COPEing with Toddler Behaviour

About This Program

Target Population: Parents of 12- to 36-month-olds who are having challenges with toddler behaviour

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 1 – 3

Program Overview

COPEing with Toddler Behaviour is an 8-session parent group designed to enhance caregiver skills in preventing and responding to challenging behaviour. In developing the course, current wisdom about toddler behaviour guidance, parent training, adult education, and large group processes were integrated. The group is for any parent of a child 12 to 36 months old. The primary goal of COPEing with Toddler Behaviour is to improve parent-child interaction in order to prevent the development of disruptive behaviour disorders.

Program Goals

The goals of COPEing with Toddler Behaviour are to train parents to:

  • Use an authoritative parenting style
  • Foster a positive parent-child relationship
  • Have appropriate developmental expectations
  • Prevent challenging behaviours by planning ahead, using praise and giving choices
  • Respond to challenging behaviour by setting limits, redirecting, and ignoring inappropriate behaviour
  • Modify the environment to limit conflict

Expected outcomes include:

  • Reducing child negative behaviour
  • Reducing parent negative behaviour
  • Reducing parent stress
  • Reducing parent-child dysfunctional interaction
  • Increasing child positive behaviour
  • Increasing parent positive behaviour
  • Increasing positive parent-child interaction

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for COPEing with Toddler Behaviour.

Essential Components

The essential components of COPEing with Toddler Behaviour include:

  • A focus on training parents in skills that prevent challenging behaviour in 12- to 36-month-olds
  • Session topics on how to:
    • Use an authoritative parenting style and foster a positive parent-child relationship
    • Have appropriate developmental expectations
    • Prevent challenging behaviours by planning ahead, using praise and giving choices
    • Respond to challenging behaviour by setting limits, redirecting and ignoring inappropriate behaviour
    • Modify the environment to limit conflict
  • Utilization of an empowering model of group problem-solving
  • Minimization of practical barriers to attendance
  • A manual to help facilitator adhere to program components
  • Utilization of video clips
  • Availability and requirement of facilitator training
  • Recommended group size of 15-40 parents

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

COPEing with Toddler Behaviour directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Challenges in interacting with toddlers in a way that prevents/minimizes challenging behaviour and parent-child conflict
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: The parents attend a group while the children are in child care provided by the program. The parents practice the techniques learned in the group with their toddlers.

Recommended Intensity:

2-hour weekly sessions

Recommended Duration:

8 weeks

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider


COPEing with Toddler Behaviour includes a homework component:

There are home practice sheets for each session on the topic of the session. These assignments are discussed before and after implementation.


COPEing with Toddler Behaviour has materials available in languages other than English:

Spanish, Swedish

For information on which materials are available in these languages, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Parent group room
  • Child care room
  • 2 trained facilitators
  • DVD/TV
  • Advertising resources

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

An early childhood education diploma or equivalent college degree or Bachelor's level education in psychology, child development, nursing, or a related area, as well as relevant experience working with parents and young children.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Onsite training

Number of days/hours:

2-day workshop for facilitator training

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for COPEing with Toddler Behaviour.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is no formal support available for implementation of COPEing with Toddler Behaviour.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for COPEing with Toddler Behaviour as listed below:

The fidelity measures are located in the manual at the end of each session chapter.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are no implementation guides or manuals for COPEing with Toddler Behaviour.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement COPEing with Toddler Behaviour.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Niccols, A. (2009). Immediate and short-term outcomes of the "COPEing with Toddler Behaviour" parent group. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50(5), 617-626.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 79


  • Age — 18-45 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 100% Female
  • Status — Participants were mothers of 12- to 13-month olds and responded to advertisements to participate.

Location/Institution: Canada

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study randomly assigned 79 mothers to an 8-session COPEing with Toddler Behaviour program or to a waiting list control condition. They investigated the immediate and short-term impact on parent-reported child behavior problems, observed parent–child interaction, and self-reported parenting behavior and parent functioning. Measures included the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory Problem Scale, the Parenting Scale, and the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Using an intent-to-treat design, COPEing with Toddler Behaviour yielded significant effects on child behavior problems, positive parent–child interaction, and parental over reactivity and depression, but not observed negative child behavior or parental laxness. Most effects were significant at both post-test and 1-month follow-up and effects sizes were small to medium for the intervention group and inverse to small for the control group. The potential of the program to prevent later behavior problems is supported by improvements in six of the eight outcomes. Limitations include that the generalizability of the findings are limited to mothers who are concerned enough about their child's behavior to register for a parenting course, small sample size, and limited follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 1 month.

Additional References

Niccols, A. (2010, Winter). An ounce of prevention: COPEing with Toddler Behaviour. IMPrint Newsletter of the Infant Mental Health Promotion Project, 54, 1-5.

Niccols, A., Hutchinson, C., Brooks, S., Hancock, L., Jeffels, S., Kaufhold, C., ... Volek, K. (2004). "COPEing with Toddler Behaviour" parenting course facilitator manual. Available from first author.

Niccols, A. (2004). "COPEing with Toddler Behaviour" parenting course videotape. Available from author.

Contact Information

Alison Niccols, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: McMaster Children's Hospital/McMaster University/Offord Centre for Child Studies
Phone: (905) 521-2100 x77408
Fax: (905) 521-7926

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2019

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: July 2012