Dec 14, 2011

A Nine-Year-Old Explains Why Punishment Doesn't Work

Here is an adorable story from one of our P.E.T. Instructors about a recent conversation she had with her daughter. We thought we'd share it with you:

My daughter (just turned 9 years old) and I were spending some
time together, picking raspberries, and having a general chat.
I told her that I only had two more PET classes for the year. My
daughter said, “Oh no, the parents might forget over the holidays, and begin
using time out or spanking again!”

I was
interested, and asked her, “What do you think is the problem with time out – why
doesn’t it work?”

My daughter's answer was:
“Because it forces kids to be good, instead of wanting to be good Because they
know it’s good to be good. When you use time out kids are good because of fear.”
She then proceeded to give an example of a child in her class who now seeks time
out, and spoke of the hierarchy of time-out punishment in her school.

We're impressed! Let us know what you think too. For more on P.E.T., visit us online at or email us at

Dec 7, 2011

What's Coming in 2012

Considering that 2011 hasn't even ended yet, we are pleased to see an impressive lineup for 2012 already! Check out our website calendar to find out all of the upcoming P.E.T. workshops coming soon near you.

You can always check back the link here for regular updates and new additions:

P.E.T. Workshop Calendar
Ongoing private instructionSan Diego, CA
Ongoing private instructionSolana Beach, CA
Ongoing private instructionSeattle, WA
November 2, 2012 – December 21, 2012Montreal, Quebec
November 20, 2012 – February 12, 2012Pacific Palisades, CA
January 9, 2012 – March 5, 2012Las Vegas, NV
January 11 – February 9, 2012San Jose, CA
January 12 – March 8, 2012Redmond, WA
January 24 – March 20, 2012Solana Beach, CA
January 24 – March 27, 2012Huntington Beach, CA*
January 25 – March 14, 2012Irvine, CA
January 25 – March 14, 2012Fullerton, CA
January 26 – March 15, 2012Redondo Beach, CA

* Childcare available

For more information or to sign up for a P.E.T. workshop near you, email us at

Nov 30, 2011

Power vs. Influence

We'd love if you shared your thoughts with us on this video and the idea of influencing children. Please comment below or check out our YouTube channel for more videos like this.

Nov 16, 2011

Advice from A P.E.T. Insturctor

A few weeks ago, we published a Q &A from a mother of two boys. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Here's another response, directly from one of our long-time Certified P.E.T. Instructors:

Dear Anonymus,

It looks like you are saying that yelling seems to help, as only when you yell they do what you want them to do? On the other hand you do not like to yell and you would rather want them to do what they’re told right away when you ask them in a nice way.

Changes do need time as habits may have become patterns and these are often tough to break through. What you can keep in mind though is that the no-lose method of Dr Thomas Gordon steps away from one person telling another person what to do or what not to do when there are problems (You-messages vs I-messages).

When solutions are made with the no-lose method and they do not work out the way you agreed upon, you all have to sit down and go over the 6 steps again. Especially step 2 with active listening. This is most important when problems have become conflicts and are a mixture of needs and values.

Doing homework is such a mixture. You have the value that they should do their homework and the need to preserve your happy mood and energy. Even though your sons may understand the value of doing homework, the value of homework is pretty abstract in the actual moment, in the ‘here and now’ and therefore they may not feel the need to do the homework. This ‘need’ can be woken up by you yelling. It is not that they all of a sudden want to do their homework because you yell. They may just need a peaceful house. So they may do homework for you to stop yelling!
I say a lot of ‘may’ as we don’t know until we hear everybody speak what is going on in them. But it is for you to open up your thoughts that anything is possible.

To break through this spiral you can start as suggested by GTI with a confrontive I message about the yelling, how that effects you and how much you would want to change this. Then it is up to them to respond and for you to active listen (They may say they don’t like it, or they don’t mind or they wait for you to yell…anything is possible ; maybe they are not set up well where to do the homework- maybe it is too easy – or maybe it is too hard and they need help – maybe they like to do it in the morning – maybe – maybe there is a deeper underlying problem etc. they will let you know if you active listen).

My suggestion is to go through the 6 step no-lose method in order for you all to come up with solutions to try out. Elaborate on step 6! Set a week for try out. After a week you sit down together, evaluate, see what worked and what did not work and where you have to make adjustments! You will make a start for meetings with true participation.

I remember very well the joy my boys and I sometimes felt when we got through some problems and had come up with solutions to try out. Solutions were never ‘final’. We knew we would always sit back together if one of us was unhappy. This by itself made us do our utmost to make the solutions work!


Cielja Kieft
Gordon Trainer
Mother and Grandmother

Nov 10, 2011

Parenting With Love

Long time P.E.T. Instructor, Kathryn, explains the difference between authoritarian parenting styles versus parenting with P.E.T. Watch this touching video to hear about her experience:

Let us know what you think - please comment and share!

Nov 2, 2011

Q & A from a Mother of Two Boys

Question: When my sons don't do their chores (especially homework) sometimes I will yell at them and then they will do it. First I will ask them to do something very politely and most of the time they won't listen. But when I yell, they will do what they're told right away. I don't want to yell at them and I have asked them why they don't do things when I ask them nicely. Please help.

Dear Anonymous,

It sounds like you are confused with how to use P.E.T. when you want your sons to do their chores because they respond quicker to you when you yell. You don't want to shout at them, but you also want their chores done in a timely manner.

It is common among parents to notice that P.E.T. skills sometimes don't work right off the bat. It's extremely important to remember that these skills are NOT an overnight, quick-fix, especially if punitive styles (like yelling) have been used on the children over an extended period of time. It takes practice and some patience to see a change in your relationships with your children. You might initially be met with resistance or skepticism when using the new P.E.T. skills, but this is certain: the long term benefits of using P.E.T. create more loving, trusting and responsible children. Using your parental "power" will do exactly the opposite; in the long and short term. Consider asking yourself: Am I trying to save TIME? Or am I trying to create healthy parent-child relationships so that my children will turn out to be self-disciplined and responsible adults?

I would suggest sending your children a preventive I-Message about their chores so that they know when you would like to have them done. You can also send a confrontive I-Message to express how it affects you when they don't do their chores on time. All I-Messages MUST include all three parts in order to be effective. And remember to shift gears into Active Listening if they respond defensively.

Oct 26, 2011

Contest Giveaway!

Greetings and Happy Holiday Pre-Season to all. We hope you're all enjoying the cool transition into Fall and are all keeping warm and cozy.

We are due for another contest giveaway and this is going to be a big one! This season, we will be giving away one free Family Effectiveness Training program, plus a few other surprise goodies. You can think of it as a "care package" of things that you and your family will enjoy together with the F.E.T. program. Since this is such a huge giveaway, we are upping the stakes too!


Here's how to win:

1. Like us on Facebook here: Like! = 1 entry

2. Follow us on Twitter here: Follow = 1 entry

3. Follow/Join our blog by clicking "Follow" in the very top, left corner of this page = 1 entries

(Doing all three will give you three entries!)

4. Lastly, you MUST leave a comment below this post, with your name, email address and type of entry for us to verify.

Bonus: You can even count additional entries if other members of the same family complete one of the three options above - just make sure to post another comment below.

If you're already following and liking us, that's great too. Just please be sure to let us know in the comment area on this post.

A winner will be drawn and chosen at random in the next several weeks.

