The fearful mom and the runaway son: why a parenting program helped them both.

It’s that moment that all parents dread and many have experienced at least once.  You’re in a crowded public place and, in an instant, one child is missing.  Not with his brother and sister.  Not anywhere to be seen.

Imagine then, how it felt for Maureen Affleck, who dealt with this nightmare over and over after her family moved from the Australian city of Melbourne to Brisbane, in the northern state of Queensland for her husband’s work.

“One of my boys was consistently defiant [and would] scream and yell at me and the other kids and often lashed out hitting, pushing and scratching,” says Maureen, who has three children – a daughter, 7, and twin boys aged 4.

“With the transition to Brisbane he became worse and started running off when he got upset, regardless of where we were.  He once ran off when we were at South Bank [Parklands] and I ended up calling security when I couldn’t locate him after 10 minutes.  We finally spotted him and he ran across the road – cars honking, tires screeching – and hid under a table in a restaurant.”

anxious child, stressed mother

It soon became obvious to Maureen that her son had separation anxiety; he’d also become anxious and upset when she tried to leave him at his new day care.

“He would scream, cling to me and not let go,” she says.

Stressed and desperate for help, Maureen signed up to do Triple P Online, and sought extra support from a local Triple P provider.  She started the program and saw results quite soon.

“It was incredibly hard work to begin with, ensuring I took action whenever and wherever the bad behaviour occurred. I had to make it my number one priority for the first two weeks, but it paid off!” she says.

“He stopped running off when he got upset but would instead walk a short distance away, where I could still see him, and sit down saying ‘I just need to calm down’. After a few minutes he would be ready to go again.”

a new type of time-out

One of the reasons her son to that point was the way Maureen used Triple P’s version of time-out, which is designed to help kids learn to regulate their emotions, rather than being used as a punishment.  Maureen’s Triple P provider guided the way she used time-out, and after only a few times, Maureen didn’t need to use it.  Similarly, her boy wasn’t fretting when she had to leave him at day care either.

 “We moved again after only five months in Brisbane and are now living in Adelaide. I was very worried about him starting at his new child care but had no problems whatsoever."

In fact, Maureen can’t quite believe the improvement in her son – and in herself too.

“This program truly changed our lives, and mine in particular. He is a nicer kid all round and quite lovely to be with. He has also become much kinder to his siblings and our house is no longer full of screaming, fighting and crying children.

“I am no longer stressed and I have two sweet little boys.  Of course there are still occasionally issues where they misbehave, but I get much less stressed about it, and yell much less, because I know exactly how to deal with the situation.” 

Parents in the USA can also do Triple P Online. Find out more