Parent management training (PMT) is a program used in conjunction with the treatment of attention disorders and childhood psychiatric issues such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While traditional counseling and psychiatry focuses on treating a child, parent management training is aimed at helping the guardians of a child diagnosed with these disorders manage the child's special needs at home and in school. PMT is tailored to each specific case, although the principles of the training are the same: positive reinforcement, punishment, and fostering communication between parents and their child.
Treatment for attention and childhood psychiatric disorders varies greatly depending on the severity of a diagnosis. It can include counseling, medication, physical therapy, and specialized teaching. While these treatments are often very productive, a child with these disorders requires structure and consistency far more than their neurotypical counterparts. Parent management training teaches the adults in a child's life how to continue treatment at home and in school and without the direct supervision of the child's doctors.
This training is largely based on positive reinforcement. Parents are taught how to consistently reward their child for behaving in an acceptable manner. While this is a parenting philosophy that can apply to even ordinary children, parent management training helps parents understand their child's capabilities and then develop appropriate expectations based on these abilities. This part of PMT is the core of the program; understanding a child's limitations can help to eliminate a lot of unnecessary frustration and even anger. It also helps to define, set, and reach small goals, thus increasing the feeling of progress for both parents and the child.
PMT also teaches parents to utilize extremely consistent punishments, which are typically only applied when a child behaves in a way that he or she fully understands is not acceptable; punishment is not used to teach new behaviors. When it comes to attention and childhood psychiatric disorders, structure is key in helping a child learn how to behave properly. Parent management training advises parents in how to implement the same punishment for each inappropriate behavior. This can include a time out following tantrums, a loss of a privilege for not finishing a chore, or a verbal reprimand for talking back.
Parent management training is based on social learning, which theorizes that human beings learn social constructs from others. Outside of positive reinforcement and punishment, adults are taught through parent management training to model proper behavior in the way they interact with the child, each other, and with outsiders. Parent management training, in conjunction with other treatments, has been shown to be highly effective in improving family life, communication between family members, and the overall progress a child makes with his or her treatment.