Show Summary Details
Page of

(p. 63) Core Principles and Techniques of Positive Parenting 

(p. 63) Core Principles and Techniques of Positive Parenting
(p. 63) Core Principles and Techniques of Positive Parenting

Matthew R. Sanders

, and Trevor G. Mazzucchelli

Page of

date: 20 February 2019

Positive parenting is an approach to raising children that aims to promote children’s optimal development. It concerns the activities of parenting that create a nurturing environment that will allow children to grow up healthy and well adjusted. This includes establishing a warm and responsive relationship that creates the interactional context for children to learn the skills and competencies they will need to relate well to others, to benefit from their experiences during their schooling years, and to successfully participate as part of the broader community. At its core, the approach is constructive; it aims to build the essential social, emotional, and self-regulatory capabilities that children will need throughout their lives (Chapter 2, this volume).

Parents’ capacity to raise their children well is influenced by a range of potentially modifiable social, emotional, relational, and contextual factors (Chapter 2, this volume). Triple P recognizes these influences and seeks to help parents to increase their confidence, skills, and knowledge about raising children; to be less coercive, depressed, stressed, or anxious; to improve communication with partners over parenting issues; and to have lower levels of stress and conflict in managing work and family responsibilities (Sanders, 2008). These outcomes can be achieved by creating a supportive context in which parents can reflect on their parenting and receive practical information about parenting skills that they can incorporate into everyday interactions with their children. The goal is to support parents to create an environment for their children in which prosocial behaviors and related skills and competencies are taught, encouraged, and richly reinforced.

Core Principles of Positive Parenting

Five core principles of positive parenting form the basis of Triple P: safe and engaging environment, positive learning environment, assertive discipline, realistic expectations, and parental (p. 64) self-care. These principles were selected from the developmental literature to address specific modifiable risk and protective factors known to predict positive developmental and mental health outcomes in children.

Safe and Engaging Environment

Children of all ages need a safe, supervised, and therefore protective environment that provides opportunities for them to explore, experiment, and play. This principle is essential to promote healthy development and prevent accidents and injuries in the home (Cole, Koulouglioti, Kitzman, Sidora-Arcoleo, & Anson, 2009; Kendrick, Barlow, Hampshire, Stewart-Brown, & Polnay, 2008). Older children and adolescents need adequate supervision and monitoring in an appropriate developmental context (Dishion & McMahon, 1998; Smetana, 2008). Adequate supervision means knowing where a child is, who they are with, and what they are doing at all times. Triple P also draws on the work of Todd Risley and his colleagues, who have articulated how the design of living environments can promote engagement and skill development across the life span (Risley, Clark, & Caltaldo, 1976). An environment that is full of interesting things to do stimulates children’s curiosity as well as their language and intellectual development. It also keeps children engaged and active and reduces the likelihood of misbehavior.

Positive Learning Environment

A positive learning environment involves educating parents in their role as their child’s first teacher. The program specifically targets how parents can respond positively and constructively to child-initiated interactions in naturally occurring situations (e.g., requests for help, information, advice, and attention). Parents are encouraged to provide brief moments of uninterrupted attention to children, to have brief conversations with children about a current interest, to be an information resource that children can access when they need assistance, and to use incidental teaching. Incidental teaching involves parents being receptive to child-initiated interactions when children attempt to communicate with their parents. This procedure has been used extensively in the teaching of language, social skills, and social problem-solving (e.g., Hart & Risley, 1975, 1995, 1999).

A positive learning environment is a critical protective factor in the face of other adversities in children’s lives that promotes healthy development. Focusing on the positive includes attending to children’s prosocial skills and behaviors. This is achieved through the use of contingent positive attention, such as the use of praise and physical contact, the use of behavior charts to encourage appropriate behavior or new skills, and the use of modeling and verbal, gestural, and manual guidance prompts to teach children new skills.

