Jun 30, 2010

What Are Your Family Vacation Rules?

The following example is taken from a report of an actual situation submitted by a parent after completing P.E.T.

A Family's Vacation Rules
"Last summer we decided that we and our four children (nine, eight, four and two) would go to the Canadian National Exhibition, a huge annual event in Toronto. We live nearby, but the decision was made somewhat reluctantly because my husband, Dave, and I didn't know whether we really wanted to face up to thousands of people, four tired children, attractions to spend lots of money, whining, etc. But we decided to sit down the day before with the oldest three to lay out our concerns and to problem solve.

We got out everyone's needs as far as what each one wanted to see and do at the exhibition and how we would handle temptations to overspend. We all decided on a specific amount of money per person for the day for food, rides, and souvenirs. Each person could decide for himself how he wanted to spend his own money. (For example, if a child chose to spend it all on rides and forget meals for the day, it was OK.) Lisa (nine) and Jennifer (eight) carried their own money and looked after it themselves; Dave and I helped the younger two manage their money. Much to our amazement and delight, we spent eleven hours there (plus an hour of travel each way) and did not have one fight or one hassle! Everyone saw and did what he had expressed an interest in during problem-solving, we stayed longer than we would have predicted, and we all enjoyed being there, together. Great!"

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Jun 28, 2010

What Is A Declarative I-Message?

Declarative I-Messages

The most basic form of self-disclosure is the Declarative I-Message - your disclosure to others of your beliefs, ideas, likes, dislikes, feelings, thoughts, reactions, etc. Declarative I-Messages are statements which let other people know better - let them know how you feel and where you stand.

Some examples of Declarative I-Messages:

I love to dance.
I don't enjoy violent movies.
I'm spiritual, but not religious.
I'd like to learn to speak French.
There are so many candidates running, I don't know who to vote for.
I enjoy hearing him give a talk because he's so articulate and funny.

And important use of the Declarative I-Message is to convey positive feelings of appreciation, pleasure, gratitude, relief or happiness to others in the form of Positive I-Messages. Unlike praise which uses labels and judgments, Positive I-Messages focus on the person's behavior and can also include the positive effects on you. Positive I-Messages are a way of acknowledging others' contributions.

Some examples of Positive I-Messages:

I really enjoy going on hikes with you.
It's a relief to know you got home safe; I appreciate your calling to let me know.
Talking with you has made my day; I value your insights so much.
I really appreciate your staying late to finish that order because we were able to make the deadline and that's a huge relief to me.

Most of our Declarative I-Messages are simple, natural expressions of what we are experiencing. In our close and intimate relationships we share many self-disclosures each day. What we are willing to disclose, of course, varies with the kind of relationship we are in and the setting in which we find ourselves. In short, we exercise a lot of judgment in disclosing ourselves to others.

Self-disclosure is obviously easiest when we perceive that others share or will agree with our own experience. It becomes more difficult and anxiety-producing when we risk disagreement and resistance from others. We don't want to open ourselves up to judgment, evaluation or criticism. Willingness to self-disclose, then, is largely determined by our feelings of trust of the other person.

As you become more self-disclosing you will find that others are more willing to disclose their experience to you. You will discover how similar you are to - and how different you are from - others in your feelings, hopes, perceptions, etc. Generally, self-disclosure draws people closer together.

In addition to these advantages, your self-disclosure helps you know yourself better, makes you more aware of how you feel, where you stand. As a result, you are in a better position to meet your important needs.

Jun 24, 2010

How Do You Coach/Talk to Your Soccer Team?