Good luck and Happy Halloween!
The GTI Team

Oct 18, 2011

An Update on PET in Southern California

Yesterday morning, we met up with a handful of our Southern-Californian Certified P.E.T. Instructors. It was an encouraging and exciting meeting, where we were able to discuss further promotion of P.E.T. Workshops and the Instructors who teach them. We're so thrilled to be bringing more P.E.T. to Southern California and we wanted to share the news.

Coming soon, we will be having much more activity from GTI and these P.E.T. Instructors in the forms of blogging, Q&A, Tweeting, Facebook-ing and discounting, just to name a few! Our P.E.T. Fans and Followers will be able to get to know our P.E.T. Instructors on a deeper level and will be the first to know about giveaways and special offers on P.E.T. workshops and even the materials!

Please be sure to follow us on Twitter HERE.

Like us on Facebook HERE.

Follow our Blogger HERE.

And join the P.E.T. LinkedIn Group HERE.

More importantly, please be sure to share P.E.T. with those parents who aren't already familiar with us.

Oct 13, 2011

Recent Feedback from Parents

With an recent increase in P.E.T. feedback in the last two weeks, we thought we would share some of it with you:

As a father of a 13 year old boy and 2 twins 28 months ( Boy and Girl ) I just finished reading the book and was very inspired. I've already tried the technique with my oldest and I already see some progress. I look forward to the classes.
- P.E.T. Book Reader

I wanted you to know that the P.E.T. program is the best parenting information I've ever encountered, and as the mother of a teenager I've read a LOT of books. Dr. Gordon's program is exactly what I needed. Funny thing is, I actually thought I was a pretty well-educated parent, so I was baffled about why things weren't going more smoothly with my child. Now, finally, I know what I was doing that wasn't working well. Thanks again for your help, and all the best.
- P.E.T. Book Reader

She tried Active Listening and witnessed for the first time in her relationship with her son, him open up and express his feeling and see his emotional temperature drop. She said she couldn't believe her eyes! She was very excited!

Oct 6, 2011

One Skill to Help Get You Through Any Problem With Your Children

Before Parent Effectiveness Training or P.E.T., handling a problem with your child or teen usually means one of two things: either you punish them or you let them "get away with it." We were all raised to believe that these are our only options. The world we live in still tells us that these are our only two choices when it comes to handling children.

When problems arise, it can be our initial instinct to solve the issue in the fastest way possible. While many parents are quite skilled in the speediness of their dealing with heated conflicts, the effectiveness of their solution leaves much to be questioned.

Instead of coming up with the quickest way to still troubled waters, try instead to listen for what the true need is. Active Listening is an incredibly powerful and effective communication skill that can change the way that we deal with our problems and the problems of others. Over time, practice and skill, the psychology behind Active Listening builds bonds that are closer, more trusting and more loving.

As every human is entitled to get their basic needs met, so are all children. While your 8-year-old might be throwing her entire box of toys around the room, she very likely might be in need of some love and attention. Although this behavior is not acceptable by most, parents should realize that her need here is not to throw things around the room. Her need is a deeper, emotional one.

When needs are uncovered with Active Listening, problem solving goes much smoother and results last much longer.

For more on Active Listening, please visit our article here:

by: Selena Cruz George, Program Manager

Sep 28, 2011

How to Deal: Teens, Drugs and Alcohol

A parent sent in a familiar question to us recently, confused about how to handle the issue of drugs and alcohol with her teen. We thought we should share this with you all:

My question for you is what to do if your teenager
is doing something dangerous to their health such as doing drugs or
drinking? I don't see how we could find a common ground solution to
something like that....

Dear Anonymous,

You're confused about how to handle the issue of drinking and doing drugs with your children since it doesn't seem reasonable to come to a "common ground" or problem solve.

This is a concern that I hear from time to time. Seeing your child about to dart out in front of oncoming traffic (for example) is something that all parents should immediately prevent by any means possible. These the times when there is "clear and present danger." However, being worried that a child might participate in something like doing drugs or drinking is called a "Values Collision." This is when there is no real tangible "need" from either party. Using Method III in these conflicts of dirrerences can be difficult because both people usually have very strong feelings about the situation.

Our values are ideals or beliefs which shape our behavior and therefore, our values motivate our behaviors. Underlying the conflict that is going on between you and your child(ren) are a number of values. As an adult, our values might be that we want to stay healthy, don't want to risk our jobs, don't want trouble with the law, etc. As an adolescent who isn't experiencing the world in the same way as an adult, their values might be that they want to fit in with friends, they want independence, etc.

The P.E.T. Participant workbook says "Exploiring the needs of the child with Active Listening, being clear about your own needs with I-Language and using Method III can increase mutual understanding and produce creative new solutions. When a conversation reveals true differences of values, P.E.T. provides you with a strategy of influencing skills....The good news is that even though values ar enot easy to change, children often welcome and respect their parent's wisdom and experience in the selection of their own values. Parents can have a positive impact in this area when they use the P.E.T. influencing skills."

We break down resolving values collisions into seven differenc levels, from high-risk to low-risk. They are:
7. Using power
6. Threatening to use power
5. Problem-solving
4. Consulting
3. Confronting and Active Listening
2. Modeling
1. Modifying Yourself

Levels 4 through 2 are the most effective ways of having a REAL influence on your child; influence that lasts. These three levels include getting "hired" as a consultant by your child. This means sharing your concern, but not imposing. As a consultant, it is important to be more of a listener (Active-Listener of course) than a talker. Being prepared knowing the "facts" of the subject that you are talking about is important here as well. Having accurate information for yur child is an effective way to get them listening and engaged. This is not to be confused with using scare tactics, which will do the opposite. Ultimately, leaving the responsibility with the child without nagging and reminding is an extremely effective way to teach your child independence and self-discipline. The temptation to remind and repeat yourself might be strong, but remember what the effects of power and control have. One of the most powerful ways to influence your child is by modeling the behavior yourself. This is not necesarilly in a teaching sort of environment either, because the modeling process takes place "almost automatically." Be sure to avoid showing examples of using double-standards or hypocracy.

You can read much much more about this in the P.E.T. book, the F.E.T. Program, or best of all, the P.E.T. workshop nearest you. I hope this is a good start for you.

Sep 22, 2011

P.E.T. Reviews and Research

There have been two extensive reviews of P.E.T. course evaluation studies. The first, by Ronald Levant of Boston University, reviewed 23 different studies. The author concluded that many of the studies had methodological discrepancies. Nevertheless, out of a total of 149 comparisons between P.E.T. and control groups or alternative programs, 32% favored P.E.T., 11% favored the alternative group, and 57% found no significant differences. Levant did find three studies that met the standards of methodological adequacy. In these studies, out of 35 comparisons, 69% favored P.E.T. over the control group, none (0%) favored the control group, and 31% showed no significant differences. Levant concluded that P.E.T. appears to result in positive changes in parent attitudes and behavior and changes in children’s self-concept and behavior.

Robert Cedar of Boston University later reviewed 26 of the best designed research studies of P.E.T., using the “meta-analytic technique” of integrating the statistical findings from all the studies.

For more details about this study, read the rest of this article by following the link here:

Sep 14, 2011

Method III in Action, with Three Children Under Six

This is the story of a recent P.E.T. graduate, who has three boys - aged 6, 4 and 1. Before attending the course, bath times at her place were a real issue, causing tension and arguments. This is her story:

“During the weeks of the P.E.T. course, I used the Method III approach to solve my ‘bath time’ problem with the boys.

I sat down with my older boys (while the little one was playing around us) and explained the Method III approach to solving problems. The boys were quite enthusiastic to try this approach.

