Incredible Years

About the programme  

Caroline Webster-Stratton started to develop «The Incredible Years» 30 years ago as a parent training, teacher training, and child social skill training programme. The programme has been recommended as a well-established treatment for children with conduct problems.

Mission and goal 
“We act on the belief – that a child is the most precious of all human beings, and the ability to withstand the emotional and social challenges as a teenager, clearly rests upon a caring relationship between parent, teacher and child.
Our mission is to advance the social and emotional behaviour of children of all ethnic groups, through a series of interlocking teaching programmes supported by more than twenty-five years of clinically proven worldwide research.
Our goal is to deliver teaching programmes and materials that develop positive parent-teacher-child relationships and assist in recognizing and treating aggressive behaviour before a child becomes an adult.”
( – accessed on 22.10.2009)

“The Incredible Years: Parents, Teachers, and Children” Training Series is a comprehensive set of curricula designed to promote social competence and prevent, reduce, and treat aggression and related conduct problems in babies, toddlers, young children, and school-aged children. Young children with high rates of aggressive behaviour problems have been shown to be at greatest risk for continuing on the trajectory to deviant peer groups, school drop out, delinquency, substance abuse, and violence. Ultimately the aim of the teacher, parent and child training programmes is to prevent and to reduce the occurrence of aggressive and oppositional behaviour, thus reducing the chance of developing later delinquent behaviours and preventing juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, and violence.
Each of the programmes in the Incredible Years Series seeks to alter the quality of relationships between parents and children, teachers and children, teachers and parents, and children with their peers.

The short-term goals of the series are to:
1.     Strengthen children’s social skills and appropriate play skills (turn taking, waiting, asking, sharing, helping, complimenting).
2.     Promote children’s use of self-control strategies such as effective problem solving steps.
3.     Increase emotional awareness by labelling feelings, recognizing the different views of oneself and others and enhancing perspective taking.  
4.     Boost academic success, reading and school readiness.
5.     Reduce defiance, aggressive behaviour, and related conduct problems such as non-compliance, peer aggression and rejection, bullying, stealing and lying.
6.     Decrease children’s negative cognitive attributions and conflict management approaches.
7.     Increase self-esteem and self-confidence.
The long-term goals of these early prevention programmes are to:
1.    Reduce violence, drug abuse and delinquency in later years.
2.    These short- and long-term goals are accomplished by promoting parent, teacher and child competencies.  

Promote teacher competencies and strengthen home-school connections:
1.    Strengthen teachers’ effective classroom management skills, including proactive teaching approaches.
2.    Increase teachers’ use of effective discipline strategies.  
3.    Increase teachers’ collaborative efforts with parents and promotion of parents’ school involvement.
4.    Increase teachers’ ability to teach social skills, anger management, and problem-solving skills in the classroom.  
5.    Decrease levels of classroom aggression.    

Promote parent competencies and strengthen families:
1.    Increase positive and nurturing parenting.
2.    Reduce critical and violent discipline approaches by replacing spanking with positive strategies such as ignoring, using logical and natural consequences, redirecting, adequate monitoring, and problem-solving.  
3.    Improve parents’ problem-solving skills, anger management, and communication skills.  
4.    Increase family support networks and school involvement.
5.    Help parents and teachers work collaboratively to ensure consistency across settings.
6.    Increase parents’ involvement in children’s academic-related activities at home.

Target groups
•    Children in the age of 0 -12 years
•    Parents with children in this age
•    Teachers and assistants in nurseries, schools, kindergartens


The programme is divided into three sub-programmes according to their target groups (parents, teachers, or children), which in their turn are divided into several sub-programmes for different age groups. Russia at the moment the parent programmes are being implemented.

THE PARENT PROGRAMME consists of four sub-programmes according to the four main stages of the child`s development:

For parents with babies (0 - 8 months)
Parents of children of this age learn how to observe and interpret the child’s signals, how they can provide the child with psychological, tactile and visual stimulation and what role such stimulation plays in the development of the brain.

For parents with young children in the age of 1 - 3 years
Parents with children between 1 – 3 years learn how one can build up the child’s self-esteem by means of encouragement and praise, or how one can create routines for meals, getting dressed, going to bed, treating a pet, etc.   Parents learn how to control themselves through self-instruction and other strategies that help one to calm down.