We would like to share a great testimonial/letter we received from our friends from down under. A P.E.T. Instructor from Australia recently held a P.E.T. course and here is a great e-mail letter the soccer dad/coach sent to the parents of his soccer team:

We hope you enjoy the letter as much as we did! :)


You may have noticed that I take a slightly unorthodox approach to the way I communicate with the boys and discipline the team. This is because I have almost finished a Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) course, which was recommended to me.
I very highly recommend the course to all parents and wish it were a compulsory course for all parents to do. The course has caused me to completely re-evaluate the relationships I have with my children (and my partner and other children) and has had a profound impact on the way our family now communicates.
My wife and I have found that:
  • We are much more aware of our children's behaviour, and how our level of acceptance dictates how we respond - we now have a much broader level of acceptance which means less unnecessary conflict (sometimes we used to say NO for no good reason).
  • We have learned how to actively listen to our children and identify their real needs, not just react to the behaviour they are displaying at the time
  • We have learned how to understand and convey our needs to our children, so that they will initiate and willingly modify their own behaviour to accommodate our needs, without us ordering them to do it (sounds too good to be true!).
  • We have learned how to problem solve with our children to get a win-win outcome
  • We now have almost no need to use physical force to change our childrens' behaviours - ie no pulling, pushing or holding against their will.
  • We have much more meaningful and deep conversations with our children and they are willing to tell us about things they were previously fearful to share and there is still a week to go.....
We have noticed real changes in ourselves and in our children - there is much less shouting, less tantrums, less fighting, and less stress. Our children (9, 5 and 3) have told us how they like the change a lot. Even my 3-year-old son’s play schoolteacher has commented that he is much less aggressive, more considerate and more cuddly than he used to be (he used to be a "problem" child).
It is a very well established course (30 years in Australia).
I recommend it to all parents, and if possible both parents should do the course together, but if you can't manage that then one should do it. It's well worth the time and money. The course books out fast so act soon.

Much happier Parent

Jun 22, 2010

Confrontive I-Messages in Action

More free
"It seems to me (a mother that before P.E.T. I had to play certain roles--be a certain way. I don't think I have to be that way anymore. I'm free to be me. And to risk that I'll still be loved and accepted, and if not, well that's all right...And it's freed my husband to be more open, more willing to talk about things and not hold feelings in...The whole thing about sending an honest I-Message about how you feel...I feel now it's OK for me to say, "I don't have time for it or I can't do it right now."

Breaking habits
"My son, four years old at the time, had developed the habit of sliding on his rear down the carpeted stairs. I had used power messages--everything, including spanking. In my need to stop the behavior, I had forgotten all about I-Messages. One day, when he had slid down the steps again I remembered and said, "Mark, when you slide down the steps on your rear, I get very aggravated because I'm afraid the carpet will get torn loose from the steps and then the hall area will look like a mess." Mark turned to me and said simply, "I didn't know you felt that way." He has never slid down the steps since that day."

Going to church
"When our grandson, eleven years old, was visiting us recently and attended church with myself and my husband, we sat in a front pew. He repeatedly stretched his arms over his head, much to my concern that he was distracting those behind us. So I wrote him this message. "When I see your arms stretched over your head, I think you disturb others behind us and it makes me feel embarrassed." he wrote back, "I'm sorry, Grandma," and then stretched his arms in front of himself instead of over his head. Later, he wrote me a note, "Am I embarrassing you, Grandma, when I wrote on the paper?" Upon which, I wrote back, "Of course not, and I'm so happy to have you sitting in church with us."

Expressing feelings
"I (a mother) used to give out my feelings, but I would camouflage them to protect myself...I would always worry how the other person felt--how it would affect them. And now I guess I'm putting the emphasis on myself...I have a lot of resentment built up because I don't share myself. But the formula for stating the I-Message (the three parts) helps me state a negative feeling in a positive way, without hurting the other person."*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Jun 21, 2010

Have You Evaluated Your 3-Part Confrontive I-Message?

3-Part Confrontive I-Message Evaluation

Purpose: To evaluate your own three-part Confrontive I-Messages.

Directions: Use this rating to help you improve your Confrontive I-Messages:

Very Effectively/Effectively/Not Very Effectively

I described the other's specific behavior without blame.

I described the actual, real effects the behavior had on me.

I expressed my feelings honestly.