We used the Method III template in the workbook and followed it step-by-step. Defining the problem was easy, and so was coming up with solutions.

My needs were 'getting the boys clean, in a reasonable amount of time, which
then allowed mummy to get dinner ready'. My children’s needs were to play and relax after school.

Brainstormed solutions from my boys included:
Take a toy into the bath (acceptable by all)
Play for half an hour before bath time (not acceptable by mum)
Have a bath, then a shower, then a bath (suggested by Mr 4)
Have a shower one day, then a bath the next day

The final solutions agreed were:
Boys get to take a toy into the bath (not a wooden toy)
Timer would be set for bath time, so that bath time would last for 11 minutes (yes this was negotiated back and forth a few times)

This worked very well for a few weeks, but then stopped working - the novelty must have worn off. So we revisited the problem (Step 6), and sat down again to do Method III. I must admit that Mr 4 was delighted to watch his suggestions being written down.

This time, the new agreed solutions were:
Play for 11 minutes after afternoon tea, and before bath. Timer is set
for 11 minutes, then boys go straight to the bathroom
All boys to have a shower in mummy's rather large shower, together.
Plug up drain with face-washers and fill up base of shower until full.
Face-washers get pulled from drain when alarm goes off at 11 minutes.

This is currently working very well. Mr 1 gets taken out first (he usually doesn't last 11 minutes) and the older boys come out fairly happy at the 11 minute mark.

Bath (shower) time is a now largely a happy time in our household rather than being filled with stress and shouting. I am confident that when these solutions stop working, I can revisit it again using Method III, and the boys will be happy to be involved in solving our problem together.”

This article was shared by Larissa Dann, our P.E.T. Representative in Australia

Sep 7, 2011

True Parent Sightings, Part One

I wish I were here reporting glorious sightings of P.E.T. parents in action, but this series will be the opposite of that. For the purposes of reinforcement, conversation-starting and sharing, I lament on these real-life stories of parenting...gone wrong (or non-P.E.T. in our case).

Between the hours after work and before bed, public places can be a zoo of parent-child arguments. While at the drugstore last night, my peaceful meandering down the greeting card aisle was curtly interrupted by a woman's voice that sounded exactly like my car's GPS system.


"But mom can I-" replied the tiny little girl behind her.



"No. Whatever it is, no."

"Mom, I reall-"

"No." She began to repeat herself before even allowing her daughter to get a syllable in. Monotone and seemingly without reason, this mother kept denying her child of something that I am still not sure of. It was totally unclear what she was asking for.

The mother continued, without so much as making eye contact with her daughter, "No because I said so, so don't ask me why. And if you aren't following me now then I'm ignoring you."

(No exaggeration here. This is what she actually said.)

The daughter straggled behind her, whimpering. Her mother never once looked in her direction the entire time I witnessed this episode.

My sympathy goes out to the little girl, of course. In part, I feel sorry for the mother as well because I don't think that she knows any other way. Was this the way that she was parented perhaps? At the same time, I don't think she wishes to psychologically damage her daughter either. My guess is that she hasn't a clue on the impact that this kind of parenting will have on her daughter for years to come.

What I do wonder is who this mother will blame when her daughter reaches teenage years (or sooner) and starts to rebel against her.

It always takes me a moment to get my bearings back and realize that this is not my problem, although the speech has been mentally rehearsed many a time. Suffice it to say, my only chosen audience for this kind of story are P.E.T. parents and readers here on our blog. It is our every intention at GTI to spread the word of P.E.T. not just to parents who are already followers of ours, but more importantly, to those who aren't.

Have a story like this to share? Please post it here, on Facebook or mention us on Twitter.

By: Selena Cruz George, Program Manager

Aug 31, 2011

A Response to Questioning Parents

Explaining P.E.T. to doubtful parents is a challenge that I take on with eagerness. In its most common form, P.E.T. skepticism shows up as the assumption that it's the type of parenting that allows the child to run the show.

Some parents say, "That sounds great, but it wouldn't work on my kids. If I don't set limits, punish, show them who's boss (etc.), then my kids won't respect me, behave, do as they're told (etc.)" At times, this hesitation is expected. After all, the Gordon Model is an entirely new approach to parenting which offers a promising alternative to traditional win-lose methods. P.E.T.'s theory to not punish, discipline or use authoritarian power, suggests to some parents that their children's unacceptable behavior is left disregarded. In reality, parents should keep in mind that authoritarian power should not be used because it is emotionally damaging to the child (and the parent-child relationship) and that its long-term effectiveness have proven to be highly inefficient.

For those who aren't fully convinced that the P.E.T. method is not a form of permissive parenting, consider these words of Dr. Thomas Gordon: "Permissive parents get into as much trouble as overly strict parents, for their kids often turn out to be selfish, unmanageable uncooperative, and inconsiderate of the needs of their parents." Permissiveness creates the kind of individuals who grow up believing that they deserve everything that the world has to offer, without having to work for it.

Dr. Gordon continues: "What kind of persons are we producing if children are permitted to grow up with the attitude that the world owes them so much even though they give back so little? What kind of society will these selfish human beings make?"

Just as punishment and power can create insecure and rebellious individuals, overly lenient parenting can create egotism and narcissism. (Although I say "can create" here in order to avoid being overly bold by saying "will create," the chances of these outcomes are highly likely.)

Given these two options, it's relieving to know that P.E.T. offers a third choice. What do you think? Let us know...

by: Selena Cruz George, Program Manager

**Dr. Thomas Gordon quotes are excerpted from the P.E.T. book

Aug 24, 2011

Preventing Conflicts by Changing the Environment

Most parents have gotten use to kid-proofing their homes to prevent child endangerment. In this same school of thought, changing the physical environment can also prevent unacceptable behaviors and conflicts to arise.

Here are six ways to modify the environment so that unacceptable behavior can be minimized or prevented entirely:

Adding to the Environment
1. Enriching: introducing activities or materials that capture the interest of the child.
ex.: sandbox, swing set
2. Enlarging: broadening work and play areas to increase some behavior
ex.: parks, pools, backyard

Removing from the Environment
3. Impoverishing: reducing stimulation or the physical means to the undesired behavior
ex.: turning down volume, lowering the shades
4. Restricting: designating work and play areas to limit certain behavior
ex.: play room, car seats, art room

Changing the Environment
5. Simplifying: making the home easier for the child to function independently and effectively
ex.: foot stools, low storage areas for toys
6. Rearranging: displaying, storing and placing elements in the home to eliminate or encourage certain behaviors
ex.: knifes out of reach, use of plastic vs. glass cups

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.

excerpted from the F.E.T. Adult Resource Book, Session 4

Aug 11, 2011

How To Get "Fired" As A Parent

If you think getting fired from your job is bad enough, you might want consider the following before your children do the same...

As children grow into adolesence and begin to realize that their needs can be fulfilled outside of the home, they will often sever the relationship with their parents. No matter social class, religious background or ethnicity, this epidemic is a vitrual certainty across the globe.

"Parents get fired by their kids when they hassle and harangue them to change cherished beliefs and values. Adolescents dismiss their parents when they feel they are being denied their basic civil rights." - Dr. Thomas Gordon, The P.E.T. Book.

No different than adults, teens especially will vehemently defend their belief system and their rights - especially if they feel that their values and behaviors have no real effect on anybody else other than themselves. When parents try to force ideas or make decisions on behalf of their children because "it's what's best for them," these parents fail to realize that their efforts are folly. Often is the case that teenagers do things behind their parents backs, knowing that they disagree or won't approve.

