Nov 30, 2009

How Do I Clear Send in The No-Problem Area?


Letting Them Know The Real You

In the P.E.T. course, self-disclosing messages are referred to as I-Messages. An I-Message is a communication about the self--the "I".

An I-Message is authentic, honest, and congruent--reflecting the actual nature and strength of your thoughts and feelings. It is a clear message, understandable, and to the point, not masked in indirect or vague language.

Declarative I-Messages Are The Basic Form of Self-Disclosure

They are the declaration to others of your beliefs, ideas, likes, dislikes, feelings, thoughts, reaction--or any other statement that helps others know you better and understand how you are experiencing your life.

Some Examples of Declarative I-Messages:

"I believe the homework that your teacher's given you is really important."

"I think that we should have a military draft."

"I feel discouraged about how much things cost these days."

"I know you disagree strongly, yet I got real value from the first parent-faculty meeting, and I think we should give it a real chance."

Preventive I-Messages Stop Trouble Before It Starts

Another important type of self-disclosure is one that lets your children and others know of some future need that you want to meet; that anticipates what you want to do or see happen. Such a message, because it clearly describes how you want events to turn out, greatly increases the chances that others will adjust their actions so as not to block what you need. Such message may prevent a conflict. Such Preventive I-Messages are especially appropriate in the home. An example, familiar to every parent, is the announcement of the time dinner will be ready so that the children can finish what they're doing and, ideally, help out in the kitchen!

Some examples of Preventive I-Messages:

"I need some uninterrupted time tonight so I can get the bills paid."

"I'd like to hear of your weekend plans this evening so we can work out transportation ahead of time."

"I'd love to come to dinner. Please remember, I don't eat meat."

"I'd like to set a limit on our holiday spending this year."

Positive I-Messages Enhance and Strengthen Relationships

One of the most enriching forms of self-disclosure is the Positive I-Message. These are messages that exclusively describe parents' positive feelings toward their children. Although kids do plenty of things that are a problem for parents, they also say and do many things that are a pleasure, often helping a parent in unexpected ways or displaying kindness, maturity, considerateness, or good humor just when it's needed most. When these behaviors occur, it is appropriate and important for parents to disclose any genuine positive feelings they have about them.

Unfortunately, many parents are only self-disclosing when they are upset with their child's behavior. This is clearly appropriate self-disclosure, but the important point is that parents should disclose both their feelings of unacceptance and acceptance. Positive I-Messages that express appreciation, love, enjoyment, and affection toward children (spouse, friends, and others) can contribute greatly to warmer, closer, and more enjoyable relationships. Very young children, with their budding self-esteem and desire to be a "helper", seem especially to thrive on Positive I-Messages.

Consider the value for you, your children, or others in the following examples of Positive I-Messages:

"I appreciate how quiet you were when I was paying the bills. I did it a lot faster, thanks to you!"

"I really like the story you wrote, James."

"I was so proud when I heard you telling those kids you wouldn't lie to cover them!"

"Honey, I really love you."

It is important that Positive I-Messages not be used to manipulate or "shape" a child's behavior. Such ulterior motives invariably come through to the child and make your sincerity suspect. The Positive I-Message should be a "no-strings attached" expression of acceptance and acknowledgement.

Even though changing your child should not be the motive, parents who express a lot of positive feelings toward their children are often automatically rewarded with less unacceptable behavior, more trust, mutual respect and cooperation, more affection and caring. Like honesty, warmth and affection are highly contagious in families!

*Excerpt from the P.E.T. Participant Workbook

Nov 25, 2009

Is Danny Really Afraid to Go to Sleep?


Here is a chance to watch a parent putting Active Listening to work at home when they are confronted with nitty-gritty problems that mothers and fathers encounter. It is wise not to get so involved in these authentic situations that you forget to take note of the Active Listening this parent is using.

