Watching TV could help your parenting

Phase two of The Great Parenting Experiment, which aims to find out whether watching 'positive parenting' TV shows can really help address problems like child aggression and tantrums, is being launched by clinical psychologist Rachel Calam of The University of Manchester this week.

The ITV1 series Driving Mum and Dad Mad returns on Monday (17 July), and will follow a new set of families as they try out the 'Triple P' parenting programme. This was devised by Professor Matt Sanders from The University of Queensland in Australia, and aims to improve children's behaviour by rebuilding positive relationships, tackling discipline and setting rules and limits.

Teams from both universities are collaborating on The Great Parenting Experiment which will run alongside the series, wherein parents of 3 – 9 year old children will be asked to watch the shows and try out its advice for themselves. Funded by the Respect Task Force, the study will test whether, by adopting the ideas suggested, mums and dads can improve their children's behaviour and reduce their own stress levels.

Dr Calam, of the School of Psychological Sciences, explained: "One group of families will simply be asked to watch the programmes and put into practice what they see, whilst another will be given additional support. Everyone will receive a free self-help workbook at some point during the study.

"Parents will be asked to fill in questionnaires about their child's behaviour, how well they are dealing with parenting and how they are feeling, before and after watching the series and again a few months later.

"The information we gather will help us understand more about how helpful positive parenting TV is to parents and children. We hope that the parents will find that their child's behaviour improves and any emotional problems are addressed, and that their own levels of depression, anxiety and stress will be reduced."

Louise Casey, Government Respect Co-ordinator, said: "We are supporting this research because good parenting is vital to tackling anti-social behaviour and a key part of the Government's Respect Action Plan.

"Parents have an essential role in preventing their children from offending, re-offending or engaging in anti-social behaviour. We know that 60 per cent of three-year-olds with conduct disorders still exhibit problems at the age of eight if untreated, which in turn can lead to anti-social or criminal behaviour as teenagers or adults.

"Research already shows that parenting programmes can improve parenting skills and behaviour, and the Great Parenting Experiment will provide even greater insights."

The first series of Driving Mum and Dad Mad in spring 2005 followed the experiences of five families attending a Triple P group. An average of 4.23 million viewers watched the show, with 500 families taking part in The Great Parenting Experiment in parallel.

All the parents who followed the TV series and used the strategies shown reported improved behaviour in their child, and greater confidence in managing it. The group receiving additional web-based information and email support experienced an even greater improvement, and six months after the series all the families reported long term benefits and continued improvements to their children's behaviour (for more information on phase one please visit www.greatparentingexperiment.net/gpe1.asp).

The team is looking for 1000 families from across the UK to take part in this second phase of the study. Parents interested in finding out more should visit www.greatparentingexperiment.net .

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For further information please contact:


Jo Nightingale: 0161 275 8156/jo.nightingale@manchester.ac.uk/07717 881572 (Mon – Weds am, Fri am and out of hours)
Mikaela Sitford: 0161 275 2111/mikaela.sitford@manchester.ac.uk (Weds – Fri).

Notes for Editors

Photography of Dr Calam is available upon request.

For more information on The Great Parenting Experiment please visit www.greatparentingexperiment.net

The TV series Driving Mum and Dad Mad returns to ITV1 on Monday 17 July at 9pm. For more information please visit www.itv.com/mumanddad

Parents' comments on phase one of The Great Parenting Experiment (anonymity assured):

"I am so happy I've joined up to this experiment. My husband wasn't too interested to begin with but even he is now accepting the wisdom after seeing the dramatic change in our son, and is willing to adopt the Triple P way if it will sort out our daughter."

"We have found the programme inspiring. We have tried out all the techniques shown and have seen a difference, like the families have… It is wonderful to have some help at last that is practical and actually sees results."

"I work and could not take advantage of a local parenting class run at my health centre... I am now much more aware of how much my behaviour/mood influences the children's behaviour which doesn't mean I have solved the problem but I am better at recognising when I have to try harder to keep calm etc. and then they behave better so it doesn't get out of hand."

"All in all I am so happy I've joined up to this experiment. My husband wasn't to interested to begin with but even he is now accepting the wisdom after seeing the dramatic change in our son and is willing to adopt the Triple P way if it will sort out our daughter."

"We have found the programme inspiring. We have tried out all the techniques shown and have seen a difference, like the families have. We watched every programme avidly and were disappointed that it was not on for longer. Thank you very much for the invaluable tips and skills shown – those of which we are now using to a great advantage. It is wonderful to have some help at last that is practical and actually sees results. THANK YOU!!"

"The series is great! I've heard so many people talking about it and subsequently discussing my involvement with them. Lots of interested parents out there."

"The website is very helpful and I've opened all of the sound and video clips without any problems. It is great to be able to go back to the information again when you are at your wits end or just trying to evolve a strategy for dealing with your own children. For the tipsheets and workbook I shall be eternally grateful!"

