May 27, 2010

Have you "Changed the Environment" Recently?

Changing the Environment

* Simplifying: making the home easier for the child to function independently and effectively

Examples: mirror at child's level; stool to reach water faucet and cup; clothes rack lowered; cereal and plastic bowls in low cupboard

* Rearranging: displaying, storing and placing elements in the home to eliminate or encourage certain behaviors

Examples: covers over dangerous electrical outlets; plastic cups; door guards against slamming; T.V. out of "traffic pattern"; locked medicine cabinet.

It is important to understand that the concept of modifying the environment does not sanction parents to impose physical changes upon unwilling children. Instead, parents should seek mutual acceptance of physical changes in the home, especially if they get resistance from their children. Moreover, it is likely that the best possible modifications can be made if all family members put their heads together--and certainly the commitment to supporting the changes will be higher if the process used is Method III.*

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

May 25, 2010

What Are the Negative Effects of the 12 Roadblocks?

The Negative Effects of the 12 Roadblocks

Here's a list of reactions people have told us they had when they owned a problem and the other person used the Roadblocks:

They made me:
  • stop talking, shut me off.
  • argue.
  • feel resentful or angry.
  • feel I'm being pressured to change--not accepted as I am.
  • feel I'm not being understood.
  • feel I've been interrupted.
  • feel I'm on the witness stand being cross-examined.
  • defensive and resistant.
  • feel inadequate, inferior.
  • feel guilty or bad.
  • feel the other person doesn't trust me to solve my problem.
  • feel my feelings aren't justified.
  • feel frustrated.
  • feel the listener is just not interested.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

May 24, 2010

Do What's Right For You

We obviously see many benefits for self-disclosure, both for the parent, the child, and others. But where do you draw the line? Should you disclose everything you think and feel? What should you share with your children? With your spouse or friend? Or with no one?

The best guideline we can offer is: do what's right for you, and what's right for your relationships. The ultimate purpose of self-disclosure, after all, is to enhance your effectiveness as a parent and a person.

Therein lies the rule of thumb: "Will my thoughts and feelings here, now, and with this child or other person, enhance me and enhance them and contribute to the quality of our relationship?" When the answer is "Yes," self -disclose. When the answer is "No," choose not to self-disclose; and when the answer is "I'm not sure," we strongly suggest that you take a chance and trust that your honesty and humanness will pay off. We're convinced that children especially thrive when their parent is a genuine, open and even vulnerable human being -- not an actor in a carefully controlled and rehearsed "parent" role.*

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

May 19, 2010

Why Are There Conditions for Active Listening?

The Appropriate Conditions for Active Listening

To listen to another with the intention of helping that person deal with a personal problem is to assume a counseling posture. Such a postures is characterized by having the intention of helping another person; using good attending behavior; being accepting, empathic, and genuine; and using Active Listening. For this counseling posture to work well, certain conditions must be present; otherwise, either the sender of the listener, or both, may resent or regret the experience. The following are the necessary conditions:

Conditions Within the Other Person

1. Must be having strong feelings and/or be aware of having a problem,

2. Must be giving off cues and clues that express those feelings or problems ("I'm worried, I've got a problem," crying, sulking, etc.) and

3. Must be willing to talk to the listener about the situation.

What happens if these conditions are not present in the other person?
If feelings or problems are not present in the other person, or s/he is not willing to talk, taking a counseling posture can imply that the sender is "sick" and the listener is well, and Active Listening may seem like a maddening, demeaning word game. The "counselor" at such times may be greeted with scorn or hostility.

Conditions Within the Listener

The listener must have a genuinely helpful "set" in the following areas:

1. Feel genuinely accepting (not needing to change the sender).

2. Want to help (not just be turning on a technique).

3. Have, and want to take, enough time.
(If not, a later appointment can be set up. Or if talk takes more time than expected, it can be continued at a later, agreed upon time.)

4. Trust that the other, with some helpful support, can solve their own problem better than the listener can.

What sometimes makes this difficult to believe is our long exposure to the authoritative, culturally-accepted "medical model" for helping another. In that model, any helper is seen as analogous to a "doctor" who gathers symptoms and data, diagnoses the patient's problem, and decides on an prescribes the best treatment. The helpee, as the "patient", is then expected to follow "doctor's orders." Within this cultural orientation, it is often hard to believe that the other people are their own best experts for solving their own problems.

