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The Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® Universal Prevention Program: New Research!

Developed by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.

The Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® Program is a universal 6-10 session parenting program that can be delivered with all parents of children aged 2-6 years. This program focuses on teaching parents the value of child-directed play, and how to use academic, persistence, social and emotion coaching to promote their child’s school readiness and language skills, emotional literacy and empathy, friendship skills, self-regulation, and problem-solving skills.

Xiang Zhou, PhD, LP, Assistant Professor in Counseling Psychology at Purdue University has recently published a study of the Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® program, Evaluating the Feasibility of the Incredible Years Attentive Parenting Program as Universal Prevention for Racially Diverse Populations – the first assessment conducted on the Attentive Parenting® universal prevention program with an ethnically diverse population.

In this study, 152 parents (88% mothers; 81% non-White) participated in the Attentive Parenting® Program in 6 to 9 2.5-hour weekly sessions. Parents in this study were found to have attended 71% of all sessions. Parents who completed the program reported a significant decrease in conduct problems and an increase in prosocial behaviors in their children.

We are excited about this study of the Attentive Parenting® Program because it looks at the impact of a shorter (6-10 session) video-based prevention program with a culturally diverse sample. Just like the original Incredible Years Preschool Basic program, the Attentive Parenting® program includes the core parenting concepts of child-directed play, social, emotional, & persistence coaching, and praise. With its updated vignettes and added content on promoting academic readiness through interactive reading and teaching children self-regulation and problem-solving strategies, agencies may consider the Attentive Parenting® program as another option for parent education with a prevention population.

Read Professor Xiang Zhou’s blog on this study here!

About the Attentive Parenting® Program: Teaching parents the importance of child-directed play & coaching to promote child development

The Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® Program is delivered in 6-10 weekly 2-3 hour sessions. For group leaders working with parents of toddlers, the course will take 6 weeks to complete, and for group leaders working with parents of preschoolers, it will take 8-10 sessions to cover the program content. Read below to see how the skills taught in the Attentive Parenting® Program can be used to help parents and children, and preview vignettes from this program.

Child-Directed Play: Promoting Positive Relationships

Children derive unique benefits when their parents give them undivided, focused, regular, and responsive attention during child-directed play. During adult-child play, the child develops a trusting emotional bond and important physical, cognitive, social, and language skills. Attentive playtimes also play a critical role in shaping the way children think, learn, react to challenges, and develop relationships throughout their lives.

Attentive Parenting® Program 1: Child-Directed PlayIntroductory Narration

Like all Incredible Years® programs, the Attentive Parenting® Program starts by building a foundation of positive adult-child relationships through child-directed play interactions. This style of interacting during play means that parents follow the children’s lead and ideas, enter with their children into their imaginary and pretend world, express their joy and playfulness in being with the children, and help the children feel special by being an appreciative audience to their play. Because one of the major devel­opmental tasks for young children is to become more autonomous, parents learn how child-directed play helps children feel some indepen­dence and develop an individual sense of self. A second major developmental task for young children is to form secure attachments with parents. Child-directed play strategies help parents build safe and secure relationships that eventually lead to fewer difficulties for children separating from their parents and easier transitions to school settings.

Descriptive Language Coaching

In the Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® Program parents learn how to coach children during child-directed playtimes using descriptive language coaching. This descriptive commenting is a running commentary during play that describes the children’s behaviors and activities. Descriptive commenting indicates to the child how attentive, focused and responsive the parent is on what the child is doing, which further strengthens their relationship bond. By giving positive attention and reinforcement to whatever aspect of the play the commenting is focused on, the parent further encourages children’s exploration and sense of discovery. Descriptive language coaching is also a valuable teaching tool that encourages language development by bathing the child in language, providing direct, important verbal information about behavior and actions or the names of objects.

Attentive Parenting® Program 2: Academic & Persistence Coaching Introductory Narration

In academic readiness coach­ing, parents focus their comments on academic concepts, including the names of objects, shapes, colors, sizes, numbers, textures, and position (e.g., on, under, inside, beside, next to). For example, when the parent says, “You have three yellow rectangles on top of the red fire truck,” the child is learning about shape, colors and numbers, and the language to describe these concepts. Thus, descriptive language coaching can be delivered strategically and can be tailored to meet a number of relationship, language, and learning goals, according to children’s needs and developmental levels.

Persistence Coaching

Another form of coaching is Persistence coaching – when the parent comments on the child’s cogni­tive and behavioral states while the child is playing. For example, a parent whose child is working on a puzzle can comment on the child’s being focused, or concentrating well, or trying hard, or persisting and staying patient, even though the puzzle is difficult. Recognizing the child’s inter­nal state of mind and the physical behaviors that go along with that state is especially important for children who might be inattentive, easily frustrated, impulsive, or hyperactive. Labeling the times a child is focused and persist­ing patiently and calmly with a difficult task helps the child to recognize that internal state, what it feels like, and to put a word to it. Attention and coaching help the child to stick with the task longer than he or she might have otherwise, and builds confidence by teaching that, with patience and persistence, the child will be able to eventually navigate a difficult situation.

Emotion Coaching

Emotion coaching, that is, labeling feelings as children experience them, helps children link a word to a feeling­ state, which helps them develop a vocabulary for recognizing and expressing emotions. Once children are emotionally literate, they will be able to express their feelings to others and more easily regulate their emotional responses. In addition, they will begin to recognize emotions in others – the first step toward empathy.

Attentive Parenting® Program 3: Emotion Coaching – Introductory Narration

In the Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® Program, parents are encouraged to give more attention to positive emotions than negative emotions during play interactions. However, when children do exhibit negative or uncomfortable emotions, such as anger, fearfulness, or sadness, the parent will coach them by pair­ing the negative emotion with the positive coping response. For example, a parent might say to a child whose tower is knocked over, “You look frustrated about that, but you are staying calm and concentrating hard to try to solve the problem,” or to a fearful child, “I could tell that you felt shy about asking her to play. It was really brave of you to try it!” In this way, the parent validates the angry or shy feeling without giving it too much attention, and also expresses faith that the child will be able to cope with the feeling to pro­duce a positive outcome. Emotional and persistence coaching can be combined, and this approach may even preempt an escalation of an angry tantrum.