Danny: The Child Afraid to Go to Sleep

In handling this situation, this mother, a P.E.T. graduate, used a few of the 12 Communication Roadblocks, but she also relied heavily on Active Listening. The child, age eight, had been having increasing trouble getting to sleep since he was five years old. About eight months before the following dialogue took place, he moved out of a room he had been sharing with two younger brothers. Although eager for a room of his own, Danny found his sleeping problem intensified.


MOTHER: It's late. Turn out the light and go to sleep.

DANNY: I'm not going to sleep.

MOTHER: You have to, it's late. You'll be tired tomorrow.

DANNY: I'm not going to sleep.

MOTHER (harshly): Turn that light off now!

DANNY (flatly): I'm never going to sleep.

MOTHER (I feel like strangling him. I'm so tired, I can't stand this tonight...I go into the kitchen, count to ten, decide that I'm going in there and try Active Listening even if it kills me! Entering Danny's room): "C'mon, it's late but I'll sit on your bed for a while and rest my feet before I do the dishes. [She takes the book from him, turns off the lights, closes the door, and sits on the bed beside him, leaning back against the wall.]

DANNY: Gimme that book! Don't turn off the light. Get out of here. I don't want you in here. I'm not going to sleep. I hate you!

MOTHER: You're feeling very angry.

DANNY: Yeah, I hate school, and I'll ever go back, never!

MOTHER (He loves school.): You're fed up with school.

DANNY: It's horrible. I'm not good in school. Don't know anything. I should be in second grade. [He's in third.] Math, I don't know it. [He is very good at it.] The teacher must think we're in a high school or something.

MOTHER: Math's pretty hard for you.

DANNY: No! It's easy. Just don't feel like doing it.


DANNY (sudden shift): I like baseball. Much rather play baseball than go to school.

MOTHER: You really like baseball.

DANNY: Do you have to go to college? [Oldest brother will soon enter college and there is much family talk about it.]


DANNY: How long do yo have to go to school?

MOTHER: you have to finish high school.

DANNY: Well, I'm not going to college. Don't have to, right?

MOTHER: Right.

DANNY: Good, I'll play baseball.

MOTHER: Baseball's really fun.

DANNY: Yeah. [Completely calmed down, talking comfortably, no anger.] Well, good night.

MOTHER: Good night.

DANNY: Will you sit up with me some more?

MOTHER: Uh-huh.

DANNY (pulls up covers which had been kicked off; carefully covers up Mother's knees and pats them): Comfortable?


DANNY: You're welcome. [Period of quiet, then Danny starts snorting and sniffing with much exaggerated clearing of throat and nose. Snort, snort, snort. Danny does have slight allergy with stuffy nose, but the symptoms are never acute. Mother has never heard Danny snort like this before.]

MOTHER: Nose bugging you?

DANNY: No. [Snort, snort.]

MOTHER: Nose really bugs you.

DANNY: Yeah. [snort]. [Sigh of anguish.] Oh, I wish you didn't have to breathe through your nose when you sleep.

MOTHER (very surprised at this, tempted to ask where that idea came from): You think you have to breathe through your nose when you sleep?

DANNY: I know I have to.

MOTHER: You feel sure about it.

DANNY: I know it. Tommy told me, a long time ago. [Much admired friend, two years older.] he said you have to. You can't breathe through your mouth when you sleep.

MOTHER: You mean you aren't supposed to?

DANNY: You just can't [snort]. Mommy, that's right, isn't it? I mean, you gotta breathe through your nose when you sleep, don't you? [Long explanation--many questions from Danny about admired friend. "He wouldn't lie to me."]

MOTHER: (Explains that friend is probably trying to help but kids get false information sometimes. Much emphasis from Mother that everyone breathes through the mouth when sleeping.)

DANNY (very relieved): Well, good night.

MOTHER: Good night. [Danny breathing easily through mouth.]

DANNY (suddenly): Snort.

MOTHER: Still scary.

DANNY: Uh-huh. Mommy, what if I go to sleep breathing through my mouth--and my noise is stuff--and what if in the middle of the night when I'm sound asleep--what if I closed my mouth?

