Parents to have child behaviour training

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Parents of children with conduct disorders are to be trained how to manage anti-social behaviour under guidance published yesterday 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.”

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 aged three to 11 years old. Local authorities should offer older children from nine to 14 their own group social and cognitive problem-solving classes while for children aged 11 to 17 one case manager will look at all conditions affecting the child across all settings.