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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Parent Training Programs 101

Article by: Ryan Ruth Conway, PsyD

April 8th 2017

“Why won’t he listen to me?” 

“Can’t she just sit still?” 

“I don’t know what else to do!” 

These are common statements from parents; particularly parents who are struggling to manage their child’s behavior, have tried various techniques with minimal success, and feel hopeless about the prospect of any solutions.

Disruptive behavior in children are estimated to affect 16% of the general population, and are the most common reason for referral to mental health services in the early years. Examples of such behaviors include argumentativeness, hostility, refusing to comply with adult requests, and temper outbursts, in addition to more severe conduct problems such as destructive behaviors or physical aggression. These behavior problems frequently co-occur with learning disabilities and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), characterized by inattention, poor impulse control, and trouble with self-regulation. When left untreated, challenging behaviors in young children tend to remain stable, persist into adolescence, and increase the risk for delinquent behaviors later in life (e.g., substance use, risk taking, legal troubles). 

Thus, early intervention is essential in targeting challenging behaviors. 

Over time various parenting programs have been formally tested through research trials, and behavioral parent training has garnered the most empirical support in addressing youth conduct problems. Recent research has also demonstrated that children with behavioral and attention challenges, particularly those who have ADHD, show quicker symptom improvement when behavioral approaches are attempted prior to medication (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/health/early-behavior-therapy-found-to-aid-children-with-adhd.html?_r=1).  Behavior therapy has also been shown to be more cost effective than medication over time.

Parent training (or guidance) programs that involve the participation of both parents and children have been shown to be the most effective in fostering a positive parent-child relationship and helping to increase positive behaviors, while decreasing negative or disruptive behaviors. 

.  Parents are taught skills to increase their confidence in setting limits and equip them with techniques for managing their child’s behavior. Skills are then practiced through role-plays and live coaching in order to master and generalize what has been learned. Simultaneously, children learn strategies to help them manage their own behavior, cope with negative emotions, and meet parent expectations.

NESCA’s new parenting groups for children ages 4-6 and 7-10 are informed by one of these evidence-based behavioral treatments, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT; www.pcit.org), and have been tailored for a small group format. You can find out more about our groups here: http://nesca-newton.com/Therapeutic.html.

NESCA is currently enrolling participants for both groups.  If you have any questions about our parent-child groups or are interested in joining, please contact Dr. Ryan Ruth Conway (rconway@nesca-newton.com; 617-658-9831) for the 4-6 year old group or  Dr. Elizabeth Lops (elops@nesca-newton.com; 617-658-9825) for the 7-10 year old group. 

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