Parents with children in the age of 3 – 6 years
The goal of this basic pre-school programme is to strengthen parenting skills. The programme deals with such problems as how one can develop the child’s social competence, emotional regulation and academic skills. Parents learn how to use praise as a form of encouraging cooperation, and how to use positive upbringing strategies as rules, routines and effective limitation in order to prevent problem behaviour.

Parents with school-aged children (6 – 12 years)
The programme has a goal to promote the child’s positive behaviour, to reduce inappropriate behaviour and to support the development of the academic skills.

The Incredible Years in Russia 
Within CYAR since 2005 the basic parent programme for parents with children aged 4 to 8 years old with behavioural problems has been implemented in Russia. The programme consists of 12 - 14 weekly meetings and has as it’s aim to strengthen the family. To achieve this goal, parents learn to understand children at this age, in this way reducing the chance of developing problem behaviour.

The basic programme starts with establishing positive relationships between children and parents using game as the arena for practising. It is in the games nature that the child has to use their Imagination, take initiative and control the game. Participating in the game on the child's premises the parents get the possibility to interact with the child and gradually transform the negative development into positive relations, based on trust.
According to the experts, “The Incredible Years” is one of the best “equipped” with methodological resources (manuals, material for group lessons and homework, videos, etc.) and methodologically developed programs to address behavioural problems in children. Due to its many advantages, and most importantly high efficiency, the programme is widely used in many countries.

The dissemination of the Incredible Years programme in the North-West Russia started in November 2005programmeprogramme at the center “Sampo” (Petrozavodsk, Karelia, Russia) programmeas a part of the Karelian-Norwegian project “New forms of correctional work with families and children” and was fully developed and implemented within the cooperation programme of the Barents / Euro-Arctic Council “Children and Youth at Risk 2008 - 2015”. Professor Willy-Tore Mørch from the University of Tromsø (Norway) conducted training courses for the specialists of the Centre. 

An active advertising campaign to recruit parent groups is being run in the regions, including pieces on TV and radio, articles in newspapers. The experience gained in Karelia allowed starting the work on the dissemination of the programme in other regions of the North-West of Russia. After a series of training seminars the parent training programme is now available in Karelia (7 centres), Murmansk and the Murmansk region (6 centers), Arkhangelsk and the Arkhangelsk region (8 centers), in the Komi Republic (13 centers). The experience of running group in all the cities has been very successful. As off November 2014 in the North-West of Russia, there are around 100 working group leaders.

To participate in the programme, parents of children in the age 3 to 8 years with a variety of problems in behaviour are invited, such as whims, stubbornness, disobedience, aggression, destructive behaviour, lying, stealing, hyperactivity, concentration problems, daring. The courses are run by professionals, group leaders, among whom there are psychologists, social pedagogues, social workers, teachers, health professionals with special training in the programme "Incredible Years". During the programme implementation period, 225 parent groups and 75 children groups were held, 1433 families underwent the course (1998 persons, among them 338 children)

Statements of parents:
•     «I used to read a lot of books on parenting, watched a lot of programs, every thing was clear, but my problem with children were not solved. It`s like I’m lost in the woods, I do not know where to go. Through the programme, I now clearly see where to go, and though the path is long, it does not scare me.»
•     «The most important thing is my achievement, thanks to the programme, I have not hit my child for the 3 months.»
•     «Now I start to feel the pleasure of motherhood (this was a very big problem.) I want more children.»
•     «This programme is the golden key to the child.»

Evaluating the programme as a whole it may be noted that according to K. Webster-Stratton improvement in behaviour shows in about 65% of children (which should be seen as a fairly good indicator), whose parents participated in parent training “The Incredible Years”. The main outcomes of the programme at the Center “Sampo” are: improved behaviour in 78% of children, and reducing stress in 86% of parents. Group leaders are happy to work with the programme, they constantly receive positive feedback from parents.

Statements of group leaders:
•     «The programme has a clear structure»
•     «The courses offered are consistent and logical in construction»
•     «Using the skills and techniques learned in the programme in the education of their children, in cooperation at work and family»
•     «It helps to find the resources, the ability of parents, increasing their self-confidence and competence, uniting families and helps to resolve conflicts»
•     «The excellent results of the programme motivate us to work further, improve our skills and abilities»

Since 2011 Mrs. Elena Vorobyeva has been the mentor for the programme ”Incredible Years” in the North-West Russia and is responsible for training of new group leaders and supervisions of those who underwent training earlier. For more information about the programme is available on the website.

