Working together for green, competetive and inclusive Europe

Hundreds of Lithuanian parents have already benefited from the parenting training program "Incredible Year"

Solving the mental health problems of children depends crucially on their immediate environment - parents' skills to promote their children's social and emotional development, build sustainable relationships with their children, and ensure the well-being of the child and family. The Incredible Years program in Lithuania, from which 585 parents of pre-school age children (3-6 years old) have already benefited for free, aims to strengthen these parents' skills. 
"Lithuania needs this program not only because it helps to solve the specific problems of individual families, but also because it encourages to rethink parenting. What we give our children now will make a big difference to their physical and mental health in the future," says Sandra Remeikienė, Head of the European Economic Area and Norway Programme Unit at the Central Project Management Agency (CPMA).   
These parenting trainings in Lithuania is a part of the Health Programme 2014-2021 funded by the Financial Mechanism of European Economic Area (EEA), under the measure " Adaptation and implementation of Incredible Years Programme in Lithuania" with total allocated budget of EUR 1.7 million. Project is implemented by the Institute of Hygiene and is administrated by CPMA. Project partner is the Ministry of Health.  
Evidence-based program 
Although the Incredible Years program is only in its third year in Lithuania, it is no longer new worldwide. The program is used in 25 countries around the world, including the UK, Norway, Finland and Australia. The program was created in the United States of America (USA) more than three decades ago by Dr Carolyn Webster-Stratton, a clinical psychologist and professor at Washington University. 
Since its launch, research has shown that the program helps to reduce or prevent problems caused by children's behavioural and emotional disorders, as well as to protect such children from involvement in crime, violence and substance abuse. 
A 2010 analysis by Norwegian researcher May Britt Drugli and co-authors shows that two out of three children with behavioural or emotional disorders were no longer diagnosed with these disorders one year after the Incredible Years program. The same proportion of children did not have problems 5-6 years after the parenting training. 
The modules of the program, which are currently being developed in Lithuania, strengthen parenting skills. Improved parenting skills have a positive impact not only on the mental health of the child for whom the program was chosen, but also on other children in the family, on the preservation of the marriage, and on the quality of life of the children and those around them. 
Replace one behaviour with another 
According to Katažyna Labanienė, the project activity manager, the parenting training is based on the cooperation model. 
"We, the leaders of the training groups, are not the ones who tell parents how to raise their children. We do not follow a top-down didactic approach that encourages parents to be passive observers. Research shows, however, that if parents remain passive during training, they are less likely to apply what they have been taught in real situations," says Labanienė. 
Parents are empowered to solve problems themselves. This leads to much better results. This is achieved through the intensive use of video vignettes - video material that depicts real situations in parent-child relationships and which become the basis for discussion between parents, deeper analysis and the search for patterns, known as principles in the program.  
During trainings parents are taught to play child-led games and to become therapists for their children. The development of perseverance, emotions and social skills also are included. Parents are also taught positive discipline - ways of raising children without aggression, violence or excessive strictness. 
"Behavioural difficulties are experienced by almost every child, so teaching social skills and regulating emotions is relevant for everyone, not just those diagnosed with disorders. All children sometimes misbehave. And we cannot simply 'take' the inappropriate behaviour out of the child - we must replace it with more positive behaviour. Here, as in nature, there is no empty space. The philosophy is simple: if a child misbehaves, he or she simply doesn't know how to do things differently," Labanienė points out. 
Expansion of services in the future 
A new module will be launched in October this year, this time for parents with school-age children (6-12 years old). The focus is now on training and upskilling new group leaders, in collaboration with the program's authors in the US and project partners in Norway. 
The possibilities for the continuation of the project were discussed this week at an event organised by the Ministry of Health, where presentations were given by the program's creator Dr Carolyn Webster-Stratton, as well as speakers from the Ministry of Health, the Institute of Hygiene, Klaipėda City Municipality, and the Marijampolė Municipal Public Health Bureau. The event was dedicated to representatives of municipal administrations, municipal public health offices, training group leaders and other interested parties.  
Due to the high level of interest from municipalities where training services are not yet available but are needed, expansion of the services is being considered. Currently, 13 municipalities in the country are participating in the Incredible Year project, with 5 more joining from this autumn. Municipalities that do not currently have trained group leaders can purchase this service from other municipalities. There has been a lot of positive feedback from parents who have completed the program. Although the program focuses on parents of children with behavioural and emotional difficulties, many parents find that the program benefits all parents. The continuation and expansion of the Incredible Year program is foreseen beyond the project period. It is discussed that the program in the municipalities could be funded not only by the state budget but also by other sources of funding. 
For more information on the Incredible Years training program and the registration form, please visit   
About Health Programme: 

The Health Programme in Lithuania aims to strengthen mental health services in communities and improve the well-being of children and young people. The programme's measures include the development of psychosocial support, youth-friendly health services, support for vulnerable children and young people, the establishment of one-stop help centres for children and families, training for parents through the Incredible Years programme, cooperation between families and health professionals, and the development of services and support for pregnant women, mothers giving birth, and mothers of children aged up to two years. 
Email us