One of the most important things for parents of pre-teens to remember, is that the biggest motivation for your child’s behaviors is attention from you. Your child will try all sorts of things to get and keep your attention, and those behaviors that work will increase while those behaviors that don’t will typically go away. Children love and thrive on praise from their parents, but in many cases, those behaviors that yield negative attention from you (such as yelling or punishing) will often reinforce those unappreciated behaviors, as well. For many young children, being reprimanded by Mom or Dad may briefly suppress a behavior, but does little to deter that behavior from returning in the future. In addition, constant punishment can make children feel bad about themselves, resulting in a belief that negative attention is what they deserve, and thus, what they seek out.
PCIT incorporates elements from psychology’s social learning theory and attachment theory. It helps parents address their children’s problematic behaviors while increasing positive feelings between parent and child. These increased positive feelings make children inclined to be compliant, while consistent positive attention for desired behaviors, teaches children what to do to get that attention they crave.