Free classes help parents find positive solutions

The Collaborative is sponsoring a series of free classes on parenting, taught by Chester resident Nancy Pennell.

The Collaborative is sponsoring a series of free classes on parenting, taught by Chester resident Nancy Pennell.

By Rebecca Salem

When Nancy Pennell was a young mother with four children, she knew she needed help. “I found a parenting group and … each time I was in a challenging situation with my kids, it was like having a whole cadre of women alongside of me,” she says.

It is this experience, combined with years of teaching the concepts of internal control psychology with the Aloha Camp in Fairlee that inspires her current work with parents. Pennell summarizes internal control psychology as the concept that “we are all responsible for our own behaviors — no one can make you think, feel or do anything. It is a powerful model for being a parent and teaching your children the skills they need to navigate life’s journey and make good choices for themselves.”

To further help parents improve their parenting skills, Pennell, with sponsorship from The Collaborative, will be holding a free set of positive parenting classes beginning Wednesday, March 27. Parents of children of all ages are welcome, but the primary focus will be for parents of children in the 4th to 6th grades. Classes will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the library of  Chester-Andover Elementary School, 72 Main St. Snacks and childcare will be provided. Other classes are set for April 2nd, April 30th, May 14th, May 28th and June 11th. To register or for more information, call The Collaborative at 824-4200.

Parents come to Pennell’s classes with all of the typical problems. “Children resist, they lie, they do all of these things that we fear they will do. When parents see these behaviors, they become afraid.”
Nancy Pennell
parenting teacher

Pennell will be using the Guiding Good Choices curriculum to help parents learn how to better listen to their children without judgment, see their mistakes as an inevitable part of growing up and engage them in the process of creating and becoming a family.

Parents in Pennell’s classes come to her with all of the typical problems. “Children resist, they lie, they do all of these things that we fear they will do. When parents see these behaviors, they become afraid,” says Pennell. She believes it is this fear for their children’s well-being that can spoil parents’ relationship with their children, making it more difficult to be the parents they want to be. “When parents ask, ‘how can I get my child to do his homework or how can I get them to help out at home?’ I ask them how they can create an atmosphere in their home where people are more likely to choose respect and cooperation.”

Meg Minehan, a home-school mom from Andover, participated in Pennell’s six-week course in 2010. She says the classes helped her remember that her ultimate goal as a parent is “cultivating a relationship that is based on honest communication and nurturing the growth of a child who is curious, kind, respectful, confident and resilient.”

A Chester resident of 47 years, Pennell is a “gem” within the community, says Judy Verespy, a teacher at Chester Community Pre-school who has taken Pennell’s classes. Verespy says she has used the skills she learned not only at home but in the classroom as well. “Nancy’s calm demeanor and reminders to ‘own your own upset’  echo in my head often as I teach and parent. I have used lessons taught in her classes to hone my empathy skills with students.”

The classes break down empathy into simple actions like making observations, asking questions and role-modeling the kind and calm behavior we want to see in our children. Verespy says that this “usually works like a charm. (The children) realize it was their actions that halted the fun, and my response was just another natural consequence rather than the reason they had to leave the sand table.”

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeFeatured

About the Author: Rebecca Salem lives with her family in Chester. She is the director of development for the Windham Child Care Association and will be receiving her MFA from Bennington College in June 2013.

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