Assertive Discipline

Specific child management and behavior change strategies are presented as alternatives to coercive, ineffective, and inconsistent discipline practices (such as shouting, threatening, or using (p. 65) physical punishment). When parents use assertive discipline, children learn to accept responsibility for their behavior, to become aware of the needs of others, and to develop self-control. Children are also less likely to develop behavioral or emotional problems when parents are consistent and predictable from one day to the next. A parent can value their child’s individuality and still expect reasonable behavior. Assertive discipline involves being consistent, responding quickly and decisively when children misbehave, and teaching children to behave in an acceptable way. The range of behavior change procedures demonstrated to parents include selecting and discussing ground rules for specific situations; using directed discussion and planned ignoring; giving clear, calm, age-appropriate instructions; and backing up instructions with logical consequences, quiet time (nonexclusionary time-out), and time-out. Parents are taught to use these skills in the home as well as in community settings (e.g., going visiting or shopping) to promote the generalization of parenting skills to diverse parenting situations.

Realistic Expectations

The principle of realistic expectations involves exploring with parents their expectations, assumptions, and beliefs about the causes of children’s behavior and choosing goals that are developmentally appropriate for the child and realistic for the parent. Parents who are at risk of abusing their child are more likely to have unrealistic expectations of children’s capabilities (Azar & Weinzierl, 2005). Problems may arise when parents expect too much too soon or expect their children to be perfect. For example, parents who expect their child will always be polite, happy, and cooperative or always tidy and helpful are setting themselves up for disappointment and conflict with their children. Developmentally appropriate expectations are taught in the context of parents’ specific expectations concerning difficult and prosocial behaviors rather than through a more traditional “ages-and-stages” approach to child development. It is also important for parents to have realistic expectations of themselves. Parents who strive to be perfect often feel frustrated, ashamed, and inadequate when things do not go as planned.

Parental Self-Care

Parenting is influenced by a range of factors that affect a parent’s personal adjustment and sense of well-being. All levels of Triple P specifically address this issue by encouraging parents to view parenting as part of a larger context of personal self-care, resourcefulness, and well-being and by teaching practical parenting skills. It is much easier for parents to be patient, consistent, and available to children when their own needs are being met. In more intensive levels of intervention (Level 5), couples are explicitly taught effective communication skills and are encouraged to explore how their own irrational assumptions and negative self-talk affect their parenting and consequently their child’s behavior. Parents also develop specific coping strategies for managing difficult emotions, such as such as those related to depression, anger, anxiety, and high levels of parenting stress at high-risk times.

The application of these principles and associated techniques through daily parent–child interactions helps children learn the prosocial and relationship skills they need with parents, siblings, peers, teachers, grandparents, and others in their lives to deal with the everyday issues they have to manage (such as influencing decisions that will affect the whole family, dealing with (p. 66) bullying, or negotiating an extension on a school assignment). The approach to positive parents is constructive in the sense that it aims to build children’s social, emotional, and self-regulating capabilities. The approach is not about controlling and suppressing behaviors that simply irritate parents; rather, it is primarily an approach that builds relational competencies children need to get on well with others and to acquire other important developmental competencies (e.g., language and communication, dealing with difficult emotions, managing conflict) so that children have the skills to lead heathy, happy, and productive lives.

Specific Techniques Used

Application of Triple P’s principles teaches parents to encourage their child’s social and language skills, emotional self-regulation, independence, and problem-solving ability. It is hypothesized that attainment of these skills promotes family harmony, reduces parent–child conflict, fosters successful peer relationships, and prepares children to be successful at school and through their adulthood. To achieve these child outcomes, the principles are operationalized into a range of specific parenting skills that are presented to parents as options they might use (see Table 4.1).

Table 4.1: Core Parenting Principles and Skills Promoted in Triple P for Children Aged 0–12 Years

Safe and Engaging Environment

Positive Learning Environment

Assertive Discipline

Realistic Expectations

Parental Self-Care

Spending brief quality time

Giving nonverbal attention

Establishing ground rules

Monitoring children’s behavior

Catching unhelpful thoughts

Talking with children

Giving descriptive praise

Using directed discussion

Setting developmentally appropriate goals

Using relaxation and stress management

Showing affection

Setting a good example

Using planned ignoring

Setting practice tasks

Developing personal coping statements

Providing engaging activities

Using incidental teaching

Giving clear, calm instructions

Self-evaluating strengths and weaknesses

Challenging unhelpful thoughts

Using “ask-say-do”