I "shifted gears" * and listened to the other's concern, upset, etc.

I resent my I-Message when necessary.

Practice developing and sending I-Messages to family members and friends by writing down what the situation is and then the I-Message.*

Jun 16, 2010

How Do Real Parents Use Active Listening?

Real Parents Using Active Listening

Example 1
Child: I don't want to go to Eric's party tomorrow.

Parent: The party doesn't sound like fun to you, huh.

Child: Right. Eric isn't fair and I don't like him.

Parent: You dislike Eric now, 'cause you think he's unfair.

Child: Yeah. I can't stand him.

Parent: You don't want to be with him at all.

Child: That's right. He never plays what I want to play.

Parent: You hate it when he won't play your games.

Child. Yeah. I play what he wants.

Parent: And you wish he would do the same some of the time.

Child. Yeah. I think I'll tell him tomorrow.

Parent: You want him to know how you feel, so you've decided to tell him.

Example 2
A minister tells of an incident with his 15-year-old son, Ken:

"My wife had just said something to Ken when we were sitting on the patio. And he just turned to Liz, my wife, and screamed loudly, 'You just bug the hell out of me.' The veins just stood out on his face--it was the first time I'd ever seen this side of my son, because you know being the P.K., preacher's kid, he was kind of the symbol of what all nice boys and girls should be. Now here he was screaming at about ten decibels of sound. And Liz looked at him and said, 'I get under you skin, huh?' And if you could have watched the expression on his face! He was expecting her to jump back at him with an equally loud and bombastic and critical statement. And when it didn't come back...he went from about ten decibels down to a conversational tone and said, 'You sure do, Mom.' But the next statement was the significant one--he said, 'And I supposed I get under your skin, too.' I couldn't believe it! Something that could have been a real battle for two hours, and perhaps noncommunication between them for a day, was solved in just a matter of minutes...just because one person dared to say, 'I hear you.' Not, 'You're wrong,' but 'I hear you.'"

Example 3
A three-year-old frightened by thunder during a storm:

"She got very upset hearing this thunder and seeing the lightening--mainly the sound. She came crying to me, saying, 'I'm afraid--I don't like thunder.' I started out with Roadblocks, saying 'It's just the clouds bumping into each other.' But she kept crying and saying, 'I don't want to hear it, I'm afraid.' I said, 'It won't hurt you, it's just noise.' Still more crying. then it came to me--Aha, Active Listening! So, I said, 'You're worried about the thunder and you wish it'd stop 'cause it scares you.' Her expression changed immediately. All the worry went away, and she went trotting off without another word. That was the end of it! She just wanted me to understand how she felt. And that was the end of it. It was a beautiful example--just trotted off, that was it!"*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Jun 15, 2010

What Are Some Common Mistakes in Active Listening?


The good news is that your Active Listening does not need to be perfect to work; however, you can make refinements and increase your success by understanding and avoiding these common Active Listening mistakes.

These are the eight most typical mistakes; notice that each error has a counterpart error in the opposite direction.

Here are the definitions and examples of the common mistakes.

TEENAGER: "I can't believe my new teacher. What a jerk! What stupid, dumb rules he has."

Intensifying the feelings being expressed.

"You really hate that teacher's guts."

Generalizing or expanding the scope of what the child is expressing.

"You feel he's a lousy teacher."

Anticipating the child's next thoughts.

"And so you're probably wishing they'd fire him."

Interpreting underlying motives; "psychoanalyzing" the child.

"Maybe you're upset because you're under so much pressure getting ready for finals."

Reducing the intensity of the child's feelings.

"You're a bit bothered by your new teacher."

Reducing or skipping the pertinent facts expressed by the child.

"You're pretty upset today."

Not keeping up with the child's communication or continuing when the child is finished talking.

"You were saying a couple of minutes ago that..."

A near word-for-word repetition of the child's communication.

"You just can't believe your new teacher. You think he's a jerk, and is rules are stupid."*

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

Jun 10, 2010

Do You Use Any of These Coping Responses?