Emotion Coaching Promotes Emotional Regulation

A major developmental task for young children (ages 3-6 years) is the development of emotional self-regulation skills, such as the recognition and expression of emotions, ability to wait and accept limits, development of empathy, and self-control over anger and aggression. As children begin to recognize and express their emotions, parents can begin to teach them self-calming strategies.

Attentive Parenting® Program 5: Promoting Emotion Regulation Skills – Introductory Narration

Because children are visual thinkers and love imaginary play, it is highly effective to use stories, puppets, pictures, and role-plays to help them practice calming thoughts, images, and words. For example, parents in the Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® Program learn how to use Tiny Turtle’s secret to calming down through deep breaths, positive self-talk, and happy visualizations. During playful interac­tions with the help of a calm-down thermometer and turtle puppet, children practice these cognitive strategies.

Attentive Parenting® Program 5: Using Tiny Turtle Puppet to Explain How to Calm Down

One-on-One Social Coaching

Another major developmental task for young children is forming social and friendship skills that include beginning to share, helping others, initiat­ing conversations, listening, and cooperating. Social coaching involves adults playing with children in a way that models, prompts, and reinforces these skills. The first step in social coaching is for the parent to model and label appropriate social skills whenever they occur. For example, a parent might model social skills during play inter­actions by saying, “I’m going to be your friend and share my truck with you.” Next, the parent can prompt a social behavior by asking for the child’s help to find something or asking the child for a tum. If the child does share or help, then the parent responds to this behavior by describing it and praising. For example, “Thank you! You found the blue block I was looking for. That was so helpful. You are a good friend!” On the other hand, if the child does not share or help when prompted, the parent models waiting and being respectful by saying, “I guess you are not ready to share. I am going to wait patiently for a tum and do something else right now.” Through modeling, prompting, and scaffolding social skills with social coaching and praise during one-on-one playtimes, children are learning positive play social interactions.

There is a wide range of developmental variation in the development of children’s social skills. Most toddlers and some preschoolers engage in what is called parallel play. Parallel play is when children may be playing next to another child but are totally involved in their own exploration and discovery process and rarely, if ever, initiate interaction or seem unaware of the child sitting next to them. As they develop, children begin to be interested in other children but lack the social skills to initiate and sustain these interactions on their own. At ages 4 to 5 years, children progress to some sustained interactions with peers but still need coaching to maintain these interactions in a positive way and to solve interpersonal peer issues during the play.

Attentive Parenting® Program 4: Social Coaching – Introductory Narration

Peer Social Coaching

For children who have moved beyond parallel play to peer interactions, parents can use social coaching with two or more chil­dren playing together. This time the parent prompts, models, and describes the social skills that are occurring among the children, for example, commenting on times the children share, wait, take turns, say thank you, help each other, ask before grabbing a toy, and give a friendly suggestion. They also encourage interactions among children by providing words for a child to use to ask for something he or she wants, or praising a child who is waiting patiently when another child is not ready to share, or prompting a child to praise another child. Individual or peer social coaching strengthens children’s friendships and makes it clear what the desired social skills are. However, it is important to assess children’s developmental readiness for social play with peers. Children who are primarily engaged in parallel play and do not initiate play with peers or seem interested in peers will benefit from individual practice with an adult before entering into situations with a peer. Then, when they do play with peers, scaffolding by adults will help them to be successful. Children who are interested and motivated to play with other children but who lack the impulse control or skill to do so successfully also will benefit from individual coaching because an adult can patiently help a child to practice and fine-tune social skills. Then, when playing with peers, the adult can continue to prompt and praise social behaviors as they happen. For example, a parent might say, “You shared with Mary. That was so friendly! Look at how happy your friend seems now.” Helping children make the connection between their positive social behavior and another child’s feelings is important for them in developing empathy, as well as peer relationships.

Teaching Children to Problem Solve Through Play Interactions

As children move from toddlerhood to the preschool and early school­ age years, parents can use emotion and social coaching during play to help children learn how to express their feelings and use calm-down self-regulation strategies, and to practice appro­priate social behaviors, such as sharing, waiting, helping, and taking turns. These are the bedrock cognitive and behavioral skills children need to begin learning to solve problems. During the preoperational stage of cognitive development (ages 4-6 years), when children’s imaginary play is exploding, parents can use puppet play and pretend scenarios during play interactions to teach children problem-solving strategies for managing conflicts through a five-step process.

The first step is to help them define and recognize a problem by having a puppet present children with a common childhood problem (e.g., being teased) that is signaled by an uncomfortable feeling. Then children are asked to help the puppet come up with a solution to the problem by showing what the solution looks like (e.g., staying calm and ignoring). Next, the children are asked to help the puppet think of other solutions in case the first solution does not work. Each time, the children demonstrate and practice one of these solutions with the puppet. As children move into the operational stage of cognitive development, they eventually are able to learn the fourth and fifth problem-solving steps of evaluating solutions and choosing the best solution. All of this problem-solving learning takes place in fun, imaginary, creative, and playful situations so that children can learn the language and emotional self-regulation behaviors before they are encouraged to use this approach in the midst of real-life conflict.

Attentive Parenting® Program 6: Using Puppet to Teach Problem-Solving Steps

Read IY Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton’s chapter on play and coaching, The Incredible Years: Use of Play Interventions and Coaching for Children with Externalizing Difficulties.

Learn more about the Attentive Parenting Program on our website!

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New report on IY Parent and Teacher Autism Program outcomes from New Zealand

On 17 May, 2021, The Ministry of Education and University of Canterbury presented an evaluation report on the implementation of the Incredible Years Parent and Teacher Autism Programs in New Zealand.

The evaluation team was interested in looking at how the IY Parent and Teacher Autism programs might lead to:
1) increased engagement, emotional regulation and communication skills of young children demonstrating behaviours associated with Autism (child outcomes);
2) increased wellbeing and coping skills of parents & caregivers enabling them to better support their child (caregiver outcomes);
3) increased teacher capability to help children demonstrating behaviours associated with Autism (teacher outcomes); and
4) longer term and unintended benefits for those involved and the wider communities (additional benefits).

The evaluation team collected both qualitative and quantitative data from program participants.