Therein lies the trajedy. When children make the decision to withhold things from their parents, parents lose the ability to be able to influence their children.

The question is: How do parents AVOID getting fired?

Here are some tips:

#1 - Problem Ownership: Realize the difference between when you own the problem, when both own the problem and when they own the problem (it's not YOUR problem)

#2 - Use Method III: Not to be mistaken with compromise, Method III allows every party to get their needs met.

#3 - Avoid Roadblocks: Know when to Active Listen instead of giving advice, judging, using logic, etc.

#4 - Don't Force Your Values: Recall the High Risk to Low Risk options for handling Collision of Values situations. Using Coercive power is a one-way ticket to getting fired!

What do you think? Let us know.

By: Selena Cruz George, Program Manager

Aug 10, 2011

Praise vs. Positive I-Messages

An Alternative to Praise
(excerpted from the P.E.T. textbook)

When I first started P.E.T., I-Messages were presented solely as an effective method for confronting children when their behavior was unacceptable. Many parents were puzzled by this limited use of the I-Message and asked perceptively, "Why not use the I-Message to communicate your positive or appreciative feelings when your kid's behavior is acceptable?"
I've always been ambivalent about sending messages that contained positive evaluations, largely because of my conviction that praising kids is often manipulative and at times even destructive to the parent-child relationship. My argument went something like this:
Praising kids is often motivated by the parent's intent to get them to do what the parent has already decided is best for them to do. Or conversely, parents praise with the hope that the child will not do what they think he should not do but instead will repeat the "good" behavior that's been rewarded by the parent's praise.
Psychologists have proven beyond any doubt, in literally thousands of experiments with humans and animals, that giving a reward just after certain behavior has occurred will "reinforce" that behavior - that is, increase the chances that the behavior will occur again. So rewards do work. Each of us goes through life repeating behaviors that in the past brought us some kind of reward. It's logical. We do things, again and again, because in the past they have somehow given us what we needed or wanted - we have been rewarded. Praise, of course, is one kind of reward. At least that's what most people believe. So why not make a systematic effort to praise kids for "good" behavior? Why not also punish kids for "bad" behavior, since we also have proof that punishment extinguishes behavior - reduces the probability of its being repeated. But punishment is not what I'm examining here (later I'll have more to say about that).
No idea is more entrenched in parent-child relations than the notion that kids should be praised for "good" behaviors. To many parents it is tantamount to heresy to question this principle. Certainly most books and articles about parenthood recommend it.
However, pitfalls lie in the path of parents who use praise (and other forms of reward) as a way of shaping their children's behavior. First, to be effective, praise must be felt by the child as a reward. In many cases, this does not happen. If a parent praises a child for some activity, the parent judged "good" but the child did not, then praise is often rejected or denied by the child.
PARENT: You're getting to be such a good little swimmer.
CHILD: I'm not half as good as Laurie.
PARENT: Honey, you played a great game.
CHILD: I did not, I feel horrible. I should've won.
It was only natural to ask, "If the I-Message is a more constructive way of motivating a child to modify behavior that's unacceptable to parents, could it also be a more constructive way of communicating positive feelings - appreciation, pleasure, gratitude, relief, thankfulness, happiness?"
Usually when parents praise their children it comes out as a You-Message, almost without exception:
"You're being such a good boy!"
"You did a great job!"
"You behaved so well at the restaurant!"
"You're doing so much better in school!"

Note that all these messages contain a judgment, an evaluation of the child.
Contrast them with these Positive I-Messages:
"I really appreciate your taking out the trash even though it's my job - thanks a lot!"
"Thanks for picking up your brother at the airport - that saved me a trip. I sure appreciate it."
"When you let me know when you'll be home, I feel relieved because then I don't worry about you."

Positive I-Messages are not likely to be interpreted as manipulative and controlling the way praise usually is as long as these two conditions are met:
  1. The parent is not consciously trying to use the messages to influence the child to repeat the desired behavior (to modify the child's future behavior).
  2. The message is simply a vehicle for communicating a spontaneously experienced temporary feeling - that is, the feeling is genuine and real, as well as here and now.
Adding this concept to the P.E.T. model provides justification for parents to share their positive feelings when they spontaneously feel appreciative, without the risks inherent praise. Previously, I'm afraid that when I cautioned parents against praising their kids, I left them puzzled, frustrated, and with no constructive way of communicating the positive feelings.

Jul 11, 2011

5 Parenting Myths, Debunked!

Hello fellow P.E.T. parents and followers,

While browsing through the F.E.T. workbook (otherwise known as the F.E.T. Adult Resource Book), I came across several myths, truths and principles about parenting that I thought should be reinforced to the public eye!

In no order of importance, here they are:

Parenting Myths

1. Myth: Parents should always present a "united front" to children
Truth: Your responses to a particular behavior will often be different from that of your spouse.
Principle: Act toward your child's behavior in a way that matches how you are feeling about it. "To thine own self be true."

2. Myth: Parents should always be consistent with respect to dealing with children's behaviors.
Truth: Your response to a particular behavior will often be different, depending on when it occurs (child playing with legos in living room on Saturday morning versus when friends are to arrive for dinner), where it occurs (table manners at home versus in restaurant), and how you are feeling (child playing drum when you feel good versus when you have a headache).
Principle: The situation (context) where a child's behavior occurs will determine your response to it.

3. Myth: Parents should treat each child the same way.
Truth: Your reaction to a particular behavior will often be different depending upon which child does it.
Principle: The age and development level of children will influence your feelings about particular behaviors.

4. Myth: If children get all their basic needs met, they'll be spoiled, selfish, and unbearable.
Truth: Children whose basic needs are not met feel deprived, resentful, frustrated, and angry. These are the feelings that make children emotionally unhealthy and antisocial. Children who do get their needs met are healthier, both emotionally and physically.

5. Myth: The principle duty of good parents is to disregard their personal needs and sacrifice for the sake of their children.
Truth: Parents whose own needs are not met will also feel deprived, resentful, frustrated and angry. They will have little to give to their children and may take out their feelings by mistreating or neglecting their children.
Principle: An effective parent is one who respects the right of children to meet their needs as much as the right of the parent to meet his/her own needs.

Know someone who lives by some of these myths? Pay it forward - share this with them!

Jun 15, 2011

What Makes A Happy & Loving Home?

Recently, I spoke with a P.E.T. Instructor who says that she has been coming across more parents these days who claim to already have a well-balanced and happy lifestyle with their children and therefore are not in need of Parent Effectiveness Training. This of course, is great news to be heard, although it leaves some skepticism.

When elaborating more upon what it meant to them to have this loving family dynamic, parents explain that their kids are kept extremely busy with multiple sports, music lessons, college prep., etc. Not only are the kids busy with their own extracurricular activities, but so are the parents. In fact, everyone was so preoccupied with other things, that their schedules left little time to even have meals together, let alone get into any arguments. Their case stands that a happy home is one in which there is no conflict at all.

I couldn't help but wonder: If there is no time for conflict, how is there any time for intimacy?

This left me feeling sympathetic for those parents and children who were so busy that they had no time left for each other.

In all close relationships, conflict is inevitable. Never have I heard anyone in a marriage, long-term friendship, a sibling, or the like who could honestly say, "We have never gotten into an argument." Yet at the same time, many of these people would also say that they these very same relationships have been fulfilling, loving and rewarding.