Using logical consequences

Setting personal goals for change

Developing coping plans for high-risk situations

Using behavior charts

Using brief interruption

Improving personal communication habits

Using quiet time

Giving and receiving constructive feedback

Using time-out

Having casual conversations

Supporting each other when problem behavior occurs


Improving relationship happiness

Each skill a parent acquires and implements creates a context for children to learn and to practice a reciprocal skill. All parenting skills introduced in Triple P can be justified because of the developmental value that is attached to the child’s reciprocal skill. For example, when a parent uses descriptive praise to encourage a desirable behavior, an opportunity is created for children to practice receiving a compliment appropriately (without embarrassment, showing off, or bragging). Similarly, when parents learn to give clear, calm instructions and to back up their instructions, an opportunity is created for children to learn how to receive instructions by listening and paying attention to what is required of them. When parents give a brief time-out to children for persistent misbehavior, such as aggression or temper tantrums, children have an opportunity to practice self-regulation of difficult emotions (anger) by calming down without relying on an adult’s presence to do so.

Techniques for Younger Children

Table 4.2 summarizes the core parenting skills introduced in the Triple P program. These techniques fall into four main categories: (a) skills to strengthen the parent–child relationship; (b) skills to encourage desirable behavior; (c) skills for teaching children new behaviors and skills; and (d) skills for managing misbehavior and teaching self-regulation skills.

Table 4.2: Description and Applications of Core Parenting Skills Promoted Through Triple P




Developing Good Relationships with Children

Spending quality time with children

Spending frequent, brief amounts of time (as little as 1 or 2 minutes) involved in child-preferred activities

Encouraging exploration and providing opportunities to build children’s knowledge and for children to self-disclose and practice conversational skills

Talking with children

Having brief conversations with children about an activity or interest of the child

Promoting vocabulary, conversational and social skills

Showing affection

Providing physical affection (e.g., hugging, touching, tickling, patting)

Providing opportunities for children to become comfortable with intimacy and physical affection

encouraging desirable behavior

Using descriptive praise

Providing encouragement and approval by describing the behavior that is appreciated

Encouraging appropriate behavior (e.g., speaking in a pleasant voice, playing cooperatively, sharing, drawing pictures, reading, cooperating)

Giving attention

Providing positive nonverbal attention (e.g., a smile, wink, pat on the back, watching)

As above

Having interesting activities

Arranging a child’s physical and social environment to provide interesting and engaging activities, materials, and age-appropriate toys (e.g., board games, pencils and paper, CDs, books, construction toys)

Encouraging independent play and promoting appropriate behavior when in the community (e.g., shopping, traveling)

teaching new skills and behaviors

Setting a good example

Demonstrating desirable behavior through parental modeling

Showing children how to behave appropriately (e.g., speak calmly, wash hands, tidy up, solve problems)

Using incidental teaching

Using a series of questions and prompts to respond to child-initiated interactions and promote learning

Promoting language, problem-solving, cognitive ability, and independent play

Using ask-say-do

Using verbal, gestural, and manual prompts to teach new skills

Teaching self-care skills (e.g., brushing teeth, making bed) and other new skills (e.g., cooking, using tools)

Using behavior charts

Setting up a chart and providing social attention and backup rewards contingent on the absence of a problem or the presence of an appropriate behavior

Encouraging children for appropriate behavior (e.g., doing homework, playing cooperatively, asking nicely) and for the absence of problem behavior (e.g., swearing, lying, stealing, tantrums)

managing misbehavior

Setting clear ground rules

Negotiating in advance a set of fair, specific, and enforceable rules

Clarifying expectations (e.g., for watching TV, shopping trips, visiting relatives, going out in the car)

Using directed discussion for rule breaking

Identifying and rehearsing the correct behavior following rule breaking

Correcting occasional rule breaking (e.g., leaving school bag on the kitchen floor, running through the house)

Using planned ignoring for minor problems

Withdrawing attention while the problem behavior continues

Ignoring attention-seeking behavior (e.g., answering back, protesting after a consequence, whining, pulling faces)

Giving clear, calm instructions

Giving a specific instruction to start a new task or to stop a problem behavior and start an appropriate alternative behavior

Initiating an activity (e.g., getting ready to go out, coming to the dinner table) or terminating a problem behavior (e.g., fighting over toys, pulling hair) and saying what to do instead (e.g., share, keep your hands to yourself)

Backing up instructions with logical consequences

Using a specific consequence that involves removing an activity or privilege from a child or the child from an activity for a set time

Dealing with disobedience and mild problem behaviors that do not occur often (e.g., not taking turns)

Using quiet time for misbehavior

Removing a child from an activity in which a problem has occurred and having the child sit on the edge of the activity for a set time

