I love my 3-year-old to no end, but there are some days I find myself asking “WHO IS THIS KID??” and “HOW DO I CONTROL HIM?!” I’ve been a mom for a decade now, but it never fails: Just when I think I have figured out what to do, I flop and find myself wishing that Super Nanny (minus the cameras) would come visit my house and tell me how best to handle my kid.
That’s why a recent Washington Post article caught my interest. An emerging psychological treatment for out-of-control preschoolers, called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is making its way to clinics across the country. It’s won recognition as one of the most effective treatments for young children who are prone to frequent and destructive meltdowns. How?
Its premise is simple: that the best way to help children with titanic tempers is to coach parenting in real time.
Parents who enroll in PCIT get their own personal trainer: a social worker or psychologist who dispenses guidance through a wireless earpiece. In a typical session, the therapist retreats behind a one-way mirror and instructs parents—sometimes even feeding them lines to say—as they play with and learn to discipline their children. The live feedback catches ineffective parenting habits in their tracks and helps parents hew to PCIT’s somewhat rigid script, which combines effusive praise and attention for good behavior with a clear system of warnings and timeouts for bad.
While we haven’t resorted to therapy yet, if we do need to go this route in the future, PCIT will be something we consider. There is no handbook for being a parent and each child is different. Being hands-on, finding ways that I can help my children while they struggle and act out, with an expert on hand, feels like it would be more mutually beneficial to both my child and myself.
Do you have any experience with PCIT?