Triple P offers parents an ‘owners manual’ for raising children

MONCKS CORNER — Have you seen the cartoon drawing of the dad holding his crying child in front of him while looking very perplexed and yelling, “Where’s the owners manual?” If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve experienced similar moments in your own life.

Christine Saunders and Lois Masouris said they have found the owner’s manual that every parent needs in the Positive Parenting Program. The program was developed through 25 years of research by Matt Sanders, Ph.D., and others at The University of Queensland’s Parenting and Family Support Center in Australia.

The two women just completed an intensive training program and are ready to help parents with those age-old behavior questions, like “What do you do when your child throws a temper tantrum in the middle of a grocery store?”

Triple P literature states that it is important not to reinforce the negative behavior by caving in to demands or giving the child desired attention. The program walks parents through their particular concerns and provides a number of alternative solutions.

 “It’s not anything new, but it’s taking all the good things about being a parent and putting it in a package,” Saunders said. “I’m just so excited about it; I can’t wait to help someone.”

Saunders, religious education director at St. Philip Benizi in Moncks Corner, is offering one-on-one counseling sessions to anyone who wishes to call or visit the church.

Masouris, who has a Ph.D. in counselor education, is planning a number of seminars at Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek, where she is the coordinator for adult programs.

“The results, as far as the extensive research — 20 years they’ve been at this — shows that it really works. And it’s simple. It works with all levels of socio-economic areas,” Masouris said.

The simplicity and directness of the method is the most appealing aspect for Masouris.

She said the program is non-threatening to parents because it isn’t conducted in a “teaching” mode. Instead, parents identify the problem and come up with their own solution using the Triple P research.

For example, Saunders said parents who are having trouble at the grocery story could have their child make their own small list and be in charge of picking up those items and putting them in the cart.

The program targets five different developmental periods from infancy to adolescence. Within each age range, the reach of the intervention can vary from an entire population to targeting only high-risk children.

Triple P has been developed in 18 counties throughout the state by “Building Connections,” a federally funded initiative operated through the University of South Carolina.

Barbara Austin, a training consultant with USC, said the program was introduced first to mental health facilities because that is often the primary source of aid for parents who need help. After that, they branched out into the schools and now are concentrating on churches.

“There are a number of churches who have begun to recognize we are here,” Austin said, “but this is really our first entree into the Catholic church.”

Immaculate Conception became involved after Austin gave a presentation at a clergy meeting hosted by Father Frank Palmieri. Masouris said Father Palmieri asked her to look into Triple P and report back to him.

“I chatted with (Austin) and really got excited about the program,” Masouris said. Based on her recommendation, the church hosted a training seminar, which Masouris also attended.

“It (Triple P) really follows the same advice I gave teachers: If you’re tough as nails the first month you won’t have any problems the rest of the year,” she said. “The same goes for parenting.”

Saunders said the church’s hope is that the 17 positive strategies of the program will ultimately decrease child abuse and prevent wild behavior in teenagers.

The goal for USC is to make Triple P professional training available to anyone who serves families with children in the birth though 10-year-old range in the following counties: Berkeley, Dorchester, Georgetown, Darlington, Kershaw, Sumter, Laurens, Pickens and York.

Triple P suggestions for parents
build positive relationships with your children
praise and encourage behavior you like
teach children new skills
set rules and give instructions that your children will follow
respond to misbehavior immediately, consistently and decisively
use discipline strategies that work
take care of yourselves as parents
For information or to attend contact Barbara Austin at (803) 978-7401, or visit