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What Are Parenting Programs?

Parenting programs provide parents with skills to help reduce challenging behaviors in their child (e.g., aggression, defiance) and improve their relationship with their child. During sessions in these programs, parent develop and strengthen their skills to improve their child’s functioning.

Sessions are delivered to either an individual parent or to groups of parents, and sometimes include children to provide parents with additional opportunities to learn and practice these skills with their child. The number of sessions can vary and occur either in person at a clinic or the family’s home or via the Internet. Parents learn the new skills by verbal instruction; video and live demonstrations of the use of skills; and feedback from therapists or other parents in group sessions. Although there are different types of parenting programs, several characteristics are shared by most programs and include the following:

  • Set realistic and age-appropriate expectations for children’s behavior.
  • Praise positive behaviors that parents want to encourage (e.g., sharing).
  • Provide positive attention (e.g., special, one-on-one play time).
  • Ignore minor misbehaviors (e.g., throwing blocks in play).
  • Time-out from attention for negative child behaviors.
  • Consult with school personnel to help children develop academically and socially.

Research Supporting Parenting Programs

Parenting programs have been evaluated as a treatment for decreasing behavior problems (e.g., disobedience, temper tantrums) in hundreds of studies with children ranging in ages from infancy through adolescence. Studies have also found that these programs led to improvements in parenting stress, as well as child sleep, language, and academic skills. Additionally, these programs have been found to be valuable for the treatment of behavior problems in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, developmental disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Evidence-Based Parenting Programs for Younger Children

Evidence-Based Parenting Programs for Older Children

What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?