Coping Responses: Fight, Flight, Submit

There are many ways people cope with being controlled. Most of them fit into the three coping styles listed below.

1. Fighting: resisting control, getting back at the controller in different ways, trying to come out as a winner with the controller being the loser.

2. Escaping: avoiding or running away from control--keeping thoughts within yourself or actually leaving the scene.

3. Submitting: giving in or giving up and doing just as the controller demands--and then resenting yourself and disliking the controller.

Here is an example of each of the coping styles using the following illustration:

Your teacher gets angry at some of the students in your class for continually goofing off and suddenly announces there will be a big test tomorrow.
  1. You argue with the teacher that it isn't fair to punish the whole class. (Fight)
  2. You don't go to that class the next day. (Flight)
  3. You go home and study and take the test even though you think it's totally unfair. (Submit)
Read the following list of coping behaviors and keep a mental note of any of the ones you have used or now use:
  1. Lying
  2. Bossing, bullying
  3. Aggressive arguing
  4. Blaming others
  5. Cheating, tattling
  6. Feeling resentful, angry, hostile
  7. Being submissive
  8. Striking back, retaliating
  9. Resisting, rebelling
  10. Confirming, afraid to try something new*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

Jun 8, 2010

Has Research Been Done on F.E.T.?

Research Results of a Family Training Program

Two hundred fifty-eight school children and their parents attended a six-session video-based training program that included among other components the same basic democratic skills offered in both Dr. Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) course and Family Effectiveness Training (F.E.T.):

  • Open Communication
  • Problem Ownership
  • Sending Confrontive Messages
  • Active Listening
  • Conflict-Resolution
A control group did not receive such training. Results of this experiment were as follows:

--> The trained family members were more satisfied with their democratic family system than those who did not get trained.

--> The trained family members judged their communication with each other as more open than before, but the control group did not.

--> Antisocial behavior of the trained fathers, sons and daughters decreased significantly. No change in the control groups.

--> Mothers and adolescents perceived their communication with each other became more open. The control family members did not.

The authors recommend communication training as "rite of passage for families with young adults."*

Riesch, Tusi, Thurston, Forsyth, Kuenning, and Kestly (1993). Nursing Research, Jan/Feb, Vol. 42, No. 1.

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Jun 7, 2010

Method III Develops Children's Thinking Skills

Method III encourages--actually requires--children to think. The parent is signaling the child: "We have a conflict, let's put our heads together and think--let's figure out a good solution." Method III is an intellectual exercise in reasoning for both parent and child. It is almost like a challenging puzzle and requires the same kind of "thinking through" or "figuring out." I would not be surprised if future research demonstrates that children in homes using Method III develop mental capacities superior to children in homes using Method I or Method II.*

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

Jun 2, 2010

What is Unacceptable to You?

When You Own the Problem

Being in relationships with other people--parents, sisters, brothers, friends--inevitably means that at times their behavior will be unacceptable to you because it interferes with you getting your needs met, prevents you from enjoying your life or makes you angry.

You want to use skills that will be effective in bringing about a change in the other person's behavior and yet not hurt the relationship. Your task then is to tell the other person that you need his or her help. You want to be honest, but you want to do it in such a way that your message doesn't make the other person feel put-down, hurt, angry or unwilling to change the behavior that is giving you a problem. Unfortunately, most people find it is not easy to do this. Here are some of the reasons:
  • We are often afraid to confront others in the first place because we fear dealing with their feelings afterward.
  • We are upset or even angry and don't want the other person to know it.
  • We fear getting into an argument or conflict.
  • We are afraid we will make the other person embarrassed, sorry or even guilty.
Here are things to consider when the behavior of others is unacceptable and causes you a problem:
  • Their behavior which effects you is simply a sign that they are trying to get some need of their own met.
  • They have as much right to get their needs met as you do yours.
  • They often don't even know their behavior is causing you a problem. So, if you want to solve your problem you must tell them.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book