Dealing with disobedience and children repeating a problem behavior after a logical consequence

Using time-out for serious misbehavior

Taking a child to an area away from others for a set time when problem behavior occurs

Dealing with temper outbursts, serious misbehavior (e.g., hurting others), and children not sitting quietly in quiet time

Techniques for Adolescents

Teen Triple P extends the core program to parents of adolescents by providing guidance regarding how the skills introduced for younger children can be tailored for this developmental period. This tailoring acknowledges teenagers’ impending transition into adulthood by placing an increased emphasis on negotiation, compromise, and shared decision-making. Also, the attention to antecedent or preemptive parenting strategies for younger children shifts to a focus on preparing teenagers to safely negotiate events or activities that pose a potential risk to (p. 67) their health or well-being. As such, the parenting skills that form the foundation of Triple P are adapted or in some cases replaced by more age-appropriate ones. Unique strategies introduced to address developmental tasks and common issues that arise during adolescence include coaching problem-solving, holding a family meeting, dealing with emotional behavior, and using skills to manage risky behavior (see Chapter 13, this volume). (p. 69)

(p. 68) (p. 70) Techniques for Children With a Disability

Stepping Stones Triple P provides guidance and examples regarding how the core principles and skills may be applied by parents of children with a developmental disability. This parallel system of parenting support acknowledges the importance of parents and family members adapting to the additional stressors that often come with having a child with a disability as well as participating in community life. Stepping Stones also introduces a number of additional parenting skills to accommodate the diverse support needs of this population. These skills include the use of other rewards, activity schedules, physical guidance, teaching backward, diversion to an appropriate activity, teaching children to communicate what they want, and brief interruption (see Chapter 9, this volume).

Techniques for Other Children

Additional techniques mainly derived from principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy are used in programs for specific populations; these techniques include Group Pathways Triple P for parents involved in the child protection system (e.g., attributional retaining and anger management; Sanders & Pidgeon, 2011); Group Lifestyle Triple P for parents of overweight or obese children (information on healthy eating and physical activity; West, Sanders, Cleghorn, & Davies, 2010); Family Transitions Triple P for parents following separation and divorce (e.g., psychoeducation on effects of divorce on children and training in conflict management; Stallman & Sanders, 2007); and Fear-less Triple P for parents of anxious children (e.g., psychoeducation about anxiety and the role of parenting and exposure principles; Chapter 8, this volume). In each instance, specific additional skills are included in the parenting solution of the specific problem on the basis of theory and empirical evidence showing the techniques are relevant and effective with the target population.

Additional detailed information about how individual techniques are used appear in a range of training resources, such as practitioner kits developed for specific populations. Some resources are only accessible through official professional training courses run by Triple P International (see

Parental Self-Regulation

Self-regulation provides a central framework for conceptualizing the provision of positive parental support. Triple P recognizes parents’ fundamental right to make decisions about how they raise their children. Instead of dictating to parents what they must do, parents are offered empirically supported information and strategies so that they can make more informed choices about how to tackle their concerns about parenting. Parents’ capacity to manage their own behavior is viewed as a key factor that will the influence the quality of the environment in which children will be raised. As such, an important role of parenting support is to impart skills that strengthen parents’ ability to change their own behavior and become independent problem-solvers (Karoly, 1993; Sanders & Mazzucchelli, 2013). The approach to self-regulation used in Triple P is derived from social cognitive theory. According to Bandura (1986, 1999), the development of self-regulation is related to personal, environmental, and (p. 71) behavioral factors; these factors operate separately but are interdependent. The self-regulatory framework from which Triple P operates is operationalized to include the following: self-sufficiency, self-efficacy, self-management, personal agency, and problem-solving.


As a parenting program is time limited, parents need to become independent problem-solvers so they trust their own judgment and become less reliant on others in carrying out basic parenting responsibilities. Self-sufficient parents have the resilience, resourcefulness, knowledge, and skills to parent with confidence. When confronted with a new problem, they use their knowledge, skills, and personal resources to resolve the problem. Encouraging parents to become self-sufficient means that parents become more connected to social support networks (e.g., partners, extended family and friends, social and recreational groups). It is hypothesized that the more self-sufficient parents become, the more likely they are to seek appropriate support when they need it, advocate for their children, remain involved in their children’s schooling, and help protect them from harm (e.g., by effectively managing conflict with partners and creating a secure, low-conflict environment).


