Oct 26, 2010

Discipline That Works

The discipline issue arises as an inner conflict for the majority of parents. In Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) classes we find that most parents start the class torn between being authoritarian and being permissive, just like this mother expressed: "With our first child I was strict and that didn't work, so when the second child came I decided to be lenient, but that hasn't really worked either."

Looking at the noun discipline and the verb discipline, some critical differences become apparent. As a noun, discipline is usually understood as behavior and order in accord with rules and regulations, or behavior maintained by training as in "discipline in the classroom." You seldom hear any controversy about the noun discipline. Everybody seems to be in favor of that kind. The word conjures up order, organization, cooperation, knowing and following rules and procedures, and a consideration for the rights of others.

The verb to discipline is commonly defined as "to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control" and "to punish or penalize; correct, chastise." Just like: "If kids are not disciplined at home they will be troublemakers at school."

Understanding the difference between the noun and the verb forms of discipline is of utmost importance for yet another reason: it clarifies that the discipline controversy is really about how we should deal with kids (the means) and not about what we want them to do (the ends.) Most people would agree that we want kids to be orderly, cooperative, and considerate, but there are intense differences about whether disciplining (the verb) is the best means to bring about discipline (the noun,) a generally agreed-upon end.

In discussions of discipline, it is quite often assumed that the only way to get discipline (the noun), both at home and in the classroom, is for parents to discipline (the verb) - that is, control, punish, penalize, correct, and chastise children.

P.E.T. is based on considerable evidence refuting this widely-held belief. Dr. Thomas Gordon's three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize were a result of this work which is guiding parents to the discovery that disciplining children may be the least effective way to get discipline at home.

Oct 20, 2010

Have A Values Collision?

Values Collisions

When you have a values collision, the first step is to understand the real differences between you and the other person. Active Listening is the best tool for doing this.

The next step requires you to make a choice. Can you accept the differences and let things be, or do you really feel it important to try to change the other person?

Can you reconsider your values and perhaps move closer to the other person's? Can you decide to accept the differences between you as they are and stop colliding?

If you decide to change the other person, you must consider the risk to the relationship. Is it worth it to try to change my friend? Will it hurt our friendship?

If changing the other is really important to you, start by attempting to change the specific behavior of the other that is upsetting for you.

I-Messages or No-Lose Problem Solving are the skills to use to change another's behavior that is upsetting you.

And finally, even if you've succeeded in changing the other's actions, you may still want to influence the other to change his/her value.

If you feel very strongly that the person would be much "better off" or "happier" if your values were adopted, there are two new skills you can learn to influence (but not control) the other to change.
  1. MODELING: setting a personal example for the other; acting out, really living the values that you believe in; over a period of time your values may be adopted by the other person.
  2. CONSULTING: influencing or persuading the other by pointing out the advantages of your values; to be effective, your consultation must be welcomed and preferably invited by the other person.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

Oct 19, 2010

A Survey: What Makes For Good and Bad Relationships?

What Makes For Good and Bad Relationships?

A few years ago Rob Koegel, a professor at the State University of New York at Farmingdale, asked students to respond to a questionnaire about their best and worst relationships. Some of the questions were about relationships between the students and people of more or less equal status such as friends, partners, siblings and the like. Others were about themselves and people with greater status like bosses, teachers, professors, parents, etc. The students were asked to describe what these relationships were like and the results were illuminating. They named respect, caring, trust, honesty, support and good communication as characteristics of their best relationships and went on to say these relationships cultivated empathy, compassion, understanding and respect for differences. They said when others exhibited these characteristics relationships with them were good regardless of status differences

Dr. Koegel said students told him their best relationships were fulfilling and uplifting, made them happier, stronger and more complete. He summed up; “Our best relationships make us feel appreciated, valued and worthy. They also make us feel more connected to and trusting of others. Unlike most other relationships, this reciprocal connection nourishes, supports and empowers both parties”.

On the other hand, relationships students labeled “worst” were described as manipulative, dominating, unjust, and unequal. They said the manipulative; dominating people viewed differences in an either/or fashion, good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse with their positions put forth as the correct ones. The self-righteous attitude of the dominators resulted in the survey respondents tending to feel incompetent and inadequate. Those who used their status to win, to get what they wanted at others’ expense, generated feelings of insecurity and shame in the losers who became distrusting of themselves and others. The students used terms like “one-sided”, “taken advantage of”, “dominated” to describe how they felt about these damaging relationships.

Respondents agreed that these unequal relationships are always unfair. They characterized their dynamics as win-lose and said dominators win by using their personal and institutional power as parents, teachers, bosses and the like to coerce and abuse. Those on the losing end are forced to accept one-sided relationships like these because they have less status, are overpowered, dependent and needy.

Koegel’s survey pointed out what I think everyone knows from experience: the most critical barriers to a healthy, happy relationships are power differentials between partners or groups. If one person (or group) can force another to do something she, he or the group doesn’t want to do the relationship is in trouble. Its unfair relationships like those that Dr. Koegel’s subjects labeled as win-lose and agreed that losing left them feeling powerless, taken advantage of and dominated.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon writings

Oct 5, 2010

How to Conduct a Family Rule-Setting Meeting

Objective: To arrive at a mutually acceptable rule or decision on an important family issue or situation.

Set the Stage
  1. Agree on a time when everyone who will be directly affected by the rule or decision can be present. (Involve only those affected).
  2. At the appointed time, sit in a circle (around a table) so that all can see each other. Have the "Family Rule-Setting Guide" or paper and pen available.
  3. Start by making sure that everyone understands the objective of this meeting. A parent might start off with something like: "I've called this meeting so that all of us will have a chance to decide on some rules we need about ________________ so that everyone has the best chance of feeling comfortable and happy with the arrangement. I want for all of us to work on ________________ together so we're all satisfied with the solution (or decision)."
  4. Make sure that all members understand Method III:
  • Parent will not use power on kids.
  • Parent will not let kids use power on parent.
  • Everyone must be satisfied with the solution.
  • This is not a subtle way to get kids to agree to the parent's rules.
Tasks of the Group
  1. State the family situation/s you want to deal with or build an agenda for the meeting,i.e., what situation/s needing rules or decisions will be discussed in which everyone contributes their needs regarding family issues or situations.
  2. Next, post or mention the six steps of the problem-solving process.
a. Define the problem by developing needs, facts and feelings surrounding the item.
b. Brainstorm as many ideas about it as possible without evaluating them; have a family member simply record them.
c. Then, evaluate and test the proposed ideas or solutions for reality, appropriateness, acceptability, etc.
d. Decide which ideas or solutions are to be adopted.
e. Record the decision in term of WHO does WHAT by WHEN.
f. Later, check to see if rule or solution worked. (This usually happens automatically. Reconvene the group if it turns out the rule does not meet the members' needs well enough (bad rule, not bad people).

Parent's Role
  1. Sees that tasks are accomplished, problems solved.
  2. Uses Active Listening to handle inevitable feelings that will arise as well as to clarify the meaning of other member's inputs when necessary.
  3. Uses I-Messages to express his/her own needs and feelings. Avoids You-Messages and Roadblocks.
  4. Leads the group through the Six Steps of Problem-Solving.
  5. Keeps the group on track by handling free associations or new problems by noting "That's another issue," and if applicable, adding it to the agenda for later consideration.
  6. Avoids voting; facilitates consensus by use of communication and problem-solving skills. When it seems consensus has been reached, tests for it by stating the apparently favored decision and asking "Any objections?"
  7. Is active, "hangs in there" for his/her own needs, respects other family members' needs, remains sensitive (Active Listens) to resistance and possible hidden resistance.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book