Global Study of 15,000 Families Finds It’s Never Too Late to Manage Out‑of‑Control Kids
Most parenting guidance stresses the importance of addressing behavior problems with kids when they are young. Kids’ brains are most plastic — that is, their behavior and thinking most malleable — before they enter school, and therefore, experts say, this is the time that behavior management from parents has the greatest effect.
But a new, global study has found that kids aren’t stuck being a ‘problem child’ once they reach a certain age; adults can deploy new parenting skills that address kids’ behavior problems at any age — and have a great effect.
“With respect to common parenting interventions for reducing behavior problems in childhood, rather than believing ‘earlier is better’, we should conclude, ‘it’s never too early, never too late,'” says Frances Gardner, PhD, of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention. Gardner led the large-scale study of data from more than 15,000 families around the world.
Gardner’s study doesn’t address which parenting interventions are most effective for which behavior problems in children. Rather, her team only examined children’s ages at the point when parents changed how they handled the children’s bad behavior, finding that addressing bad behavior in children was as effective at age 2 as age 11. But an example of one such intervention would be the use of positive, rather than punitive, discipline. It’s the only method of discipline proven to shape behavior long term.
So take heart. Your problem child doesn’t have to stay a problem child.