In all regions, the programme has shown high efficiency, group leaders point out its effectiveness, high demand and interest for the programme among parents and specialists. It has been proved on practice that the program is effective in reducing a number of behavioural problems among of children, developing social competence of the child, reducing the number of cases of violent disciplining among the parents, developing the parents' ability to handle a child.

According to a whole range of research (Reid, Webster-Stratton & Hammond 2003; Larsson et al. 2008) behaviour improvement is marked with more than a half of the children whose parents participated in the parent training «Incredible Years». The children also demonstrate sufficient changes and decrease in deviant behaviour, point out the decreased levels of stress and cruelty in upbringing. With two thirds of the children there was not detected recurrence of the previously made diagnosis of oppositional disorder / behaviour disorder after 5-6 years since the training finished.

Scientific and methodological guidance of the «Incredible Years» programme in the Republic of Karelia is performed by the specialists from Karelian State Pedagogical University. Two stages could be singled out in the series of research conducted during several years. The first stage – adaptation and standardization of Eyberg Child Behaviour Inventory (diagnostic instrument for assessing intensity of behaviour deviations in children, monitoring behaviour changes in children whose parents participate in the programme, evaluation of programme effectiveness as such). The second stage is IY effect study in the Republic of Karelia.

The first stage is standardization of Eyberg Child Behaviour Inventory (ECBI). The inventory includes two scales: child behaviour deviations intensity scale and parent problem behaviour scale. The degree of behaviour problems is directly connected with the level of parents’ overcoming the psychological stress. The standardization sample included more than 1500 parents of children aged from 3 to 8 living in four cities in the Republic of Karelia.The second stage – effect study for Karelia. The main goal of the second stage became the programme effect assessment. There were formed two groups, an experimental group and a comparison group, that were tested three times with the interval of several months.

The results were obtained on the basis of the sample from 91 families (112 children). At the beginning of the programme 37 children (33 %) were enrolled in correction group, 46 (41%) – in the risk group, 29 children (26%) were the norm. 64 participants of the programme (57 %) registered increased or high stress level. After completion of the programme the risk group included only 20 children (18%). 87 children (78 %) according to the test data were ascribed to the norm. Only 5 children (4%) who were in correction group before the start of the programme kept their status. There were also evident changes in the level of stress experienced by the parents: at the end 19 people out of 112 (17%) got points in problem scale corresponding to the increased or high stress level.

The research has shown that after the end of the programme the degree of disruptive behaviour intensity in children lowered to the norm in the groups of parent training. If before the start of the programme the average score in the experimental group was 138, at the end it became 100. The level of behavioural problems intensity in children was at the same rather high level in the control group after three months. Similar changes were obtained for the second scale (problem scale). The level of problems decreased from 17 to 6.6 points in the experimental group; there were no sufficient changes in the control group. It is remarkable that the effects of the programme were evident after 3 month after its finish.

The parents who had the parent training «Incredible Years» have the decrease in the amount and the degree of psychological problems that are solved at the expense of a child; parental feelings are developed (there appears a wish to communicate with the child, interest to him/her and his/her affairs), projection of parents’ own negative qualities on the child that stipulates emotional casting-off and violence is decreased.   

On the basis of the results of the conducted work we can make the following conclusions:
•     Implementation of the «Incredible Years» programme favours the decrease of violation intensity in children (to the level of the age norm). Cultural differences between the USA, Europe and Russia evidently do not have any negative impact on the results of the programme.
•     As a result of parents’ participation in the trainings, the level of parent depression decreases. Changes in emotional condition have a long-term character.
•     There are changes in relations of parents and children. Negative manifestations in upbringing that have negative impact on the personality of the child and his / her behaviour are exchanged by more positive forms of children-parental relations, upbringing deviations are becoming less evident.  

Terms of use

Contact information
Elena Vorobyeva
Mentor in the programme «Incredible Years» in Russia
Mob.: +7 911 411 07 01
Tlf.: +7 8142 56 26 50

Willy-Tore Mørch
Regional Center for child and youth mental health and child welfare, Northern Norway
UiT, the Arctic University of Norway
Tlf.: +47 776 45 854

Vadim Kolesnikov
Associate professor
Department of General psychology
Karelian State pedagogic academy
Petrozavodsk, Russia
Phone: +7 921 461 0277

Useful links – «The Incredible Years» in Karelia, the web-site of Karelian State pedagogical academy - the web-site of the original programme «The Incredible Years» of C. Webster-Stratton


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