Parent Power: 5 Parenting Strategies to Improve Life at Home

Presenter: Justin R. Misurell, PhD

View the webinar’s corresponding slides here        Download the Webinar

Parents often struggle to manage their children’s difficult behaviors. Disobedience, back-talking, temper tantrums, fighting with siblings and refusing to go to school are common problems that can lead to frustration, aggravation and feelings of disempowerment among parents. These behaviors can also cause serious distress in your home and negatively impact your family’s ability to function. Fortunately, decades of research on behavior management has identified a number of core principles and techniques that have proven to be effective in addressing children’s behavioral difficulties. The current workshop synthesizes these strategies into an easy to remember acronym called Parent POWER, consisting of the following strategies: 1: Putting Structures in Place 2: Offering Incentives 3: Working Hard 4: Emotional Regulation and 5: Role-Modeling.

Comments(12)

  1. KelleyT says

    I know you touched on this in your presentation, but I have a preteen daughter who I think is a little too much into how she looks. She is constantly being told by one grandmother how she is more beautiful than her friends. I think that is sending the wrong message to my daughter and adversely affecting how she interacts with her friends. It’s one thing to compliment your child when they look nice but I think this is over the top. I have asked the grandmother that I don’t want her to do that so often, but that has not worked. I would appreciate your comments.

    • dpustizzi says

      It is really important that we praise our children for their effort. For instance, if your child is studying hard at a math test and does well on it, we should tell them “great job working so hard” rather than “wow you are so smart at math.” By praising effort, which is under their control, rather than focusing on attributes (smart, beautiful, etc.), we are teaching them self-efficacy, which is essentially, the belief in their ability to succeed. On the other hand, when we praise attributes only, we are teaching them that we value the things about them that they cannot control and tends to degrade confidence and self-efficacy. For your daughter’s grandmother, I would diplomatically talk to her about the issue as this can be somewhat contentious. I would encourage her to focus on praising your daughter for other positive things that she is doing to enhance her self-esteem (e.g., working hard at school, after school activities, etc.). She can still do some of the complimenting about her looks, so long as she mixes in some of these other positive praises. Remember, you probably have a much greater influence on these aspects of your daughter’s development than her grandmother.

      Response submitted by – Justin R. Misurell, PhD Clinical Director, NJ Office, NYU Child Study Center

  2. KelleyT says

    While I do agree in general with your comments about rewards, I have a real problem with using them with my kids because I think that it’s just like bribery. I shouldn’t have to use rewards to get my kids to brush their teeth or do simple chores around the house. How can I reconcile doing that with my own concerns about how kids should participate and share responsibilities in the home.

    • dpustizzi says

      This is a common concern regarding positive reinforcement systems. Rather than thinking about it like bribery, think of it as your children working to earn a pay check. For instance, when we go to work, we get paid for our work. Our employer is not “bribing” us to go to work. Similarly, your children have a job to do (e.g., take care of their hygiene, clean their room, do chores, go to school, do their homework, etc.). If they are doing a good job, you should be praising them for it and if you need to provide some additional incentive such as rewards for the positive behavior, than that can go a long way towards getting an improved response from them.

      Response submitted by – Justin R. Misurell, PhD Clinical Director, NJ Office, NYU Child Study Center

  3. KelleyT says

    My kids have a hard time respecting limits with their electronic devices. Sometimes they look like they are “addicted” to them. What is your opinion about letting kids use electronic devices and how should those limits be imposed.

    • dpustizzi says

      Electronic devices are causing mayhem in many households these days. I would recommend setting limits that are comfortable for you. I think on a weeknight an hour is sufficient. On the weekends it can be a little looser. I would also suggest you have your children work for the screentime. For instance, if they are younger, like elementary school age, have them earn points than can be exchanged for minutes playing on their devices and cap the total at an acceptable amount. For instance, one point for positive behavior can equal 1 minute of screentime.

      Response submitted by – Justin R. Misurell, PhD Clinical Director, NJ Office, NYU Child Study Center

  4. KelleyT says

    How do you negotiate on a reward when parent and child decide on what it will be? How arbitrary is that selection. Should a monetary cap be part of the plan?

    • dpustizzi says

      Depending on the age of your child, you can discuss what incentives would be meaningful to them. I usually recommend having children work for points that can be exchanged for time accessing their privileges (e.g., IPAD time, computer time, TV time, etc.). Since these are privileges that are readily accessible (and typically highly desirable) you can give them and take them away without much difficulty. It is also more sustainable as opposed to having to go to the store and buy things (I would not encourage using money as the reward).

      Response submitted by – Justin R. Misurell, PhD Clinical Director, NJ Office, NYU Child Study Center

  5. KelleyT says

    I’m a single parent and when pressed in a discipline situation, I think I have more of a knee jerk reaction to handling bad behavior. Your recommendation to plan your parenting strategies in advance makes sense. You recommend deciding with your child what their reward should be for good behavior. Is there any evidence to support also deciding with your child about what the penalty should be for bad behavior?

    • dpustizzi says

      Our intuitive reaction tends to be negative when faced with bad behavior. That’s why it’s so difficult to really internalize the positive reinforcement approach. But be patient and stick with it as it will pay off in the long run. In terms of setting the consequence, it is completely fair to discuss this with your child beforehand. In fact, I would advise that you have a discussion with your child when they are calm and receptive and discuss what the agreed upon consequence would be if they exhibit a particular bad behavior. The consequence should consist of some sort of removal of privileges (e.g., loss of screentime, grounding, etc.).

      Response submitted by – Justin R. Misurell, PhD Clinical Director, NJ Office, NYU Child Study Center

  6. Connie B says

    My child is non-verbal autistic, he experiences several traumatic events within a year, trees falling through our home in a storm, his grandparent passing, a fire at his ABA school destroyed his class and several other rooms. He has severe school anxiety and finding a therapist to treat him that won’t charge me thousands of dollars because of his disability plus one that has availability is near impossible. He is on home instruction for 2 1/2 years now and my district wants to force him into a multiple disability program, not autistic. My suggestion was to start video exposure of our local public high school, as a result his anxiety is peaking and he will not look at the video when they show the inside of the building. How can I help my child? Rewards or loss of iPad have no effect on him, he is fine with having nothing as long as he is “safe” at home. Ps he did experience extreme physical handling by school administrators after his school had the fire, they would physically put him in holds because he was refusing to go down the hallway where the fire had been, I witnessed the physicality and feel terrible now because I said nothing as they were the “experts” he came home a different child after each altercation over two months time frame, bruised, strap welts, swollen ankle, he finally completely refused to go and began getting physical with me in home. Our school district sent him to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with severe school anxiety and set forth a treatment plan and transition plan, the district did not follow it and the ABA School kicked my son out after 99 day’s absence, they too never assisted in home. I was alone, he does not eat enough food to put him on medication without organ failure as a result. I have ABA services in home through my health insurance but see no big progress other than he is not aggressive physically with me anymore.

    • dpustizzi says

      While the Parent Power principals still apply for families with children on the spectrum, it is important to note that any approach you take needs to be very specifically tailored. It’s unfortunate that you have had such negative experiences with professionals at school and in the mental health field. I would be concerned that he is still on home instruction after all this time. There are out of district school that can help as well as advocates for families encountering the challenges that you are. I would highly recommend that you visit this website: http://www.autismnj.org and contact an advocate who can help you obtain better services for your son.

      Response submitted by – Justin R. Misurell, PhD Clinical Director, NJ Office, NYU Child Study Center

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