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Behavioral Parent Training


Behavioral Parent Training (BPT)—also called parent management training or simply parent training—is a well-established, highly effective treatment approach to reduce disruptive, noncompliant, anxious or aggressive behaviors in children. BPT teaches parents to modify their own behaviors to bring about more desirable child behavior, less misbehavior, better parent-child interactions and a more positive family atmosphere.

When feeling intense negative emotions, it is hard for young children with challenging behaviors to attend therapy, understand and remember behavior-improvement strategies and stay motivated outside of therapy to use these strategies. Treatment relies on parents to help encourage and reinforce their children to make long-lasting, positive behavior changes. Individual therapy with the child alone is far less effective.

BPT therapy can include individual sessions or groups of parents—and sometimes children, helping parents learn and practice skills with their child. Parents receive verbal instruction, video or live demonstrations, role-play, and feedback from the therapist. 

Most behavioral parenting programs:

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

Typically parents have more motivation and resources to implement behavior change than the child. By learning customized, positive reinforcement-based skills, parents can help reduce child disruptive behaviors, noncompliance, rigidity and avoidant behaviors, and difficulties with homework, task completion and organizational skills which may be secondary to:

Most behaviors are acquired and maintained in the child’s natural environment. Working with parents can foster positive change in the parent-child relationship and greater self-efficacy and self-esteem on the part of the child.

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