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Positive Parenting Skills and PMTO Lead to Success

Happy mother & daughter laughing

After her child had multiple stays in psychiatric residential treatment facilities and with escalating tensions at home, Sarah was an overwhelmed parent struggling to manage her young daughter’s behavior. Once the State became involved, Sarah’s caseworker recommended her family for a specialized training called Parent Management Training – Oregon Model (PMTO). Sarah agreed that this program could be the solution her family has been looking for and they began training.

“PMTO was basically a lifesaver for our family. You have to get a system that works for your family so you’re not just hoping for the best.” – Sarah

What is PMTO?

Parent Management Training – Oregon Model (PMTO), also referred to as GenerationPMTO, is an evidence-based parent training program designed to reduce negative parent/child interactions by increasing positive parenting practices. “The PMTO therapist seeks to partner with a parent to shine up their already well-built parenting toolbox, and maybe add a few things along the way,” says Kelly Young, LMSW, LMAC, PMT/PMTO Manager and Director of Evidence-Based Initiatives for KVC Kansas. She continues, “we go in and from the first session forward, we’re continuously trying to identify parents’ strengths. Parents are generally pretty negative about themselves because they have child welfare involvement. They think ‘I’m not a good enough parent.’ We don’t believe that is true. We focus on what the parent does well. We can build much more from a place of strength than deficit. This really is a partnership.”

“It’s so exciting to go to a family’s house – they look forward to you coming. They see you as a partner. They see you as being helpful, and then they see results. With those ingredients in play, it sets everything up for success.” -Kelly Young

The goal of PMTO is to strengthen positive parenting practices, thereby decreasing the negative, coercive practices. The more negative factors someone has experienced in their lives, the more negative their parenting practices tend to be. Young explains that “contextual factors such as poverty, racism, trauma, substance abuse, parent mental health, high crime neighborhoods, domestic violence– all shape parenting practices. We learn by what we see happening around us.” According to Young, “the way we deliver PMTO is one of the biggest factors for its success. We really promote parents as their kid’s best teachers.”

Positive Parenting Skills Taught in PMTO

PMTO focuses on 12 specific skills, with each skill building on the next one. Training is individualized for each family and delivered in the parent’s home over 18 to 26 weeks. It involves both parent sessions and family sessions. Family sessions include games, activities, and crafts. Parents and the therapist partner together to plan how the activity is going to address the particular skill that is being worked on. “Kids leave family sessions not feeling like they’ve been in a therapy session—they just got to have a good, quality interaction with their parents,” says Young.

The 12 positive parenting skills taught through PMTO are:

  1. Giving Good Directions
  2. Emotion Regulation
  3. Encouragement
  4. Active Communication
  5. Problem-Solving
  6. Managing Conflict
  7. Limit Setting
  8. Balancing
  9. Goals
  10. Monitoring/Supervision
  11. School Success
  12. Positive Involvement

PMTO “is solution-focused in that we can create healing through change versus creating healing through reviewing the past. That makes a big difference in parents’ willingness to engage in this program,” Young says. “We can help heal fractures in relationships by practicing parenting in a different way.” She adds that “PMTO is not trauma treatment, but with this trauma-informed intervention we can create some healing of the aftermath of trauma. We can help parents develop consistency in their home with positive reinforcement.” Sarah says that the most important part of improving her relationship with her daughter was “interjecting positive exchanges between us. Some days she may have felt like she didn’t do anything right. Letting her know some of the things she’s doing really well made her feel better, and it made me feel better to notice them.”

Proven Success with PMTO

In addition to increasing reunification rates between biological parents and children in foster care, research has shown that the skills built through PMTO create a wide positive ripple effect for families. Increased conflict management and problem-solving skills are transferable to all facets of life.

As a result, families who have completed PMTO have:

  • Decreased divorce rates
  • Decreased substance abuse concerns
  • Increased employment rates.

In addition, youth report:

  • Increased reading and math performance on standardized tests
  • Reduced police arrests
  • Reduction in use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs

Young adds that the “average rate of completion in child welfare interventions is 30-60%. During the first five years of PMTO, we had a 74% completion rate across Kansas. Having someone in the child welfare system believe in the parent makes for a completion rate that is unheard of in child welfare.”

KVC Kansas is currently the only organization authorized to provide PMTO training in the state. It has been the sole provider of PMTO infrastructure (training, coaching and fidelity rating) since 2018. KVC Kansas has a proven history of evidence-based practices and has built the infrastructure required for successful delivery of these services.

Once a family has completed PMTO training, according to Young, “many of our therapists have created such special relationships with families that families will contact them for a word of encouragement or a little bit of a booster. I’ve done a one or two session booster after kids have been reintegrated into the home.”

Kelly Young

Kelly Young

Can PMTO’s positive parenting skills help your family?

“I’m a firm believer that any parent can benefit,” Young says. “We move about in a world that is quick to point out when we’ve done something wrong. It really is turning things on its head, learning to catch our kids being good and rewarding that.”

If you’d like to benefit from the parenting skills mentioned above, you can read our 12-part parenting skills series here.

Giving Good Directions eBook