About Parent Management Training

By James Roland

  • Overview

    Parent Management Training is a program designed to help parents deal with behavior issues involving their young children and adolescents. While the book and accompanying website and other materials are written for clinicians, parents without psychology degrees can learn plenty about discipline, positive reinforcement and improved communication from PMT.
  • The Facts

    Parent Management Training (PMT) was developed by Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, the director and chairman of the Child Study Center and John M. Musser Professor of Psychology at Yale University School of Medicine. He's also director of the Child Conduct Clinic at Yale University, which provides outpatient services to families. PMT was first developed in the 1960s as Dr. Kazdin was researching aggressive and anti-social behavior in children. His research and methods have applications to all types of children. A large part of PMT is changing the parent-child dynamic, particularly in the areas of communication and discipline. For PMT to be effective in their home, parents must be willing to change their behavior, if it's determined that what they are doing isn't working. Attention needs to be given to rewarding and supporting pro-social and non-deviant behavior, just as there is a focus on discouraging anti-social behavior. The book "Parent Management Training" is divided into two parts: The first half explains the research, offers solid examples of PMT applications and ways to enhance the methods described in the book; the second half details the actual application of PMT in the home and includes charts, handouts and other aids for the therapist or the parent.
  • Benefits

    When PMT is effective, the benefits include improved cooperation and behavior at home and school, with a more positive outlook on academic achievement and more enjoyable family time. Children and adolescents also develop the skills to handle disappointment with greater patience and perspective. Incidents of fighting and aggressive behavior at school and home are reduced and even the small challenges of everyday life--from homework to bedtime--can be handled more easily and calmly. A child's interpersonal relationships with parents, siblings, teachers, classmates and friends are likely to improve through the methods employed in PMT. Children who learn these important skills will be healthier-functioning adults and will likely be better, more aware, parents some day.

  • Function

    Children are taught problem-solving skills that require them to take time to think through situations and arrive at a healthy solution, rather than acting impulsively. Praise and positive attention from parents may be encouraged through good, thoughtful decision making by the kids. Parents are also taught child-management skills and techniques to cover a wide array of situations and behaviors. In therapy sessions, parents role-play and are given appropriate responses to re-direct negative behavior and support healthy choices. Many of these tools can also be acquired by reading the program's text, "Parent Management Training."
  • Time Frame

    A therapist employing PMT would typically see a family weekly for about six months, but parents and children would be expected to follow through with changes made during therapy for a lifetime. The more the techniques are practiced at home, the sooner you can expect to see changes and the more likely those changes are to be long-lasting. Yale researchers report that noticeable changes in children's behavior can be seen within a month of beginning PMT therapy, though more subtle signs could be seen much earlier.
  • Misconceptions

    Behavior experts such as Alan Kazdin make it clear that, despite what we might otherwise think, most parents can improve their skills with training and effort. Great parenting doesn't come naturally to everyone and the fact that you're interested in this subject proves that you want to become an even better parent or a better clinician who works with families. The other great misconception is that by a time a child is of a certain age, there's nothing parents can do to change behaviors. PMT spends a considerable amount of time focusing on adolescent behavior and makes clear the notion that while consistent, positive parenting approaches are best started when children are very young, teens are still malleable. Peers and media have tremendous influence on adolescents, but you can, too.
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