This essay will discuss one particular behaviour management programme: The Incredible Years, which aims to involve children, parents and practitioners through a positive intervention programme for children (Webster-Stratton and Reid, 2010). In order to gain a thorough understanding of Incredible Years, challenging behaviour and why it needs to be addressed will be examined. Incredible Years will then be critically evaluated and its impact for children, families and the early year's sector will be discussed.
Change with relevance to behaviour management comes in response to new ideas and theories about how best to care for and educate children. These new ideas and theories come from research, observations and analysis of data carried out by people working with children all over the world. They are based on ideas for improving practice which come from practitioners themselves (Kay 2006). Evidence has led to the programs being recommended as "blueprints" or evidence-based treatment and prevention programs by several review groups (Webster-Stratton, Mihalic, Fagan, Arnold, Taylor & Tingley, 2001).
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Steele-Shernoff and Kratochwill (2007) outlined that evidence based practice as a programme has been proven effective through scientific research and noted that there is strong emphasis on evidence based practice. Beekema, Wiefferink, and Milolajczak (2008) added that few programmes that manage behavioural problems in children during their earliest years have been evidence-based which has generated speculation regarding their effectiveness. However, Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) recognised how the Incredible Years programme has achieved over twenty-five years of evidenced-based practice across the globe, including within the UK and Ireland. According to the Clondalklin Partnership (2013) and Prevention Action (2013) much interest has been given to the Incredible Years programme in Ireland as a result of its unique involvement of the practitioner, parent and child.
Behaviour may vary from family to family and from society to society, but in general acceptable behaviour means thinking of the feelings and needs of others, as well as our own. It means being able to share, take turns, listen to others, and be helpful and kind (Brennand, Hall, Fairclough, Nicholson, Rees, 2006). The expression of both appropriate and inappropriate behaviour is influenced by the child's personality as well as by family and cultural expectations and differences (Rodd, 1996). Many theorists such as Holland and Myers (2000); Poulu (2005); and Foot, Woolfson, Terras and Norfolk (2004) have offered definitions of challenging behaviours with the general consensus including aggression, disruptive behaviour, being un-cooperative and withdrawn as areas of concern with children. Challenging behaviours, such as those described, are an issue as they can impact negatively on children's learning and development (Visser, 2003).
Rutter, O'Connor, Deeter-Deckard, Fuller, and Plemin (1998) identified those children whose behaviour was not dealt with appropriately as displaying problems with crime later on in life. Additionally, Britt-Drugli, Fossum, Larsson and Morch (2009) concluded that if children's challenging behaviours were not addressed at an early stage, the potential risk factors that may be encountered include academic failure, mental health problems, and difficulties forming relationships. Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) who founded the Incredible Years programme agreed with this premise and concluded that it is at a young age that children can establish developmental pathways for serious conduct disorders evident in later life. Moreover, Goodyer (2001) concluded that early detection and intervention of challenging behaviour is crucial to child development.
Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) noted that the Incredible Years has built on the understanding that it was necessary to intervene with behavioural problems when they first become apparent and therefore caters for infants and toddlers right up to the earlier years of schooling. In support of this Whitley, Smith and Hutchinson (2005) valued early identification and advocated that this can lead to the most effective intervention when the child needs it the most, which can subsequently help challenge the cycle of children living in disadvantaged and the difficulties associated with this. Webster-Stratton (2006) highlighted that Incredible Years has worked with all kinds of families: two parent families, single-parent families, step-families, adoptive and foster families.
Steele-Shernoff and Kratochwill (2007) recognised how the Incredible Years programme has been founded upon the understanding presented by Bandura's Social Learning Theory as it followed the idea that challenging behaviours were reinforced and learned through little communication at home and weak practitioner skills. Reid, Webster-Stratton, Tolan, Szapocznik and Sambrano (2007) also noted that the Incredible Years programme promoted the modelling and self-efficacy theories presented by Bandura's Social Learning theory whilst encouraging individuals to manage their interpersonal and social skills based on their observations of others. Additionally, it was evident that the Incredible Years understanding mirrored the Social Interaction Learning theory presented by Patterson, Chamberlain and Reid (1982), as Reid et al. (2007) noted that the programme was based on a coping and interactive model of learning suggesting that situations should be discussed between adults and children.