For participants who completed the Autism Parenting Program, the evaluation team found a significant reduction in reports of parental stress, improved feelings of confidence, competence, and wellbeing, and an improved home-school relationship.

“It made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It made me feel like that it wasn’t bad parenting… So I think for me as a mum I am more confident about what I am doing and therefore I am more relaxed about things” – parent

For teachers who completed the Teacher Autism program, the evaluation team found increased teacher confidence – teachers reported feeling confident about the skills they learned in the Teacher Autism program, in their ability to apply the strategies they learned, and increased frequency of use of these strategies. Further, teachers reported an increase in confidence in their knowledge of ASD.

“I feel like beforehand I didn’t understand this [ASD] child and I didn’t know how to teach these children. Now I feel quite confident that I have the knowledge and some strategies that I can try” – teacher

The evaluation team also looked at the outcomes for children whose parents, caregivers and teachers participated in the IY Autism Parent and Teacher programs. Their findings suggest that there is a positive benefit for children, including some increased child participation and engagement in activities at home and at school.

“He never used to join the mat times but now he is the first one to join everything” – teacher

In interviews with parents, caregivers and teachers, program participants reported an increase in child emotional regulation and communication.

The evaluation team found some additional “unintended” benefits to parents, caregivers and teachers. Parents reported:

  • Improved parental emotion regulation
  • Benefit of establishing social supports and relationships with other program participants
  • Improved understanding of their child, benefiting their relationship with their child, as well as with their spouse/partner
  • Ability to share what they learned with other members of their immediate and extended family

Teachers who completed the Teacher Autism program reported:

  • Increased communication and collaboration between home and school
  • Sharing information with colleagues
  • Increased knowledge of ASD
  • Ability to generalize skills learned in the IY Teacher Autism program to daily practice

Incredible Years would like to thank the Ministry of Education and IY Parent and Teacher Group Leaders in New Zealand for their commitment to implementing IY programs with fidelity through training, consultation and accreditation. These group leaders are the heart and soul of the success of IY program delivery because of their continual support and ability to tailor IY program principles to each child’s unique developmental needs.

Join IY Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton for Autism Parent Group Leader Training!

Autism Parent Group Leader Online Tele-Session Training
Dates: June 8th, 10th, 15th, 22nd, & 24th 2021, 8:00am – 11:15am PST
Venue: Online (Zoom)
Led by: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD
Cost: $775 per person
June 2021 Autism Parent Online Training Brochure & Registration Info

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Incredible Years® Programs – New and Emerging Research

New study is the first to evaluate the Incredible Years® Attentive Parenting program as a Universal Prevention Program for a Racially Diverse Population

Xiang Zhou, PhD, LP, Assistant Professor in Counseling Psychology at Purdue University has recently published his evaluation on the Attentive Parenting program, Evaluating the Feasibility of the Incredible Years Attentive Parenting Program as Universal Prevention for Racially Diverse Populations – the first assessment conducted on the Attentive Parenting program.

In this study, 152 parents (88% mothers; 81% non-White) participated in the Attentive Parenting® Program. Parents in this study were found to have attended 71% of all sessions. Parents who completed the program reported a significant decrease in conduct problems and an increase in prosocial behaviors in their children.

We are excited about this study of the Attentive Parenting® Program because it looks at the impact of a shorter (6-9 session) video-based prevention program with a culturally diverse sample. With it’s updated vignettes and added content on teaching children self-regulation and problem-solving, agencies may consider the Attentive Parenting® program as another option for parent education with a prevention population.

Read Professor Xiang Zhou’s blog on this study here!

Trial of the Incredible Years® Autism Spectrum and Language Delays Program in Spain

Dr. Fátima Valencia, a clinical psychologist in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Gregorio Marañón University General Hospital in Madrid has announced a pilot study of the Incredible Years® Autism Parenting Program in Spain – the FIRST STEPS project.

She and her team are conducting a randomized pilot trial with the primary objective of assessing the feasibility of implementing The Incredible Years® ASDLD program in Spain. The aim is to determine the acceptability and satisfaction levels of parents and, as a secondary aim, to establish the preliminary efficacy in reducing parental stress and behavioral difficulties in children. The protocol for the pilot study, Protocol for a randomized pilot study (FIRST STEPS): implementation of the Incredible Years-ASLD® program in Spanish children with autism and preterm children with communication and/or socialization difficulties, has been published.

The FIRST STEPS Incredible Years® ASDLD intervention is being carried out in three Spanish public health hospitals, recruiting a total of 72 children diagnosed with ASD or preterm infants with subsequent language delay, randomized to the IY-ASD intervention arm or the usual treatment arm. This is intended as a first step in the generalization of the program within the public health network, as well as for future controlled studies demonstrating its efficacy. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the intervention is currently being delivered both in weekly online sessions over 6 months and in some cases a hybrid approach depending on the policy for the various communities. Dr. Valencia and her team have consulted with Dr. Webster-Stratton regarding implementing the Autism program with families online with fidelity to the program protocol.

To date, the FIRST STEPS project has finished the groups in the three sites, with very positive feedback from the families. They are in the post-group assessment stage and are hoping to start sharing the results of the trial soon.

New research evaluating the IY TCM program in Ireland

For more than ten years, psychologists from the Irish National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) have been collaborating with primary schools in their community and delivering the Incredible Years® Teacher Classroom Management program. Two new studies evaluating implementation of the IY TCM program in Ireland have recently been published.

The first, Exploring the impact of Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management training on teacher psychological outcomes, included 368 Irish primary school teachers, looking at the potential impact of classroom management training on teacher psychological outcomes. Their findings suggest that there are benefits to teachers’ wellbeing and feeling of self-efficacy from IY Teacher Classroom Management Training as teachers learn positive strategies to manage challenging student behaviors.

The second study, Sustained CPD as an effective approach in the delivery of the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management programme, considered the experiences of teachers receiving IY Teacher Classroom Management program training as part of their continuing professional development. The study found the TCM program to be an effective program for use in teacher continuing professional development. The study highlights the importance of teacher group leaders tailoring the program to the needs of the participants, using the collaborative model, and providing sustained support.

