How Triple P changed my life

The following is an excerpt of a presentation delivered by a parent on the 18th September at the NSW Triple P Practitioner Day. This parent had  attended a Triple P parenting group in October 2011.

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“My name is Meagan, I am the mother of three little treasures and this is my story.

In July of 2011 we welcomed our third child. A beautiful baby girl. I hoped she would bring balance to our family and help settle the rising chaos that is life with two boys aged 4 and 3. In the weeks that followed I realised a newborn baby combined with a change from fulltime work to fulltime mum is not going to reduce chaos in any way. But I was blessed with a relaxed attitude, a strong commitment to making it work.

Predictably, our boys began to act up. At preschool they got into trouble. My husband, not having experienced criticism of his children before, was mortified and very angry. The boys were afraid. They were in a great deal of trouble at home and at school – there was no place for them. On advice from the preschool the boys were separated and went to school on different days. This worked perfectly for school but at home the crazy behaviour returned. They were becoming uncontrollable.

Our 3 year old had always been difficult. From birth he was difficult to settle, difficult to feed and for the first 10 months of his life he refused to be held by any other person – including my husband – no matter how hard I tried. Consequently, there was no relationship between he and his father. He is a very clever child and very intuitive but was very angry and completely irrational. He would throw tantrums lasting 4 or 5 hours over minor issues and would debate and question everything “I just don’t think you’re right Mummy”.

One day we had a battle over a mandarine. I had put my foot down and so had he – from here it was anyone’s guess as to who would crack first or how long it would take. 22 hours he persisted without food. This was an impressive 3 year old but to my husband there was something very wrong with him. My husband declared he had autism. I did everything I could. I took both boys to doctors, naturopaths, councillors, community nurses and they were assessed for everything. One nurse even implied that my 3 year old had the makings of a serial killer and not to worry because every serial killer had to have a mum. No one could tell me what was wrong with my children.

I’d heard about this Triple P course but was convinced it would be of no use. Apparently it was all common sense stuff. Also I didn’t think as a mum of three children I should be taking a course on how to be a parent – clearly I should know what I am doing by now. But with nowhere else to turn and tension in our home reaching fever pitch I put my name down for the next Triple P. Finally a life line – I received a call from Narelle.

I asked my husband if he wanted to come along and he said “No. I don’t have a problem making the kids do what I want. I don’t need a course to learn how to parent – parenting should be natural – if it’s not you shouldn’t be doing it”. Granted the kids do tend to fall into line when their dad is around but they are terrified of him. To me that’s not parenting, that’s dominating and with domination comes rebellion.

I went along to Triple P and saw all these other parents who were obviously admitting to failing at parenting, at least that’s what I thought I was doing. I knew there was nothing wrong with me but there was something very wrong with my kids. Soon after I began to realise most of these other parents were just like me – there was something wrong with their kids too.

Narelle taught us about descriptive praise – clearly that wasn’t the issue at my house I always said “good boy” to my kids … or was that the dog … but they got plenty of praise, they were rewarded when they were really good – they just weren’t good very often. I spoke to Narelle after the class and explained that there was something wrong with my child and I kept explaining how hard it was trying to do simple things like read to the boys with a baby crying and boys jumping around the room and she praised me. She praised me for still making the effort each night to read to the boys. It stopped me dead in my tracks – I don’t think I’d ever been praised before for simply trying.

I went home armed with this technique and I gave it a red hot go. I picked up the boys from preschool and with my best positive attitude I praised and praised. The boys responded – one was like a sponge soaking it all up and doing all he could to get the next piece of praise, the other was wise to it. Something had changed. Mummy was different and so began the challenge. “I really like the way you put your plate away”, “No you don’t”, “Thank you for getting undressed for the bath – that makes it much easier for Mummy”, “No it doesn’t”.

I returned to Triple P and declared it works for the good kids and it’s great for that but that’s not what I came to fix. There’s something wrong with this child and no amount of praise is going to fix that. A funny thing happened that day. Narelle said “OK”. She didn’t argue that she knew better, she didn’t tell me I was doing it wrong she just listened and said “OK”.

At that moment I realised she was different. Triple P was different. Each time she gave us a tool I took it home and tried to apply it. Some things would work, some things wouldn’t but what it gave me was options. She talked about building relationships and investing in that relationship. She taught me to be affectionate when you couldn’t touch. She taught me to be calm and quiet. She taught me to be realistic. She taught me that there was nothing wrong with my children and there was no one answer. She taught me to look at things through my child’s eyes and listen to them – I mean really listen to them. She taught me not to fight, that I didn’t have to win, she taught me to meet the need, she taught me to be a better person – to be a better parent – to be a better example. She taught me Triple P.

At the end of the course I had so many options but I wanted more. I returned to do more workshops with Narelle on Special Playtime and anything else she would teach me. At the end I was a little lost … what do I do now? Narelle said “Go and enjoy your kids” and that’s exactly what I did.

Now these days, our family’s not perfect, we wouldn’t suit a cheesy family sitcom, my husband still yells, the boys are still afraid of him and he would still never attend a Triple P course however he sees how things have changed. He recognises that the boys are better behaved and they are much more manageable when we go out … he thinks they just grew up but that’s ok. What’s important is our home is quieter and happier. Our home is a healthier environment. And those 4 – 5 hour tantrums … gone! Replaced by me meeting my son’s needs and being so deeply connected to my child that I can predict and prevent them without anyone else realising what’s happening.

Triple P changed my life, my family and our future. Triple P will continue to be part of my children’s lives and they will take this way of parenting with them when they become parents. Triple P not only changed me but changed my family for generations to come.”

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Categories: Parenting Skills

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