MOTHER (realized that he has been afraid to go to sleep for years because he is afraid he would choke to death; thinks; "Oh my poor baby"): You're afraid you might choke maybe?

DANNY: Uh-huh. You gotta breathe. [He couldn't say, "I might die."]

MOTHER (more explaining): It simply couldn't happen. Your mouth would open--just like your heart pumps blood or eyes blink.

DANNY: Are you sure?

MOTHER: Yes, I'm sure.

DANNY: Well, good night.

MOTHER: Good night, dear. [Kiss. Danny is asleep in minutes.]


The case of Danny is not a unique example of a parent whose Active Listening brought about the dramatic resolution of an emotional problem. Reports like these from parents in our classes confirm our belief that most parents can learn the skill employed by professional counselors well enough to put it to work to help their own children solve rather deep-seated problems that used to be considered the exclusive province of professionals.

Sometimes this kind of therapeutic listening brings only a cathartic release of a child's feelings; all the child seems to need is an empathic ear or a sounding board.

Nov 23, 2009

Who Owns the Problem?


In your relationship with your child, you will have one of two attitudes towards everything you hear her say or see her do -- acceptance or unacceptance.

When you feel unaccepting of the behavior (placing it below your line), YOU OWN THE PROBLEM. To solve it, you will want to take appropriate action to change that behavior somehow so that it becomes acceptable to you. P.E.T. teaches some powerful tools to do that effectively without damaging the relationship.

On the other hand, some of your child's behaviors which are acceptable to you -- and thus do not cause you a problem -- are indications that the child has a problem.

Examples: You hear the child crying or saying, "I don't have any friends." These behaviors are placed above the line in the window, but in a special area at the top; they are not causing you a problem, but indicate that something in the child's life is unacceptable to him. NOW THE CHILD OWNS THE PROBLEM.

P.E.T. teaches an entirely different set of skills for helping the child take the responsibility for solving her own problems.

And, finally all the behaviors that are acceptable to you and are not cues or clues that the child has a problem are placed between the "problem" areas in a space labeled "NO PROBLEM AREA." P.E.T. also teaches skills and concepts for enhancing your relationship with your child in this area.

The purpose of P.E.T. is to enable parents to enlarge the NO PROBLEM AREA in their relationships with each of their children through the use of skills -- to help the child take charge of the problems in her life and to enable the parent to solve her problem when her child's behavior is unacceptable.

*Excerpt from P.E.T. Participant Workbook

Nov 19, 2009

"Can We Use All Three Methods?"

We occasionally encounter a parent who accepts the validity and believes in the effectiveness of the no-lose approach, yet is not willing to give up the two win-lose approaches.

"Won't a good parent use a judicious mixture of all three methods, depending on the nature of the problem? asked a father in one of my classes.

While understandable in view of some parents' fear of giving up all of their power over their children, this point of view is not tenable. As it is not possible "to be a little bit pregnant," it is not possible to be a little bit democratic in parent-child conflicts. In the first place, most parents who want to use a combination of all three methods really mean that they want to reserve the right to use Method I for the truly critical conflicts. Translated into simple language their attitude is: "On matters that are not too important to the children I will let them have a voice in the decision, but I will reserve the right to decide my way on issues that are very critical."

Our experiences seeing parents try this mixed approach is that it simply does not work. Children, once given a taste of how good it feels to resolve conflicts without losing, resent it when parents reverts back to Method I. Or they may lose all interest in entering into Method III on unimportant problems because they feel so resentful of losing on the more important problems.

A further outcome of the "judicious mixture" approach is that kids acquire a distrust of their parent when Method III is tried, because they have learned that when the chips are down and the parents has strong feeling on a problem he will end up winning anyway. So, why should they enter into problem-solving? Anytime it gets to be a real conflict, they know Dad is going to use his power to win anyway.

Some parents muddle through by occasionally using Method I for problems where the kids do not have strong feelings--the less critical problems--but Method III should always be used when a conflict is critical, involving strong feelings and convictions on the parent of the kids. Perhaps it is a principle in all human relationships that when one doesn't care much about the outcome of a conflict, one may be wiling to give in to another's power; but when one has a real stake in the outcome one wants to make sure to have a voice in the decision-making.

