Veronica was a single mother of three young children who participated in a parent group in Denver. When she started the group she was at her wit’s end because of the horrible behavior of her children. As a single parent she struggled to set boundaries because she didn’t want her children to resent her. She attended the parent group every week, without fail. Six months after the parent group ended she ran into the parent group leader and explained that she had continued using the skills that she learned in the group. Another six months passed and she ran into the parent group leader again. This time she expressed her delight that the parent group had provided her with the tools she needed to have a peaceful and loving household.
She exclaimed that the lessons she had learned not only changed the behavior of one of her children, but they helped to change her whole family.
Julie Steffen, Director of The Incredible Years program at Invest in Kids, recalls when she was starting out as a preschool teacher in the program:
“I worked in a classroom with kids with really challenging behaviors and then kids that were in the community pretty typically developing. That summer, I got a phone call from our evaluation team saying, ‘This pretty challenging kid is coming your way.’
“I reached out to the mom and my first interaction with her was she just wanted to know what the process was for when Jesse would get kicked out of the preschool. I said, ‘That’s not going to happen where we’re at,’ but that’s just an indication of how challenging he was and at four he had every diagnosis under the sun already.
“The moment Jesse walked into the classroom, everything everybody had said was true. He had horribly violent behavior and threw things, kicked things, and yelled horrible things. When I learned the Dinosaur School strategies and techniques, they certainly helped this little guy learn ways to calm down.
“But I think what the indirect benefit was is that not only did he learn the strategies, but the other kids in the classroom were able to talk to him and give him suggestions on how he could calm down.
“I remember one example of him sitting at a table, and the papers and markers went flying and this little sweet girl just put her hand on his back and said, “It’s okay, I know you’re really mad right now and you just need to take some deep breaths.” So he made new friends and was invited to birthday parties and he never got kicked out.
“Jesse was able to transition into kindergarten without a whole lot of intense behavior support. That was pretty life-changing and I was the recipient of training from Invest in Kids and got coaching. I feel like the support that I got helped to implement that tool, and I think of the ripple effect this program will have on his life and the lives of those other children.”
*Names have been changed to protect identity
One Mother’s Story
Being a fulltime stepmom of two children ages 11 and 12, and a biological mother to a 5 and 1 1/2 year old kept one parent extremely busy. Along with claiming to have a lack of quality time to spend with her children, she felt a large amount of stress at home. This parent decided to enroll in a parent group because her stepchildren not only would not listen to her, but were openly defiant. On top of this, she felt accusations of favoritism were constantly arising. She joined the Incredible Years Parent group almost half way through the series at week six. In just six weeks, she was able to see amazing results.
After attending the Parent group, she is more organized at home and is a more proactive parent. She feels confident in her ability as a parent and is spending more time with her children. The communication situation in the home has also improved immensely–between her husband and all her children. By praising positive behaviors and applying the lessons learned at the Parent Group, her relationship with both her biological and stepchildren has improved. She is also seeing even more tangible results as her step daughter’s school grades have risen.
As a result of participating in The Incredible Years Parent Group, this overstressed mother has seen great outcomes and is much happier!
A Grandmother’s Story
“We have a grandmother in our parent group who is very resistant to the idea of playing and giving positive attention. We were discussing praise and pitfalls of giving praise but then taking its effects away when it is followed by a ‘but’ negative. We could see the light bulb go on for this grandmother. She remembered as a child setting the table and her mother saying ‘thank you for setting the table but the next time, will you wash the table first?’ After 50 plus years this grandmother still remembers that hurt!”
Teachers Share Their Thoughts About The Incredible Years
“Children love talking about feelings and love pretending to ‘feel’ different emotions. Dinosaur School has given us a forum for kids to talk about emotions and events in their lives which has been so beneficial for the children. The feelings part of Dinosaur School has definitely taught my kids their favorite lessons so far!”
