Of all of the factors that contribute to the healthy development and academic success of children, none are more important than their home environment and the quality of parenting they receive. Since 1982, the Parent Encouragement Program, or PEP, has helped over 35,000 parents in the Washington, DC metro raise their children to become capable, confident and resilient. PEP offers a variety of classes and programs for parents with children ages 2 to 18, covering topics such power struggles, effective listening, and positive discipline. PEP’s curriculum is based on the internationally acclaimed work of Alfred Adler, M.D., and Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D., which promotes understanding children’s reasons for misbehavior, mutual respect between adults and children, developing children’s capabilities, and fostering cooperation and a sense of belonging.
Through PEP’s classes, parents are able to better understand their kids’ perspective on issues and their needs. Said one parent, “I was having a hard time talking to my son. We were butting heads all the time. After PEP, I was able to engage with him without competition. I knew I was there to help him. It gave us a better relationship.” Parents also find great support in coming together to learn and share with fellow parents. Says one mom, “It’s so valuable to be in a space with other parents where we’re laughing or we’re crying or we’re just identifying with each other. You learn that you are not the only one struggling with these parenting issues.”
In addition to offering open enrollment classes to the public, PEP also has formed partnerships with select organizations to reach underserved audiences. In early 2016, PEP launched a partnership with the Linkages to Learning program in Montgomery County Public Schools, and is offering parenting classes in Spanish to low-income Latino parents in select elementary and middle schools in the county. In keeping with its peer-led class format, PEP is also offering intensive training to a number of Latino parents to prepare them to be assistants and leaders of those classes. Says PEP Executive Director Kathy Hedge, “An important part of our program model is having class leaders who are fellow parents who ‘walk the talk’ and whom class participants can relate to. So for classes that serve Latino parents, and particularly recent immigrants, we think it’s important to have class leaders and assistants who are from, or relate to, that community and culture.”
PEP doesn’t promise a quick fix, or a conflict-free home environment, but it does offer parents strategies and an approach to better deal with conflict when it arises. Says one parent, “We (still) have plenty of conflicts, but I feel like we are thriving because of what we learned at PEP. I can’t imagine parenting without it. PEP is the greatest gift to parenting.”