New Meta-Analysis of behavioral therapies for children with ADHD

A new meta-analysis of behavioral therapy programs for children with ADHD, has recently been published: An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis: Behavioral Treatments for Children and Adolescents With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

This meta-analysis of programs, including the Incredible Years®, finds that: Children with ADHD, who have severe symptoms of ADHD or behavioural problems, and children with ADHD from single-parent families, should be given priority when it comes to behavioural therapy. If these groups of children are not treated promptly, the problems facing them and those around them increase faster than they do for other groups of children with ADHD.

This meta-analysis was conducted by Annabeth Groenman, PhD, and a team of researchers in the Netherlands at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), VU University Amsterdam, and at KU Leuven, Belgium. Their data analysis allowed them to see which sub-groups responded best to behavioral therapy. The results of Groenman’s research have been published in the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Here is a summary of their findings:

Behavioural therapy reduces the symptoms of ADHD and tackles the behavioural problems facing children with ADHD. It also relieves the pressure on both them and those around them. However, this treatment is not equally effective for all children with ADHD. It is important to understand who responds well to behavioural therapy and who is less suitable for this treatment, so that target groups can be identified more accurately.

Researcher Annabeth Groenman headed a large-scale study that involved a staggering 33 researchers from around the world, who all shared their data about the effectiveness of their evidence-based programs with her. All of the data were used to generate one large dataset. Groenman then reviewed the effects of behavioural therapy on 2,200 children with ADHD below the age of 18. She analysed the effect on the symptoms of ADHD, on the behavioural problems and on the functional impairment that they experienced in their daily lives.

The research shows that behavioural therapy for children with ADHD can help them to control their attention problems, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and behavioural problems. It also reduces the extent to which the children and those around them experience functional impairment due to their behaviour. In addition, the researchers identified a number of sub-groups that respond differently to the treatment. Children with a behavioural disorder as well as ADHD seem to deteriorate while awaiting treatment. This is also true of children with more severe symptoms of ADHD or a behavioural disorder, and children from single-parent families.

The conclusion of this study is that behavioural therapy works. It would also seem that certain groups of children should be treated quickly to prevent them from deteriorating. This applies to children from single-parent families, and children with severe behavioural problems or serious symptoms of ADHD. Groenman would like to see this group of children being offered treatment immediately and not being placed on a waiting list. A prompt intervention with behavioural therapy can help to prevent further deterioration. 

Incredible Years® Seattle applauds this team of researchers in the Netherlands for compiling all this data from multiple studies addressing treatment for children with ADHD and assessing the impact of intervention for those at greatest risk.

In Finland, ongoing RCT evaluation of the Incredible Years® Preschool Basic Parenting Program plus the IY Home Coaching Program for families receiving special services

Piia Karjalainen has completed several RCTs evaluating the implementation of the Incredible Years® Preschool Basic group-based parenting program plus the IY Home Coaching program with families in Finland who have been referred through Finnish CPS to receive special preventative services. In her first study, Group-based parenting program to improve parenting and children’s behavioral problems in families using special services: A randomized controlled trial in a real-life setting, published in 2019, she found that parent reported child problem behavior as well as clinical levels of behavioral problems decreased to a greater extent in the intervention group than in the control group. The intervention also increased positive parenting practices.

In a recently published follow-up sub-analysis, Parents’ perceptions of a group-based parenting programme in families with child protection and other family support services in a real-life setting, she looked at parents’ satisfaction and perceived usefulness of the Incredible Years® parenting program. Parents participating in this study received 19 Preschool Basic parent group meetings and four additional home visits using the IY Home Coaching Program. She found the Incredible Years® parenting program to be a good fit for parents involved with Child Protective Services – 74.2% of parents attended approximately half or more than half of the sessions, and parent satisfaction reports were positive – 85.7% of parents would recommend or strongly recommend the program to others. Additionally, she found the use of positive parenting practices increased in the whole intervention group (both CPS and non-CPS families).

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IY Attentive Parenting® Program – New Research!

Xiang Zhou, PhD, a Professor of Counseling Psychology at Purdue University, has recently published a study on the Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® Program in the Journal of Prevention and Health Promotion – the first empirical study of the Attentive Parenting® Program! His study, “Evaluating the feasibility of the Attentive Parenting® Program as universal prevention with racially diverse families,” looked at attendance rates and outcomes. Dr. Zhou has shared a summary of his research with us.

New Research on Implementing IY® Attentive Parenting Program as a universal preventative intervention for racially diverse populations

Xiang Zhou, PhD

by Xiang Zhou, PhD

As a Counseling Psychologist, I am interested in parent training as a unique form of prevention and intervention which may alter the trajectories of both children and parents. I am also interested in how mental health interventions can be culturally adapted to meet the needs of diverse families. During my training at the University of Minnesota, I have worked with my graduate mentor Dr. Richard Lee, and Ms. Judy Ohm from Wilder Foundation in implementing IY® Attentive Parenting as a universal preventative intervention in a diverse local community.

In this posting, I want to share a summary of a recently published article for a wider audience. The full paper can be accessed either in the Journal of Prevention and Health Promotion (here) or a free preprint version (here).

Why IY® Attentive Parenting Program?

The IY® Attentive Parenting Program is a manualized universal program (Webster-Stratton, 2012) based upon the original IY® BASIC Parenting Program (Webster-Stratton, 2001). It was developed for low-resource settings but can be used as either booster sessions for parents who have completed the IY® BASIC Parenting Program or for prevention purposes within a general population (Webster-Stratton, 2012). The core parenting concepts were introduced in successive sessions: 1) Attentive child-directed play promotes positive relationships and children’s confidence; 2) Attentive academic and persistence coaching promote children’s language and school readiness; 3) Attentive emotion coaching strengthens children’s emotional literacy and empathy; 4) Attentive social coaching promotes children’s cooperative friendships; 5) Attentive imaginative parenting promotes children’s emotional regulation skills, and 6) Attentive creative play promotes children’s problem solving and empathy.

