Pediatricians are charged with a tremendous responsibility – caring for the physical and mental health of their young patients. Because the time of an office visit is limited, the focus on the child’s physical health sometimes takes priority over inquiry into the child’s emotional health, even though the latter is critically important to the child’s overall well-being.

A child’s emotional health is directly connected to the parenting skills of her caregivers. For example, research has shown that parents who rely on rewards, punishment, bribes, and threats to enforce cooperation compromise their children’s long-term healthy functioning. Fortunately, these same parents can be taught more effective and encouraging parenting skills to help their children develop a greater sense of connection, competence, and confidence – enduring traits that will benefit them into adulthood.

The AAP is a strong supporter of parenting education, recommending, in a 2011 Policy Statement, that pediatricians refer parents to programs that will help them “secure the knowledge, skills, support and strategies they need to raise their children.” The metropolitan D.C. area is fortunate in that one of the country’s leading providers of parenting education, the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP), has been offering parenting classes in various locations in D.C., Montgomery County, and Northern Virginia since 1982. A referral to PEP’s parenting classes can be of invaluable help to those struggling with any number of parenting challenges, including tantrums, whining, back talk, and more. PEP’s courses, taught by Certified Parent Educators, help parents learn how to set and enforce firm and fair limits, how to emotion coach a child, and how to find healthy ways to encourage cooperation. PEP offers everything from two-hour workshops to eight-week courses on a wide variety of topics, for parent of toddlers through teens. In these courses parents learn and master vital parenting skills through lectures, discussions, role-play, readings, and written homework.

While PEP believes that all parents can benefit from a referral to parenting classes during all stages of their child’s life, when a pediatrician senses that a parent is having a particularly stressful time with a child, we recommend gentle tactfulness in any referral. “I see you are having a difficult time managing Joey’s tantrums. While I can provide a few pointers now, if you’d like more detailed assistance you may find a parenting class to be particularly helpful. I’m happy to make a referral, if you think you might be interested.”

PEP looks forward to collaborating with you on ways it can best serve your patients. Please let us know if you’d like to observe a class, learn more about our proven parenting strategies, or receive class schedules by mail. Visit us at PEPparent.org or call 301-929-8824.