Telling your kindergartener “good job” isn’t good enough, says Dr. John C. Duby, director of de-velopmental pediatrics at Akron Children’s Hospital and co-director of its NeuroDevelopmental Center. It’s important to be specific — to reinforce her positive behavior by praising exactly what she did a good job on. And instead of assuming your adolescent knows how to act in the presence of other adults, reinforce your expectations through spoken instructions.
These are just two common parental tips given by Duby, one of the first doctors in the United States to systematically employ the Positive Parenting Program (“Triple P”) for teaching development and behav-ioral skills to parents. The gist: The best way to correct a child’s misbehavior is to understand why he or she is having a problem. “Parents can learn how to identify problems early and address them promptly before they turn into big issues that require intensive care,” says Duby.
Triple P, developed in Australia in the 1980s, is a tiered approach to behavioral health that includes three levels of primary care. The first is public awareness. Akron Children’s Hospital provides general information about parenting through articles in its 250,000-circulation quarterly newspaper, Inside Children. The second tier addresses parents’ specific concerns during scheduled office visits. Duby of-fers them tip sheets, which help parents determine why their child is demonstrating a problem, how to manage the problem and how to prevent it next time. The third tier is counseling. Duby offers five, two-hour group sessions for parents who require in-depth guidance or are involved with Children’s Services through court mandate. During the sessions, parents role-play, learn how to track their kids’ progress and develop other skills.