Optimistic Parenting: Hope and Help for You and Your Challenging Child is written by V. Mark Durand.
Dr. Durand is a world renowned expect in autism and challenging behaviours. He has been a leading researcher in many of the important interventions we value for children with autism such as the concept of teaching functional communication. He is the author of several books that been helpful for families with children with autism including his book, Sleep Better, which provides intervention strategies for sleep issues.
Dr. Durand’s most recent book recounts what he has learned from working with parents for many years. Optimistic Parenting details a philosophy and practical techniques for parents to use to assist them in becoming more confident, skillful and positive in their parenting of children with challenging behaviour. His insight into this topic is based on his observation of his own parenting experiences, other persons parenting styles as well as a long term research project working with parents to examine and in some cases reframe their thinking regarding their ability to change their child’s behaviour.
Over the years, Dr. Durand has worked with children with challenging behaviours and their families he found that the best predictor of child outcome was parent’s attitude toward their ability to effect change in their child’s behaviour. Parents who had an optimistic belief that they could handle their child’s behaviour, change the way they think in stressful situations and that their child could change their behaviour created the larger degree of behaviour change in their child. On the other hand, pessimistic parents lack confidence that they can deal with difficult situations so are more likely to not persist in making changes. During his research project, strategies were discussed to assist parents in increasing their understanding of challenging behaviour and make plans to prevent or deal with them. In addition, during this series of sessions parents were provided with strategies to assist them in gaining insight into their own thoughts while their child was engaging in challenging behaviour.
Dr. Durand offers ten tips for optimistic parents:
1. Explore your thoughts and feelings before, during and after meltdowns.
2. If your spouse or partner doesn’t help , ask why.
3. Believe you are a good parent.
4. Believe your child can change.
5. Take care of yourself.
6. Leverage- don’t multitask.
7. Parent in the moment.
8. Recognize and appreciate the good things in life.
9. Express gratitude to those who help you.
10. Sometimes bad is okay.
For parents who had a pessimistic view about their ability to effect change in their child’s behavior, strategies such as distraction and substitution were introduced for them to use to try to change the way they thought about their ability to parent and gain some control of their thoughts. Dr. Durand describes strategies such as keeping a journal and the use of self talk to gain insight into thought patterns as a means toward changing one’s thinking. Distraction strategies such as interrupting unproductive or distressing thoughts were suggested and practiced by parents. Substitution strategies included replacing unproductive and distressing thoughts with more positive thoughts. Personal stories from several families are shared to illustrate Dr. Durand’s approach.
Optimistic Parenting also provides a step by step guide to analyzing challenging behaviour, responding to it with confidence and teaching replacement behaviours for lasting behaviour improvement. Dr. Durand describes how to deal with emergency situations by either avoiding or improving them, offering choices and creating predictable routines. Separate chapters are included to specifically address interventions for transitions and sleep.
As a parent and professional, I found this book to be very informative both from the perspective of better understanding challenging behaviour and how my own thoughts and behaviour impact can impact a child’s behaviour. If you’ve read it, please share your thoughts with us.