Behaviour management and diet

Use of a behaviour management program can double the benefits of the diet. It is best to wait until the effects of the diet have kicked in and the child is more amenable to discipline, at least two weeks.

The quickest, easiest and most enjoyable behaviour management program is Dr Thomas Phelan's 1-2-3 Magic video, available from (American version, which will play on many new Australian VCRs) or phone 1300 738 278. It is also available for loan from many preschools, some health departments, and some toy libraries. If you can't afford the video, buy the book, or borrow it from your library (although the video is better!)

During challenges, avoid confrontations and be sympathetic. You can use a less confrontational reverse version of 1-2-3-Magic, by counting quietly to yourself and giving yourself time-out.

Some failsafers have also recommended the Triple P Parenting program - this should be much easier for Australian readers to access, check at your local community health centre for information about courses.

Apart from challenges, if you can't get 1-2-3 Magic or the Triple P principles to work, and you are using diet, ask about behaviour management programs run by your local education department, see this reader's account:

"Our son aged 6 has always been difficult, defiant and hard to get on with. When we went to a paediatrician regarding problems at school, he was diagnosed with ADHD and sent to the Management of Young Children Program. MYCP has been going for 20 years in Queensland. It is run by the Education Department and attached to some schools. The idea is to teach parenting skills to parents of difficult children aged 3-7, and also to get the child used to following directions, or doing as they're told.

"When we started the program, we did 3 'baseline' sessions in a room with a video camera just to get Tom used to the room and the toys. Next the psychologist does a training session with the parents for about 2 hours to teach the skills that are needed in the room to get the child to do as they're told. The parent has to give a specific direction. If the child carries out the direction, the behaviour is praised. If the child doesn't carry out the direction, the parent waits. This means ignoring what the child is doing, turning away and just waiting until they do as they're told, and when they do, the parent praises the behaviour. It sounds very simple, but it works. As soon as the attention is away from the child, sooner or later the child does as you want them to do, then he gets praised. The psychologists rate the child's oppositional behaviour every ten seconds. Every 2 minutes you change the activity that you're doing, and they coach you, if needed, throughout the session. Each session takes 20 to 30 minutes.

"We have been going for 30 sessions. It usually takes 18 sessions for a difficult child to get an oppositional score below 5%, but Tom has been very difficult.

"We started MYCP early this year and have been going three afternoons a week during school term. I discovered the elimination diet four months later and Tom has been on it for a month now. The difference is fantastic. It was school holidays when we started it, and I actually enjoyed the holidays. He is much calmer, more focused, much less argumentative and easier to get on with. I think we will be finished MYCP soon, when we get three sessions in a row under 5% opposition. The psychologists are happy with Tom's behaviour and say that we're progressing well since the diet. Once the room sessions are finished, the psychologists then pinpoint which situations at home are a problem, and give you parenting strategies on how to handle them.

"It is a great program. I wish we had known about it when Tom was in Kindy, but we didn't find out about it until he was in Grade 1. It provides a lot of support for parents of difficult children, even though it is very time-consuming. Although the psychologists don't actively recommend diet to the people that are doing MYCP, they do believe that diet can make a difference."

There is also a wealth of material available in

ORDER IN THE HOUSE! (137 pages, 0.7Mb)

Articles from a national newsletter for parents, educators and behaviour management specialists about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and related topics.

Edited by Sue Dengate, published from 1993-1999, each issue mailed to up to 800 individuals and organisations.


More information

Introduction to food intolerance

Books by Sue Dengate: Fed Up and The Failsafe Cookbook by Sue Dengate, also available in libraries and bookstores 


 The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians 


© Sue Dengate updated July 2006