Facilitated by the social work team, The Incredible Years course is based on Caroline Webster-Stratton’s programme on nurturing parenting.
The course focuses on child-led play and building relationships, using that to move on to rewards and incentives. The course looks at more serious or challenging behaviour, helping children with problem solving, considering natural consequences and how to steer children through the maze of making age-appropriate decisions.
The current course was run for 12 weeks, every Monday, and the facilitators encouraged participants to receive support both from the facilitators themselves and the other attendees.
Course facilitator, Yomi Bennett, said: “We set up buddy calls so they can chat to each other through the week. It keeps them going and keeps them motivated.”
“The attendees receive a phone call from one of the facilitators each week. This is just to check in, ask how things are doing and to provide additional support.”
The course relies on a variety of methods to coach attendees. The facilitators use video clips to show examples of challenging circumstances for parents. This allows the parents to look at what worked well, what didn’t work so well and why. In addition to this the facilitators use skills practices, putting some of the lessons learnt into place.
Yomi is a huge advocate of the course. She said: “I have facilitated four of these courses. I love it. I know it works. We can all sit together, not judging each other, giving ourselves a pat on the back when things go right, or reflecting on what could be done differently if it didn’t work so well.”
For one of the facilitators, Jaimee Harper, this was the first experience of running an Incredible Years course. Jaimee said: “It is great to see difference in the parents over the 12-week course.
“We realise that it can be isolating in BFG at times, particularly if dad is deployed and mum is at home with the children. She possibly may not be working or meeting other adults. This course can help with that. The buddy calls provide everyone with an opportunity to have someone to talk to.”
The Incredible Years course is run subject to demand, with more courses being run in the future if people are interested.
There are two courses available, one for parents of preschoolers (three to six years) and one for parents of school age (six years and older) children. Importantly, these courses are open to anybody who is interested.
Jaimee said: “Sometimes these courses can be perceived as for someone who is struggling or who has a naughty child. I think it is important to point out that this isn’t what this course is about. It is about teaching parenting strategies and learning new skills, to help you enjoy your own children. It is not a reflection on your own parenting or your child.”
One of the attendees, Elizabeth Watson, said: “We are all in 100 per cent agreement that this course is highly recommended, purely because of the foundations that it teaches you. It just works. It makes your home life so much better. You have more consideration for your child, a better understanding of them, which creates a stronger relationship.”
Those attending the course are expected to put what they learn in the classroom into practice in their daily life. Each week they discuss how it went.
Jo Bradford, facilitator said: “They each get the Incredible Years book and they are expected to read the corresponding pages each week, which reinforces the course work.”
When asked what the best aspect of the course was, Elizabeth said: “The concept of child-led play. Without it the rest doesn’t work. It’s about spending quality playtime with your child, where they choose what to play and you go with it. So, if they want to turn something into a space rocket then just go with it. They then become so appreciative of that time. They build a really strong, positive relationship with you and they gradually show most positive behaviours.”
Rona Stewart, attendee, found the course really helped create a happier home life. She said: “The course has been really refreshing; previous to this everyone seemed to want me to be tougher with my child, more assertive. It is the first time that someone has actually said we can build a positive relationship with our children. The whole emphasis is about positive praise to encourage the behaviour we want to see.”
The Incredible Years course is open to all parents or guardians. Facilitator, Yomi, said: “This course is open for mums and dads. Attendees agree that if the dad also attended it would be beneficial. In fact, couples are actually the best as then you can really work on it together at the same time and be consistent.” When asked if courses are always run on a weekday, Yomi confirmed: “If there was a demand, we would be happy to run the course at weekends or evenings. Courses have also been held in other areas, for example Gütersloh should the demand be there.”
There was praise all round for the facilitators of the course, and attendees wanted to thank them for their support, both in the classroom and with home phone calls. When the attendees were asked if they recommended the course, they unanimously and enthusiastically agreed they would.
Elizabeth said: “Never in a million years, before I started this course, did I think that it would help so much. To hear stories from around the group of the improvement it has made in their families, it is incredible. It is overwhelming; you can’t help but smile about the progress. It is just brilliant.”