Self-efficacy refers to a parent’s belief that he or she can overcome or solve a parenting or behavior management problem. Parents with high self-efficacy have more confidence and have positive expectations about the possibility of change. Parenting programs can build parent’s self-efficacy by conveying optimism that change is possible. For example, in Universal Triple P, media strategies are used that involve the realistic depiction of possible solutions to commonly encountered parenting situations (e.g., bedtime problems). These potential solutions can be illustrated through various media, including television programs, community service announcements, “talkback” radio, newspaper columns, and advertising. The messages are optimistic and promote the idea that even the most difficult parenting problems are solvable or preventable. In more intensive programs, parents are guided to select realistic goals for which they are provided the support necessary to accomplish.


The tools or skills that parents can use to become more self-sufficient include self-monitoring, self-determination of goals and performance standards, self-evaluation of their own performance against a performance criterion, and self-selection of change strategies. As each parent is responsible for the way he or she chooses to raise his or her children, parents select those aspects of their own and their child’s behavior they wish to work on, set goals, choose specific parenting and child management techniques they wish to implement, and self-evaluate their success with their chosen goals against self-determined criteria. Triple P aims to help parents make informed decisions by sharing knowledge and skills derived from contemporary research into (p. 72) effective childrearing practices. The active skills training processes incorporated into Triple P interventions enable skills to be modeled and practiced. Parents receive feedback regarding their implementation of skills learned in a supportive context using a self-regulatory framework (see Sanders, Mazzucchelli, & Ralph, 2012). Self-determination of personal goals enables parents to take into consideration their values and cultural traditions and to check whether the goals and methods they plan to use are consistent. An example of how this can be done is described by Turner, Sanders, Keown, and Shepherd in Chapter 28.

Personal Agency

For personal agency, the parent increasingly attributes changes or improvements in their situation or their child’s behavior to their own or their child’s efforts rather than to chance, age, maturational factors, or other uncontrollable events (e.g., genetic makeup). This outcome is achieved by prompting parents to realistically identify causes or explanations for their child’s or their own behavior; doing so increases parents’ self-efficacy.


A final aspect of self-regulation is parents’ ability to apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired to issues beyond the presenting concern. It refers to parents’ ability to flexibly adapt or generalize what they have learned to new problems, at later developmental phases, with different children, and for a variety of child behavior problems and family concerns. This means the test of whether a parenting intervention is truly successful is not only parents’ ability to resolve current issues but also their capacity to address a diverse range of family challenges over time with relative autonomy.

This model is robust; it applies equally to all participants of positive parenting programs, including parents and children, service providers, disseminators, program developers, and researchers (Sanders & Mazzucchelli, 2013). The components of self-regulation outlined previously can be taught to children by parents in developmentally appropriate ways. For instance, attending and responding to child-initiated interactions and prompting, modeling, and reinforcing children’s problem-solving efforts promote emotional self-regulation, independence, and problem-solving in children. Self-regulated parents are more likely to raise children who develop self-regulatory skills. Self-regulation principles can also be applied by service providers to be responsive to the needs of parents, by disseminators to support practitioners to refine their consultation skills (Chapter 34, this volume), by developers to be innovative (Chapter 45, this volume), and by researchers to manage evaluation challenges (Chapter 39, this volume).

Principles of Delivering Positive Parenting Support

Triple P interventions combine quality parenting information with particular principles for imparting this information and upskilling parents. These methods are designed to maximize (p. 73) efficiency, ensure that the program is relevant and responsive to each family’s particular needs, and enhance parents’ ability to independently manage novel parenting challenges that arise in the future. Some of the guiding principles for accomplishing these objectives are discussed next.

Active Participation

Triple P incorporates active skills training methods (modeling, rehearsal, practice, feedback, and homework) to teach new parenting skills in all its programs. For practitioner-supported parenting programs, Triple P draws on a guided participation model. This model articulates a framework and microskills that are used in every interaction to support parents’ involvement and active participation in the important tasks of the behavior change process, such as building a collaborative relationship, facilitating parent receptivity to new ideas or skills, and managing within-session resistance. These skills maximize the likelihood that parents will engage with the program, that sessions will run smoothly, and that skill acquisition will be optimized (Sanders & Burke, 2013; Sanders & Mazzucchelli, 2013).


