Angry Kids and Stressed Out Parents

By Maureen Palmer

Parents of a generation not so long ago remember the relief experienced with the discovery of vaccines, especially for illnesses like polio.  For a small price per child, we are now able to administer injections that protect children from the ravages of such illness. Most parents and governments simply accept the fact vaccines save lives, because we have decades of proof.

So what if there was a “behaviour” vaccine, if you will?  We now have decades of proof that programs that intervene early in the lives of troubled children pay huge dividends not just for the child, but for our society as a whole.   And most them cost very little per child. In fact – for every dollar invested in an early childhood intervention – governments see a return of up to 17!

In Angry Kids & Stressed Out Parents, a film I directed for CBC’s Doc Zone, which airs March 27th at 9pm, we follow children through 3 ground-breaking early childhood interventions: the Triple P Parenting Program, the PAX Good Behaviour Game and the Abecedarian playschool program, and witness remarkable transformation before our eyes. 

There’s urgency to making these “behavioural vaccines” available, for two reasons.  One: advances in neuroscience confirm the more warmth, nurture and stimulation a child has before the age of 6, the more happy, healthy and successful they are in life. Two: brain scans now show us grinding poverty can be just as destructive to a young child’s developing brain as abuse and neglect.  This is of particular concern, because a great percentage of children in North America is now growing up poor.

The fact we’ve known about this huge challenge facing our children – and not done much about it – is particularly frustrating to researchers passionate about children.  I had the privilege of speaking with three of the best, whose words express the urgency of acting on behalf of children better than I ever could.

After two award-winning decades at the CBC, Maureen Palmer formed Bountiful Films with Helen Slinger to produce critic and crowd-pleasing films that explore the impact of modern life on children, like "Sext Up Kids" and "How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids", for CBC's Doc Zone.



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