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Parenting Wisely


Donald A. Gordon, Ph.D.,
Psychology Department, Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-1074         Fax: (740) 593-0579

Parent Training Speciality
6-18 years Target
Exemplary II Rating

Parenting Wisely (PW) is an interactive CD-ROM program designed for families at risk with children from early elementary to high school age. Video programs which overcome illiteracy barriers meet the needs of families who don't usually attend or finish parenting education. PW is based on social learning theory, family systems theory, and cognitive theory. PW seeks to help families enhance relationships and decrease conflict through behavior management and support. It enhances child adjustment and potentially reduces delinquency, substance abuse and involvement with juvenile justice system. In addition, PW builds parental confidence in parenting skills. It seeks to improve communication, problem solving and parent-school communication while improving school attendance and grades and reducing disciplinary infractions.

Through a self-administered, self-paced CD-ROM program, parents view video scenes of common family problems. For each problem parents choose a solution and see it enacted and listen to a critique. The video program covers communication skills, problem solving skills, speaking respectfully, assertive discipline, reinforcement, chore compliance, homework compliance, supervising children hanging out with peers who are a bad influence, step-family problems, single parents issues, violence, and others. The program is designed to be used by parents totally unfamiliar with computers as well as those with experience. The program takes only one to two sessions lasting approximately three hours. Parents prefer using the program with their teens and pre-teens. Used as a family intervention, parents and children converse enthusiastically and learn the same skills together.

Eight controlled evaluations of PW have been conducted: In the first and second evaluations the parents improved knowledge of parenting principles and use of appropriate parenting skills, and child behavior problems decreased. Almost half of the teens who scored in the clinically deviant range of the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory had moved into the functional (normal) range of child behavior. Evaluation number three showed even greater changes as found in the first two studies. Problem behaviors had dropped to half of the previous rate one, three, and six months after the parents used the program. A control group showed no changes. The fourth evaluation with teen parents showed significant improvements in parenting knowledge and application of principles to dealing effectively with toddlers (none for control groups). In evaluation five, parents of problem middle school students reported 60% fewer problem behaviors four months after using the program (no changes for control groups). The sixth study evaluated the program delivered via a laptop computer in the homes of severely disadvantaged families. The parents and their 4th to 6th graders reported improved family relationships and lower family risk factors for delinquency and substance abuse relative to a comparison group reading parenting brochures. Evaluation seven reports more improvements in child behavior when the program was used in groups vs. individually. In the eighth evaluation, high school students who received either the CD-ROM in group format or the usual parent education classes found improvements only for the CD-ROM group. Other evaluations in the U.S. and Ireland, England, and Canada have replicated these results.


Implementation Costs:

One staff member can deliver the program, which simply entails turning on the computer, booting the CD-ROM, and showing the parent(s) and child how to move the mouse cursor on the screen. This procedure takes approximately two minutes and requires no skill, credentials, or training on the part of the staff member. Monitoring by the program developer is not necessary, but free telephone consultation is provided if needed. A substantial discount for educational institutions is available. If the program is to be delivered in the home to high risk families who resist going to a community location housing the program, a staff member would need to transport the laptop computer containing the CD-ROM to and from the home. If families have questions about how to solve problems not depicted on the program, an experienced parent educator or family therapist can offer brief suggestions about applying appropriate parenting skills depicted in the PW program to those problems.

Parent workbooks (100 pages) are required, one per family. These need to be ordered from the developer, and cost from $9 to $5.75 depending on the quantity. The program is delivered on a CD-Rom, which must be purchased for $599. The CD-ROM comes with a kit which includes a manual for community implementation, five parent workbooks, program completion certificates, program brochures, referral cards, and a floppy disk containing evaluation forms. The program is also available in an abbreviated and non-interactive form on a set of three videotapes which can be used as a booster for in-home use after the family has used the CD-ROM. The videotape set is $199 for purchasers of the CD-ROM, and $299 for others.

No expendable supplies are required, but incentives to get parents to use the program often help. These can be fast food coupons, movie tickets, gift certificates, etc. Replacement supplies for those included with the program kit are available and include program completion certificates, referral cards, and program brochures. These items may also be photocopied (with the exception of the parent workbook). For voluntary parental participation, the developer recommends transportation and child care for the most resistant and highest risk families. Home-based program delivery is recommended. There are no required licensing fees. For multiple computer sites, multiple copies of the CD-ROM must be purchased, and are available at a discount.

Training Costs:

Training for agency staff is optional, since the CD-ROM begins with a tutorial in its use. Low income and even illiterate parents have used the program without assistance. One day training is available for staff in dissemination of the program in communities. Included topics are: strategies for motivating parents of different risk levels to use the program; methods for improving interagency cooperation; integration of CD-ROM programs with existing family services; financing ongoing costs; evaluation of program impact; add-on procedures to extend treatment effects. Contact the developer for training costs.


Revised 11/10/2002

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