Parents differ according to the strength of intervention they may require to enable them to independently manage a problem. Triple P aims to provide the “minimally sufficient” amount of support each parent requires. This guiding principle led to the development of the multilevel intervention strategy by which the intensity of intervention can be tailored to the needs and desires of individual families (see Chapter 3, this volume). But, the principle also extends to practitioners providing support to individual families. The goal is to tailor the level of support offered to parents over the course of the intervention. As the parent becomes more proficient at managing the change process themselves, practitioners fade their support. The principle of minimal sufficiency not only maximizes efficiency but also promotes parent independence, autonomy, and self-efficacy.

Flexible Tailoring and Responsive Program Delivery

There are high- and low-risk variations in the content and the consultation processes of evidence-based parenting support (EBPS) that can influence clinical outcomes. Practitioners work collaboratively with parents and are responsive to their needs and situational context while preserving the key or essential elements of the program. The needs of specific client populations can be met by adapting examples used to illustrate key teaching points, through customized homework, and by adjusting the number of sessions and level of prompts and feedback provided. This type of tailoring preserves core concepts and procedures while it meets the idiosyncratic needs of a particular parent (e.g., a parent who has an intellectual disability, a parent of twins or triplets, a parent of a gifted child; Mazzucchelli & Sanders, 2010; Morawska & Sanders, 2009).

(p. 74) Supporting the Generalization of Parenting Skills

Triple P interventions emphasize the generalization of parenting skills across child care settings, siblings, and different parenting challenges and over time. Several strategies are used to achieve this, including those outlined next.

Instruction in Social Learning Principles

Parents are introduced to social learning explanations for children’s behavior. They are then supported and provided opportunities to experiment in ways that allow them to recognize how this social learning framework applies to their child. The social learning model empowers parents to make sense of and to support their child’s positive behavior and development.

Sufficient Exemplars

A sufficient exemplar approach is used in the consultation process with parents. This involves selecting one parenting situation or behavior target (e.g., mealtime behaviors) with which parents are supported to step through the behavior change process. Parents are then supported to apply their skills to new situations or behavior targets (e.g., going shopping, being a good sport in team games). The goal is for parents to have worked through a sufficient number of examples to facilitate the generalization of this behavior change process.

Training Loosely

Training loosely involves varying nonessential aspects of stimuli during parent consultation, such as providing parents with examples of how the parenting skills can be applied to different child behaviors and parenting situations. In this way, parents learn to apply the skills to varied and novel situations rather than learning to apply specific skills to a child’s single behavior.

Myths About Positive Parenting Programs

In discussing EBPS, it is important to address a number of myths, which are often based on misunderstandings of how underlying theories and research literatures have informed these approaches (Mazzucchelli & Sanders, 2014).

Myth: Parenting Programs Are About Parents Controlling Their Children

While it is true that EBPS typically views cooperation with requests as a legitimate and important prosocial skill for children to develop, it is misleading to suggest that this is what parenting programs emphasize. EBPS targets a range of modifiable family risk and protective factors known to predict positive developmental and mental health outcomes in children. In particular, (p. 75) EBPS aims to equip parents with the information and skills needed for parents to foster a safe, stable, nurturing relationship with their children and to help their children develop the social and language, emotional competence, independence, and problem-solving skills they need to get along with others and feel good about themselves. Of course, it is up to parents to select the values and behaviors they wish to impart to their children, but in our experience, most parents value and encourage their children’s creativity and independence while expecting them to behave in socially appropriate ways.

Myth: Parenting Programs Emphasize Punishment

Again, while it is true that EBPS includes information on effective discipline strategies that parents may use as alternatives to coercive acts such as yelling or physical punishment, these approaches provide coaching in many more strategies to promote a positive relationship between parents and their children, to encourage desirable behavior, and to teach new prosocial skills and competencies. Further, Triple P, along with other EBPS programs, explicitly teaches parents how to combine these strategies into anticipatory or preemptive routines that minimize the likelihood that problem behavior will occur and parents will use discipline strategies (e.g., Harrold, Lutzker, Campbell, & Touchette, 1992; Sanders & Dadds, 1982). It is also important to note that permissive parenting, devoid of any discipline, is associated with greater rates of child noncompliant and antisocial behavior (Querido, Warner, & Eyberg, 2002).

