Active Parenting: Giving Kids a Head Start

Active Parenting: Giving Kids a Head Start

October is Head Start Awareness month so I strongly encourage you to visit the Head Start website where you’ll see that they are “committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life.”  To that end, they aim to “inspire and support” early childhood education. That’s where you come in as Leaders! Your essential work supporting families with our evidence-based parenting programs provides the tools parents need to raise children to succeed and THRIVE. We at Active Parenting are committed to supporting Leaders like you, who are working with families. Our mission is to provide you the most effective curricula to make the biggest impact on families and make sure we are giving kids a real head start. 

Tools for a difficult but rewarding job

Helping parents learn methods and develop tools (like non-violent discipline) to handle common issues that arise can reduce stress and allow families more time for joy. This opens space for a loving, supportive, and encouraging environment that children thrive in. Our work (this means you too) supporting families—goes hand in hand with Head Start goals. Parenting is a 24/7/365 job—that changes with every stage. It is one of the most difficult jobs—but also the most rewarding when parents have the tools they need. 

Head Start Programs focus on four major components:


The Head Start goal is to help children grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally. And this falls right in line with the Active Parenting model which puts a high emphasis on learning and education. Social skills play an integral part in school success. The Active Parenting: First Five Years program covers essential social skills for a child’s first years.

Social Skills:

    • Getting along with others
    • Taking Turns
    • Following directions
    • Saying “Goodbye” to parents
    • Following routines
    • Sticking with difficult tasks
    • Considering other people’s feelings
    • Having positive ways to express feelings

Leaders using First Five Years can help parents develop emotional intelligence in their children.

Emotional Intelligence that children need to navigate the world:

  • Identifying your own emotions and those of others. It is important to work with children on identifying emotions. Parents can begin by noticing what their child is feeling and putting a name to it. For example, parents can say “You look sad” Or “You seem excited”—it sets the stage for effective communication between parent and child, and it teaches the child how to show empathy to others.
  • Manage our emotions and cheer up or calm down another person. When children can identify their emotions, they can learn how to manage their emotions in a positive way. For example, a child who is angry or upset can practice self-calming methods such as deep breathing, taking a time out, doing something physical like running, or other mindfulness techniques that may be appropriate at the time. For age-appropriate information on managing anger and mindfulness refer to the First Five Years Parent’s Guide. For parents with more “spirited” children whose emotions can be “bigger,” you can suggest Taming the Spirited Child. A child who learns to identify and communicate their feelings and then manage their own emotions develops emotional intelligence. This can help them have more positive relationships and makes it easier for them to work well with others which is important for success in school and throughout life.
  • Use Emotions in Positive Ways. Once a child understands what they are feeling they can decide if they want to make a change or keep it the same. For example, parents can say: “You seem frustrated. Would you like me to help, or do you want to do it yourself?” or “You look like you liked that. Want to do it again?”

There are games that help learn about controlling anger, communicating feelings, and caring about others, as well as self-calming cards on our GAMES FOR LEARNING page. All of these skills are useful for adults too!


Head Start Programs provide health services like medical (including immunizations), dental, mental health, and nutritional services.


Active Parenting has always been a strong advocate for Parent Involvement and engagement because we know how important it is for children to have success at school and beyond. That’s why “Show up & show support” is #1 in the Active Parenting Seven Ways to Help Children Succeed in School. While there are many factors that contribute to a child’s success at school—over two hundred studies have reported that parent involvement is the most important. Attend Parent/Teacher night and conferences with your child’s teacher. Look for opportunities to volunteer. Be there for school plays and other special activities when you can. Active Parents allow freedom within limits—knowing when to step in and help, and when to step back but are ready to offer support when appropriate. When parents are engaged both at home and at school, these studies show that children are more likely to:  

  • get better grades 
  • do better on standardized tests 
  • have higher attendance rates 
  • graduate and go on to college/trade school/military
  • get involved in extracurricular activities 
  • feel more connected to the school 
  • have higher self-esteem and better behavior


Head Start provides outreach to families to get them the services they need. Active Parents learn that no child gets everything that they need from their parents.  All children need to supplement what they learn and get from their parents with other caring and helpful adults in their community. This begins with family and close friends, extends to teachers and other kind and capable leaders, and includes other resources provided in their communities. 

Focus on Mental/Physical Health and Parent Involvement

Active Parenting supports the Head Start emphasis on mental health in conjunction with physical health by teaching our leaders to not only support regular medical care for their children but to take care of themselves, as well. Getting enough sleep. nutrition, exercise, and knowing that it is sometimes necessary to consult with mental health and other social services provided in the community are all part of being an informed and Active Parent 


Of course, when it comes to building a strong relationship with children and helping them learn to the best of their abilities, it is also important to remember that children often speak in a language called play. Whether in the classroom or the family, one key to success in an enrichment slogan we teach in all our programs, “Every day a little play.”  If you have forgotten that language yourself, you might try finding a child to help you brush up. 


Giving Kids a Head Start

We are each contributing a piece of this complex puzzle. We can work together to create a world where children can grow in a supportive and nurturing environment. Imagine the potential! Let’s give kids a Head Start.



Additional Resources:

Articles to share with your classes:

Active Parenting Publishers founder and president Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D. has been providing research-based education programs with an emphasis on nonviolent discipline, mutual respect, and open communication for 40 years. He is widely known for his expertise in the field of parent education and has appeared on over 100 TV programs, including CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show.


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