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Pearce (2004) recognised that the Incredible Years programme can be applied cross-culturally. However, Beekema et al. (2008) emphasised that just because behaviour management interventions were successful in a well-controlled American or Canadian setting, this did not suggest that they could be culturally transferrable to another setting and country; identifying that socio-political context and organisation structure can affect the adoption process. With regard to the cross-cultural application of the programme Pearce (2004) recognised how Carolyn Webster-Stratton has shown that the Incredible Years programme can be applied cross-culturally stating that she has been considered as an international treasure with a wealth of expertise and knowledge on teaching skills and delivering early intervention for children.
Incredible Years (2013) outlined that their general aims of the programmes for the child was to treat aggressive behaviour and ADHD; prevent conduct problems, violence and drug abuse in later years and to generally promote social competence, emotional awareness, academic readiness and problem solving. The NICE (2006) suggested interventions such as the Incredible Years programme with the treatment of ADHD and disruptive behaviour disorders other than medications (Puckering, 2009).
Pearce (2004) noted that young children's behaviour was likely to be affected by language problems, learning difficulties, symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. With reference to this, Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) stated that early intervention from the Incredible Years programmes had been able to counteract such risk factors and hence shown that in the long term it is a cost effective programme as children that availed of their programme had less of a necessity of services such as speech therapists. Britt-Drugli, Fossum, Larsson, and Morch (2009) found that Incredible Years training need to be varied and the intensity altered for each child as often young children with complex and high levels of conduct problems needed extensive or additional treatment but stated that this was possible with the layout and structure of the Incredible Years programmes.
Incredible Years (2013) recognised that a key aim of their series was to build positive parent-child interactions by increasing parents nurturing skills through focus areas such as attachment, social support and problem solving. Bauer and Webster-Stratton (2006) supported parent training programmes noting that they were most effective for advocating positive parenting by providing ideas for discipline strategies in the home and promoting children's social skills and emotional regulatory skills. Pearce (2004) further explored Webster-Stratton's confidence in parenting programmes stating that they can act as a protective factor against children at risk of developing or sustaining antisocial behaviour by encouraging parents to adopt a caring, sensitive and positive approach whilst setting clear limits and avoiding violent forms of discipline. Pearce (2004) recognised that the Incredible Years programmes were designed in simplistic way, which was enjoyable for both the children and the adults.
Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) recalled how in 1980 the first interactive video-taped based parent intervention entitle BASIC was introduced for parents. BASIC has since been updated as Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) recognised that it was necessary to introduce four separate age range programmes: infant (0-1 years); toddler (1-3 years); preschool (3-6 years); and school age (6-13 years).
Following successful completion of the BASIC programme, parents have the opportunity to take part in ADVANCE. This is the second Incredible Years parent training programme. This according to Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) is aimed at confronting the adults own conflict management issues which has been shown to impact on the nature of parent-child interactions. Webster-Stratton, Reid and Hammond (2007) stated that the main concentration areas throughout the ADVANCE programme were personal self-control, communication skills, and problem-solving skill for adults.
The Incredible Years mission statement declares that the overarching goal of the programme is to provide programmes and resources that help build
"Positive parent-teacher-child relationships"
The key aims for the practitioner throughout the Incredible Years programme has been presented as improved confidence in delivering effective classroom management and increased practitioner-parent partnerships (Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010). The aims and areas of the practitioner classroom management programme have been presented by Incredible Years using a pyramid figure. Webster-Stratton and Herman (2009) declared this as being culturally transferable and relevant to all practitioner practice. Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) outlined the practitioner training programme as a 42hour group-format programme. The main target areas identified (Webster-Stratton and Reid, 2010) as creating positive relationships with children who challenge; promoting social skills and emotional regulation, establishing behaviour management strategies for dealing with disruption; preventing peer rejection and promoting problem solving. Steele-Shernoff and Kratochwill (2007) noted that such issues were looked at through the use of short videos. They also noted that such an approach encouraged practitioners to improve their instructional skills and visualise ways of promoting social competence by watching scenario examples of good practice.