"I've emailed for advice on a particular point in respect of my son's behaviour and with the help of the tip sheets and the book I received (of course in conjunction with the show and the website) I have managed to stop my 2 year old son from biting and pulling his sister's hair by recognising the trigger to this type of behaviour and working on that rather than the biting/hair pulling."

"The quiet time is also a great success with my (barely just) 2 year old son. My husband could not believe it when he returned home from business that not only did he understand what I was telling him to do (taking him to the spot and telling him it was Quiet Time now and I did not want him to do X or Y) but that more amazingly he stayed put, took the punishment then re-entered the situation and the problem was defused. How fantastic is that!! I am happy to say that I have yet to resort to Time Out and we've also pretty much stopped his tantrums using your planned ignoring tactic. Coupled with positive praise for good behaviour and a positive atmosphere between us parents his behaviour has returned to the angelic little boy we lost sight of about 6 months ago. Thank You."

"For the first time I don't feel so despondent about the call from school as I have more strategies and easily accessible ideas available to me than ever before. We'll continue to push for more professional help at school and from our health care providers until we finally get the help in school she needs for her attention deficit problems but for now we've watched her closely as you suggested for the last few weeks and are drawing up plans and strategies with her and the school to get back on track. Most importantly, we feel positive and she says she wants things to be better - we hope to build on her wish and the joint commitment between home and school with your programme to get her to feel better about life all round. If Triple P can help an ADHD child like Angus, we know it is worth trying with our little girl."

"All in all I am so happy I've joined up to this experiment. My husband wasn't to interested to begin with but even he is now accepting the wisdom after seeing the dramatic change in our son and is willing to adopt the Triple P way if it will sort out our daughter."

"Many thanks once again for the opportunity to be involved in the experiment."

"I would like to congratulate yourselves on a wonderful and an eye opening series of "Driving mum and dad"."

"I have just finished watching your final programme and it has been wonderful to watch. Just to know that you are not alone and there are many families out there that have children with similar behavioural problems. But it is hard, you often feel very alone and think nobody is interested… I think it is very important to highlight this growing problem. Unless you have a child like this, you cannot appreciate what it is like. Thanks for taking the time to help these parents and many like them."

"Sorry to be so long with feedback - that's one of the things with having young children; you're so busy just doing it that there's very little time to stand back and take stock!"

"Thank you for the series, I have found the tip sheets and workbook very informative and am trying to keep the tips in the forefront of my mind. Remembering to praise good behaviour is becoming more established in my mind now and I am trying to stop and think before reacting to a negative situation so that I can give a more measured response. Matt's words about it being OK to feel angry but not to show it have echoed in my mind on several occasions when my temper has got the better of me!"

"I do feel we are making progress and that we are operating more successfully as a family unit than as parents vs. children. On the whole I don't feel we are anywhere near as extreme in our family issues as the people featured on your programme, however we certainly have room to improve and we are committed to change where necessary…"

"Many thanks to all of you and good luck with your ongoing work. If only more parents could make the time and commitment to improve the communication, praise and discipline within their families, the world would be a much happier place. "

"I will persevere...I identified very closely with the single mother in the serious, as I too believe my son has ADHD as the behaviours are very similar and she and I react in very similar manners.....i.e. the theory is great and we know what we should and should not so, but time, frustration and sheer exhaustion at the stress of life as a sole parent, mean that we so often resort to the less effective but more immediate getting angry! I do see there is a better way and will continue to apply the techniques mentioned in the programme and throughout the book....and keep you posted if and when. "

"I would like to let you know that I think the idea of a TV programme and workbook together is great. I work and could not take advantage of a local parenting class run at my health centre. I don't think my children have particularly difficult behaviour but I have a lot of learning to do to be able to deal with toddler behaviour effectively, purely due to my inexperience with young children. Your TV programmes were helpful but combined with the workbook made a difference and were therefore much more helpful than any book or TV programme I had seen before. The workbook helped me to apply what I had seen in the programmes to my specific situation. I am now much more aware of how much my behaviour/mood influences the children's behaviour which doesn't mean I have solved the problem but I am better at recognising when I have to try harder to keep calm etc. and then they behave better so it doesn't get out of hand. It was also nice to know I could e mail someone with a query as getting in touch with a health visitor to ask for advice on dealing with average behaviour issues seemed a bit silly and as I am at work my access to them is limited. "

"Many thanks for your book and programme, just a quick note to say how helpful it was. ….'s behaviour has improved and with a 6 month old son to care for also it was needed."

The University of Manchester (www.manchester.ac.uk) is the largest higher education institution in the country, with 24 academic schools and over 36 000 students. Its Faculty of Medical & Human Sciences (www.mhs.manchester.ac.uk) is one of the largest faculties of clinical and health sciences in Europe, with a research income of around Ł51 million (almost a third of the University's total research income).

The School of Psychological Sciences (www.psych-sci.manchester.ac.uk) was founded in 2004, and comprises the oldest Psychology department in the UK together with Human Communication and Deafness and Clinical Psychology divisions. All were rated 5/5 in the last higher education Research Assessment Exercise.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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