Finding Help with Parenting Challenges
By Jessica Cochran
ACMHS Child and Family Services, October 1, 2018

It’s the last of six evening sessions for this group of five families enrolled in Parenting with Love and Limits® (PLL). That means it’s potluck night, and the younger kids especially can’t wait to load up their plates with sub sandwiches, chips and home-made pasta casserole, carried in with oven mitts by one of the dads.

Once the group settles in, the first task is checking homework. Clinician Ann Conducy queries them – did the parents read the chapter about “restoring nurturance” in their relationships with their kids, how to find the balance between soft love and tough love? Do the teens have “positive parent” moments to report?  This group has done their homework consistently, so each family gets to pick a board game to take home.

PLL is an evidence-based practice that combines family education, skill-building and therapeutic intervention to help reduce aggressive behaviors, depression and substance use among pre-teens and teens. It’s also been shown to reduce recidivism and improve family communication.

Robin and Wilkie T. had been looking for help with their son for years, when they finally got a call to join this PLL group. At twelve years old, he is extremely defiant and has intermittent explosive disorder – he’d  been kicked out of group services elsewhere for being too disruptive, and it was hard to find providers who accept Medicaid.  Robin says the program has given her the power to say no to her son, but in a fair and consistent way.

That’s because it’s built around drawing up a behavior contract between parents and child – so everyone knows exactly what is expected and what the consequence is.  Robin and Wilkie’s son had a major outburst when the contract was first presented, but Wilkie says when he calmed down, he did what it said he needed to do.   Robin has found the tactics she’s learned helpful to keep things from escalating, like “exit and wait” before dealing with an issue.  Over all, she says, “It’s not perfect, but it is better.”

The group meets weekly for six weeks –  sometimes all together and sometimes parents and kids separately, with different activities. Each family also has individual family coaching sessions. They’ll continue to get help until they’ve met the programs graduation requirements and then follow-up calls 30, 60 and 90 days later to check in on how things are going.

Valerie W. is relieved by that – she anticipates needing help refining the contract she wrote with her grand-daughter, and writing new ones for different areas. Mandi and Derek say participating in this program has also opened the doors to other supports: their case manager is helping them connect with other services and activities.  They brought their ten-year old son Quaid and their 12-year-old daughter Selah to group; Selah is the main focus, but they say Quaid needed to be part of the contract also.  One of the most valuable elements, Derek says, was the process of thinking the contract through, talking it out from every point of view and deciding what the consequences will be.

One thing all the parents agreed on – it’s nice to know you’re not alone, that there are other families struggling also. And you can feel the sense of community in the room. Not all the teens at class looked happy to be there, and one didn’t come at all, but there was also a fair share of camaraderie. One girl admitted that while she didn’t love the program and may not be happy that it will be harder now to manipulate her grandmother, she did appreciate the friends she made at group.

Parenting with Love and Limits® is currently accepting families for our family therapy program in Anchorage. If you have a child or teen between the ages of 10-18 with difficult to control or chronically disrespectful behavior, please call Meghan at 762-2814 for more information on how PLL can help.

On the last night of PLL group class, each family receives a plant to emphasize the importance of a nurturing relationship between parents/caregivers and their tweens and teens.