We considered these differences between IY® Attentive Parenting Program and IY® Basic Curriculum:

  1. The IY® Attentive Parenting Program is a minimum of 6 sessions, and the BASIC requires 14 to 18. It has been speculated that parents will be more likely to attend PT regularly with fewer sessions (Heinrichs et al., 2005).
  2. Content also differs (e.g., the IY® Attentive Parenting Program does not cover topics on effective limit setting, ignoring negative behaviors, and timeout).
  3. The IY® Attentive Parenting Program reduces the financial cost compared to IY® BASIC Curriculum

We are interested in implementing IY® Attentive Parenting Program because it is more feasible to provide general parent training for ALL parents and prevent children’s socioemotional and behavioral problems BEFORE occurrence (Webster-Stratton, 2012).

More importantly, children of color under 18 are now the majority in the United States (Vespa et al., 2020). We are particularly interested in how diverse families respond to this preventative intervention. In our implementation, we have also incorporated cultural adaptation as encouraged by the IY implementation guidelines (Webster-Stratton, 2009). For example, during the first session, parents shared their own upbringing and discuss their parenting motivations (Zhou et al., 2018).

Methods: The study was implemented in a naturalist setting with a pre-post design with 155 parents. About 40% of parents were Black, 30% were Asian American (predominantly Hmong), 18% identified as White. Parents reported on their stress level (Parenting Stress Index; Abidin, 1990) and child adjustment problems (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; Goodman, 2001) before and after the intervention.

Major Findings and Implication:

Attendance: Past parenting intervention studies suggest at least 25% of parents who met the inclusion criteria did not enroll, and another 26% enrolled but dropped out before completing treatment. Additionally, the mean attendance rate was approximately 73% among those who attended at least one session, but there was high variability in attendance across studies ranging from 37% to 98% (Chacko et al., 2016).

We found parents attended 71% of all sessions. Pre-treatment conduct problems were associated with lower attendance, whereas pre-treatment hyperactivity problems were associated with higher attendance. It is thus important for clinicians to pay additional attention to engage and retain families who came to the intervention with more conduct problems in the context of a universal intervention.

In terms of treatment effects, we found:

1)     IY Attentive Parenting® Program may reduce conduct problems and increase prosocial behaviors. No statistically significant pre-post changes were observed in emotional problems, hyperactivity problems, or peer problems. These results are previous work suggesting PT is better at reducing externalizing than internalizing behaviors (Leijten et al., 2018; Menting et al., 2013; Mingebach et al., 2018; Yap et al., 2016).

2)     When parents reported a greater concern over conduct problems, hyperactivity problems, emotional problems, peer problems, or prosocial behaviors, they would report more benefits in these respective areas after attending IY.

3)     pre-post change in parenting stress was not significant.

4)     We did not find any differences across racial groups (i.e., White, Asian, Black) across attendance and treatment outcome results, suggesting IY may be culturally adapted and implemented to meet the needs of diverse families

Feel free to contact me at for any questions or comments regarding this study. I also want to take the opportunity to commemorate Judy, who has been a long-time advocate for families in St Paul, Minnesota. She passed away in 2020 after a long battle with cancer.

Thanks to Dr. Zhou for sharing his research with us! To learn more about the Incredible Years Attentive Parenting® Program, please visit our website.

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Building Blocks for Reading with Extra-CARE for Young Children on the Autism Spectrum and with Language Delays

by Carolyn Webster-Stratton

Reading with children is a powerful way to build their language skills.  We have new handouts for parents and teachers with children on the Autism spectrum and with language delays, to help them learn to tailor their reading to children’s interest and developmental level.

Extra-Care reading involves parents and teachers providing children on the Autism spectrum and with language delays with added opportunities for language development, joint attention and social interaction. To start, take extra care to choose a book with a topic the child is emotionally interested in, perhaps something from the child’s “like list”. For example, if the child likes planes, trains, cooking, or a particular animal, pick a book on this topic. This will help you to enter the child’s interest spotlight. Choose books with pictures, very few words and sensory activities, if possible, with flaps and hidden objects that allow the child to open and close flaps, to touch different textures and provide different smells.

Comment strategically according to the child’s language level.
The amount of commenting you do will depend on the extra-care you take in first understanding the child’s receptive and expression language ability. Children will lose interest if your verbal language is too advanced or hurried. Remember this is all about encouraging joint attention and showing you are attentive to the child’s interests and are keeping the communication interaction going.

Avoid open-ended questions, pace your commenting, and repeat often.
For children with receptive and expressive language delays, asking questions when reading can be intimidating and cause withdrawal, anxiety and confusion because the child doesn’t understand and may think you don’t understand them. Instead strategically decide what words you want to encourage, allow time for the child’s response (verbally or nonverbally) and then imitate their response. This will show you are interested in them. If the child repeats your sound effects, or gesture, or word, imitate that again so the child sees how their response is affecting your response. Be sure to smile and have eye contact when you do this.

Respond and listen with interest. Wait and pause before talking again so the child has time to respond.
When the child responds with a smile, or gesture, or sound effect, or words, enthusiastically respond to these responses verbally and nonverbally whether or not your child seems to be making sense. Always act as if you understand what the child is saying! Imitate the child’s gestures, sounds and words. The goal here is to not only encourage the child’s interest in books and to get into his or her spotlight, but also to engage in joint attention and positive interactions.

Expand on what the child says.
For a child with no language you can use hand signals to model the action, or use the actual object as you name it, or use one of your child’s likes (song, touch or favorite object) to add more excitement to the joint reading interaction. For children with some words use the one-up rule and add an additional word. To combine social interactions with reading, read to two children at the same time and prompt language in both children. Occasionally surprise children by doing something unexpected such a variation on the story such as a different and humorous word, or naming the object or feeling incorrectly, and then correct yourself. “Ooops my mistake!” Make games out of a book by covering up a picture with sticky notes and guessing what is under there, or what comes on the next page. Sing a song using the word you are encouraging. End the reading with the routine of an “all done” and hand signal.

• Keeping the reading fun and simple using the “one up” principle to decide how much language to use when reading.
• Showing kindness and avoiding commands and criticism when children are reading.
• Allowing children to reread stories as often as they wish. This is a pre-reading skill and leads to mastery and confidence. Once the child has learned the story you can add partial prompts to see if they will fill in the blank.
• Slowing down and building repetition with an enthusiastic tone.
• Reading so children can see your face and expressions.
• Singing at times during reading.
• Using hand signals, gestures, sound effects, and objects to enhance reading understanding
• Making sure there is a back and forth quality to the reading and you are not simply reading without requiring some response or connection with the child before continuing to read.

