Emma’s stopped pinching and hitting her brother


This story of David & Emma is a composite that represents typical scenarios faced by Triple P families around the world.

Emma always was a “Daddy’s Little Girl”. I did dote on her. But over the years, it got to the point where her behaviour was really causing problems.

She would be sweet as pie one minute and then, when things didn’t go her way, or she didn’t want to do something, she’d turn. At best she’d be sulky or smart-mouthed. At worst, she threw things and hit the walls. And particularly troubling was that she often gave her brother a whack or would bite or pinch him.

This wasn’t just happening at home either. Her teacher was always sending notes home about her fights with the other kids and we couldn’t even visit other families because of her scuffles with our friends’ children. So I was feeling quite desperate when someone mentioned Triple P. They said they’d heard it could help in situations like ours, so I gave it a shot – and I’m so glad I did.

Triple P helped me understand some of the underlying reasons for Emma’s behaviour. And I saw it wasn’t just about her. Turns out there were things I needed to do differently too. One was that I had to encourage the behaviour I liked. So, when she was treating her brother nicely or speaking pleasantly to her mother, I’d make a point of telling her.

For example, instead of just feeling good on the odd occasions when I saw her playing quietly with her brother, I’d say: “Emma, that’s really nice of you to help James with his blocks. You’re a good sister showing him how to put them together like that." And I’d pat her on the head. The thing is, it worked! She’d make a point of playing nicely when I was around, to get more praise. And then she ended up doing it whether I was there or not.

One of the biggest things I discovered with Triple P was that I was being really inconsistent with the way I managed her misbehaviour. For instance, I’d often see her push her brother over in the sandpit. Some days, I’d just be too tired to deal with it and I’d shake my head and walk away. But other days I’d make a fuss and blow my stack. So it seems she didn’t know what to expect. She couldn’t understand why she could get away with it one day and not the next. And in her frustration, she’d get angry.

Now, though, she knows exactly what behaviour’s allowed and what’s not. She knows that if she pushes her brother over, she’ll have to stop playing immediately and she’ll have to sit quietly for ten minutes. She understands what the consequences are.

I’ve got to say though, at first, it was very difficult knowing that my behaviour was affecting Emma when we’d been blaming her all along. But knowing how to deal with the issues have made life so much easier. She’s doing better at school, she has more friends, we can go on family outings again -- we’re all so much happier. And, of course, Emma will always be her “Daddy’s Little Girl”.