Free parenting classes are not a "nanny state" policy, David Cameron insisted as he unveiled a number of initiatives aimed at helping families.
The Prime Minister said it was ludicrous that people had to train before they were allowed to drive a car but could bring up a baby with no practice at all.
Vouchers for £100-worth of parenting classes are now on offer from high street chemist Boots and health professionals to parents of children aged up to five in three trial areas. There will also be a new targeted NHS email and text service aimed at those expecting a baby or in the first month of parenthood.
Initially the parenting classes will be piloted in Middlesbrough, Camden in north London and High Peak in Derbyshire - but they could be extended throughout England if successful.
Courts can already impose such classes on parents of unruly children, but ministers hope that the involvement of Boots will persuade families to see them as just as normal as ante-natal classes. The scheme, known as Can Parent, is said to be the brainchild of Mr Cameron's strategy adviser Steve Hilton.
Mr Cameron said: "Parents are nation-builders. It's through love and sheer hard work that we raise the next generation with the right values. That's why this Government is doing everything possible to support parents.
"This is not the nanny state - it's the sensible state. It's ludicrous that we should expect people to train for hours to drive a car or use a computer, but when it comes to looking after a baby we tell people to just get on with it.
"I would have loved more guidance when my children were babies. We've all been there when it's the middle of the night, your child won't stop crying and you don't know what to do. And to those who say that Government should forget about parenting and families and focus on the big, gritty issues, I'd say these are the big, gritty issues.
"Families don't just shape us as individuals, they make a stronger society. That's why supporting families is right at the top of our agenda - and I'm going to make sure it stays that way."
Labour MP Frank Field, who was a welfare minister in Tony Blair's government and advises the coalition on poverty, said: "I've never met a young person who has said, 'I want to be a poor parent', and yet we have increasing numbers of them turning out to be poor parents. It is the job of the state to kick-start activities which in the past would be done by families and civil society."