Download Reading With Extra-CARE with Children with Autism & Language Delays (for Parents)

Download Reading With Extra-CARE with Children on the Autism Spectrum (for Teachers)

Join IY Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton for Autism Parent Group Leader Online Tele-Session Training
Dates: June 8th, 10th, 15th, 17st, & 22rd, 2021, 8:00am – 11:15am PST
Venue: Online (Zoom)
Led by: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD
Cost: $775 per person

June 2021 Autism Parent Training Brochure & Registration Info

New! Incredible Years videos for Autism Programs now available online!

Video Streaming subscriptions may be purchased for the Autism Parenting Training Program or the Teacher Autism Program – Helping Preschool Children with Autism as a Training Program Package. This program package option has everything a new Group Leader needs – one-year video streaming subscription, group leader manual, books, and accessory materials.

Autism Parenting Program Video Streaming

If your agency has previously purchased the full program package with accessory materials, you may purchase Videos Only – a one-year subscription to access the videos online with no additional accessory items.

Teacher Autism Program: Helping Preschool Children with Autism Video Streaming

Learn more about program video streaming on our website!

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Using the editable “How I Am Incredible!” handout to help tailor to children’s developmental levels

The How I am Incredible! handout is used to help parents share information about their child’s developmental level including language and play level, temperament, and likes and dislikes. In addition, parents share their family support network and goals for their children.

This editable form can be emailed to families individually, can be completed when doing your first individual interview with families, or can be started in the first IY group session or home coaching visit. This process is valuable because it helps group leaders and other parents have more detailed knowledge of each child’s unique development and their similarities and differences in regard to their language, play level, and academic readiness and goals.  At subsequent meetings, parents can continue to add to the editable form more details about the child’s developmental goals and motivating antecedents. They will add notes of any new discoveries they make as they engage in social and emotional coaching during child-directed play. Parents will note which strategies are especially helpful for supporting their child’s goals.

Throughout the program, when group leaders are showing vignettes, they can refer to completed How I Am Incredible forms for information about each of the children, and can set up tailored role-play practices based on the children’s developmental language & play levels and parent goals. For example, a practice may be set up with a child who has very limited language focusing on modeling language in a paced way with gestures, objects, pictures, fun sound effects and frequent repetition and imitation. After this role play is completed and debriefed, the group leader will select a another child from a group parent to practice how this language will look for a child with typical language focused on pre-academic skills such as naming numbers, colors, shapes, positions and letters. Group leaders can set up several large group practices unpacking the differences in approach for 2-3 target children to demonstrate the developmental differences before breaking up parents in to dyads for practice.  Dyads will be selected to match parent participants who have target children at similar developmental levels. After the dyadic practices, parents will share their learning so that everyone learns principles of tailoring based on the individual needs of children.

We have developed editable versions of the How I Am Incredible handout for parents of children aged 3-6 (for the Preschool Basic program), for parents of children aged 6-12 (for the School Age Basic program), and for parents & teachers of children on the Autism spectrum or with language delays.

Download How I Am Incredible for the Preschool Basic program (English, editable)

Download How I Am Incredible for the Preschool Basic program (Spanish, editable)

Download How I Am Incredible for the School Age Basic program (editable)

Download How I Am Incredible for the Autism Parenting program (editable)

Download How I Am Incredible for the Teacher Autism program (editable)

Join IY Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton for her Webinar: Implementing Online the Incredible Years Way

Group Leaders will learn to tailor IY groups for online delivery!
Date: Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 9:00am – 11:00am  PST
Venue: Online (Zoom)
Led by: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD
Cost: $200 per person

April 2021 Online Webinar Brochure And Registration Info

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Role-Play tips for group leaders!

Set up Frequent Role Plays or Practices in Group
Setting up numerous role plays or practices for parents is critical to parents’ learning processes. From the discussion, you may think that parents understand the principle or topic, but when you see them practice “in action” you will have a better idea of their ability to put their ideas into real-life behaviors. There can be a discrepancy between how parents cognitively would like to behave and how they actually behave. It can be very difficult to think of the right words to use with children and manage angry thoughts and stressful feelings when children argue or disagree, or to follow through with consistent responses. Role play practices help parents to rehearse their behavior strategies, practice staying calm and using positive self-talk, and to get feedback from group leaders and other parents about their skills. Here are some tips for successful role plays.

Plan your role plays: We have a new editable handout to help you plan your role play practices! Download Group Leaders Setting Up Role Play Practices (editable)

Setting up a Large Group Role Play Practice: Most of the time, practice should first be done in the large group so that you can scaffold and support the practice. Then parents can move into small groups to practice what they saw modeled in the large group practice. When this is not done, parents often get confused about what they are supposed to be doing. First, remember you are the “director” of the role play and get to choose the actors, set the stage, and determine the script and roles for the things you want practiced. Always make sure that you have covered the content prior to doing the role play. Then start with a simple role play that will illustrate the concept and achieve your learning objective for the practice.

Rather than ask for volunteers, select a parent you think understands the behavioral concept and can successfully play the role of the parent. Invite the parent to help you, e.g., “John, would you come up and help me by being the parent in this next role play.” Then choose a parent to be child. “Sally, will you be your child who is fearful and afraid to take risks?” Parents, rather than group leaders, should be the role play participants. Parents will learn more from being in the practices themselves. If you are in the role play, you will not be able to effectively scaffold or debrief the process.

Set the scene and build a script: Set up the role play by letting participants know the age of the child, developmental level and temperament of child, and what the child and parent will do. First, ask the group for ideas for how the parent should respond to the particular situation being set up. For example, “So in this practice, our parent is going to be practicing persistence coaching and Seth is going to be the child who is inattentive and wiggly and has difficulty staying on task. Our parent is going to use persistence coaching. What words can she use for what behaviors?” Using the parents’ suggestions, walk the parent through their part in the role play before the role play starts. Give instructions to the child, letting them know whether they should be cooperative or noncompliant. If they will be noncompliant, let them know if there are any limits (e.g., you should fuss and whine, but please don’t throw things or hit). This is very important because you don’t want the role play to require management techniques that haven’t been taught yet.

