It was our psychologist who first mentioned the words ‘Incredible Years’. We were seeing him for the autistic traits in our eldest, and he suggested the programme for us to learn to deal with the more unsavoury behaviours.
I’ll admit to feeling a little put out. I didn’t really like the thought of going to a parenting programme. My other half flat out refused. So I’d be doing it alone. I was also heavily pregnant, and the next course was to start when I had a newborn. Yippee *sarcasm* … I knew it was going to be such a struggle.
But the behaviors became more intense, I was feeling overwhelmed, and so I made the phone call to find out more. And that was how, one late Summer morning, I found myself hiking up a flight of stairs with a very young baby, down a long hall, and into a room that was filled with a gaggle of people.
This group of people were not ones you would normally see together. We live in a low socio-economic area with pockets of affluence, and it was all represented. There was a large black older woman, and a white blonde younger woman. There was a short bald man, and a skinny young man with tattoos up his arm. A much much older white woman, and a young black woman. I know it seems shallow commenting on appearance, but when you walk into a room, what you see is all you know.
There are two things I despise about new groups. Not knowing anyone, and team building exercises.
“Let’s start with an activity to get to know each other,” clapped one of the facilitators with a big smile.
It wasn’t too bad. We stopped for morning tea, and I changed the baby. Otherwise he fed and slept.
That day we were introduced to the pyramid that the whole Incredible Years programme was based on. At the bottom, we built up a base of a loving respectful relationship, filled with play and fun and learning and great self esteem and confidence. These were the techniques we needed to use often. Up the top was the consequences – not only were we supposed to use these more sparingly, we werent going to be discussing them until later in the course. No quick fixes here!!!
What we learnt that day was our children were like the little fat paper mache` pig in the centre of the room (it’s name was Hamlet). We needed to fill them up with love, attention, time and fun, before we could make any sort of a ‘withdrawal’ (commands, instructions, tasks to do, chores etc). So, our ‘homework’ was to play with our children for 10 minutes every day.
Yep, I just went to a parenting course and we were told to fix our issues, we needed to play with our children.
And it worked.
For 12 weeks, I laboured up those stairs with the baby, the nappy bag, the bouncer, and a heavy weight of stress upon my shoulders from a rushed morning.
And by the end of the 12 weeks, our house was calmer and I felt like I was in control again.
After a couple of weeks, the group began to shrink. We lost those who had been sent by the Courts. Some others just didnt come back. Some came every couple of weeks before not showing again. By the middle of the course, it was two other young mothers and myself – 3 gals with kids all similar age – and two others who were training to be facilitators (and had older kids). The smaller group meant we could apply all the theory to our own life, to discuss our issues and brainstorm solutions. Our two facilitators were a laugh and answered every question with respect.
During those months, as Winter rolled in and the baby learnt to roll, we learnt how to problem solve, talk and listen to our kids, teach and display empathy, reward and celebrate, praise and encourage. Then we moved into setting clear rules and limits and trying to consistently follow through.
Each day at course involved lots of talking, discussing, listening, brainstorming. We practiced techniques through role-play, and watched vignettes – short little videos. These are about 20 years old and the hairstyles always made us laugh! The videos are from real families, so it was great to see the theory actually working. If IYP ever wanted to update the videos, our house is available 😛
The whole course is based upon a LOT of research around children, especially those on the spectrum or presenting with other behavioral issues. It acknowledges that children need warnings and time to move from one task to another, something I had discovered with our son.
The techniques work on the whole family… (and as us girls giggled some days, it worked on our spouses!). Even better, as I implemented the strategies at home, my other half started doing them just from watching and probably not even realizing he was doing it (or had seen the great results).
After the course finished, one of the facilitators, who worked with our family in the clinical setting, did some home visits to work on particular behaviours with the strategies. Home life was easier after The Incredible Years!