*Excerpt from Dr. Gordon's P.E.T. book

Nov 18, 2009

How Do I Prevent Some Problems with My Children?

How to Prevent Some Problems

When you're experiencing no problems at all in your relationship with your children (the relationship is in the No Problem Area of the Behavior Window), you may want to send a message to prevent an unacceptable behavior in the future.

The purpose of these Preventive I-Messages is to inform kids ahead of time about your plans, needs, etc.:

"I need to finish a course I'm taking online, so I'd like us to discuss how we can share the computer this weekend."

"I'd like us to figure out what needs to be done before we leave for our trip, so we make sure we have time to get it all done."

"I'd like to know when we're having dinner because there's a long phone call I want to make."

These assertive messages naturally won't always get parents exactly what they want, but it's far better to let your kids know ahead of time what you have in mind than wait until they behave unacceptably out of ignorance of your needs. A Preventive I-Message in time might save nine confrontations.

A less obvious effect of this kind of Preventive I-Message is that kids learn that their parents are human: they have needs, wants, preferences, and wishes like every one else. And, of course, they give kids a chance, without being told exactly what to do, to behave so their parents will be pleased.

A divorced mother, raising her three teenage sons on her own, described how she sent a preventive message to one of them, about a school event:

"I feel Dan has been closer to me--I can tell him what I feel. The other night I went to this thing at school where he was going to play the guitar and sing. He wanted me to go, but I'd never been before, and I was feeling like I didn't want to be dumped in there and left alone, not knowing anyone. So I said, 'Dan, I've never been to your school meeting before and I'm feeling just a little nervous, you know because I don't know anybody--I'd like you to help me out in there.' And he did! He took me in and introduced me to a bunch of people I didn't know and brought me a cup of tea. He just really looked after me!"

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training, P.E.T. book

Happy Preventive I-Messaging!

Nov 17, 2009

When Do Confrontive I-Messages Not Work?


I-Messages carry fewer risks to a relationship than do You-Messages and have a high success rate; however, they don't always work.

There are six reasons for this and actions you can take when these happen.

Incomplete I-Message: While I-Messages with only one or two parts can work, many situations call for all three parts - Non-Blameful Description of Behavior, Effects on you and your Feelings.

What to do: Send a second I-Message and include all three parts.

Hidden You-Message: Included in your message is some form of blame or label, i.e. "When you are so messy...". Or, you include your solution: "I'm frustrated because I can't work when your music is so loud, so turn it off."

What to do: Change the blame to a description of behavior, i.e. messy to - "When your toys are all over the floor." Send your I-Message without a solution attached: drop "so please turn it off." Remember, the goal is for the child to come up with his own solution (which is acceptable to you).

Message is Too Weak. After a very unacceptable behavior has continued for several weeks, you say: "I am just a little frustrated because..." Or, "Too Strong when your child's behavior is relatively minor you say: "I am really furious because..."

What to do: Too Weak; send a stronger I-Message that reflects the importance and intensity of the effect(s) on you and your feeling(s). Sending an I-Message does not mean you need to be calm, collected and use a quiet voice. You can send a very strong message with a raised voice when the situation requires it.

Too Strong; reduce the intensity of your message to match the situation.

Continuing Behavior is Meeting Needs. The child understands the effects of her behavior and your feelings but continues her actions because it is meeting important needs. This indicates it is a "Relationship-Owned" problem - you both have needs to meet.

What to do: Listen to the child, acknowledge you both have needs and use Method III Problem Solving to come up with a situation you both like.

Behavior has No Effect on You. You don't like the child's behavior but it does not seem to have any concrete effect on you.

What to do: This may indicate that you are in a Values Conflict. Use the PET Values Conflict Strategies to deal with the situation.

Other Gets "Flooded" by your I-Message. I-Messages don't blame or attack; however, people don't like to be confronted about their behaviors. Your child may still feel picked on, hurt, guilty, etc. and react defensively.

