by Farah Kurdi Villate, MSW, Graduate Intern
Your 4-year-old has the occasional tantrum.
Or it might be that your 5-year-old refuses to sit down for dinner.
You might get anxious at the thought of a play date and how your child might behave.
Sound familiar? It’s important to note that almost 15% of preschool-aged children struggle with disruptive behavior 1. Some children will “outgrow” such behaviors before entering school. However, others could use the help of early behavior interventions.
How do I know if my child could benefit from early behavior interventions?
If any of the following apply to you or your child, you may want to explore evidence-based interventions:2
- Has been asked to leave preschool. Or their teachers have expressed concern that it might happen.
- Is excluded from play dates.
- Has had tantrums when tired, hungry or sick. But lately they are daily tantrums, that seem out of the blue and last more than 5 minutes.
- Acts aggressively to try to get something he or she wants.
- Misbehaves in ways that are dangerous.
- Feel exhausted and frustrated with your child’s behavior most of the time.
- Are concerned that your child might hurt a friend, sibling, or themselves.
- Feel disconnected from your child because of their behavior.
- Want to establish and maintain a strong positive relationship with your child.
- Want to help your child develop social, emotional, and school readiness skills.
Note: Does your child behave in these ways almost only when they are tired, stressed or sick? Experts consider these behaviors to be problematic only when they are persistent, and typically are not always tied to being tired, stressed or sick.3
What is evidence-based? What does research have to say about Evidence-Based Behavior Intervention Programs?
Here’s what Dr. Sobon, former staff clinical psychologist at Tuesday’s Child, has to say about why Evidence-Based Interventions (EBI) matter:
“There are many treatments available to families that feel overwhelmed by their child’s challenges. The number of options and opinions alone can be overwhelming and add to the stress. It’s critical that whatever families choose, they choose treatments that are Evidence-Based Practice.
What Evidence-Based Practice means is that the treatment takes into account three key components: the best available research, clinical expertise, and the unique needs and values of the child and family.”Dr. Michelle Sobon, Clinical Psychologist
If an intervention is evidence-based, extensive research has found that the program successfully does what it claims to do. This means that EBI programs provide tools and support that are reliable and valid.
As a parent, what would be my role?
Be involved and learn the tools
Children will often change their behavior in a controlled environment, but the real goal is to make the tools easy for parents to use at home. Consequently, evidence-based behavior intervention programs all have one thing in common: parent involvement.2
Notice your child’s signals
EBI programs emphasize the parent-child interaction. In particular, they encourage parents to become more responsive and sensitive to child signals and behaviors.4
What should a parent look for in a program?
An effective parent and child intervention program will help:
- Teach children social/emotional skills
- Teach children self-regulation skills
- Encourage parents to notice trends in behaviors and intervene as needed
In addition, extensive research findings demonstrate that most children with challenging behaviors benefit from a program that includes:
- Predictable environments
- Limit setting
- Teachers catching them being good
- Differential attention
What is Positive Behavior Intervention?
Positive Behavior Intervention (PBI) is a behavior management tool. PBI seeks to understand why the behavior is happening. Its goal is to encourage positive behaviors, and decrease challenging behaviors. Teachers are on the lookout to “catch kids being good”.
One of the first assignments for Tuesday’s Child parents is to praise their child during the most difficult time of the day—in other words, when their child is really acting out. Parents often say that this is nearly impossible.
For this reason, the bar is set low—PBI encourages parents to praise their children for any behavior that is in the right direction. For example, for a child who usually has uncontrollable tantrums before bedtime, a parent could praise a smaller reaction.
Let’s say that your child has a history of refusing to sit for dinner, and never eats. If he or she stands by the table and eats some of their food, you would praise them. These are both steps in the right direction.
Across the board, research finds that children who participate in PBI improve in the following ways:1
- Increased self-esteem
- Significant improvement in compliance
- Fewer disruptive and hyperactive behaviors
- Success in preschool
- Increase in communication
- Decrease in tantrums
Does Tuesday’s Child offer Evidence-Based Positive Behavior Intervention?
Absolutely! Evidence-based early interventions, like those offered at Tuesday’s Child, can help children reduce problems at home and in school, and create positive peer relationships.
The Tuesday’s Child Behavioral Intervention Program provides families with techniques, tools, and alternatives to punitive or abusive behavior. They learn ways to manage their child’s behavior using positive reinforcement techniques.