(Incidentally, the medical profession itself is beginning to trade in this archaic approach in favor of involving patients more more in their own treatment.)

5. Feel reasonably separate from the other person and the problem.

This means recognizing clearly that you are not the other person; that his or her pain is not your pain; the other person owns the problem, not you; and that you are empathizing, not identifying.

What happens if these conditions are not present in the listener?
If these conditions are not met, the listener's Active Listening will inevitably (and usually unconsciously) reflect that in the form of:
  1. Attempts to change or influence the other person with hidden solutions, judgments, etc. buried in the feedbacks.
  2. Nonverbal cues of unacceptance or lack of interest.
  3. Inability to decode the other person's real messages. The "inner ear" will be turned off.
The send will experience such Active Listening as manipulative, condescending, frustrating or boring, and will react with scorn or hostility.

In short, if these conditions are not met inside the listener, the time is not right for him/her to become a counselor. Instead, the listener should reevaluate the behavior responded to in terms of its placement in the Behavior Window and look again for the most appropriate choice of skills.*

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

May 18, 2010

Do Children Who Get Spanked Really Have Lower IQ's?

A co-worker forwarded this article to me and after reading it, I felt I had to share it here:

Children Who Get Spanked Have Lower IQs

By Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer

posted: 24 September 2009 09:12 pm ET

"All parents want smart children," said study researcher Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire. "This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen."

One might ask, however, whether children who are spanked tend to come from backgrounds in which education opportunities are less or inherited intelligence lower.

"You can't say it proves it, but I think it rules out so many other alternatives; I am convinced that spanking does cause a slowdown in a child's development of mental abilities," Straus told LiveScience.But while the results only show an association between spanking and intelligence, Straus says his methodology and the fact that he took into account other factors that could be at play (such as parents' socioeconomic status) make a good case for a causal link.

Intelligence quotients

Straus and his colleague Mallie Paschall of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland studied nationally representative samples of two age groups: 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. The researchers tested the kids' IQs initially and then four years later.

Both groups of kids got smarter after four years. But the 2- to 4-year-olds who were spanked scored 5 points lower on the IQ test than those not spanked. For children ages 5 to 9, the spanked ones scored on average 2.8 points lower than their unspanked counterparts.

The results, he said, were statistically significant. And they held even after accounting for parental education, income, cognitive stimulation by parents and other factors that could affect children's mental abilities.

Straus will present the study results, along with research on the relationship between average national IQ and prevalence of spanking around the world, Friday at the 14th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, Calif.

Spanking science

Whether or not spanking equates with dumber kids is not known, and may never be known. That's because the only way to truly show cause and effect would be to follow over time two groups of kids, one randomly assigned to get spanked and another who would not get spanked. Barring that method, which is unfeasible, Straus considers his study the next best thing, as he looked back at a nationally representative set of kids who were followed over time.

Jennifer Lansford of Duke University's Center for Child and Family Policy and Social Science Research Institute called the study "interesting," and agrees the method is a strong one. Lansford, who was not involved with the study, said following kids over time as this study did rules out the possibility that children with lower IQs somehow elicit more physical discipline.

However, unlike research showing the link between spanking and a kid's aggressive behavior, in which kids model parents' actions, this link is less clear to her. She added that a question still left unanswered is "what are some of the other mechanisms that could be responsible for this link between physical discipline and lower IQ?"

How spanking harms

If spanking does send IQ scores down, Straus and others offer some explanations for what might be going on.

"Contrary to what everyone believes, being hit by parents is a traumatic experience," Straus said. "We know from lots of research that traumatic stresses affect the brain adversely." Also, the trauma could cause kids to have more stressful responses in difficult situations, and so may not perform as well cognitively.

By using hitting rather than words or other means of discipline, parents could be depriving kids of learning opportunities. "With spanking, a parent is delivering a punishment to get the child's attention and to get them to behave in a certain way," said Elizabeth Gershoff who studies childhood development at the University of Texas, Austin. "It's not fostering children's independent thinking."

So when a child gets in a bind, he or she might do the right thing to keep from a spanking rather than figuring out the best decision independently, added Gershoff, who was not involved in Straus's current study.

