The Incredible Years (IY) is a set of teacher, child and parent programs designed to promote children’s social, emotional and academic competence including prevention and reduction of behavior problems in children ages 3-12. The IY Classroom Curriculum + Parent Training Program, as represented in the accepted research, combined a classroom child training curriculum (the Dinosaur Social Skills Program) with a parent program for students targeted due to conduct problems. The Dinosaur Social Skills classroom program focused on classroom management strategies, pro-social behavior, and reducing conduct disorders, presented in 60 class lessons over 2 years (K-1). The parent program provided weekly sessions for parents focused on ways they could improve their children’s social behavior and academic competence.
The current Basic Parent Curriculum, available in different versions based on age of child, consists of weekly 2-hour parent groups covering topics such as social, emotional, academic and persistence coaching, child-directed play, praise and incentives, effective limit setting, proactive discipline and problem solving. Themes throughout the parent program include building supportive social networks, emotional regulation and working collaboratively with teachers. Teaching methods for parents include goal setting and using video vignettes to trigger problem solving and practices. Parents are given home activities to read and practice weekly and set short term goals. The treatment version of the program is a minimum of 18-20 weeks and the prevention version is minimum of 14 weeks.
The Incredible Years Classroom Curriculum + Parent Training Program was evaluated by Reid, Webster-Stratton, & Hammond (2007) with students with conduct problems in 14 Seattle-area schools. Schools were randomly assigned to IY or control conditions in a 2-year evaluation. Within IY schools, students were randomly assigned to receive Dinosaur Social Skills + Parent Training or to Dinosaur Social Skills only. Compared to controls, students scored significantly better on emotional regulation (ES=+0.57), qualifying the IY Classroom Curriculum + Parent Training Program for the ESSA “Strong” rating in the Emotional Well-being category. Three other measures qualified for ESSA’s “Promising” criterion: pro-social behaviors (ES=+0.35), reduction of anxiety/depression (+0.15), and improved aggression/conduct problems (+0.21).
Classroom Program: Two trained group leaders are needed to conduct the child program. Classroom teachers may be trained to deliver the program in their own classrooms. If the classroom has an assistant, that person should also be trained. A preferred method of delivery is to have classroom teachers trained alongside another school professional (school counselor or school psychologist) and to have a team of 2 people to deliver the program in each classroom.
Parent Program: Two trained group leaders are needed to conduct parent sessions. It is recommended that these leaders have an educational background that includes child development classes and that they have a good understanding of effective parenting principles and cognitive social-learning theory. Group leaders who will be working with high-risk families or families whose children are experiencing clinical levels of behavior problems should have at least masters level training. Group leaders for both prevention and treatment groups should be warm and collaborative in their approach to working with parents.
Group leaders participate in a 3-day initial training. Following the initial training, group leaders begin leading groups and receive consultation from The Incredible Years trainers and mentors. Group leaders participate in an accreditation process to ensure that they are doing the program with fidelity. When group leaders have completed the accreditation process, they are certified group leaders.