Feb 17, 2010

You Don't Send "Solution Messages" To Your Friends, Do You?

If a friend is visiting in your home and happens to put his feet on the cushions of your new dining room chairs, you certainly would not say to him:

"Get your feet off my chair this minute."
"You should never put your feet on somebody's new chair."
"If you know what's good for you, you'll take your feet off my chair."
"I suggest you do not ever put your feet on my chair"

This sounds ridiculous in a situation involving a friend because most people treat friends with more respect. Adults want their friends to "save face." They also assume that a friend has brains enough to find his own solution to your problem once he is told what the problem is An adult would simply tell the friend her feelings. She would leave it up to him to respond appropriately and assume he would be considerate enough to respect her feelings. Most likely the chair owner would send some such messages as:

"I am worried that my new chair might get dirty."
"I'm sitting here on pins and needles because I see your feet on my new chair."
"I'm embarrassed to mention this, but we just got these new chairs and I'm anxious to keep them as clean as possible."

These messages do not "send a solution." People generally send this type of message to friends but seldom to their own children; they naturally refrain from ordering, exhorting, threatening, and advising friends to modify their behavior in some particular way, yet as parents they do this every day with their children.

No wonder children resist or respond with defensiveness and hostility. No wonder children feel "put down," squelched, controlled. No wonder they "lose face." No wonder some grow up submissively expecting to be handed solutions by everyone. Parents frequently complain that their children are not responsible in the family; they do not show consideration for the needs of parents. How are children ever going to learn responsibility when parents take away every chance for the child to do something responsible on her own out of consideration for her parents' needs?*

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

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