And then there are genes, as some kids are just born smarter than others.

Even though spanking has been shown to cause negative consequences, Gershoff said many parents still fall back on the behavior-shaping tool. As for why, she says it's a quick fix, though its seeming success is short-lived and the negative consequences often outweigh the positives. Parents also might have been spanked themselves and so continue the tradition.

May 17, 2010

Beware of the GLOP!

By Linda Adams, President of GTI

"She's unfriendly."

"He's a skeptic."

"My child misbehaved."

While these may seem like simple, harmless descriptions of people, in fact, they are laden with judgment.

What did that person do or say for me to jump from focusing on their specific behavior to the conclusion that they're "unfriendly" or "skeptical" or "misbehaving"? Why is it that we automatically put labels on people and then start acting in accordance with those labels? Once we have made such a judgment about someone else whether it is positive or negative, we tend to categorize or type them based on that judgment, and then act as if it's a fact which in turn, determines how we treat them.

For this reason I have an issue with personality instruments which are very widely utilized in companies to classify employees and their co-workers into categories. I've heard people describe themselves or someone at work as an "INTJ" and the like. A colleague once said to me "You're a high 'D', right?" Granted, many of these tools help people gain a better understanding of themselves and a tolerance for differences among people. A problem is that some employers rely on these instruments as a basis for hiring, firing, promoting and assigning jobs. "Maybe we shouldn't promote her to that position--she might not do well as a manager." "I don't think he should be assigned to that project--his head is in the clouds."

The "blue states" vs. the "red states" is another example of this kind of labeling. In this case, red and blue aren't merely descriptive colors, they're judgmental statements. Even though it's a current, quick, easy way to make a point, I think the use of these labels is divisive and tends to separate us even more and in ways that aren't real. Just like any other judgment-laden label that categorizes people, this one is narrow and limiting and doesn't fully or accurately describe a state or group of people.


Labels such as these make it easier to forget our common interests and concerns. Instead we focus on the differences between us and emphasize them which creates distance, tension and friction in our relationships. In our L.E.T. and P.E.T. courses, we refer to such labels as GLOP or General Labeling Of People.

GLOP can cause us to see ourselves and each other not as unique individuals but as a certain type of person. Think back to when you were a child and remember some of the things your parents said to you. Mine include: "You're being selfish," "You're so responsible," "You're stubborn," "You're as independent as a hog on ice." Isn't it amazing how these labels stick with us and if we allow them to, they continue to define us?

Another problem associated with GLOP is that we look for information, for behavior that confirms our original judgment and often discount evidence to the contrary.

Another Way of Looking at Behavior

Behavior is only what you can directly observe by seeing or hearing. What did that person say or do? Their attitudes, feelings, moods and thoughts are their own inner reality and are not behaviors because you can't directly observe them. You can only guess what they might be.

Here is the difference between GLOP and descriptions of behavior using the examples I gave above:

GLOP Description of Behavior

"She's unfriendly." "She didn't smile at me or say 'Hi'."
"He's a skeptic." "He asked lots of questions in the meeting."
"My child misbehaved." "She took stuff off the shelves in the grocery store."

Notice that in each case, there's a behavior that can be described--with no judgment or blame attached to it. It's easy to see that the problem lies in our tendency to leap to an assumption about someone's attitude or feeling underlying that behavior.

Here's a quick assignment for you: try changing these judgmental labels into descriptions of the other person's specific behavior (it's harder than it seems).

"He's a nerd."
"You're too picky."
"She's irresponsible."
"You're just jealous."
"You're being a brat."

What You Can Do

Become aware of any tendency you have to judge and label both yours and others' behavior. Each time you catch yourself interpreting or evaluating or judging, make a conscious effort to go back and focus on and describe the specific behavior.

There is a major benefit of describing behavior instead of leaping ahead to label it. It is that you will maintain and improve and strengthen your relationships causing them to spiral upward.

May 11, 2010



There’s a poem about listening by an unknown author. This little poem expresses several thoughts about what people want from their partners, friends, and children.


When I ask you to listen to me
And you start giving me advice
You have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
And you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way
You are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you think you have to do something
to solve my problem
you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I asked was that you listen,
not talk or do…just hear me.
advice is cheap; twenty five cents will get
you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham
in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself. I am not
helpless. Maybe discouraged
and faltering, but not helpless.
When you do something for me
that I can do for myself
you contribute to my fear
and inadequacy.