Myth: Parenting Programs Ignore Parent–Child Relationships

Contrary to this myth, EBPS considers warm and responsive caregiver–child relationships to be essential for children’s healthy development. It is largely through the day-to-day interactions or relationship with attentive and attuned caregivers that children learn the core social, emotional, and behavioral competencies they will need to be accepted by their peers, get along with others, and participate in the larger community. Research has found that “attachment” behaviors (including infant crying and smiling and proximity-establishing and -maintaining behaviors) can be understood according to the same behavioral principles that have informed EBPS (e.g., Dunst & Kassow, 2008; Schlinger, 1995). This research has practical implications for how parents can improve the quality of their relationship with their child. And indeed, participating in EBPSs has been associated with significant improvements in the quality of parent–child attachment (e.g., O’Connor, Matias, Futh, Tantam, & Scott, 2013; Wiggins, Sofronoff, & Sanders, 2009).


This chapter has described the five core principles of positive parenting that form the basis of Triple P as well as how these principles are operationalized into a range of specific parenting skills suitable for different developmental periods. The model self-regulation that acts as a central organizing framework for the provision of parenting support was reviewed along with (p. 76) guiding principles of program delivery, such as ensuring parents’ active participation, sufficiency, flexible tailoring and responsive delivery, and methods for supporting the generalization of skills. Finally, a number of myths about behaviorally informed parenting support programs were dispelled. In Section 6, Chapter 34 by Ralph and Dittman on the Triple P approach to workforce training and accreditation and Chapter 33 by McWilliam and Brown introduce the model of implementation that supports practitioners and organizations after training.

Key Messages

  • Positive parenting is an approach to raising children that aims to promote children’s optimal development. It concerns the activities of parenting that create a nurturing environment that will allow children to grow up healthy, happy, and responsible participants of a broader community.

  • Evidence-based parenting support, such as Triple P, aims to positively influence a range of social, emotional, relational, and contextual factors that affect parents’ capacity to raise their children well.

  • Five core principles of positive parenting form the basis of Triple P. These principles address specific modifiable risk and protective factors known to predict positive developmental and mental health outcomes in children. These include ensuring a safe, interesting environment; creating a positive learning environment, using assertive discipline; having realistic expectations; and taking care of oneself as a parent.

  • Parents can enact Triple P’s principles by incorporating a range of parenting skills into their everyday interactions with their children.

  • Triple P draws on a model of self-regulation as an organizing framework for the provision of parenting support. This model applies equally to parents, practitioners, disseminators, program developers, and researchers.

  • Triple P interventions combine quality parenting information with particular principles for imparting this information and upskilling parents. These methods are designed to maximize efficiency, ensure that the program is relevant and responsive to each family’s particular needs, and enhance parents’ ability to independently manage novel parenting challenges that arise in the future.


Azar, S. T., & Weinzierl, K. M. (2005). Child maltreatment and childhood injury research: A cognitive behavioral approach. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 30, 598–614. doi:10.1093/jpepsy/jsi046Find this resource:

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Find this resource:

Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 2, 21–41.Find this resource:

Cole, R., Koulouglioti, C., Kitzman, H., Sidora-Arcoleo, K., & Anson, E. (2009). Maternal rules, compliance, and injuries to preschool children. Family & Community Health: The Journal of Health Promotion & Maintenance, 32, 136–146. doi:10.1097/FCH.0b013e318199477f (p. 77) Find this resource:

Dishion, T. J., & McMahon, R. J. (1998). Parental monitoring and the prevention of child and adolescent problem behavior: A conceptual and empirical formulation. Clinical Child and Family Psychological Review, 1, 61–75. doi:10.1023/A:1021800432380Find this resource:

Dunst, C. J., & Kassow, D. Z. (2008). Caregiver sensitivity, contingent social responsiveness, and secure infant attachment. Journal of Early and Behavioral Intervention, 5, 40–56.Find this resource:

Harrold, M., Lutzker, J. R., Campbell, R. V., & Touchette, P. E. (1992). Improving parent-child interactions for families of children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 23, 89–100. doi:10.1016/0005-7916(92)90006-5Find this resource:

Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1975). Incidental teaching of language in the preschool. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 8, 411–420. doi:10.1901/jaba.1975.8-411Find this resource:

Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.Find this resource:

Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1999). The social world of children learning to talk. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.Find this resource:

