Program Offers Help

Program offers help to Sherman, Denison parents

By Jonathan Cannon

Herald Democrat

No one knows your child better than you do. That’s the basic principal that guides the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program being offered to the parents of Sherman and Denison students.

“The parent is looked on as an authority on their child. The parent is not looked at as a poor parent at all,” said Denison’s Hyde Park Elementary Counselor Barbara Jamerson. “The parent is the one who makes the decisions about the family.”

For many parents struggling with a problem behavior, Jamerson said, they don’t know what to do. “They try the only thing they know to do, and they try it again, and again, and again,” she said.

Triple P gives them a menu of strategies for parents to pick from. “It is not where parents are told, ‘Do this, do that. You’re doing this wrong. Why didn’t you try such and such?’” Jamerson said. “It is a program where the parent, given some information and some strategies, makes decisions about changing an unwanted behavior in a child.”

Jamerson said the program got its start in Australia and has spread across the globe. It includes five levels of intervention from providing access to parenting information to intensive family intervention programs. Jamerson is working in the middle of that spectrum providing four-session meetings with parents.

She said parents select a single trouble behavior for a single child to focus on during the four sessions. Parents are given ideas on how to monitor the behavior and then return to the next session with the results. Working with the practitioner, parents review the information, identify what precedes the behavior and, working from a list of a number of possible solutions, find a strategy the parent wants to try.

“We never tell them how to parent. They know their kids better than anyone,” said Sherman’s Washington Elementary counselor Renea Taylor. It’s an idea Jamerson and Taylor emphasized repeatedly.

“It’s a program that is driven by a parent’s own individual decisions,” Jamerson said.

Once parents have identified a strategy, they give it a try before coming back for another session where, through discussion with the practitioner, the strategy may be modified.

Through the process, parents often spend time with the practitioner role playing the behavior and the strategy they have selected. “They really walk away with, ‘Oh that’s how it looks.’ … That’s when it really kind of connects for them,” Taylor said.

“The emphasis is on treating a child and managing a behavior in a positive and caring way,” not punitively, Jamerson said.

The program’s design — putting parents in the driver’s seat — also empowers parents, building their confidence. “The hope for the practitioner is to help the parents gain confidence in their ability as parents,” Jamerson said. Taylor said that confidence can also help parents deal with other challenges.

Jamerson said many of the strategies also transfer to other behavioral problems. “Every parent can benefit from this,” she said.

Both practitioners have worked with approximately a dozen families during these first few months of the program, which started at the beginning of the school year. And both districts have a number of practitioners trained in the program, and group sessions are expected to begin at the beginning of 2013 if there is interest from parents.

The program is free to parents and funded by a grant from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. Parents in both districts who are interested in participating in the programs should contact the counselor at their child’s school. Additionally, information is available at http://www.triplep.net.

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