But when you accept as a
simple fact that I do
feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can quit trying to convince
you and can get about this business
of understanding what’s behind
this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are
obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works
sometimes, for some people…because
god is mute, and doesn’t give
advice or try to fix things.
He (or She) just listens
and let’s you work it out

So please listen and just hear me
and if you want to talk, wait a minute for
your turn…and I’ll listen to you.*

*Writings from Dr. Thomas Gordon

May 10, 2010

What Are The Benefits of Active Listening?

The Benefits of Active Listening to Children

Feelings get dissipated
Troublesome, negative feelings are more apt to go away when they are expressed and accepted.

Feelings become friendly
If a parent accepts a child's feelings with Active Listening, it helps the child accept them and not feel they're "bad."

Produces a deeper feeling of caring
Being heard and understood by their parent makes children develop warm feelings toward the parent.

Children will start listening to the parent
If parents take the time to hear out their children, then children will be more apt to want to listen to the parent.

Children will become more responsible
Talking out a problem helps them think it through, discover their own solutions and become more self-responsible.

Parents will learn to trust their children
As the child begins to solve his/her problem, the parent will gain more trust in the child's capacity to handle problems.

Parents will become more accepting
Watching children deal constructively with their feelings, parents will become more accepting, too.

Parents will enjoy being a new kind of helper
Parents will find they won't have to shoulder the burden of finding solutions for their child's problems.

Parents will see children as separate persons
The child will become a separate person--with his/her own feelings, own problems, own solutions--no longer "joined at the hip" with the parent.

The parent won't have to be a "super-parent"
Parents will feel relieved not having to solve all their children's problems, be in charge, always be right, be totally responsible and even assume all the blame for their failures.*

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

May 6, 2010

What Appreciative I-Message Will You Send to Your Mom?

In honor of Mother's Day, let's find ways to show our Mother's that we appreciate them--by sending Appreciative I-Messages!

Appreciative I-Messages

These are I-Messages that describe your positive feelings about another person. Appreciative I-Messages express appreciation, enjoyment, affection and love towards parents, brothers, sisters, friends, grandparents, etc. They can contribute greatly to warmer, closer and more enjoyable relationships.
  • "I appreciate your taking my turn making dinner. It gave me time to finish my homework."
  • "I really like the story you wrote."
  • "Mom (Dad, Grandma, etc.), I love you."*
What Appreciative I-Message will you share with your Mother and/or loved ones? :)

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

May 4, 2010

What Are the Teen Years Like?

The Teen Years

I am now convinced that most theories about the "stress and strain of adolescence" have focused incorrectly on such factors as adolescents' physical changes, their emerging sexuality, their new social demands, their struggle between being a child and an adult, and so on. This period is difficult for children and parents largely because adolescents become so independent of their parents that they can no longer be easily controlled by rewards and punishments. And since most parents rely so heavily on rewards and punishment, adolescents react with much independent, resistive, rebellious, hostile behavior.

Parents assume that adolescent rebellion and hostility are inevitably a function of this stage of development. I think this is no valid--it is more that adolescents become more able to resist and rebel. They are no longer controlled by their parents' rewards because they don't need them so much; and they are immune to threats of punishment because there is little parents can do to give them pain or strong discomfort. The typical adolescent behaves as she does because she has acquired enough strength and resources to satisfy her own needs and enough of her own power so that she need not fear the power of her parents.

An adolescent, therefore, does not rebel against her parents. She rebels against their power. If parents would rely less on power and more on nonpower methods to influence their children from infancy on, there would be little for children to rebel against when they become adolescents. The use of power to change the behavior of children, then, has this severe limitation: parents inevitably run out of power, and sooner than they think.*

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

May 3, 2010

Why is Clear Self-Disclosure Difficult?

We sometimes hide our true selves--our thoughts, feelings and opinions.

We're afraid of disapproval, disagreement, criticism or rejection by others. The need to be liked and accepted is very strong.

So we keep our real thoughts and feelings to ourselves.

We lose touch with what our true feelings are.

We later become angry and resentful because we didn't speak out.

Other's don't know what we really think, feel and need so they can't help us get our needs met.*

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