Published July 17, 2018
The belief that parents can shape positive behavior and experiences in their children, including those with behavioral challenges such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), is well known. Traditional positive parenting programs have typically been used for mothers, creating a need for a program that would lend itself more to fathers.
The COACHES (Coaching Our Children: Heightening Essential Skills) program, created by Gregory Fabiano, professor from the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology, fills this need. The program uses sports to attract fathers or father figures to attend workshops to learn and practice good parenting skills while their sons and daughters practice soccer skills.
“Parenting any child is hard work,” said Fabiano. “If you have a child with extra challenges, it’s even harder. Any good family-practices program has to start with a foundation of warm, positive, nurturing parent interaction. That’s one of the things we hope our program helps cultivate.”
The COACHES program has been used with elementary school students with challenging behaviors, as well as Head Start preschool students. The program is also in the Niagara Falls and Tonawanda City school districts, working with families with children in need of academic or behavioral support.
The workshops for fathers stress the importance of parents focusing on the positive behaviors of their children. The fathers begin practicing this skill immediately following each soccer game with the goal to make this skill a continuing part of their father/child interaction.
Fabiano and his research team have conducted a series of studies comparing his program to more typical parent-training programs that just feature group discussions. The bottom line is that the COACHES program makes the parents more effective and improves child behaviors.
“Dads showed up more often for our program,” said Fabiano. “They are more engaged. And they get better in their parenting. We see them become more positive with their kids.”