What to do: Active Listen to the child to reduce her emotional "flooding" before sending another I-Message. Continue this process of "Gear Shifting" until she can hear her behavior effects you.

*Excerpt from Dr. Gordon's P.E.T. Participant Workbook

Nov 16, 2009

How Do Families Solve Conflicts?

We don't need to look in the dictionary to find out what the word "conflict" means. We know because we experience it often in many of our relationships. In our roles as bosses or employees, teachers or students, customers or clerks, friends, spouses, and certainly as parents or children, conflict seems inevitable.

Most of us have come to accept a certain amount of conflict in our lives as "normal" and have learned effective ways of handling it. This is certainly true in families where day-to-day living together regularly results in mild disagreements and disputes that are usually quickly resolved and forgotten. Unfortunately, more serious conflicts can also occur--fights that lead to resentment, hassles that come up over and over again, stand-offs that result in tension and alienation--making family life seem almost unbearable at times. In a Utopian world conflict would not exist, but the reality is that it does and will as long as people live and work together. Thus, the goal of P.E.T. is not to reduce it. Rather, the mission is to teach families skillful ways of handling and resolving conflict - constructive and healthy ways which give everyone a say.

Needs Versus Solutions

A common definition if "people fighting against each other." In a family, this definition suggests that the parents is trying to block what the child wants, and the child is struggling to block what the parent wants. Strange as it may sounds, this is almost never really the case! Most conflicts between a parent and a child are conflicts-of-solutions rather than conflicts-of-needs. Actually parents and children have essentially the same basic human needs. Conflicts result from the way in which the parent or child goes about meeting some important personal need.

So often parents and children get into conflicts because both fail to communicate their underlying needs to the other. Instead each sets out on a course of action (the solution) to meet a very legitimate need, and these incompatible solutions create the conflict.

Nov 12, 2009

What Are The Benefits To Self-Disclosure?

Self-Disclosure Benefits You and Your Relationships

Although there are some risks in being self-disclosing, the potential benefits are overwhelming--both for yourself and for your relationships with others, especially your children. These benefits include:

Knowing Yourself Better
When you disclose yourself to your children and others, you are, at the same time, talking to yourself, keeping in touch with your own thoughts and feelings, values, and beliefs. You maintain awareness, responsibility, and control of your inner experiences.

Liking Yourself Better
You feel better about yourself as a parent, and as a person, when you are open, honest, and clear with your children; when you express who you are and what you think and believe, you feel strong, responsible, confident.

Being Better Understood By Others
Your self-disclosure leads to a more accurate understanding by others of who you really are. Your children will know the important thoughts, feelings, and values you want them to know. They won't be confused, in the dark, and worried about where you stand on certain issues. Tension and uncertainty will be replaced by a new, secure awareness of who you really are.

Encouraging Self-Disclosure In Your Child
Your openness, directness, and sincerity will invariably encourage the same from your children and from others around you. Honesty is very contagious in families when it is modeled by the parent, along with the attitude that the home is a "safe place" for everyone to express true thoughts and feelings. Generally, this kind of self-disclosure draws families closer together. Indifference, alienation, and tension recede. Trust and mutual caring take their place.

Conflicts Are Prevented
The other members of your family can better meet your needs when they have a clear picture of what you want. The chances of having conflicts with your children resulting from unknown or uncommunicated needs are thus greatly reduced. Expressing yourself openly and clearly will eliminate unwanted surprise, unpreparedness, and the unexpected from your relationships. In a family where openness and genuineness prevail, tension, resentment, and silent suffering simply have no opportunity to grow.

Nov 10, 2009

What Is The Key To Assertiveness?

The key to assertiveness is self-disclosure--knowing what you value, need, and want and sharing those thoughts and feelings "with your children, your spouse, and others". Self-disclosure is important because many of our needs must be met through our relationships. Indeed, we often must gain the cooperation of our children, family members, or others to get what we want--to meet our goals as parents and as persons.