Supporting the practice: Both the leader and co-leader can serve as coaches for the role play. Often one leader supports the role of the parent and the other supports the role of the child. As the role play proceeds, freeze the scene at any time to give the parent feedback for her effective skills, or to redirect, or to clarify something you didn’t explain well. Provide the parent role with plenty of scaffolding so they can be successful. Group members can also be asked to suggest ideas if the actor participant is stuck.

Defining the practice: Always debrief each role play. It can be helpful to start by asking for positive feedback from the group about the parent’s effective skills: “What did you see Thomas doing well? Or: “What principles of ignoring did Maria use?” Also debrief with the person playing child and playing parent afterwards to find out how they felt during the practice. When applicable rerun the role play with a different response using the ideas of another parent. Sometimes you may want the person playing “child” to try the scene being in role as “parent” so they can experience practice with this different approach.

Ideas for spontaneous role plays: There are many role plays or practices suggested in the leader’s manual. However, try also to use spontaneous role plays that emerge out of a discussion of a difficulty a particular parent is having at home and is asking for help with. When parents feel you are directing these practices at their own real issues with their children at home, they are very grateful for this support and understanding. Sometimes a parent will begin to enthusiastically describe a success they have had with their child. These are perfect opportunities for the group leader to ask, “Can you show us what you did? It would be helpful to see it in action and help us learn from your experience.”

Caution: Never set up a spontaneous role play that deals with a topic that the parents have not yet covered in the program. So, if in an early session, a parent brings up a misbehavior, you would not set up a role play that involves discipline. You might set up a role play that helped the parent think about how to use the social coaching or praise for the positive opposite behaviors. It would be important to coach the child in the role play to be responsive to the coaching and praise and not to misbehave. Then reassure the parent that in future sessions you will cover what to do if the child still misbehaves.

When doing these role plays, it is helpful if one leader is sitting next to the parent in role as parent and the other leader next to the child. In this way, the leader can whisper to the parent suggestions for words to use if they need help and the other leader can make sure the parent in role as child is exhibiting behaviors than can be praised or attended to or safely ignored. Providing this scaffolding for practice sessions will make the practice more successful, useful and supportive.

Download these Hot Tips for Group Leaders Setting Up Role Play Practices

Join IY Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton for her webinar:

Implementing Online the Incredible Years Way
Date: Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 9:00am – 11:00am  PST
Venue: Online (Zoom)
Led by: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD
Cost: $200 per person

April 2021 Online Webinar Brochure And Registration Info

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Support for Group Leaders pursuing Certification/Accreditation while delivering remotely

We are so pleased with how group leaders have been implementing groups online during COVID! Group leaders have been writing to ask if they can begin the certification process now, during online group delivery, and if their remote IY parent video tele-sessions (individual or group) can count towards accreditation/certification in the IY programs that they are delivering.

We want to encourage group leaders to pursue certification, even during this unprecedented time! The certification/accreditation process is considered to be of value for many reasons, especially in that it maximizes the quality of group leader delivery and program fidelity. It is believed that certified leaders implementing the IY programs will achieve results similar to those in the published literature. While we do not have any research into delivery in the online format, we want to be flexible, to meet the needs of families for parenting support at this challenging time, and also to support group leaders to continue to deliver high-quality intervention with high fidelity.

If you are interested in beginning the certification process, we encourage you to submit your first video for review from an on-line group. Our IY trainers will review the video and give the same extensive feedback as reviews provided with in-person delivery.  This allows group leaders to get valuable feedback and supervision during this period of remote delivery. However, we are not accepting online group videos as the final video prior to passing for accreditation.  The reason for this is that we do want to make sure that leaders can demonstrate all the skills in an in person group.  So, for leaders who are submitting a 2nd video, we can’t count an online recording, although we are happy to review and give continued feedback to these group leaders during remote delivery due to COVID. On-going professional training and supervision is important to assure quality delivery using the online tele-session format.

When group leaders are ready to submit their application paperwork (after passing the video review of their in-person group), we are currently accepting paperwork with one complete group/cohort delivered in the online format, and one complete group/cohort delivered in an in-person format. Again, we want to make sure that leaders have sufficient experience with in-person groups prior to becoming accredited.  View our Remote Session Accreditation Information handout for additional info.

Ready to get started with certification? Please visit the Certification section of our website for application forms and additional information.

We have developed a webinar/in-service to help support group leaders and agencies who are providing IY in an online tele-session format (either individually or in groups). This webinar, Implementing Online the Incredible Years Way, is delivered by IY Program Developer Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton. Group leaders will learn the format for delivering the programs online, including how to use IY methods in an online tele-session, IY principles of video-based discussions, role-play practices, number and length of sessions, and experiential learning. Pertinent topics are discussed related to coping with social distancing for the parents themselves as well as their children. This webinar also allows time for questions, discussion, and practice of these skills with the webinar participants. Feedback on this webinar has been overwhelmingly positive! Our next webinar is coming up Wednesday, April 14th. Download the brochure/registration form for this upcoming webinar.

Hot Tips For IY Group Leaders Delivering Parent Programs Online

Hot Tips For IY Group Leaders Delivering Child Programs Online

Receive Consultation/Supervision with our IY Trainers live over Zoom. On-going professional training and supervision is important to assure quality delivery using the online tele-session format.  Online consultations offer opportunities for more consultation and in small groups, even with dyads. Consultation calls can include a discussion of video segments (a 10-20 minute clip) shared with the IY Trainer for review. Or, consultations may be a discussion of questions and issues related to program delivery. Online consultation calls are typically 1 hour in length and can include multiple group leaders and agency managers.

Online Consultation Tips for Group Leaders

Online Consultation Call Prep Form

Video Review for Group Leaders Live over Zoom. Our trainers are now scheduling to deliver video reviews toward certification/accreditation live over Zoom!  We hope that group leaders will find this collaborative approach to the video review process beneficial.  Learn more about the process for receiving video review feedback live over Zoom: Tips For Video Review Live Over Zoom

Join us for Incredible Years Program training – online! Incredible Years is currently offering our trainings in an online format. Just like the in-person trainings, our online trainings are intended to be highly interactive and collaborative. Attendees should plan for active participation in discussions and practices.

View our workshop schedule page on our website.

