IYP Part 2 – Why I did the course again

As I said in my last post, after finishing the 12 week Incredible Years programme, life was a little calmer in our household and I felt like I had better control of everything. One of the facilitators worked with our family and he came weekly to reiterate the course topics and apply them to the issues I had.

By now, we had been walking the ASD journey for a couple of years. My other half had moved past denial and anger in what we saw in our child, and we were learning to preempt behaviour, and manage problems as they came up. As months went by, we helped our son manage the world around him and so home life was a little calmer… in that respect. As we turned away to catch our breath, we saw that our daughter was displaying signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Her behvaiour ramped up and we were sat on our butts once again, overwhelmed with helplessness.

As I self-referred our family back to our child mental health service, I pondered doing the course again. Once again, we had a new baby, but that didn’t bother me. I knew that to get the best results, my other half and I had to be parenting together. I sat down beside him and practically begged him to come. I actually said, “honey, please. I am begging you to consider doing this with me so we can become better parents together.” I then had to walk away and let him think, crossing my fingers and toes that he would make it happen.

I wanted to do the course again because I knew it worked. I knew that reporting back to the class every week held you accountable to yourself, and I knew how valuable the input and discussions from others could be. I knew this. What I didn’t know was whether I would get any more from the course, or whether my other half could do it with me.

He did. He sweet-talked the boss, because taking 3 hours a week for 16 weeks is a huge commitment. We rearranged childcare, got organised, and trooped to the first day, now in a different venue on the ground floor 😛

The circle of chairs was large, there were 16 on this course. There were 3 other dads on the course, and we were the only couple. I knew some of the other mums, though not well. Once again, we had to establish a trust and a rapport in the group, so week 1 and 2 were awkward again.

By week 4 we were well into it. While I had waited for the numbers to drop of like they had last time, this time our group stayed huge the whole way through. The dynamics were different with large numbers compared to when I had done the course first time with a small group. This time, we bantered thoughts and chucked around solutions more, there was a greater input of different ideas. Sometimes we had to ‘agree to disagree’ as we got heated and passionate. It was brilliant!!!!!!!

The facilitators started each class with the topic of the day, we watched vignettes (still the same dated videos!) and we did some practice/role play. And then we talked, and talked and talked some more. They truely earned the title of facilitator because they both facilitated discussion so it was helpful and on task.

Each of us bought in new issues from our children, but we all understood the challenge each other was going through. Sometimes it was enough to collapse on a chair at 9.25am and take a deep breath, knowing you were in a safe place and the people around you would understand how hard it was to get your child into the car this morning.

I haven’t gone into too much detail of what is actually taught in the class. I’m not sure what I can cover with copyright etc, and also I don’t want to ruin it if you decide to take the course!

I can tell you that it is all based on a loving and respectful relationship with your child. It is about talking to your child like another person, using words to get what you want/need – not hitting or shouting. It is about teaching your child the life skills of emotional regulation, empathy, and problem solving.

Having done the course before, I knew some of the content. We still practiced some of the techniques every day at home. Yet it had been 3 years since I had done it previously so there was a lot to be refreshed!!! This time, the course was 16 weeks. This pace, though an additional month – was preferable, as there was more time to go into the topics and apply them to home life.

The change at home this time was gradual, but it did happen. Even better was that we were parenting together, backing each other up, supporting the other. Each time one of us slipped, the other was there. It made it all worth it.

The people in the group were amazing. We had children ranging a huge age gap (eldest child was in 20’s, youngest was our babe attending) with the ‘children in question’ (why we were on course) aged about 7-16. Every week my respect for these mums and dads deepened, every week I was reminded why it was so important not to judge others.

During the course, we had an event in our family that tested us, us as a couple, us as a family. Huge. We rode through it and I was thankful it was the school holidays. During the school holidays, IYP takes a break too, so when we resumed back to course in the first week of school, it was news to our classmates. It was then that I realised how awesome our kids had been through that rocky period, that our new skills had ensured that we had survived. Grief is one of the biggest upheavals there is, and here we were as a family, stronger than ever.