Self-disclosure is communication which describes you, your inner experiences, literally--your self. Self-disclosing messages are about your beliefs and ideas, your likes and dislikes, your feelings, thoughts, and reactions. Self-disclosing message let your children and others know how you feel and where you stand.

Self-disclosure is obviously easiest when we perceive that others share or agree with our own experience. Asserting ourselves is more difficult when we risk disagreement and resistance from others. We often fear opening ourselves up to possible judgment, evaluation, or criticism from others. Should I tell my husband how I feel about certain things? What might result? Can I share my values with my teenager without "turning her off"? Can I tell my friend about her irritating behavior without losing her friendship? Can I speak up at the school meeting without others feeling I'm a "trouble maker"? These are hard, sometimes frightening decisions to make. Our willingness to self-disclose, then, is largely determine by our feelings of trust in the intentions of the other person to support us or hurt us.

Ingredients of Effective Communication

You want your communications to be heard, understood and responded to in positive ways. Three key ingredients make this possible as well as help you to build and keep strong relationships with your children, partner and others. These communication ingredients include being:
  1. Clear - simple uncomplicated and understandable. You as the sender need to be sure that what you are saying is presented in a way that makes it easy for the receiver, child or adult, to get your message and it's meaning. Keeping your communication short and simple saves time and prevents frustration.
  2. Congruent - what you think and feel is what you need to show and say. When you tell our child one thing but your face and body language say something else, it sends mixed messages and creates confusion. Children as well as adults usually believe what they see over what is said if the send is not congruent.
  3. Connected - it is important to be aware of who you are talking to and how that child or adult communicates. You as the sender need to be on the child's "wave length", communicating at his speed and using words and language the child or other person is comfortable with. If your child feels you are connected to her and her world, she will be much more apt to pay attention and listen to what you have to say.*
Find out Thursday what the benefits are for you and your relationships when you Self-disclose...

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. Participant Workbook

Nov 9, 2009

How Do I Use Active Listening When My Child Owns A Problem?

Using Active Listening When The Child Owns A Problem

When your child "Owns a Problem" or is experiencing strong feelings and Basic Listening is not enough, then the Skill of "Active Listening" is needed.

To successfully use your Active Listening tool when another person has a problem a decision to make or strong feelings about something, you must:
  • Have time and be willing to listen
  • Want to understand and help the other
  • Be able to focus your attention on the other, not on yourself
  • Trust the child or other person to come up with solutions that are best for him
1. Relieves "emotional flooding". When your child is experiencing a problem, feeling can overwhelm thoughts. A child can become emotionally flooded when feeling crowds out thoughts. Active Listening relieves emotional flooding and frees the intellect to get back to work.

2. Helps the other person to identify her real problem. When your child tells you about a problem, it is easy to immediately begin thinking about how you can help him/her resolve that situation. But what the child first tells you is not the real problem or complete problem. By Active Listening to the child, you can help her peel back the layers of the problem and identify the central issue.

SECOND LAYER: "Tanya gets so much attention"
THIRD LAYER: "It's so easy for her to make friends."
REAL PROBLEM: "I want to get better at making friends."

3. Assists the child in solving her own problem. Once the "real problem" has been identified, most children as well as adults, have within themselves the solution that is best for them. Solving their own problems increases creativity, self-confidence and problem solving abilities.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. Participant Workbook

Nov 4, 2009

What is the Difference from Control vs. Influence?

What is the Difference from Control vs. Influence
(from a child's perspective)

There is interaction amongst the entire family, parent-to-child, parent-to-parent, and child-to-child/sibling-to-sibling. Let's focus on the siblings perspective. I like to call it "sibling rivalry"--families deal with this often, perhaps on a regular basis or enough to find a solution for the problem.

Control vs. Influence

When people use control to get others to do something, they use threats, praise or punishment; the controller gives the other person no choice.

When people use influence to get others to do something, they share information, give advice, teach or suggest to the other person; influencers give the other person a choice to accept or reject their influencing.

