What are Strong Start™ classes, and how do they work?

Strong Start™ classes are respect-based child-led observation/demonstration classes for caregivers.

Strong Start classes were developed for and with fathers, in particular, in mind. Sessions can include “step” and “grandfathers”, too – and can also include professional caregivers, ants, moms, cousins and siblings!

Fathers and their young children gather in a safe space. Through guided observation, demonstrations from the facilitator, readings, and discussion,  fathers learn from their children, other fathers, and themselves.

Dads learn new ways to view their child’s experience, and their own roles. As well as specific techniques and habits of interaction, dads will work on developing a personal framework for a mindful, helpful and supportive presence; while being true to themselves, their own experience, and the needs of others in their family, including the need to set and manage boundaries and expectations.

It sounds intense, but mostly, it’s fun! You sit and watch your kid, interact occasionally, and hang out with other dads. You learn how to make things go more smoothly at home, and develop behaviors in yourself that support your child’s social, emotional and cognitive growth (as well as their growing resilience, creativity, focus and self-confidence!)

Strong Start classes are built on the pioneering work of Dr. Emmi Pikler, which was developed into the RIE™ method by fellow Hungarian Magda Gerber. Gerber and Pikler insist that young children are people with rights, requiring mutually trustful and respectful relationships. This is “Easier said than done” – which is where “the self-management part” comes in. Strong Start’s system is based on the Roman Stoics’ self-management framework, as documented by the followers of Epictetus. This approach to living with peace, confidence and effectiveness is invaluable to caregivers, and, ultimately, to their children. Classes also include up-to-date scientific research, along with stories, jokes and sports analogies … pretty much everything new fathers need, except lawn chairs and beer! (Note that while practical issues, such a bodycare, sleeping, feeding and tantrums, etc, will be covered, they will always be approached within the developmental and relationship framework.)

First and foremost, the classes are about what is going on in the moment. Time and space permitting, the classes are structured with specific lessons and topics, as well as time to discuss concerns and issues faced by individual dads – facts, and feelings.

The art and science of developing a consistent mindful father’s presence and strong long-term parent/child relationship come from developing a foundation with the Strong Start “Three R’s” Framework:

Respect

Represent

Reflect

Ultimately, being a good dad is rewarding, fun and pretty straightforward. Magda Gerber suggested that effective parents should “Do Less; Observe More; and Enjoy Most.”

We’ll work on just how to apply these insights – in support of our other 3 Rs: Remember to Relax, and Rejoice!

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