What is the Incredible Years?

The Incredible Years programme is designed to prevent and treat emotional and behavioural difficulties in children aged 3 to 10 years.

The programme was developed in the University of Washington in Seattle by Dr Carolyn Webster-Stratton. The Incredible Years series contains three separate programmes for parents, teachers and children. Whilst each programme has been designed as a stand alone intervention, taken together, they provided a cohesive and uniform strategy to address and eliminate behavioural difficulties in children.

Teachers frequently report that they are spending an increasing amount of time, in the classroom, dealing with students’ aggressive, hyperactive and oppositional behaviours. If teachers ignore these behaviours or give them negative attention, the behaviours will continue to increase and will lead to eventual school failure and anti-social behavior as well as increased stress for teachers.

The Dundalk Incredible Years project is using three elements from the Incredible Years suite of programmes:

  • The Teacher Classroom Management Programme
  • The Dina Programme
  • The Parent Programme

We aim to strengthen teacher and parent management skills so as to reduce challenging behaviour in our children and to increase their social and self-control skills.

The Incredible Years programme has been subjected to almost 30 years of rigorous evaluation. Based on the positive outcomes produced in these evaluations a number of separate independent reviews have found that the programme meets the highest standard of scientific proof. The Programme has been recommended by the American Psychological Association as an effective psychosocial treatment for conduct-disordered children. This evidence-based validation has seen the programme introduced in most states within the US, as well as being used by service agencies in the UK, Canada, Norway and now Ireland.

The author of the Incredible Years programme, Carolyn Webster-Stratton, in her book The Incredible Years – A Trouble-Shooting Guide for Parents of Children Aged 2-8 Years” explains that ‘‘the attention rule is the basic principle behind much of what is discussed’ in her book. She goes on: ‘children will work for attention from others, especially parents, whether it is positive (praise) or negative (criticism) in nature. If they do not receive positive attention, then they will strive for negative attention since that is better than none at all’.

The Incredible Years programme, whether it is the parent, teacher or child element puts this positive approach into practice.

One of the important strengths of the Incredible Years programme is its unique ability to promote an inter agency approach to dealing with emotional and behavioural difficulties in children. The multi-agency approach to the training of those delivering the programme brings together all resources within a community and focuses those resources very positively and collaboratively on children with difficulties.