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The Secret to Success in Positive Parenting: The ACT Raising Safe Kids Program

Adorable toddler girl

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is the second in a series of posts about APA’s ACT Raising Safe Kids (ACT-RSK) program. ACT-RSK teaches positive parenting skills to parents and caregivers of children from birth to age 8. Read our first and third posts in the series here and here.

By Howard Baker (Executive Director, Lemberg Children’s Center at Brandeis University)

Repeatedly over the last five years I’ve heard parents at our center say:

“I’m a better and happier parent from what I learned in the ACT Raising Safe Kids Program and my children say so too.” “I found the parenting education groups so valuable I joined three times!”

Hearing such comments is delightful, and I owe a lot to the parenting program we provide – the American Psychological Association’s ACT Raising Safe Kids Program (ACT RSK).

Of course, providing an excellent childcare curriculum and well-educated teachers is primary, but we’ve gained so much from supporting the parent and child relationship with ACT RSK. Led by our teachers over 8 to 10 weeks, the curriculum provides an opportunity for parents to form support groups, discuss typical behaviors of their children and practice positive parenting with an enhanced understanding of child development.

Parents learn what research has been found to be the most effective in guiding how children manage their feelings, work well with others, think about their actions, and enjoy learning. Consequently participants and their children report enjoying their time together much more.

You may wonder what makes ACT Raising Safe Kids different from other parenting education opportunities a childcare center might provide.

For three decades the Lemberg Center teachers led workshops for parents and provided presentations by psychologists and other professionals. We held question and answer sessions and we had parenting round tables. Our presentations were good, but they were not like ACT RSK, which is the result of 15 years of professional collaborations and evaluation research.

ACT is for nearly everybody. Studies repeatedly find ACT RSK is successful in:

  1. anger management,

  2. social problem-solving,

  3. non-violent discipline,

  4. media literacy (i.e., understanding and reducing the impact of violent media on children),

  5. increased social support,

  6. pro-social parenting practices and nurturing behaviors, as well as

  7. reduced harsh discipline and psychological aggression toward children.

Furthermore, the children show less aggressive and disruptive behaviors.

Since the curriculum is available in Spanish as well as Greek, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese and Mandarin, the program is being used with families in Colombia, Greece, Brazil, San Francisco, Toledo, Miami, the Bronx, Boston’s Chinatown, Japan and soon in Taiwan.

It’s been effective with prison inmates, teen parents, college professors, in churches, community health centers and even in corporate lunch gatherings. There is even a curriculum for teachers to use with children in childcare that matches the topics the parents are using in each session.

ACT RSK has been found to be an effective curriculum with a vast range of diverse people. We’ve found it effectively engages parents in asking questions, doing role-plays, and in discussions with others outside the classroom.

Our childcare center reaps a lot too. Parents volunteer more, laugh with our teachers more and have formed closer relationships with other parents. Teachers who have become Certified ACT RSK Facilitators are more articulate in their knowledge of child development, and comment lots more on the positive behaviors they see, while remaining unflappable setting a limit and moving the child along. Our school has more parent involvement and collaboration. Years later, many of our parents are still friends with others in their parenting group and are still in contact with me.

If you want to become an ACT Facilitator, you can easily get access to training. ACT Coordinators conduct trainings in several areas across the U.S. and the program continues to expand to several other nations. For more information, go to


Howard Baker is the Executive Director of the Gersh & Sarah Lemberg Children’s Center at Brandeis University and the Director of the ACT RSK Northeast Regional Center. He was named the 2012 Director of the Year by the National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers.

Image source: Flickr user Josh Liba via Creative Commons

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