With this in mind, the conclusion that I came to is that the true test of any good relationship isn't whether or not conflict arises, but it is how the conflict is handled.

P.E.T. not only provides ways for families to deal with conflict, but teaches ways to prevent conflict from happening in the first place, when at all possible. This is the reason why we don't offer the P.E.T. skills to be taught "a la carte." Just as you would need more than a hammer to build a home, P.E.T. is an entire set of tools that can be used everyday in every personal interaction. And that's the other beautiful thing about P.E.T. - the principles that P.E.T. teaches can be used in ALL relationships in our lives.

By: Selena Cruz George, Program Manager

Jun 8, 2011

Most Embarrassing Dad in America?

There might not be anything more humiliating for teenagers than their embarrassing parents. Even as an adult, I still have a few of those mortifying memories like "that one time when Dad started line-dancing in the parking lot."

Today on ABC's "Good Morning America", I couldn't help but smile when watching their segment on a Utah father who embarrassed his teenage son every weekday morning by waving goodbye to him and his schoolbus ... decked out in a different costume!

For an entire school year, this father dressed up in costumes like The Little Mermaid, a Firefighter, Superman, Michael Jackson, and so on.

I wonder what P.E.T. parents and their teens would think about this prankster -- Did he go a little too far or is this fun-loving dad just too hilarious to be upset at?

You can watch the video here:

Let us know what you think!

Jun 1, 2011

The Teen Years

I am now convinced that most theories about the "stress and strain of adolescence" have focused incorrectly on such factors as adolescent' 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 not 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 lesson 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.

- Dr. Thomas Gordon, Parent Effectiveness Training

May 25, 2011

What Type of Anger Personality Do You Have?

In P.E.T., Instructors teach many valuable tools to communicate more effectively, specifically when it comes to expressing your own feelings. In the workshop, we practice the use of sharing our positive or negative feelings via I-Messages. The funny thing is, some parents tend to have a longer list of those negative ones!

Anger and frustration are emotions commonly shared among most (if not all) parents. From time to time, your kids, spouses, co-workers and relatives will drive you nuts!

How do you express your anger?

Hidden Styles: Some keep their anger to themselves almost entirely. You may have met these people who are commonly referred to as a "push-over" or a "Yes man." These are the types who are so afraid of confrontation that they avoid it by any means necessary. They don't want to hurt the other's feelings, escalate the disagreement or have that uncomfortable "we need to talk" conversation. The inward-anger personality does this act of holding it in at a pretty high cost to themselves: stress, tension and anxiety.

Explosive Styles: Others erupt. Their anger comes out in strangely short-lived but intense bursts. This might come out as physical aggression, yelling, shouting and making your presence and anger be known within a five-mile radius. These types see inconveniences and injustices as threat to themselves, often taking things personally whether something was directed at them or not. Exploders tend to also be the kinds of people who internalize most of there frustration only to let it build up and eventually, to erupt.

Chronic Styles: Chronic anger personality styles are individuals who have developed a long-term general emotional state of being bitter and resentful. Their triggers are common, frequent and habitual. Similar to the explosive style, these are the types who take things personally more often than not and usually have some way of moralizing the reasoning for their frustrations. Cases like these are extreme, and likely fall under the umbrella of having an "anger disorder."

Whether justified or not, your tendency to get angry is directly influenced by your level of acceptance or in-acceptance with your childrens behavior. Upon first being introduced to the Confrontive I-Message, some parents go home eager to confront their children, feeling entitled to spew out their pent-up frustrations. It can be difficult to discern a Confrontive I-Message from what might actually be a hidden You-Message. It's hard for children not to feel as though they are the cause of your anger, no matter how you word it.

But taking a closer look at anger, we see that it is only the "tip of the iceberg" of other more primal emotions. Although our anger can be very real and very unpleasant, what's really going on beneath the anger are feelings of helplessness, fear, anxiety, hurt and sadness to name a few.

P.E.T. teaches us an effective alternative to letting our anger and blame out on our children.

Dr. Thomas Gordon put it best:

"Parents learn in P.E.T. that if they frequently vent angry You-Messages, they had better hold a mirror up to themselves and ask, "What is going on inside me?" "What needs of mine are being threatened by my child's behavior?" "What are my own primary feelings?" One mother courageously admitted in class that she had so often been angry at her children because she was deeply disappointed that having children prevented her from going on to graduate school to become a schoolteacher. She discovered that her angry feelings were actually resentment because she was disappointed at having her own career plans interrupted."
-P.E.T. Book p. 146, F.E.T. Adult Resource Book Session 3, p. 45

With a good amount of self-awareness and asking ourselves these questions, we will all be able to decipher our most primal emotions and take a step back before reacting in unproductive ways.

by Selena Cruz George, Program Manager

May 18, 2011

Our Big News - Now on Kindle!

Greetings to all of our P.E.T. Fans and Followers!

Gordon Training International is proud to announce our first eBook publication, available on Kindle and Amazon now!

Author of the best-selling "Parent Effectiveness Training" (P.E.T.), Dr. Thomas Gordon's "Teaching Children Self-Discipline" is known to be one of his best works.

Dr. Gordon addresses the number one concern of parents and teachers today - disciplining children. He shows why traditional disciplining doesn't work at home or in the classroom, and how to change children's behavior effectively using skills of cooperation instead.

A truly enlightening read for parents and teachers alike - and a perfect Summer read!

May 11, 2011

Should Mom & Dad Uphold a "United Front"

One of the most popular parenting theories debated is whether or not both parents need to be "coming from the same place." According to this stance, both parents should always back each other up so that that their child is led to believe that their two parents have one voice and that they both feel the same way about a particular behavior.

In the words of Dr. Thomas Gordon: "This is nonsense."

Yet this approach remains to be widely accepted.

The underlying message with this theory is also this:

Two Parents vs. One child = Parents Win

...And the power struggle cycle begins

Despite the fact that this is clearly unfair to the child, it may also require a sincere amount of effort for one parent to create falseness who might not actually feel the same way that the other does. This breeds resentment for the odd parent out who is having to go along with being untrue to their feelings.

No parent ever feels accepting toward all the behavior of a child. But what are the effects on the child when one parent is being falsely accepting?

Children are rather uncanny in sensing their parents' true feelings and parents also send "nonverbal messages" to their children - cues that are percieved by the children, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. Children will hear their parent telling them one thing, while noticing other signals that would lead them to believe that their parent really isn't telling the truth. Putting a child in such an inner conflict can seriously affect their psychological health.

Children, like most people in this dilema, will experience confusion and begin to struggle between wanting to be loved (accepted) by their parent as well as wanting to behave or "be allowed to" act in a certain way. This child is in a bind.

There is a serious by-product of being falsely accepting and in the long run this may be even more harmful to the relationship between parent and child. When a child receives "mixed messages," they may begin to have grave doubts about the honesty or genuineness of her parent. She learns from many experiences that Mother often says one thing when she feels anbother. Eventually the child grows to distrust such a parent.

This can bring on frequent "testing" on the part of the child, can cause children to carry around a heavy dose of anxiety, foster in children feelings of insecurity, and so on.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted by: Selena Cruz George, P.E.T. Program Manager

May 4, 2011

Permissive Parents and Children

We often discuss in depth the effects of parents using their power to control behaviors and situations. For those parents and children who are on the opposite end of the spectrum, here are some reasons why we believe permissiveness doesn't work:

Sending I-Messages or "Talking Straight" can be hard.

