How Parent-Training Programs Work

Children with ADHD are up to 11 times more likely than their peers to develop oppositional defiant disorder, which often means daily arguments, outbursts, and anger-management problems. Many parents find hope — and strategies — in parent management training programs that help break unhealthy cycles.

4 Parent-Training Courses: How to Choose

There are many parent-training courses available nationwide. Each program offers something unique.

1. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is offered in university-based centers and by individual therapists.

Best for: Parents of kids ages two to seven. PCIT involves one-on-one therapy with the parent(s), and possibly other family members, as well as the defiant child. You interact with your child in a room with a one-way mirror. The therapist sits on the other side of the mirror, talking with you through a headset. “The advantage of communicating with the parent is that the child associates these skills with the parent, not with the therapist,” says Timothy Verduin, Ph.D., clinical director of the Institute for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at the New York University Child Study Center.

Find a therapist: PCIT International

2. Helping a Noncompliant Child

Helping the Noncompliant Child, a program used with children and their parents, is outlined in Rex Forehand’s book, Parenting the Strong-Willed Child.

Best for: Parents of kids ages three to eight. You read and follow the instructions in the book, participate in a group program, or work one-on-one with a therapist. “The child should be in the room with the parent, so the therapist can demonstrate the best response and encourage the parent,” says Forehand.

Find a therapist: Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT)

3. Your Defiant Child

Your Defiant Child program is outlined in Russell Barkley’s book of the same name.

Best for: Parents of kids ages four to 12, especially those who are severely or persistently defiant. In the first four weeks, parents learn to give approval, praise, and recognition, and to establish incentives and tokens to encourage good behavior. The second four weeks teach parents how to correct defiant behavior, using such strategies as focusing on one problem at a time and acting within 10 seconds of the problem’s occurring. Another element is called “Help the Teacher Help Your Child,” in which parents use a daily report card to communicate with the teacher. Parents also learn how to adjust the rewards system as a child ages.

A weekly allowance works for 13-year-old Christopher Covello, of Norwalk, Connecticut, who was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD at five, and had occasional meltdowns and defiant episodes. His mom, Jennifer, posts a list of chores on the refrigerator. If Christopher does them without argument, he is given an allowance at week’s end. If he doesn’t do them, or complains about it, he is docked part of his allowance. “He came up with the list himself, so he has ownership of this arrangement,” says Jennifer. “We drew up a contract and both of us signed it.”

4. Group Programs

Group programs teach the principles of PCIT to a group of up to 25 parents and have the added benefits of providing support to parents and costing less than private therapy. Three programs are: COPE (Community Parent Education), taught, continuing-ed style, at night by paraprofessionals to parents of children up to adolescents; Incredible Years, for parents of preschoolers, and focusing on early intervention to prevent defiant behavior from worsening; and Positive Parenting Program, targeting teens and also providing strategies for managing marital problems caused by defiant behavior.

This article appears in the Spring issue of ADDitude.
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TAGS: ADHD and Anger, Behavior in ADHD Kids, ADHD and Discipline, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Comorbid Conditions with ADD, Teens and Tweens with ADHD

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