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Advance Parenting Program for Building Relationships – a valuable teaching tool during these stressful times

At this time families are experiencing more conflict due to the stress of physical isolation, home schooling, and economic challenges. The Advance Parenting Program for Building Relationships is designed to help families learn to listen to each other, speak up about difficulties, manage stress, reach out for support, and problem-solve parenting and personal issues. Parents of older children (aged 8-12) learn how to set up family meetings where children and parents can talk about a problem, work together to discuss solutions, and set up a family team plan.

The Advance Parenting Program builds on the Preschool and School Age Basic Programs by promoting parents’ interpersonal skills such as effective communication and problem solving skills, depression and conflict management, and ways to give and get support. Parents learn to partner with teachers in problem-solving and developing child behavior plans.

Goals of the Advance Parenting Program:

Supporting Family Relationships, Building Support Networks and Problem-Solving
• Improve parents’ conflict management and communication skills.
• Help parents learn how to cope with depression and life stress.
• Help parents learn how to build support networks.
• Help parents learn how to problem-solve related to children’s problems.
• Help parents learn how to problem-solve their own interpersonal problems.
• Help parents learn how to problem solve with teachers.
• Help parents learn how to teach their children to problem solve.
• Help parents of children (ages 8-12) learn how to set up family meetings.

Learn more about the Advance Parenting Program

Incredible Years Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton will be delivering an Advance Parenting Program Group Leader Training in April!

Advance Parent Group Leader Online Tele-Session Training
Dates: Tuesdays & Thursdays mornings, April 6th – 15th, 2021, 8:00am-11:15am PST
Venue: Online (Zoom)
Led by: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.
Cost: $620 per person
Please Note: The Basic Parent Group Leader Training is a prerequisite to the Advance Training

April 2021 Online Advance Training Brochure And Registration Info

Watch Preview clips from the Advance Parenting Program for Building Relationships

Active Listening, Speaking Up, & Communicating Positively

Problem Solving Meeting: In this clip, parents begin their problem-solving meeting by defining the problem they are having with their child’s behavior.

Giving and Getting Support

A Supportive Friend Helps Find Solutions: In this clip, a mom has been brainstorming solutions focused on meeting her son’s needs. A supportive friend helps this mom remember that it is important for her to take time for self-care. Together, they brainstorm ways to get support.

Teaching Children to Problem Solve: Family Problem-Solving Meeting

Family Meeting About Household Chores: In this clip we see a father defining the problem and inviting his sons’ ideas for solutions.

Learn more about the Advance Parenting Program

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Using the Tool Metaphor for Building Parenting Skills – New Resources!

When helping parents learn key principles it can be useful for parents to see these as “building tools” they are learning to use from their parenting tool kit.

Using the Incredible Years Tool Kit Posters (set of 3)

First poster“Building Positive Behaviors”

The first IY tool kit poster can be used to help parents learn the key “building tools” for strengthening positive behaviors.  When a new parenting principle is identified in group discussions, group leaders can name it using the corresponding tool picture from the Incredible Years Tool Kit poster. Group leaders can expand on this building metaphor by explaining to parents a hammer is not the best tool for fixing every problem; rather it may be better to use the capacity building, foundational scaffolding, and nurturing tools to support healthy social, emotional, and academic growth. Parents will learn that the bottom level of the parenting pyramid focuses on tools that they will use liberally such as attention, child directed play, narrated commenting, praise, support, relationship building, shaping, and support. On the next layer of the parenting pyramid parents learn how to use specific academic, persistence, social and emotional coaching to help their children identify and manage feelings, persist with learning despite obstacles and develop friendly social interactions and language. Once parents have built a firm foundation, they often find they have fewer child problems to manage.

2nd poster – “Reducing Misbehavior”

As the group moves up the parenting pyramid, parents learn new tools to reduce target negative behaviors.  These are used more sparingly. Tools such as predictable routines, rules, and respectful limit setting provide a predictable structure for children’s exploratory behaviors and drive for independence, assuring their safety. Next parents are taught the least intrusive proactive discipline tools, such as ignoring, redirection and distractions, and, finally, at the top level, discipline tools for highly aggressive and dysregulated behaviors.  Parents learn how to choose the most appropriate parenting tool based on the child’s needs, goals, and the underlying reason for the misbehavior.

3rd poster – “Staying Calm”

Integrated throughout the program are tools parents can use for controlling upsetting thoughts, stepping back from stress and anger, and regaining focus on what is essential. Parents learn the value of patience, modeling, self-care, getting support, using calming self-talk, and problem solving. Parents first apply these tools to support their own emotion regulation, and then to learn how this modeling benefits their children’s development and sense of security. The tool kit metaphor helps parents realize all the different parenting strategies they have in their tool kit that will help them weather some of the uncomfortable, but inevitable, storms of parenting and life events.

We have NEW RESOURCES group leaders can use to reinforce these tools with parents!

Tool Award Certificates

To supplement the tool kit poster, we also have tool awards that group leaders can use to celebrate parents’ successes as they master the use of each tool. These are editable so group leaders can fill in parents’ names and print out or email the tool awards. For example: Leon’s social coaching award or Matilda’s emotion coaching award.

 Download the set of Tool Award Certificates – Individual Editable

Download the set of Spanish Tool Award Certificates – Individual Editable

Parent Weekly Self-Reflection Inventory: Tools I Used This Week

Another way to acknowledge parents’ hard work is to give them their own sticker charts!  This mirrors the way that they will learn to use reward charts with their children.  For parents, these are self-reflective charts, and parents learn to self-praise and reward themselves for their hard work. We have developed 3 self-reflective charts, based on the 3 tool kit posters, that encourage parents to reflect on what they have accomplished each day. Parents are encouraged to set up a fun activity for themselves for reaching their goals.

You can download these below:

Parent Self-Reflection Inventory: Weekly Tools Used To Build Positive Relationships (Editable)

Parent Self-Reflection Inventory: Weekly Tools Used To Stay Calm & Get Support (Editable)

Parent Self-Reflection Inventory: Weekly Tools Used To Manage Misbehavior (Editable)

Visit our website to purchase a set of the Parenting Tool Kit Posters (set of 3 posters). These posters are available in English and new Spanish.

Additional resources for parent group leaders are available on our website.