MUMS and dads struggling to deal with antisocial children are to head back to school in a bid to help them control bad behaviour.
Classrooms and early years centres are set to throw open their doors after around 40 specialists were recruited in an effort to assist nearly 1000 youngsters displaying repeated tantrums, aggression and other forms of difficult behaviour.
Parents will be shown how to lavish “positive attention” and allow children to direct their own play over a series of two-hour sessions held in 14-week blocks.
And they will be given homework-style assignments to help them practise new techniques and tips learned in class.
The Psychology of Parenting Programme (PoPP) is aimed at children aged three to four, with studies showing effective early intervention can stop bad behaviour for good.
It is also thought antisocial tendencies during early childhood could lead to school exclusion, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse and mental health issues later in life.
A roll-out will get under way early in the new year and specialists have stressed that while some parents might be strongly encouraged, no-one will be forced to take part.
Helena Reid, an Edinburgh-based group leader, said: “I think that what’s new about this is that it’s quite strategic.
“Around ten per cent of children display problem behaviour at that age, so the number in Edinburgh will be near 1000. To reach those parents we need additional resources, which is what this programme is for.
“It can be really stressful for parents managing difficult behaviour, which can also impact on family relationships.”
Ms Reid said sessions would be held in groups of between ten and 12 families, with parents shown how to head off a potentially violent build-up of frustration in their children.
“If there’s an over-arching principle it’s that children want parents’ attention,” she said. “If they’re not getting it, then they will display difficult behaviour.
“We work really hard with parents so they can give positive attention, and the negative behaviour will increasingly reduce.”
Parents who want to take part in the free programme will either be referred by a social worker, teacher or other qualified professional, or can apply themselves to the council’s parent and carer support team.
Experts admitted parenting was “tricky” for many, adding that dedicated classes could be of huge benefit.
Martin Gemmell, the city’s principal educational psychologist, said: “PoPP is a highly structured programme and the evidence base is that it’s effective. I don’t think a social worker would be saying to anyone that you must attend these courses – I think they would be trying to encourage people to do it rather than making it a requirement.”
Scottish Government ministers, who provided financial backing worth nearly £900,000 this year, said the new programme was about “empowering” families.