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 can be very strong. But when we keep our real thoughts and feelings to ourselves, we lose touch with what our true feelings are. We later become resentful because we didn't speak up. Others don't know what we really think, feel and need so they can't help us get our needs met.

What are the benefits of Talking Straight?

You may learn how similar or different you are to others. You may become more aware of your thoughts, feelings and needs so you can be the real you.

When other people know how you feel and what you need, they can often help you get your needs met.

Communicating clearly is a way of taking responsibility for yourself. It's important in relationships because it helps each person know how the other one feels - how the situation appears from the other's point of view.

The goal of talking straight with I-Messages is to keep your relationships in the No Problem Area of the Behavior Window where everyone is getting their needs met.

an excerpt from the Youth Effectiveness Training workbook, by Linda Adams

Apr 27, 2011

Do You Really Like Children - Or Just A Certain Type of Child?

I have known parents who profess a liking for children, but who by their behavior clearly demonstrate that they like only certain kinds of children.

Fathers who value athletes often tragically reject a son whose interests and talents are nonathletic. Mothers who value physical beauty can reject a daughter who does not fit the cultural stereotype of female beauty. Parents whose lives have been enriched by music often show a non-musical child how deeply disappointed in him they are. Parents who value academic and scholastic competence can cause irreparable emotional damage in a child who does not have this special type of intelligence.

Fewer behaviors will be unacceptable to parents if they realize that there is an infinite variety of ways in life for them to go. The beauty in nature, and the miracle of life, is this vast variety in the living forms.

I often tell parents, "Don't want your child to become something in particular; just want him to become." With such an attitude parents will inevitably find themselves feeling more and more accepting of each child and experiencing joy and excitement watching each become.

An excerpt from Chapter 15 of the P.E.T. Book, by Dr. Thomas Gordon

Apr 20, 2011

Your Children's Safety and P.E.T.

A common question arises from parents regarding how to use the P.ET. skills when it comes to the safety of their children.
"What about when my kids start fighting and hitting each other?"

"I saw my son about to ride his bike in the middle of the street into oncoming traffic. I ran out to grab him but felt confused about using my power to stop him."

"I see that P.E.T. is against setting limits. What do I do when my kid is endangering himself? Isn't it my job as a parent to keep her safe?"
In P.E.T., the one exception to using your parental "power" is when your children are putting themselves in clear, present and immediate danger. By all means possible, parents should save their child from injury (or worse). No exceptions.

But parents should also be able to distinguish the fine line between their children being in "danger" versus their children doing something that the parents feel is "best" for them. We often see the word danger misused; i.e. not doing homework, not finishing vegetables but eating ice cream instead, playing games on the computer for hours on end, etc. Of course, there are rare and extreme cases in which their physical or mental health does become a serious concern. These are not the cases we're talking about.

Another aspect at play here takes us back to our favorite question: Who Owns the Problem?

If your child decides to do homework at the very last minute but it doesn't cost you any time, extra energy and/or money, then the problem is ultimately theirs. The same goes for many of the questions and concerns that parents ask us.

As a parent, you want to see your child succeed in making the right choices and turn out to become a well-adjusted and responsible adult. But getting your child to adopt your values and beliefs is done best through giving an effective three-part I-message.

As we said on the P.E.T. Facebook Page earlier this week: Cooperation is never fostered by making a child do something.

"One of the most universally accepted myths about child-rearing is that if parents force their young children to do things, they will turn out to be self-disciplines and responsible persons. They usually turn out to be persons who depend upon external authority to control their behavior. Each and every time they [parents] force a child to do something by using their power or authority, they deny that child a chance to learn self-discipline and self-responsibility."
-- Dr. Thomas Gordon, P.E.T. Book

Think about it...

We hope that this post in particular breeds more questions and comments from our readers. Please feel free to comment directly in this blog or email us at We will do our best to respond to each and every person.

by Selena Cruz George, P.E.T. Program Manager

Apr 12, 2011

Learning Stages and Your P.E.T. Skills

Learning any new skill takes time and practice. P.E.T. is no different from learning a new sport, language or work procedure.

P.E.T. teaches skills and concepts that are foreign to most people. Each person has a feeling about which "stage" of learning you are in. These are the four basic stages that participants find themselves in during and after going through the P.E.T. course, reading the P.E.T. Book or completing the F.E.T. Program.

Stage 1: Unconsciously Skilled:
You don't know what you don't know. You interact with your children and others in your relationship network unconscious of the fact that there are P.E.T. alternatives to your usual ways of communicating and solving problems.

Stage 2: Consciously Unskilled:
You know what you don't know (and can't do). Sometimes there are feelings of guilt as parents understand the negative effects of their non-P.E..T. behaviors on their children. The desire to learn and use P.E.T. skills grows.

As you start using your new skills, parents can feel extremely awkward and even phony. At this stage, not only does it seem phony to the parent, but also to the child or other person who is the recipient of their efforts. Using your new skills may sometimes elicit comments like "What's wrong with you?" "You don't usually talk like that!" "Don't try to be my shrink!"

Stage 3: Consciously Skilled:
At this stage in your skill development, parents are conscious about what they are doing. They make clear decisions about when and how to Active Listen and send I-Messages. Even though you are consciously using the skills, in most situations they come across as natural to the child or recipient.

Stage 4: Unconsciously Skilled:
At this stage, using the P.E.T. skills is done with little or no thought - the skills are not turned on and off depending on the situation. Active Listening and I-Messages have become the normal way the parent communicates. This stage is equivalent to Mastery Level learning in education.

However, even when this level has been reached by an individual, there are still times and circumstances, such as extreme stress or difficult conflicts, when you revert to consciously thinking about how and when to use the P.E.T. skills.

Being unconsciously skilled also does not mean that a person has "arrived" and has no more room for improvement. Ongoing refinement and mastery of the P.E.T. philosophy and skills continue on as a part of a person's life-long learning process.

So what stage are you in? As always, questions and comments are encouraged! Feel free to post a comment or question here on the blog or email

You can also find regular updates, interesting facts, quotes, skill reminders and more on Facebook and Twitter.

Or Follow us on Twitter here:!/P_E_T

This month's Family Connection Newsletter is going out tomorrow, so if you haven't already signed up, you can do so by filling out your name and email address on the lower right side of this page:

Posted by Selena Cruz George, P.E.T. Program Manager

Apr 6, 2011

Families Need Dialogue

Dialogue is to love what blood is to your body. When dialogue stops, love dies and resentment is born.

Dialogue has risks, unfortunately. However, when two or more people decide to do it and accept their fear of the risks, dialogue will bring important rewards.

This is the miracle of dialogue: it can bring relationships into being, and it can bring into being once again a relationship that has died.
(Reuel Howe, 1963)

Newborn infants and their parents begin a lifesaving series of dialogues. The infant communicates his/her needs and Mom or Dad responds by feeding, bathing, cuddling, talking or singing. These behaviors communicate the message that the parent loves him/her. Should the parent be rough, irritable or neglectful, the child will feel unloved and unaccepted. To speak the words of love in a dialogue is to be loved as well as to love.

The relationship between a man and a woman can communicate such mutual love by means of dialogue. The marriage vows are a first commitment to this kind of love-producing dialogue. In fact, Dr. Gordon's Credo promises that each will share their needs "openly and honestly, trusting you will listen with empathy and understanding." And every aspect of the marriage relationship needs dialogue: planning together, sharing individual experiences, choosing agreed-upon responsibilities, discussing their sexual relations, conveying both their joys and problems.