Parent’s learn techniques through a train-the-trainer model, under the supervision of a clinical psychologist. Meanwhile, children receive intervention in a behaviorally-focused classroom, focusing on compliance, time on task, socialization, and participation.
How can Tuesday’s Child help?
At Tuesday’s Child, parents can enroll in a 12-week Behavioral Intervention Program that offers specialized support to both parents and their children who range from 18 months to 6 years old.
Parents are paired with a peer-mentor to guide them through the weekly lessons and answer any questions. What makes Tuesday’s Child stand out is that their peer-mentors have all participated in the program with their children before. Inspired by their own success, peer-mentors volunteer to stay on and help guide incoming parents who, like them, could use validation, support, and concrete skills.
What skills will my child work on at Tuesday’s Child?
Through praise and differential attention, children learn to comply with directions.
Time on Task
Preschool-aged children all have one thing in common: they will soon transition to kindergarten. Once in school, children are expected to remain on task for longer periods of time with less supervision. The Behavior Intervention Program meets every child where they are and recognizes that not every child can remain on task for the same period. Each child is assigned their own baseline time. As the weeks progress, and the child gains skills, this time increases, and over time the child learns to stay on task longer.
Children are also instructed in social emotional learning, which teaches them ways to express their emotions and manage feelings.
It’s important that children at this age learn how to make and maintain friendships, share, and interact with peers and adults. Children in the Behavior Intervention Program benefit from meeting other children who are the same age.
What do parents learn at Tuesday’s Child?
Use your strengths
Tuesday’s Child understands that the family system needs support. Therefore, we are committed to emphasizing each parent’s strengths.
Support from other parents
Parents benefit from interacting with other parents who might be experiencing similar concerns. It’s important to feel safe and heard. The parent training room not only offers support and validation, but it also provides parents with resources and recommendations. Parents benefit from problem-solving together and learn to be lifelong advocates for their children.
Additionally, parents receive services that are constructed specifically to address the needs of their unique family.
What can a parent expect by the end of the program?
Research finds that parent training programs are one of the most promising interventions for children with challenging behaviors.6 Interestingly, the benefits go beyond just the children. Studies show that by the end of the program, parents report feeling less stress, increased feeling of control over their child’s behavior, and feeling more competent as a parent.6, 7, 8
What about long-term? What if my child goes back to their ‘old ways’?
Parents can expect to learn helpful tools that can last a lifetime. Tuesday’s Child encourages parents to focus on one behavior at a time. However, the techniques parents learn for that behavior can easily translate to others. The approach remains the same, while the behavior changes. Additionally, every family leaves Tuesday’s Child with resources and a community of care that is always a call away.
Farah Kurdi Villate, MSW, Graduate Intern
Master’s Candidate in Clinical Social Work, University of Chicago
Behavioral Intervention Graduate Intern, Tuesday’s Child
 Charach, A., Bélanger, S. A., McLennan, J. D., & Nixon, M. K. (2017). Screening for disruptive behaviour problems in preschool children in primary health care settings.
 Mortensen, Jennifer A., and Ann M. Mastergeorge. “A meta‐analytic review of relationship‐based interventions for low‐income families with infants and toddlers: Facilitating supportive parent–child interactions.” Infant Mental Health Journal 35, no. 4 (2014): 336-353.
 Barkley, Russell A. Your Defiant Child, Second Edition: Eight Steps to Better Behavior. New York: Guilford Publications, 2013.
 Mingebach, Tanja, Inge Kamp-Becker, Hanna Christiansen, and Linda Weber. “Meta-meta-analysis on the effectiveness of parent-based interventions for the treatment of child externalizing behavior problems.” PloS one 13, no. 9 (2018).
 Kazdin, A.E. (2017). Parent management training and problem-solving skills training for child and adolescent conduct problems. In J.R. Weisz & A.E. Kazdin (Eds.). Evidence-based Psychotherapies for Children and Adolescents (3rd ed., pp. 142-158). New York: Guilford Press.
 Nixon, R. D. (2002). Treatment of behavior problems in preschoolers: A review of parent training programs. Clinical psychology review, 22(4), 525-546.
 Bronson, M. B. (2000). Recognizing and Supporting the Development of Self-Regulation in Young Children. Young Children.
 Eisenstadt, T. H., Eyberg, S., McNeil, C. B., Newcomb, K., & Funderburk, B. (1993). Parent-child interaction therapy with behavior problem children: Relative effectiveness of two stages and overall treatment outcome. Journal of clinical child psychology, 22(1), 42-51.