Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Parents' Reported Use and Views of Strategies for Managing the Behaviour of Their Preschool Child

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Parents' Reported Use and Views of Strategies for Managing the Behaviour of Their Preschool Child

Article excerpt


Amato and Fowler (2002) proposed that the best child outcomes are achieved when parents are warm and supportive, spend considerable time with their children, monitor the behaviour of their children, expect them to abide by rules, encourage open communication with them, and use discussion rather than harsh punishment when dealing with problematic behaviour. These parental qualities and behaviours are very compatible with the approach to parenting that is often described as 'positive parenting'. Although there are a number of definitions of positive parenting, some common key concepts were identified by Myers-Walls (2004). These include viewing the parent-child relationship as a partnership, rather than as an hierarchical, coercive relationship; fostering preferred behaviours in children through the use of strategies that cause no harm; and focusing on teaching children appropriate behaviours rather than preventing undesirable behaviours. The studies reported here examined Australian parents' self-reports of parenting techniques to increase desired behaviour and decrease undesirable behaviour in their children, as well as their views on the acceptability and effectiveness of some commonly recommended positive parenting techniques.

Research by those investigating positive parenting has identified a number of techniques that are effective for teaching and encouraging desirable behaviour in young children and for managing problem behaviour (see Sanders, Cann & Markie-Dadds, 2003; Sanders, Markie-Dadds & Turner, 2001). Providing engaging activities, attention and descriptive praise are recommended to encourage desirable child behaviour. Teaching new skills or behaviours may be accomplished by modelling the behaviour, using incidental teaching and using behaviour charts. Problem behaviours are understood to be best dealt with through teaching or supporting alternative, desirable behaviours, ignoring or removing the opportunity of receiving reinforcement for the behaviours (i.e. time out).

Sanders, Bor and Morawska (2007) found that coercive or ineffective parenting practices are commonly employed by Australian parents, with over half the parents in their study reporting smacking, and 70 per cent shouting. A possible explanation for the use of such techniques may lie in parental views regarding the acceptability and/or effectiveness of different parenting strategies, of which little is known. Two studies have addressed acceptability of strategies recommended in the Triple P program (a positive parenting program developed in Australia [Sanders, 1999]) to Australian parents. In both these studies, parents were introduced to material from the program and asked to rate its acceptability. Both studies reported high acceptability (Ferrari, Whittingham, Boyd, Sanders & Colditz, 2011; Morawska et al., 2011). In an exploration of parental acceptability of physical punishment to manage child behaviour, Tucci, Mitchell and Goddard (2006) surveyed a representative sample of 750 adults from the Australian community and found that 69 per cent believed it is sometimes necessary to smack a child. However, only 41 per cent of the sample believed that smacking a child was an effective way to change children's behaviour, demonstrating that beliefs about acceptability and effectiveness are not interchangeable.

Purpose of the current research

Two studies are reported here. The first focused on the strategies Australian parents reportedly use to develop desired behaviours and to decrease undesirable behaviours in their young children. The second examined the acceptability and perceived utility of a range of parental strategies.

Study one method


Primary caregivers with at least one child under the age of six years were recruited to the study (n = 152). Twenty-seven per cent of respondents held qualifications equivalent to junior high school or lower, 45 per cent held a senior certificate, and 28 per cent had a university qualification. …

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