Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Child behaviour guidance offered

Health officials have published guidance for parents on how to deal with children who have 'conduct issues'

Parents of children with conduct disorders are to be trained on how to manage anti-social behaviour under guidance published by health officials.

Classes should teach parents to encourage positive behaviour instead of focusing on punishment and simply telling them "no", experts said.

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) have drawn up a raft of recommendations to help parents deal with children demonstrating repeated behavioural problems.

Professor Peter Fonagy, chief executive of the Anna Freud centre, who worked on the guidance, said evidence-backed advice should include telling parents to avoid the word "no".

He said: "If our kids misbehave, our response to it is not always the most rational, most reasonable and most effective response.

"Words like 'no, don't do that' can appear to be the best possible intervention, except that for a kid where the word 'no' triggers misbehaviour, there needs to be alternative strategies to help them reinforce good behaviour."

He added: "In some parent training programmes the first few sessions are all about learning to play with your kid, learning to do something positive, getting money into the bank so the kid finds something really rewarding in being with you as a parent."

He said that ignoring negative behaviour and focusing solely on the positive is very difficult without support, going on to add that punishment leads to worse behaviour in children with conduct disorders. He said: "Sometimes our instinctive responses are unhelpful. Punishing bad behaviour is an instinctive response. We demand justice and we think that by punishing we will make things better."

Professor Stephen Pilling, director of National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, who also worked on the guidance, said: "Programmes, 'Scared Straight' is one, that focus on punitive approaches don't work. The evidence is clear that they make kids worse."

Classes for parents will be offered where the child is three to 11 years old. The guidance adds that local authorities should offer older children from nine to 14 years old their own group social and cognitive problem-solving classes, while children aged 11 to 17 should be offered a "multi-modal intervention", where one case manager will look at the conditions affecting the child across all settings, including home, school, social and criminal justice.

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