“Teaching in a classroom with some very challenging social and emotional behaviors was very overwhelming. Dinosaur School has given me some extremely useful and effective strategies for increasing positive behavior. Yeahhh!!!”
“I have been blown away by the quality of the [Invest in Kids] staff associated with Dinosaur School/Incredible Years. They are knowledgeable, motivated, and always willing to go above and beyond to help us out in any way possible. The support that they are capable of and the enthusiasm behind it motivates me to be the best teacher I can be.”
“The Dinosaur School Program has provided our teachers with the knowledge, ideas, materials, and strategies to assist them in their work with young children. This is the first comprehensive, developmentally appropriate social/emotional tool that I’ve seen for preschool aged students. This program provides teachers and staff with the support they need to be successful in their classrooms. What makes this program unique is that the training staff [from Invest in Kids] is available at a moment’s notice to help guide the staff in implementing the curriculum. Every time that the training staff leaves, the teachers are rejuvenated and ready to tackle the daily challenges in the classroom.”
Stories from the Classroom
“There was a little boy in my class who was high energy and had developmental delays. He was only able to follow one step directions with a lot of extra support. It was unclear how much of The Incredible Years lessons he understood, because any type of group circle time was a challenge for him. One day, Wally [an Incredible Years puppet] introduced the relaxation thermometer, a visual tool that The Incredible Years uses to help children relax. This child sat very still and appeared to be listening to every word Wally spoke. After Wally finished speaking, this boy raised his hand and waited to be called on. He said, “When I get really, really angry, I go to red! And then I take a deep breath, and another, and then go orange (he is pointing to the colors on the picture of the thermometer), and another breath and I go green. Then I breathe and get relaxed and I’m in blue! I’m happy!” Not only did he sit through and understand the entire lesson, but he was also able to do it. I cried. We had spent 6 months working with him on self-control and self-calming techniques and nothing seemed to help. Yet, on this amazing day, it was clear that the light bulb finally turned on for this struggling child! Truly a testimony for this program.”
“The most notable and exciting story to share regarding the Incredible Years involves a Spanish speaking child. Initially he would only converse and play with another Spanish speaking child. While he understood English, he refused to use it in any interactions in the classroom. This was so, however, only until Dina [a puppet in The Incredible Years program] came to school! Before his introduction to Dina he was reserved, shy, and wary of our school and all the people (including children) within it. When introduced to Dina for the first time, his face lit up with excitement, and the first smile we had seen from him crossed his face. Eyes wide and a huge smile—that was a moment that warmed our hearts and validated our existence as teachers and our use of The Incredible Years! We are now able to communicate with him, receive smiling responses, and we have witnessed him in multiple interactions with other children in English.”
“Recently, a few parents have shared some stories about their children using The Incredible Years’ strategies at home. One child, whose parents attended The Incredible Years parent education classes, noticed that his mom was getting very frustrated in the car while driving home. He told her that she seemed frustrated and asked her to take three deep breathes. When she had done that, he had her think of a happy place and talked her through being so angry. This child, in the past, has had difficulty regulating his emotions, particularly when he is frustrated. His mother told me that since the incident, he has coached the whole household through fights and disagreements, and he has applied his new knowledge at school too. It’s so great when students and families work together to practice the skills they learn in The Incredible Years—the program really benefits everyone.”
“I have had an extremely difficult morning class this year. The first week my assistant and I were blown away and had no idea what to do with the 8 out of 16 children who were literally climbing furniture, screaming, hitting and running around the room. I called for help the second day (thinking it was just me) but everyone who came to my room was also blown away and realized I needed help. Day 4–I frantically looked for Dina. Not having planned or prepared, I just pulled Dina out of the box and the most amazing thing happened. All 16 children sat, quietly in a circle in amazement at Dina. Wow, it worked! They could actually focus on something. So, for five minutes everyday, I am able to breathe and can get my high number of high needs children to focus on Dina. We just talk about what is going on, how the children are doing and Dina hugs everyone of them everyday.”