Parenting Classes

Parenting classes are educational courses parents attend to learn about caring for their children. Parents attend the classes based on court orders, or simply as a way to learn better parenting skills. Parenting classes are found all throughout the United States, and they cater to parents with children of all ages. The primary goals of parenting classes include improving relationships between parents and their children, and teaching parents how to deal with the daily responsibilities of maintaining a home and family, in positive ways. To explore this concept, consider the following parenting classes definition.

Definition of Parenting Classes


  1. Educational courses provided to parents with the goal of improving family dynamics.

What are Parenting Classes

Parenting Classes are educational courses that teach parents general parenting skills, and help them develop and maintain positive relationships with their children. Many parents attending parenting classes are going through divorce, or are engaged in a custody battle. Parenting classes do not require students to maintain a relationship with the other parent, but focus on co-parenting skills, and nurturing the relationship the children have with both their parents. The specific course program differs by location, though the goals are the same, and they are all tailored to help parents struggling with parenting for one reason or another.

Benefits of Parenting Classes

As with all educational programs, the benefits of parenting classes are many and varied. Parents are not the only beneficiaries, as improved parenting skills have a lasting impact on the children they are raising. Divorced and married parents alike reap such benefits of parenting classes as:

  • Learning about basic child development so they know what to expect at each stage in a child’s life
  • Learning age-appropriate discipline, and how it is more effective than anger-driven punishment
  • Learning to recognize their strengths as parents, and how to put those strengths to good use
  • Learning how to work together as parents to raise their children, even if they are no longer in a relationship
  • Learning how to deal with major problems that may arise
  • Learning how to deal with a blended family

Court Ordered Parenting Classes

Court ordered parenting classes are required for a variety of issues that affect the children that are the focus of a custody proceeding. In some jurisdictions, parenting classes that educate parents on the lasting impacts of divorce, and the conflicts that come with it, are required before a custody order will be made, or before a divorce will be granted. In these instances, both parents are required to attend the classes and provide a certificate of completion.

The court may also order a parent to attend parenting classes if he or she has been charged with abuse or neglect, or if the court deems he or she completely lacks parenting skills. In these cases, the court determines that the child will be at risk if left in the care of that parent. Court ordered parenting classes work with these parents to teach them effective and safe ways to deal with such issues as discipline, anger management, and basic day-to-day parenting skills. By teaching parents these vital skills, abuse can be prevented.

Example 1:

Lisa and Steve are divorcing and embroiled in a custody battle. Lisa claims that Steve becomes explosively angry, and that he denigrates and belittles the children when they have problems, saying such things as “Well, if you weren’t so stupid, you wouldn’t have a C in math!” The family court mediator, after interviewing each of the couple’s three children, determines that they are afraid of their father’s anger, and afraid to tell him about their problems.

On the recommendation of the mediator, the judge orders Steve to attend court approved parenting classes to learn how to better parent his children, and orders him to attend an anger management program. Until Steve provides certificates of completion for both of these programs, his visitation is limited to every other weekend, with no overnight stays, and his mother (the children’s grandmother) must be in attendance to supervise.

Example 2:

Rebecca and Nathan are attending family court mediation to settle the matter of custody of their children. Nathan reports that Rebecca often becomes angry when she attempts to discipline the children, with such attempts commonly devolving into screaming matches. As the children have gotten older, the screaming matches have turned into a daily event. After speaking privately with the couple’s children, the mediator discovers that Rebecca simply lacks some basic parenting skills, such as age-appropriate discipline.

Based on the mediator’s recommendation, the judge orders Rebecca to attend parenting classes, and to provide a certificate of completion to the court within 90 days. The judge orders the status quo in custody, allowing the children to remain in their mother’s primary care, until she completes the parenting classes, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated.

Mandatory Parenting Classes

The term mandatory parenting classes often refers to parenting classes required of every parent before a divorce or custody order will be made. Mandatory parenting classes are also offered by many jurisdictions to adults who apply to become foster parents or adoptive parents. These classes teach prospective foster and adoptive parents how to handle the stress of the process, and how to deal with the issues that come with becoming a parent of a non-biological child. Many children in the foster care system, including those who are adoptable, have special needs, or have been subjected to abuse or neglect. Mandatory parenting classes teach prospective parents how to cope with these children’s issues, and how to help them grow into happy, healthy adults.

Court Approved Parenting Classes

If a judge has ordered one or both parents to attend parenting classes, the course they choose must meet specific requirements set forth by the court. Commonly, the court will provide parents with a list of court approved parenting classes from which to choose. If the parents attend a course not approved by the court, they may be required to retake the course with an approved provider. Parents are typically required to provide a certificate of course completion to the court after they have successfully completed parenting classes. The court may also specify a minimum amount of time in which a parent must complete a parenting course before adverse action is taken.

Parenting Classes Online

Enrollment in parenting classes online is becoming more common, and more popular, as people rely heavily on technology. Many of the online parenting classes contain the same information as “in person” classes, yet they provide parents with more flexibility, as they can study and learn on their own schedule. Taking parenting classes online also helps save money in transportation and babysitting expenses. Not all courts approve online parenting classes, however, especially for “troubled parents,” as an instructor working face-to-face with the parent can evaluate how well the information has been assimilated.

Cost of Parenting Classes

The cost of parenting classes varies depending on the exact situation and the class provider. Many parents find that taking parenting classes online is less costly. When in-person classes are required, the parents themselves are responsible for paying the cost of parenting classes, though assistance is provided in many jurisdictions for low-income parents ordered by the court to attend. Many organizations sponsoring parenting classes base their fees on a sliding scale to accommodate families of all income levels.

In the event parents cannot afford even that lower fee, the court or family services can help them locate free, court approved parenting classes. As an additional resource, many churches and other non-profit family-centered entities offer free parenting classes to serve their community. Parents should check to be sure these courses are approved by the court before enrolling.

Example 3:

Sarah and Tom have recently become very young parents, at ages 17 and 18, and are no longer in a relationship. Sarah has been living in a run down apartment with friends, and has had sole custody of the baby. Tom has filed a motion for custody of his 3-month old son, feeling that 17-year old Sarah cannot take care of him. After the family court mediator interviews both Sarah and Tom, as well as each of their parents, who are willing to help, a recommendation is made that both parents attend in-person parenting classes that focus on the care of infants.

Finding that, with no reliable income, and no safe place in which to live with an infant, neither parent is currently able to provide a safe and loving home. Sarah’s parents have agreed to allow her and the baby to reside with them, and to help care for the baby. The judge orders Sarah and the baby to live with her parents, with scheduled visitation granted to Tom, until the couple can complete court-ordered parenting classes, and get themselves situated with employment and suitable living situations. At that time, they will return to the family court mediator, and their situation re-evaluated.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Divorce – A legal dissolution of a marriage.
  • Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.

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