An excerpt from the F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Mar 30, 2011

14 Benefits of Active Listening

Here is a list of some of the main benefits of using Active Listening:
  1. Is it your check on the accuracy of your listening
  2. It shows the sender that you are interested in him or her
  3. It proves to the sender that not only have you heard, you have understood
  4. It tells the sender you can accept him/her as a troubled person NOTE: The keyword here is accept (i.e., the sender's behaviors are in the top of the Behavior Window), not agree with. You can accept his/her having a feeling you might not have or a thought you don't agree with.
  5. It gives the sender a chance to ventilate, to feel relieved, to have catharsis. When feelings are expressed and accepted, they lose their grip on the person and become less disabling. when held in, feelings tend to remain strong and fester (as opposed to a popular fear that is one listens to and accepts another's feelings, those feelings will get out of hand).
  6. Active Listening fosters others doing their own problem definition and problem solving. It keeps the responsibility with the sender, yet the listener remains involved. The sender holds onto the ball.
  7. It relieves "emotional flooding" and frees the intellect to get back to work.
  8. It fosters the sender moving from a superficial to the deeper, more basic problem.
  9. It avoids fastening onto and "solving" the "presenting problem".
  10. It helps the sender deal with feelings, not just the facts.
  11. Active listening frequently fosters the sender's insights - new ways of seeing things, new attitudes, new behaviors, new understanding of self.
  12. It fosters the sender being more open and honest with you - more willing to use you as a helping agent.
  13. It promotes a more intimate and warm relationship. The sender feels warm and positive toward the listener. The listener better understands the sender and feels more positive toward him or her.
  14. It helps the sender grow toward being an internal problem solver, toward being less dependent on others for solutions, toward being more self-responsible, more self-directing; master of his or her own fate or destiny.
These are only a few of the many benefits that Active Listening can do for your relationships. Thought of another one that isn't listed here? Leave a comment!

Mar 23, 2011

Understanding "Authority"

In P.E.T., the use of flexing your parental power to "control" your children is something we strongly oppose. Many parents have a hard time accepting this concept and ask things like:
"But don't I need to show them who's boss? Or else my kids will walk all over me and not learn to respect me."
Proponents of parent "authority" fail to recognize that there are four very different kinds of authority as explained here.

I. Authority P (Power)
This authority is based on power, which is derived from possessing rewards and punishments and using them to try to control others. We refer to Authority O as the "authoritarian" approach. This kind of authority has serious deficiencies and destructive effects on both the controllers and controllees.

II. Authority E (Expertise)
This authority is derived from expertise - knowledge, experience, training. Possession of Authority E can strongly influence (not control) others to accept direction, advice, council, and change their behavior. People who have and use thiis kind of authority are often called "authoritative". Children usually accept their parents' Authority E. The Gordon Model of effective relationships certainly approves of Authority E.

III. Authority J (Job Definition)
This is authority derived from one's job definition and people's acceptance of the legitimacy of that job definition. For example, police officers and citizens, coaches and players and doctors and patients. This is often called "legitimated authority" because people usually feel the influencer has a legitimate right to influence. The Gordon Model certainly approves of Authority J.

IV. Authority C (Contract)
This authority derives from a contract between two or more people - a mutually acceptable agreement or decision. It can be formal and legal written document) or a "gentlemen's agreement" (handshake). This kind of authority is often called "contractual." The key to this source of influence is that both parties have reached a mutually acceptable agreement (or contract). Do you smell Method III here?

Authority E,J, and C are influence methods, while Authority P is a control method. Influence methods rarely provoke defensive and reactive coping behaviors, simply because one can either accept or reject another's influence. However, they cannot always reject another's power-based control.

What do you think?

Mar 16, 2011

Changing the Environment to Reduce Unacceptable Behavior

There are a number of ways you can modify the physical environment of your home to prevent or minimize behavior that would cause you a problem, cause your child a problem, or result in a parent-child conflict. Changing some part of the household environment can be especially helpful in modifying the unacceptable behavior of very young, pre-verbal children.

While most people think of Modifying the Environment as something you primarily do with infants and toddlers, it can also be used very effectively with older children, teens, adults and even in companies and organizations to save hours of frustration, prevent or end conflict, and save individuals and organizations money.

For example:
  • A mother was frustrated by paper on the floor from her son who routinely missed the small wastebasket when throwing away discarded paper from homework and computer printing. She did a quick brainstorming with her son; the solution, a larger wastebasket with a small basketball backboard and hoop attached. Result, paper ended up in the basket and the end of that frustration for Mom.
What You Can Do

There are three major schemes for altering your home environment to prevent or insulate a child's unacceptable behavior. These principles apply to any age:

Adding to the Environment
  • Introducing activities or materials that interest the child.
  • Broadening work and play areas to increase some behavior
Removing from the Environment
  • Reducing stimulation or the physical means to the undesired behavior
  • Designating work and play areas to limit certain behavior
Changing the Environment
  • Making the home easier for the child to function independently and effectively
  • Displaying, storing and placing elements in the home to eliminate or encourage certain behaviors
It is important to understand that the concept of modifying the environment does not sanction parents to impose physical changed upon unwilling children. This would clearly be a form of Method I problem-solving. 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, not Method I.

An abbreviated excerpt from the P.E.T. Participant Workbook

Mar 9, 2011

How to Open the Door and Get Your Children Talking

By Selena Cruz George, P.E.T. Program Manager

Many parents feel that after a certain age, their children simply stop talking to them about what is going on in their lives. After years of unresolved conflicts, hostility, punishment and "You-Messages", teens in particular will sometimes "fire" their parents and cease communicating on a deeper level during those very important adolescent years. When the conversation between children and their parents stops, the growing divide created between them causes damaging effects to the health of their relationship and to the child.

The remedy for this doesn't need to include years of therapy and psychoanalysis.

In his book, the Miracle of Dialouge, Reuel L. Howe says: Indeed, this is the miracle of dialogue: it can bring a relationship into being, and it can bring into being once again a relationship that has died.

One of the most productive and beneficial ways of listening and responding to your child's feelings, is coming from a place of acceptance and inviting them to say more, otherwise known as a "door-opener". These invitations to talk are responses that do not include any judgement, feelings, questions or advice. They are simply a way to get them to share more of their feelings with you.

Some examples of "door-openers" are:
  • "Interesting!"
  • "Mm-hmm."
  • "I'd like to hear more about it."
  • "Sounds like you've got something to say about this."
  • "This seems like something important to you."
  • "Tell me more.
These types of responses are encouraging words to get your child start or continue talking. It's important to put your Active Listening skills into action here and steer clear of giving any Roadblocks. Your thoughts and feelings should not be included in this communication process.

Careful not to "slam the door shut" once you have opened it, which can leave you worse off than where you started! Particularly when first trying Active Listening, some parents give it up too soon in the conversation because they don't like what they are hearing. Allow your child to feel completely accepted by you by giving them the chance to work through their own problems.

This will create a stronger and more loving relationship between parents and their children as well as optimize your child's problem-solving skills and build self-esteem.

What do you think? We'd love to hear your feedback!

Mar 2, 2011

Watch a short video on how the Gordon Model skills can improve all of your relationships

What exactly will I learn in PET?

