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Wild Child? Head Back to Class

Mom and Dad May Need Help to Make Kids Behave

WebMD Health News

Jan. 3, 2002 -- When a child can't behave, it may be time for the parents to head back to class for a little remedial work. A new study shows that parenting classes can help mom and dad improve both the behavior and mental health of their child.

British researchers found that enrolling the parents of children with behavioral problems in a nurturing parenting program significantly improved the child's conduct in both the short- and long-term. The classes also benefited the parents and reduced their own level of anxiety and depression for at least a short time.

For the study, researchers from the Institute of Health Sciences in Oxford, UK recruited the families of about 100 children between the ages of 2 and 8. The children had a variety of behavioral problems that ranged from bed-wetting and difficulty with friends to temper tantrums and fighting. About half of the parents participated in a parenting program delivered by trained professionals and the other half had no assistance.

The study appears in the December issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The parenting program consisted of a two-hour session held once a week for 10 weeks. In the classes, parents participated in a variety of activities such as watching instructional videos of parent-child interactions, group discussions, engaging in role-play, rehearsal of parenting techniques, and home practice.

The specific parenting techniques taught included:

  • Encouraging positive interaction and play with the child
  • Giving clear commands
  • Setting limits
  • Ignoring undesirable behaviors
  • Praising and rewarding desirable behaviors
  • Following through on discipline

The behavior and mental health of the child as well as the stress level and mental health of the parents were measured through questionnaires before, immediately after, and six months following the program.

The researchers found that the classes were most effective at improving the child's conduct compared with the children whose parents did not participate in the program. Improper conduct reduced immediately after and at the six-month follow-up point. The child's overall behavior was also improved six months after the program.

Some mental health benefits were also found among the parents themselves. Mothers who took part in the classes had lower levels of anxiety immediately after the program than those who didn't participate.

The researchers say that although more study is needed, their results suggest that parenting classes may be a low-cost and drug-free alternative to preventing child behavior problems.

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood, December 2002. -->

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