Why Should I Consider Parent Behavior Management Training?

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All children show some degree of noncompliance, limit testing, and rule-breaking behavior as they develop. In fact, during some stages, the push for independence and personal control is an expected and appropriate milestone for children. Fortunately, many parents quickly learn what does or doesn’t work to effectively manage challenging behaviors when they occur. There are also some great resources parents can access for general guidelines and support, such as the CDC's parenting essentials guide.

Still, in some situations it can be helpful to seek additional support to manage persistent, escalating, or severely disruptive child behaviors. This can often be the case when a child has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or if they generally have an active, impulsive, and/or strong-willed temperament that requires extra patience and creativity to manage. For instance, note the CDC's first-line recommendations for treating ADHD in young children here.

Parent behavior management training (also called parent management training or parent training) is an evidence-based treatment that teaches parents effective ways to manage difficult child behaviors such as defiance, impulsivity, outbursts, and noncompliance. Parent training programs often begin with a focus on increasing parental praise, positive attention, and reinforcement for appropriate child behavior. The skills reviewed during this stage support and encourage children's social and emotional development. A focus on the positive can also help improve or strengthen parent-child relationships that may have been strained by a cycle of challenging behavior and frustration on both sides. Later stages of treatment then address establishing consistent rules, routines, and responsibilities, as well as effectively using disciplinary strategies such as timeout, consequences, and ignoring (the behavior, not the child!).

Of course, most parents already use some or all of these strategies and continue to struggle with behavior management. Parent training can still be helpful in these situations, because the treatment program isn’t about “reinventing the wheel” or starting from square one. While some of the clinician’s suggestions will hopefully seem new and illuminating, the overall focus of sessions is to maximize your parenting efforts so that you’re working smarter, not harder. A therapist can help with supportive problem-solving, increasing awareness about the interaction between parent and child behavior, and adjusting parenting strategies to best match parent and child temperament. It is also important to address differences in parenting styles that might exist within and across households, generations, and caregivers.

Considering these factors, it’s no wonder that many parents would benefit from extra support to manage their children’s behaviors from time to time. Even when disruptive behaviors aren’t the primary concern, parent training can be helpful to address specific developmental issues, such as achieving toilet training and establishing effective sleep routines. It can also be useful in preparing children for upcoming transitions, such as household moves or school entry.

Importantly, parent behavior management training isn’t about “fixing” parents or blaming them for their children’s misbehavior. In the words of psychologist Dr. Mary Fristad, “it’s not your fault, but it’s your challenge.” In that spirit, the goal of parent training is to support and empower parents to manage behavior in the most effective way possible. Parents are the most powerful change agents and advocates in their children’s lives. By arming parents with effective tools, they can help create consistent behavioral improvements where it matters most - at home and other settings outside of the therapy office. Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple tool or “quick fix” that can solve every childhood behavior difficulty. However, by participating in parent behavior management training, parents can add to and maximize the tools in their parenting toolkit. They can also improve family relationships, decrease stress, and increase parenting confidence.

If you believe parent behavior management training sessions could be beneficial for your family, please contact BASE to schedule an initial parent consultation appointment. Together, we can develop a plan to maximize your parenting efforts and manage childhood behavioral challenges.

Chrissy Raines, Ph.D.