P.E.T. Core Competencies - after participation in the P.E.T. course, it is expected that parents will have the ability to:

1. Determine who “owns the problem” in a given situation.
2. Identify the 12 Roadblocks to Communication.
3. Distinguish between Roadblocks and Active Listening.
4. Avoid the Roadblocks that cause most helping attempts to fail.
5. Recognize when their child needs their help as a skilled listener.
6. Use silence, acknowledgments and door-openers to help their child with a
7. Active Listen to hear their child’s feelings.
8. Active Listen to clarify information.
9. Distinguish between Acceptable and Unacceptable Behavior.
10. Determine what to do when a child’s behavior is interfering with the parent’s
meeting their needs.
11. Develop a three-part Confrontive I-Message.
12. Confront their child’s unacceptable behavior with an I-Message.
13. Shift gears between I-Messages and Active Listening when appropriate.
14. Acknowledge others’ efforts with Appreciate I-Messages.
15. Prevent problems and conflicts using Preventive I-Messages.
16. Recognize conflict situations.
17. Distinguish between Conflicts-of-Needs and Values Collisions.
18. Avoid the use of Method I.
19. Avoid the use of Method II.
20. Set the stage for Method III Conflict Resolution.
21. Use Method III to resolve a conflict between the parent and child.
22. Use Method III to mediate a conflict between others.
23. Handle Values Collisions.

Feb 2, 2011

Getting Fathers to Parenting Groups (without really trying)

How Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) brings them in!

By: Larissa Dann


The author has been teaching Parent Effectiveness Training in Canberra for the past 13 years. Over that time she has noted a relatively high attendance rate (3
5%) of men (fathers, step-fathers and foster parents)
Lundahl et al, 2008 suggest that the attendance rate of fathers at parent education courses is around 20%. They imply that titles such as Parent Effectiveness Training indicate inadequacies in the
parent, thus discouraging father participation.

The aim of this study was to examine possible reasons for the high attendance rate of men at P.E.T. courses in Canberra, and to look at some outcomes for participants.

A preliminary sample of the results is presented in this poster.

Background – P.E.T.

Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T) was developed in 1962 by American psychologist, Dr Thomas Gordon. The course has been taught in Australia since the early 1970s.

P.E.T. takes a Rogerian, relationship-based, democratic approach to parenting. The course teaches relationship skills in the form of respectful communication, emphasising mutual respect.

P.E.T. differentiates itself from other parenting courses be
cause it does not use rewards and punishment (such as time-out or star charts) to change child behaviour. Instead, there is an emphasis on win-win conflict resolution. P.E.T. aims to see a change in child behaviour because of consideration of others, rather than compliance with parental power.

The course systematically takes participants through the skills needed to resolve conflict. Beginning with Dr Gordon’s unique ‘who owns the problem’ model, parents are practically introduced to the skills of active listening, I-messages, dealing with resistance (shifting gears), no-lose conflict resolution and values conflicts.

Two important aims of P.E.T. are to:
  • help parents understand and empathise with their children, resulting in a change in attribution of intent; and
  • help develop emotional intelligence and resilience in both parent and child
P.E.T. is highly practical and experiential , and is generally run over eight weeks, with one 3 hour session per week.


A 10 question survey was designed on the internet survey tool “Surveymonkey”. An explanatory email, which included a link to the survey, was sent to 69 men who had participated in P.E.T. courses from 2008 to 2010. Eight of the emails bounced back, so it is assumed that 61 men received the request. A reminder email was sent two weeks before the closing date of the survey. The survey was anonymous, and responses could not be linked with participants.


Thirty two (32) of the 61 men surveyed returned their survey for
m. This is a response rate of 53%. Not all questions were answered by all participants.

Some of the survey questions, and a sample of the main response themes, are listed in this poster.

Time elapsed since attending a P.E.T. course
90% of the respondents had attended the course more than six months previously, with 29% having attended in 2008 or before.

"I have completed other parenting courses but they concentrate on discipline and gaining compliance of the children. A generalisation, but I believe discipline is not something men tend to have trouble implementing so the 'tools' taught on other courses are not relevant to most men (ie - fathers). On the other hand, PET improves families by improving relationships, this is an area (another generalisation) that men DO need help with in their lives.” (quote from a father who completed the P.E.T and Men survey, 2010)

Family Type

72% of the men were partnered (with children of the partnership).
19% had shared care of their children, and 9% lived in a blended family. One respondent was a non-resident father.

P.E.T Skills retention

72% of the men were partnered (with children of the partnership). 19% had shared care of their children, and 9% lived in a blended family. One respondent was a non-resident father.

90% of respondents continued to use active listening as a parenting tool, and 77% relied on defining ‘who owned the problem”.

Education level

A large number of respondents had tertiary degrees or higher (82%), with 47% having post-graduate qualifications.

Why did the respondents attend a P.E.T. course?
  • to improve their parenting skills.
  • to be on the “same page” as their partners when parenting their children.
Two outlying reasons for attending a P.E.T. course included trying to avoid angry reactions to children, and finding a course that matched the respondent’s personal philosophy.
  • “I want to have a loving and respectful relationship with my children now and in the future. "
  • “The desire was there but not the skills – I was making my father’s mistakes and I knew it was up to me to change. "
  • “it would help me learn to listen to her [child’s]needs as she was going through the separation of her parents."
What difference did attending the P.E.T. course make for the respondents?

1. They reported they had better communication with their children, through active listening and conflict resolution.

2. A better understanding of the other’s perspective/behaviour.
Two father’s noted they were ‘less authoritarian”
  • “my children are much more willing to share their problems with me. I use much less authoritarian force.”
  • “Change of attitude about a child's motivations.“
What difference has attending the P.E.T. course made for the respondents’ family?
  • Calmer, more peaceful, cooperative and harmonious households.
  • There was a benefit of a consistent P.E.T. approach to parenting with their partner..
  • A better relationship with their children,
  • Greater empathy and understanding of their child’s perspective.
“It has brought my wife closer to me as for the kids we have this understanding that we never had before – I listen to their problems and they listen to what I want of them. “
A relatively high percentage of men attend Parent Effectiveness Training courses. What did the respondents think a) attracted men to the courses;

Respondents felt that men may see how effective the P.E.T. approach was when mothers attended the course first. Other reasons included: wanting to be better Dads, breaking the pattern from their own fathers, and an acknowledgement of the expectation of an increased role of fathers in their children’s lives.

and b) men found valuable about the P.E.T. course?

The most frequently theme was that men wanted to break the parenting pattern – that they wanted a different or better relationship than that with their father. This was followed by improvement in relationships, with both children and partner; and a third theme was the skills learnt in P.E.T.
  • “It [P.E.T.] helps break the paradigm that fathers are supposed to be authoritarian and disciplinarian”
  • “That it's not about being permissive or strict, and that we don't have to hide our true emotions from our children."
  • Men want an alternative to being, or being seen as, authoritarian or the ‘disciplinarian’
  • That men value the P.E.T. approach, with the emphasis on relationship skills and listening skills
  • The respondents retained many of the communication skills taught in P.E.T.
  • That relationships with their children (and partners), are important to fathers
  • the high response rate may reflect the value the respondents felt they gained from attending a P.E.T. course
  • That fathers were not discouraged from attending a parenting course if it was called Parent Effectiveness Training, and in fact may be attracted to its name, skills and philosophy.
  • Although the education level of respondents was greater than the Australian average, (reflecting Canberra’s demographic), there was still a desire and/or need to attend a parenting course such as P.E.T. Such courses must therefore be universally available, to help families throughout Australia.
Lundahl, BW, Tollefson, D, Risser, H, Lovejoy, M. 2008. A Meta-Analysis of Father Involvement in Parent Training. Research on Social Work Practice.