Supporting parents to meet the challenges of their caregiving role is identified as a public health concern and a priority in policies internationally. Quantitative research has established the efficacy of parenting programmes but less is understood about the key aspects that make interventions meaningful and helpful to families. We aimed to explore parents’ experiences and perceptions of parenting programmes in order to highlight the parent voice and identify key factors that parents perceive to be meaningful and improve our understanding of the acceptability and perceived benefits of parenting programmes. Six key electronic databases were searched systematically for qualitative research and eligibility for inclusion was established. A thematic synthesis was undertaken. Twenty-six studies were included, spanning 17 years of parenting research and involving 822 parents. Three main themes and nine subthemes were identified: (1) a family’s journey (prior to the parenting programme, outcomes (including changes in the parent, child and wider family) and post-intervention), (2) aspects perceived to be important or valuable (group leader or facilitator, programme content and delivery and value of the group) and (3) challenges or difficulties (barriers to engagement or attendance, programme content and suggestions for improvement). Reported outcomes of parenting programmes included changes in the parent alongside changes in the child and family more widely. Key recommendations to improve provision of accessible, clinically and cost-effective interventions for parents include ensuring high-quality training and supervision of facilitators, balancing flexibility and fidelity to ensure tailored content to meet individual needs, a sensitivity to parental adversity, the need for wider familial support and the availability of ongoing support following the end of a parenting programme.