For families whose lives are being disrupted by a child’s difficult behavior, there may be help at hand in the form of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. This is a clinician-led therapy that aims to improve the parent-child relationship while also teaching effective discipline techniques. It is effective in helping children from ages two through seven years old, along with their parents.
There are two stages to the therapy, during which different approaches are used. Before each stage is tackled, the parents are brought in alone to be taught appropriate methods of reacting to, and interacting, with the child. Practice makes perfect, so this is what comes next…
When the focus of the child’s interaction with the parents is play, the tension is drastically reduced. This is essential in breaking the cycle of bad behavior provoking anger, which in turn provokes a response of further bad behavior from the child. It’s hard to be angry with your child when you are copying them flapping like a bird around the room!
This is how the Child-Directed Interaction stage works. Through ongoing play sessions, the child and parent develop a secure attachment. The idea is that with a secure relationship, there is an increase in trust and a decrease in adversarial behavior towards one another.
Once the family dynamic has improved as a result of the Child-Directed Interaction, it is time for the family to move onto the next stage: Parent-Directed Interaction. This stage teaches parents to effectively discipline the child using techniques that are tried and trusted. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy helps to teach the parents as well as the children.
As a part of the therapy, the parents are observed at home, often through the use of a two-way microphone system. This allows the therapist to observe the family and coach them when difficulties arise. They are reminded of the techniques that they have previously learned for interacting with the child and for disciplining them.
Over the course of 8-12 weeks, the techniques are reinforced in the therapy sessions and then practiced at home. The parents are asked to rate the child’s problem behavior and their ability to cope with it on a predetermined scale, and once the result of this has dropped down to the level of what would be considered normal child behavior, the family graduates from the therapy.
With the long term results of this technique having shown it to be effective for at least six years following treatment, this could be a great solution for some families. So if you have ever watched the television show SuperNanny and wished she would come to your house, then Parent-Child Interaction Therapy may be just what you are looking for.