Control: You lend your brother your motorbike with the understanding that he'll be back by a certain time. He brings the bike back later than he said he would. You tell him he can't borrow it again. (Brother feels resentful.)

Influence: You give your brother an I-Message about how his not bringing the bike back on time caused you to be late for soccer practice. (Brother feels bad he caused this problem.)

Ask yourself these questions about control in your life:

Who can keep you from getting something you really want?
Who can give you something you need or want very much?
Who can make life most unpleasant/pleasant for you?

And these questions about influence:

Whom do you look up to and really listen to what they have to say?
Whose advice, experience or knowledge do you ask for and often follow?
Who really influences what you think and do?

Now this about relationships in which you are either a controller or an influencer.

Be aware of the times when you behave as a controller or an influencer of someone and also of those times when you are controlled or influenced by someone else.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's Family Effectiveness Training, Young Adult Resource Book

Nov 3, 2009

Don't Children Want Authority and Limits?

A belief commonly held by both laypeople and professionals is that children actually want authority--they like parents to restrict their behavior by setting limits. When parents use their authority, so the argument goes, children feel more secure. Without limits, they not only will be wild and undisciplined but also insecure. An extension of this belief is that if parents do not use authority to set limits, their children will feel the parents do not care and will feel unloved.

While I suspect this belief is embraced by many because it gives them a neat justification for using power, I do not want to discredit the belief as a mere rationalization. There is some truth in the belief and so it must be examined rather carefully.

Common sense and experience strongly support the idea that children do want limits in their relationship with parents. They need to know how far they can go before their behavior will be unacceptable. Only then can they choose not to engage in such behaviors. This applies to all human relationships.

For example, I am much more secure when I know which of my behaviors are unacceptable to my wife. One that comes to mind is playing golf or going to my office to work on a day when we entertain guests. By knowing ahead of time that my absence will be unacceptable because my wife needs my help, I can choose not to play golf or go to the office and avoid her displeasure or anger and probably a conflict.

However, it is one thing for a child to want to know the "limits of her parents' acceptance" and an entirely different thing to say that she wants her parent to set those limits on her behavior. To return to the example involving my wife and me: I am helped when I know her feelings about my playing golf or going to the office on days we entertain. But I certainly will bristle and be resentful if she tries to set a limit on my behavior by some such statement as, "I cannot permit you to play golf or go to the office on days we are having guests. That's a limit. You are not to do those things."

I would not appreciate this power approach at all. It is ridiculous to suppose that my wife would even try to control and direct my behavior this way. Children respond no differently to limit setting on the part of the parent. Equally strong is their bristling and resentment when a parent unilaterally tries to set a limit on their behavior. I have never known a child who wants a parent to set a limit on her behavior like this:

"You must be in by midnight--that's my limit."
"I cannot permit you to take the car."
"You cannot play with your truck in the living room."
"We must demand that you not smoke pot."
"We have to restrict you from going with those two boys."

The reader will recognize all these communications as our familiar "sending the solution" (also, all are You-Messages).

A much sounder principle than "children want their parents to use their authority and set limits" is the following:

Children want and need information from their parents that will tell them the parent's feelings about their behavior. so that they themselves can modify behavior that might be unacceptable to the parents. However, children do not want the parent to try to limit or modify their behavior by using or threatening to use their authority. In short, children want to limit their behavior themselves if it becomes apparent to them that their behavior must be limited or modified. Children, like adults, prefer to be their own authority over their behavior.

One further point: children actually would prefer that all their behavior were acceptable to their parents, so that it would be unnecessary to limit or modify any of their behavior. I, too, would prefer that my wife would find all my behavior unconditionally acceptable. That's what I would prefer, but I know it is not only unrealistic, but impossible.

So parents should not expect, nor will their children expect of them, that they will be accepting of all behavior. What children have a right to expect, however, is that they always be told when their parents are not feeling accepting of a certain behavior (I don't like to be tugged and pulled when I'm talking to a friend"). This is quite different from wanting parents to use authority to set limits on their behavior.*

*An excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training book