Parents Anonymous is Not a Twelve-Step Group

by on March 20, 2013

in Parenting, Parenting Kids, Parenting Teens

Parents Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous sound a lot alike but that is where the similarities end. Alcoholics Anonymous is a Twelve-Step program like many others: Clutterers Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Families Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous and others.


Parents Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous both have a strong, successful history of helping people.

With Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve-Step method there is a strong reliance on a higher power to bring lasting change, with seven of the Twelve Steps citing a higher Power or God in which ever form members believe.

Parents Anonymous members may have a religious belief system and pray but rather than giving power over to the higher being, members understand lasting change will only come from us changing our own behavior.

With Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve Steps they ask members to make a “fearless moral inventory” to list their defects and shortcomings and to try and make amends to people they had harmed in the past.

Parents Anonymous members learn to deal with the ‘here and now’ or the present rather than the past. Being self-directed, members choose the issues they want to work on at any given time.

From my understanding, Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t require any donations or dues be paid or collected by or for members. They do pass a hat during meetings to collect contributions in support of their group for refreshments or materials which makes groups self-supporting.

Parents Anonymous never charges any fees or dues to any group members or their group facilitators. Refreshments (coffee, tea, snacks) are donated by various entities, usually within the community.

Alcoholics Anonymous asks that every member have a ‘sponsor,’ even though it is not written into any rule or law. The sponsor and member relationship is touted as a main reason sobriety is achieved and maintained.

Parents Anonymous provides a professional, usually from a helping field like social work or clergy, who is trained in the group model to become the facilitator for the group. (Ironically, several years ago the facilitator was known as a ‘sponsor.’) The facilitator’s relationship is different from the Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor’s in that they encourage parents to contact each other for support, building a network of support among members. The facilitators remain available to all members.

Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, Parents Anonymous faces a terrible stigma that falsely states [only] abusive parents attend these groups. Most Parents Anonymous members have not abused their children. Most parents come to Parents Anonymous groups because they were struggling or frustrated with various parenting issues like: backtalk, homework, sibling rivalry, respect, theft, single parenting, aggression, bullying, school, discipline, mental health, grief, etc. Often enough, parents just want to learn what other parents allow because their kids say, “Well, all my friends’ parents let them!” Just for the record, not all the parents let their kids _________! (fill in the blank) I attended my group for over twenty years and I was the only parent who could or would say openly that I had lost control and hurt my kids.

Mandated parents were occasionally required to attend Parents Anonymous groups. Most of the parents I knew who were mandated still had not seriously hurt their children. These parents’ issues were that they had left their children home alone while too young, had locked the kids out of their home, verbally abused their kids, or the parents had special needs, etc. When mandated parents attended for the first time they weren’t too happy to be there but after a few meeting, decided to attend on their own— they were not judged and they were treated the same as anyone else.

Parents Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous both have a strong, successful history of helping people. I urge anyone to seek out the type of help that works for them. Alcoholics Anonymous is a Twelve-Step program and Parents Anonymous is not. Do you have any other questions about Parents Anonymous?

Talk with a Volunteer or Find a Group in New Jersey:

Family Helpline
1-800-843-5437 or 1-800-THE-KIDS

Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc.
Phone: (609) 585-7666
Fax: (609) 585-7686

Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Jackie writes these ‘Reminders’ for parents who attend the online support groups. Join the groups found at every Wednesday 9 p.m. and Thursday 12 Noon. To receive the ‘Reminder,’ send her a message. We do not sell or share your e-mail address to other entities. Website: Questions?

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