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!

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