Parent Management Training (PMT) is a type of therapy that is based on the principles of operant conditioning, which is a learning theory that states that behavior is influenced by its consequences. PMT is typically helpful for parents of children who are struggling with behavior problems; however, it is most commonly used to treat children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD. ODD is a type of behavior disorder that is characterized by a pattern of disobedient behavior toward authority figures. The program typically lasts about eight weekly sessions, but each family is different, and, in some cases, additional follow-up sessions are necessary.
During PMT, parents learn how to use positive reinforcement (i.e., rewards), negative reinforcement (i.e., taking away something negative), and punishment to change their child’s behavior. A critical component of PMT is the parents learning to implement a token economy, which is a system where children earn points for compliant behaviors. Throughout treatment, parents often recognize they are acting angry toward their child to get their own needs met, missing opportunities to reinforce their child’s compliant behaviors, and at the same time are unintentionally rewarding non-compliant or disobedient behaviors. Through this increased self-awareness and the token economy system, PMT helps parents correct their child’s problematic behaviors.
Research on PMT has demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing behavior problems in children with ODD. In addition to correcting behavior problems, PMT can also have a number of other benefits for families including helping children improve social skills, academic performance, and self-esteem. When PMT is successful, families usually improve their communication and problem-solving skills as well.
The success and failure of PMT is dependent on parents’ ability to take what is discussed in session, and implement the interventions at home. The process can be difficult for some families as the interventions require the parents to make substantial behavior changes. PMT is not recommended for parents who are looking for quick-fixes or individual therapy for their child. Unfortunately, PMT does not always correct behaviors in a straight line; children will have some good days and some bad days. However, parents who stay persistent and disciplined with the program, especially after treatment is completed, typically report the greatest benefits from the program.
Written By Brian Collin, PsyD, LPA