I did role play with a woman I had known for many years. We both have strong personalities and I admire her for the way she deals with the challenges her children throw at her. She knew how to rankle me though (and I say this in a good way!). We were practicing the ‘ignore’ technique, which is extremely powerful when done right. It is very very easy to get this one wrong though, and it hadn’t worked in our house because I wasn’t doing it properly. So I volunteered to practice. Wow. This woman goaded me in the same way my children do, pulling from me many feelings and throwing me into a place I didn’t want to be. The class helped me through that, using various skills we had learnt, and techniques of support. The following week we practiced again and I was thrilled when I nailed it, despite her best efforts to drag me back.

The group watched my baby progress from sleep/feed at week one, to crawling at week 16. He knew the familiar faces and charmed everyone!

By the end of the course, our group was comfortable and happy. It was sad to be finishing. I joked about us doing it again, and one of our facilitators told us they were about to start a new group. I was startled to realise that I wanted to be on it. Once again, IYP had calmed our home, but I knew how easy it was to slip into bad habits. I signed up to do it a 3rd time. One of my closest friends who had done the course twice before, also signed up. So last week, the two of us headed back to the room. We were looking forward to doing it together.

Once again, we sat with a group of strangers. More dads, more mums, more parents who just wanted to do their best. I am doing it again because I feel that continuing what I had done so far this year, will cement my good habits and make them permanent.

Maybe doing it two or three times isn’t for everyone, and I appreciate how fortunate I am in my position to be able to do it again. I know working parents will struggle to do just the once. For some people, evening classes are easier but I haven’t seen many of those around. I do know that it is absolutely worth it if you can make it happen. I think this course is so amazing, every single parent should do it once their child can walk :-).



My experience in IYP – Part ONE

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!

Introducing: The Incredible Years

This was last week’s published article, and I was delighted because our family’s clinical psychologist sent a copy of it to America’s IYP office 🙂

What if I could tell you how to improve parent-child interactions, so you can stop yelling in the mornings and your child happily hangs their towel up after a bath?

ID-10070716By Clare Bloomfield http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
ID-10070716By Clare Bloomfield http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Before you launched into your job or career, chances are you received training or completed a course, so you knew procedures, how to complete tasks, operate equipment.

Fortunate parents have the opportunity to attend antenatal classes, where you learn about birth options, basic newborn care and most importantly, meet a few people who are going through the same stage as you, providing the basis of the all-important support network.

However not many families are given much of a crash course in parenting – how to deal with tantrums, non-compliance and unappealing behaviour, and how to play, praise and enjoy your child (because for some people this doesn’t come naturally).

I often hear people joke that ‘babies don’t come with manuals and instructions’, but let me tell you about the next best thing: parenting courses.
Ok, stop groaning! As with anything, attitude is everything – so you’ll get the most out of a course if you go into it with positive goals and a willing approach to give it a go.

New Zealand is host to a fabulous international renowned parenting course called, ‘The Incredible Years’. This course is a 16 week, weekly session programme that helps parents with strategies to build a respectful family relationship.

The course is useful for turning behaviour around from the undesirable to a more positive family life, so if you’re struggling to deal with a child that is demonstrating challenging behaviour, then The Incredible Years programme can help you set clear rules and boundaries to improve behaviour.

For families who deal with behavioral or developmental issues, many psychologists and social workers recommend the course to establish a calmer household. Having done the course for this reason, I can highly recommend it for setting structure, developing social skills and eliminating/minimizing the disruption that these traits and behaviours can cause.

Every family will get something out of this course, because the strategies can be adapted from toddler to youth. You may even find some techniques helpful to use in your relationship or working environment! Adopting clear limits, problem solving, listening and talking skills, empathy and redirection are life-long skills to ensure your child’s success in life. Having done the programme for a second time, I can see its ability to be adapted to every family situation.

Based on a foundation of a respectful relationship with plenty of play, fun, encouragement and celebration, The Incredible Years will also teach parents strategies such as ignore, distract, redirect, limits and (my own personal weakness) consistent follow-through. The focus is on encouraging behaviours you’d like to see, and using consequences to deal with the behaviour you don’t want!

Contact your nearest Ministry of Education district office if you’re interested in the Incredible Years – Parent programme.

Read more about it online at http://incredibleyears.com/

If you cant get onto a course this year, try and get hold of the book. It doesn’t replace the course, but may help you adopt some different strategies to help you in the mean time!!

EDITED: Here is the link to what the American IYP office had o say about my articles 😛  https://incredibleyearsblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/a-word-from-one-of-our-parents/