By Claire O’Sullivan
Eighty percent of children whose parents had attended a community parenting programme displayed a "substantial improvement" in their behaviour and schooling six months on.
The research on Dublin parents found parental stress levels and mental health problems dropped significantly – with a reduced need to access medical and mental health services.
Archways Ltd which run the ‘Incredible Years’ programmes in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Louth, Cork and Dundalk is calling on the Government to consider making such a preventative programme freely available to all parents, just as antenatal classes are offered to pregnant women and their partners.
In Norway, all parents are entitled to the parenting scheme for free as international studies show it leads to a dramatic reduction in teenager and adult delinquency.
In Ireland, it is funded partly by the State and also by the philanthropic Chuck Feeney Atlantic Financiers fund.
The Incredible Years programme began in Clondalkin, Dublin, seven years ago when the Clondalkin Partnership became increasingly aware of growing emotional and behavioural problems amongst youth.
The community group researched a number of successful parenting programmes before opting for the 14-week Incredible Years scheme where parents, teachers and children, aged 3-12, are taught how to deal with extreme bad behaviour, ongoing disruption and chronic hyperactivity and frustration.
According to Archways chief executive Aileen O’Donoghue parents and children nowadays face great obstacles including family breakdown, addiction and violence in families. Concentration-related problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are also increasingly common.
This programme teaches adults how to reason with children, instil good behaviour and teaches them how to cope.
"Children and adults are taught how to deal with emotional situations, how to instil routine and how to communicate effectively. They are taught how constant negativity has a very negative impact on a child and that you should reward positive behaviour and ignore bad behaviour," said Ms O’Donoghue.
As teachers, parents and adults in the community attend the same course, there is a consistent approach to children.
"The bottom line is that it works. There has been a huge improvement in the children and in the stress and depression levels of the parents.
"There are now 1,800 children around the country on the programme but we believe that everybody should be able to avail of it. You just have to look at the high incidence of emotional and behavioural problems attributed to prison inmates to see where these behaviours can lead," said Ms O’Donoghue.
An Incredible Years conference is being held in Dublin today where new research on Irish outcomes will be unveiled.
This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, September 21, 2009