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Book Review of The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton

A Trouble Shooting Guide for Parents of Children Aged 3-8

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Book Review of The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton

The Incredible Years book.


Carolyn Webster-Stratton’s Incredible Years is almost like an owner’s manual for parents of children from toddlers to tweens. In a clear and concise manner, the book addresses many basic parenting issues and discipline techniques. The book is an easy read manual that provides step-by-step instructions on managing a variety of behavioral issues.

The book begins by focusing on building a positive relationship. A positive relationship between a parent and a child will increase the effectiveness of discipline techniques, such as time out. Building a positive relationship is an important first step to any comprehensive behavior management program. Although many parents are eager to jump to the information about how to give consequences, without building a healthy relationship, the discipline strategies aren’t likely to work over the long-term.

The Incredible Years does a wonderful job showing parents how to give kids positive attention to reinforce good behaviors. It also explains how to use a reward system and praise to teach new skills. The book focuses much of its discussion on using positive consequences rather than punishments. It offers a practical step-by-step approach to increase compliance and decrease problematic behaviors such as whining, aggression, and defiance.

The second part of the book focuses on how a parent can manage their own stress, anger and upsetting thoughts. The Incredible Years acknowledges the realistic challenges that parents face and normalizes feelings of anger and frustration when it comes to parenting. Webster-Stratton focuses on teaching parents communication skills and shows parents how to model appropriate behaviors for children. The book also discusses how to address problems with other adults such as teachers, daycare providers or other caregivers which is an often overlooked parenting issue that many books don’t address.

The last part of the book describes strategies for dealing with common behavior problems. Each specific behavior problem, such as lying or stealing, is described and the reasons for these behaviors are discussed. Parents are offered step-by-step strategies to address the behavior and prevent further problems.

Book Contents

Part One: Foundations for Successful Parenting
  • Chapter One: How to Play With Your Child
  • Chapter Two: Praise
  • Chapter Three: Tangible Rewards
  • Chapter Four: Limit-Setting
  • Chapter Five: Ignore
  • Chapter Six: Timeout
  • Chapter Seven: Natural and Logical Consequences
  • Chapter Eight: Teaching Children to Problem-Solve

Part Two: Communicating and Problem-Solving
  • Chapter Nine: Controlling Upsetting Thoughts
  • Chapter Ten: Timeout from Stress and Anger
  • Chapter Eleven: Effective Communication Skills
  • Chapter Twelve: Problem-Solving with Adults

Part Three: Coping with Common Behavior Problems
  • Problem One: TV Addicts
  • Problem Two: Behavior in Public Places
  • Problem Three: Dawdling
  • Problem Four: Sibling Rivalry
  • Problem Five: Child Disobedience
  • Problem Six: Resistance Going to Bed
  • Problem Seven: Night-Time Wakenings
  • Problem Eight: Stealing
  • Problem Nine: Lying
  • Problem Ten: Mealtime Problems
  • Problem Eleven: Bedwetting
  • Problem Twelve: Hyperactivity, Impulsiveness and Short Attention Spans
  • Problem Thirteen: Helping Your Children with Divorce

Who Can Benefit From Reading This Book

With an overwhelming number of parenting books on the market it can be difficult to know where to start. I often recommend this book to parents who come into my office looking for general ideas about how to discipline their children. Although the techniques sometimes seem to be common sense, I’ve had daycare providers, teachers and seasoned foster parents who report they have benefited from this book. The Incredible Years can help parents sharpen their skills and help prevent a variety of behavior problems so it isn’t just a book for parents who have children with behavioral issues. I think this is a must read for any parents of children from ages 2 to 12.

The problem-solving skills and information about natural consequences can be helpful to parents of children of any age, including teenagers. Reading this book can also be a great way for expectant parents to read together in preparation for the years ahead.

The Incredible Years is often used as part of a larger curriculum. It can be read in conjunction with a comprehensive parenting course. Trained facilitators at mental health agencies, doctor’s offices, school departments and social service agencies use the curriculum to teach parents how to employ the various techniques from the book. There is even a curriculum for teachers who want to learn more about classroom management. For motivated parents however, the book can easily stand alone and can serve as a guide on the basics of behavior management without the need to attend the course.

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