Parenting programs are designed to help parents cope with their children’s behavioral and emotional issues. Parents who get easily frustrated with their children or feel that their children have negative responses to discipline may struggle with maintaining a level of attachment and loving authority within their homes. The majority of existing programs that focus on meeting these needs of parents and children aim to teach parents strategies to respond to the maladaptive behaviors of their children. This is done through the use of time-outs and nonresponse to unhealthy emotional outbursts and actions. These programs are often delivered to children in school-based or community settings, after the child has reached the age of 5. But experts believe that the preschool years represent a critical time for child development. Teaching parents and children how to interact in an emotionally productive and accepting way during this time could help children develop positive behaviors and help parents gain empathy and understanding that would serve to transform the parent-child relationship.
Children who have strained caregiver bonds and unhealthy psychological reactions and behaviors are at increased risk for future mental health problems, including behavior problems, academic and social issues, and substance abuse. In an attempt to target children before they reach the age of 5, Turning to Kids: Emotionally Intelligent Parenting (TIK) was created. This novel program integrates parents and teachers in the therapeutic process as coaches and mentors for the child to use as emotional and behavioral models. By teaching the parents how to recognize behaviors as clues to the underlying feelings of the child, the parents can begin to address the emotional root of the aggressive, disruptive, or unproductive behaviors. Katherine R. Wilson of the Mindful: Centre for Training and Research in Developmental Health at the University of Melbourne in Australia recently led a study to determine the effectiveness of TIK.
For her study, Wilson evaluated 128 parents and their preschool children before and after a six-session TIK intervention administered in their community. She found that the parents in TIK were far less dismissing of their children’s feelings than those who were waitlisted. She also discovered that the TIK parents become much more physically and emotionally involved with their children, which directly impacts positive child development. Because this trial was conducted in the community, Wilson believes that the results show the viability of TIK in the general population. She added, “Findings were sufficiently promising to warrant further investigation of program outcomes in other, varied community settings where improving parents’ emotion socialization practices may benefit their children.”
Wilson, K. R., Havighurst, S. S., Harley, A. E. (2012). Tuning in to Kids: An effectiveness trial of a parenting program targeting emotion socialization of preschoolers. Journal of Family Psychology 26.1, 56-65.
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