Children do not come with an instruction manual. It can be difficult, even overwhelming sometimes to know how to best manage our children’s behavior. Often, our parenting style is influenced by our own childhood experiences; we parent our children in the ways that we were parented. Some of these habits may be beneficial while some habits can be less effective, even harmful.
Not understanding what is typical for a child’s age can often lead parents to interpret their child’s behaviors negatively. Behaviors such as crying, tantrums, and disobedience, can make a parent feel stressed and frustrated. These feelings can lead parents to respond to their child’s behavior with harsh discipline, including verbal and physical abuse.
In Napa County there are, on average, 1,110 reports of child abuse each year. As a community we can prevent this.
There are many resources in our community to help parents learn about child development and enhance their parenting skills. We can help reduce child abuse by encouraging all parents to seek the coaching and support they need to meet their children’s needs in a positive manner.
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Learning about child development can be done in a variety of ways, including talking to extended family, joining a parent support group or reading trustworthy social media content and websites such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
For new parents or parents with young children up to age 6, a Developmental Screening is a quick, fun, and easy way to learn about early childhood milestones and how to best support your child as they grow. In Napa County, parents can find free screenings through our local pediatricians, childcare providers, and family resource centers.
Having accurate information about childhood milestones can help parents set realistic expectations for their child’ s behavior and abilities. Knowing what is realistic for kids at each age helps parents to see them in a more positive way that promotes healthy development.
Parent Education programs are another way to gain parenting skills. Triple P Parenting is a nationally recognized program shown to give parents tips and skills to manage day to day challenges such as bedtime, homework, picky eating and aggressive behavior. Triple P classes and consultations are available to Napa County parents from the following locations: Cope Family Center, ParentsCAN and UpValley Family Centers. Additional partners, like ChildStart, Inc. and practitioners from Health and Human Services, offer Triple P to the families they work with.
Many parents have found these free classes to be a lifeline in learning how to be better parents, especially during stressful times. During the pandemic many parents did not have their typical sources of support, such as visits to the pediatrician, family or friends to help them. It was Developmental Screenings and Parenting programs like Triple P that helped parents overcome and manage the stress. Families like Martha and Matthew.
Martha’s youngest son Matthew was always crying and having tantrums. Matthew would not sleep through the night. She was very stressed, and always felt tired. She felt like a terrible parent. Her neighbor told her to call her local Family Resource Center for support. The center staff scheduled a developmental screening to see how Matthew was developing. The screening showed he was doing great in many areas, but he was behind in his communication and emotional regulation. These could be reasons why Matthew cried a lot. Center staff gave Martha some activities to help build Matthew’s skills and assisted in making an appointment with his doctor to further evaluate his development. In the meantime, Martha was signed up for a Triple P parenting class. In the class she learned how to change her routines to help Matthew better regulate his emotions and other techniques that helped Martha feel less overwhelmed and stressed. “I finally feel like I can manage my son’s tantrums and day to day challenges.”
These programs are here to support all parents and together with the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Napa County, they aim to inspire local residents to build a resilient community that is safe and supportive for all our children and families.
No parent is an expert on all aspects of infant, child, and teenage development or always knows how to best support a child at each stage. We all need a little help learning how to give our children the best start at a healthy life.
Marlena Garcia is the executive director of ParentsCAN and a member of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Napa County. Mi Familia, Mi Comunidad is a public education campaign by the council.