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Tafa and Chlourverakis (2000) found that practitioners preferred the more powerful approach of positive intervention strategies that encouraged children to think about their actions as opposed to more negative approaches of punishment. However, MacNaughton et al. (2007) stated that early year practitioners needed to review their current approaches to challenging behaviour and reflect critically upon them before adopting new intervention strategies.
Bennett (2003) advocated the importance of practitioners promoting children's social and emotional well being in conjunction with their cognitive development as this could positively influence achievement throughout their future education and later life. Sugai and Horner (2006) added that school based interventions were most beneficial when they enhanced young children's personal and social intelligence whilst improving the quality of their educational environment. Walker and Berthelsen (2008) also considered the support of the practitioner and the role of play to be the two tools to success in an inclusive setting which promoted positive peer relationships and good behaviour. The Incredible Years Classroom Management Program is a research-driven, practitioner professional development program that draws on effective instruction in order to prevent and managing disruptive behaviours (Good & Brophy, 2003).
Pearce (2004) described how the name 'Dino-School' was given to the sessions children attended for social training and anger management. Broadhead (2009) noted that play and imagination were fundamental processes in behaviour management intervention approaches and stated that making activities enjoyable through the art of play can allow the child to interact with their peers.
Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) identified a key concentration of the training programme as addressing the positive collaboration process between home and school by initiating contact and establishing ways in which parents wish to be contacted. It was noted (Webster-Stratton and Reid, 2010) that the Incredible Years teaching training was of exceptional quality because it involved practitioners, parents and programme facilitators developing plans together that included classroom management strategies for children with conduct problems and aggressive behaviour, whilst considering the child's interests and motivators. In support of this Bennett (2003) recognised that early year's settings of high quality were more likely to try to reduce episodes of aggressive behaviour in young children by fostering their interests. MacNaughton et al. (2007) also stated that intervention programmes were most effective when they empower practitioners in their own classroom by building their confidence in designing strategies to work with children with challenging behaviour. Additionally, Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) stated that throughout the Incredible Years training process practitioners were encouraged to remain positive, accepting and consistent to achieve the most effective and high quality outcomes. Webster-Stratton and Reid (2010) further stated that rather than enforcing opinions and lectures upon the child, parent and practitioner, the Incredible Years therapist's role was to lead, reframe and role-play whilst upholding collaborative sessions. However, in response to the time used to reinforce such a programme Didaskalou and Millward (2007) recommended that programmes promoting social skills in young children did not demand additional teacher time, space or resources.
Broadhead (2009) acknowledged that proactive discipline approaches have established their purpose in the UK by being effective both in the short term and the long term. Steele-Shernoff and Kratochwill (2007) found that research suggested that intervention posed by Incredible Years has a positive impact on practitioner's approaches, including the use of proactive behaviour management. However, Broadhead (2009) stated that this was not the exclusive approach and stressed that it cannot be viewed as the ultimate way to promote positive behaviour amongst young children as often the ultimate way to promote positive behaviour amongst young children as often they are more likely to develop their learning in self initiated play activities in educational environments with peers where problem-solving is integral. Subsequently, Broadhead (2009) advocated that the intervention approach of adults was not always necessary and it can diminish young children's opportunities for leadership as often they use their skills of resolving peer disputes by themselves. Broadhead (2009) also stated that practitioners are often quick to judge their observations and make conclusions. Tara and Chlouverakis (2000) who considered how teachers like to ensure that they are in control of meeting young children's needs in their classroom are therefore more likely to adopt intervention strategies that they can implement within the classroom without gaining help from the child's parent.
To conclude, this essay has addressed managing young children's challenging behaviour as crucial during the earliest years of their lives. It has been indentified that the Incredible Years programme gives scope for the delivery of high quality and effective behaviour management of children through the combination of parent training and practitioner training programme. The Incredible Years programme has been implemented by parents and early year's settings worldwide and evidence for its effectiveness has been presented via programme evaluations. The programme has shown to be worthwhile as a cost effective strategy and those who prevail of it seem to avail of less services, either in childhood or adulthood.
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