Karoly, P. (1993). Mechanisms of self-regulation: A systems view. Annual Review of Psychology, 44, 23–52. doi:10.1146/ this resource:

Kendrick, D., Barlow, J., Hampshire, A., Stewart-Brown, S., & Polnay, L. (2008). Parenting interventions and the prevention of unintentional injuries in childhood: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Child: Care, Health and Development, 34, 682–695. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2008.00849.xFind this resource:

Mazzucchelli, T. G., & Sanders, M. R. (2010). Facilitating practitioner flexibility within an empirically supported intervention: Lessons from a system of parenting support. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 17, 238–252. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2850.2010.01215.xFind this resource:

Mazzucchelli, T. G., & Sanders, M. R. (2014). Parenting from the outside-in: A paradigm shift in parent training? Behaviour Change, 31, 102–109. doi:10.1017/bec.2014.4Find this resource:

Morawska, A., & Sanders, M. (2009). An evaluation of a behavioral parenting intervention for parents of gifted children. Behavior Research and Therapy, 47, 463–470. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2009.02.008Find this resource:

O’Connor, T. G., Matias, C., Futh, A., Tantam, G., & Scott, S. (2013). Social learning theory parenting intervention promotes attachment-based caregiving in young children: Randomized clinical trial. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 42, 358–370. doi:10.1080/15374416.2012.723262Find this resource:

Querido, J. G., Warner, T. D., & Eyberg, S. M. (2002). Parenting styles and child behavior in African American families of preschool children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 31, 272–277. doi:10.1207/153744202753604548Find this resource:

Risley, T. R., Clark, H. B., & Caltaldo, M. F. (1976). Behavior technology for the normal, middle-class family. In E. J. Mash, L. A. Hamerlynck, & L. C. Handy (Eds.), Behavior modification and families (pp. 34–60). New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel.Find this resource:

Sanders, M. R. (2008). Triple P-Positive Parenting Program as a public health approach to strengthening parenting. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 506–517. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.22.3.506Find this resource:

Sanders, M. R., & Burke, K. (2013). The “hidden” technology of effective parent consultation: A guided participation model for promoting change in families. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 1289–1297. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9827-xFind this resource:

Sanders, M. R., & Dadds, M. R. (1982). The effects of planned activities and child management procedures in parent training: An analysis of setting generality. Behavior Therapy, 13, 452–461. doi:10.1007/BF00918375Find this resource:

Sanders, M. R., & Mazzucchelli, T. G. (2013). The promotion of self-regulation through parenting interventions. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 16, 1–17. doi:10.1007/s10567-013-0129-zFind this resource:

Sanders, M. R., Mazzucchelli, T. G., & Ralph, A. (2012). Promoting parenting competence through a self-regulation approach to feedback. In R. M. Sutton, M. J. Hornsey, & K. M. Douglas (Eds.), (p. 78) Feedback: The communication of praise criticism, and advice (Vol. 11, pp. 305–321). New York, NY: Lang.Find this resource:

Sanders, M., & Pidgeon, A. (2011). The role of parenting programmes in the prevention of child maltreatment. Australian Psychologist, 46, 199–209. doi:10.1111/j.1742-9544.2010.00012.xFind this resource:

Schlinger, H. D. (1995). A behavior analytic view of child development. New York, NY: Plenum Press.Find this resource:

Smetana, J. G. (2008). “It’s 10 o’clock: Do you know where your children are?” Recent advances in understanding parental monitoring and adolescents’ information management. Child Development Perspectives, 2, 19–25. doi:10.1111/j.1750-8606.2008.00036.xFind this resource:

Stallman, H. M., & Sanders, M. R. (2007). “Family Transitions Triple P”: The theoretical basis and development of a program for parents going through divorce. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 47, 133–153. doi:10.1300/J087v47n03_07Find this resource:

West, F., Sanders, M. R., Cleghorn, G. J., & Davies, P. S. W. (2010). Randomised clinical trial of a family-based lifestyle intervention for childhood obesity involving parents as the exclusive agents of change. Behavior Research and Therapy, 48, 1170–1179. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2010.08.008Find this resource:

Wiggins, T., Sofronoff, K., & Sanders, M. R. (2009). Pathways Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: Effects on parent-child relationships and child behavior problems. Family Process, 48, 517–530. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2009.01299.xFind this resource: