are enough to comprise a group, she said.

Volunteers are sought to help provide free childcare for the Jacksonville program. To learn more, contact Mary Thrasher at 903-597-1831.