Jun 17, 2014

The Real Reason Why Kids "Give Up" Learning an Instrument

We're lucky and honored to feature many of our P.E.T. Instructors as "guest bloggers" here on the P.E.T. Blog. Check out what Certified Instructor - Jen Kovarovic - has to say about her complementing roles as a P.E.T Instructor and as a violin teacher.
In addition to being an authorized P.E.T. instructor, I am a Suzuki violin teacher, instructing budding musicians as young as age three. A hallmark of the Suzuki approach is the active participation of parents during lessons and at-home practice sessions, and my job as the teacher is to train the parents for their role. It became clear in my teaching that the obstacles parents were facing had nothing to do with the technicalities of learning the violin, or anything ever addressed in my music education training. They were butting up against the very nature of their family dynamics, with problems showing up as power struggles around practicing, competing demands for a family’s time and energy, and so many other conflicts.

In 2008, I began including P.E.T. in the curriculum for families in my violin studio. I have always opened the class to violin families as well as other participants, and nothing in how I run the course is violin-specific. But what I found is that the tools parents took away (such as I-statements, active listening and problem-solving) began to seep into their violin studies, diffusing the tension around practicing. With P.E.T. skills replacing power struggles, both parents and children were able to remember the love of music that drove them to pursue the violin in the first place.

Too many music students quit for the wrong reasons—not because they lose their love for the instrument or embrace another activity, but because the process becomes too unpleasant for the family. In my studio, I have seen the power of P.E.T. to address these all-too-common roadblocks, thereby allowing a family to enjoy music together again. Violin is just one of many activities in a child’s life that calls for discipline and hard work, and any one of those pursuits—in arts, sports, academics or elsewhere—is bound to bring up the same pitfalls that I see in my music studio. I can only hope that more teachers and families embrace P.E.T. as a way to support the hard, valuable work they are doing in their chosen fields.
Jen Kovarovic is the founder of Suzuki by the Sound, a violin studio in Seattle. Her next P.E.T. course runs this summer, Wednesday nights from July 2 to August 27, 2014.

For more information on Jen's upcoming P.E.T. class, email: family@gordontraining.com.

Feb 24, 2014

What This Child Wished For

One of our Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) Instructors in Australia shared a heart-warming note to Santa written by her 11-year-old daughter, Aithne. 

If only all parents could read this one...

Jan 30, 2014

The Characteristics of a Helping Relationship

image via Wikipedia.com
In almost every phase of our lives - at home, at school, at work - we find ourselves under the rewards and punishments of external judgments. "That's good;" "that's naughty;" "that's worth an A;" "that's failure;" "that's good counseling;" "that's poor counseling." Such judgments are a part of our lives from infancy to old age. I believe they have a certain social usefulness to institutions and organizations such as schools and professors. Like everyone else, I find myself all too often making such evaluations. But in my experience, they do not make for personal growth, and hence I do not believe that they are a part of a helping relationship. Curiously enough, a positive evaluation is as threatening in the long run as a negative one, since to inform someone that she is good implies that you also have the right to tell her she is bad. So I have come to feel that the more I can keep a relationship free of judgement and evaluation, the more this will permit the other person to reach the point where she recognizes that the locus of evaluation, the center of responsibility, lies within herself. The meaning and value of her experience is, in the last analysis, something which is up to her, and no amount of external judgement can alter this. So I should like to work toward a relationship in which I am not, even in my own feelings, evaluating her. This I believe can set her free to be a self-responsible person. 

Can I meet this other individual as a person who is in the process of becoming, or will I be bound by her past and mine?

If in my encounter with her, I am dealing with her as an immature child, an ignorant student, a neurotic personality or a psychopath, each of these concepts of mine limits what she can be in the relationship...If I accept her as a process of becoming, then I am doing what I can to confirm or make her real potentialities.

Written by Carl R. Rogers, Ph.D., 
Excerpts reprinted with permission of the author in the Parent Effectiveness Training workbook

Dec 11, 2013

Christmas Gifts You Wish They Hadn't Gotten

The ugly Bill Cosby sweater, the delicious fruit cake, the...gulp...Crocs! You know where I'm going with this - Every year, poor suckers everywhere become the reluctant recipients of such undesirable gifts. You don't quite know how to handle it, but the "put-a-smile-on-your-face-and-say-thank-you" voice in your head always chimes in. Maybe it's the hesitancy of shattering the look of excitement on your mother-in-law's face, or perhaps it's the guilt of seeming ungrateful, but one thing is for sure: we've all had our turn playing the part of the begrudgingly thankful beneficiary.

Such is the case with *certain* gifts that will inevitably be given to your children as well. Not the kangaroo underwear and socks combo from grandma (which is a whole other story), but the ones that you as the parent really wish your children hadn't received. Perhaps yours is the household that is overflowing with miniature toy cars and couldn't possibly make room for another. Or maybe you've been careful about what kinds of video games your children play with. In any case, most parents have at least one dreaded item on their "Please Don't Get This For My Kid" list.

But how do you tastefully tell someone what not to get your children? It seems so uncomfortable, so awkward...

Of course the best way to solve a problem is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. The Preventive I-Message is a tool used to communicate information and emotions in hopes to prevent a problem from happening in the future. Like all I-Messages, it should have three parts: (1) the behavior, (2) the feeling and (3) the effect. Letting people know all three components is critical, as it is the most effective way to let someone know exactly where you're coming from - and even - put them in your shoes.

Here's what it might look like:
We're nervous about Wyatt getting any more cars for Christmas because he already has so many that we can hardly keep up with the mess it creates when he plays with them. 
- or- 
Since he is so impressionable right now, we're worried that if Lucas gets that video game, we might have more issues at the playground if he tries to imitate the violence he sees from it. 
By communicating in this way, you're letting others in on some useful information about what is or isn't okay with you, which they may not have otherwise known. (And the same rule applies when you want to avoid being the recipient of a pair of monogrammed granny panties. We know, the ones from your birthday are gonna last you for years to come!)

Still, some people will be simply determined to get your kids what they want regardless of what you tell them and this won't always solve every instance of receiving unwanted gifts. But as Dr. Gordon wrote, "A Preventive I-Message in time might save nine [out of ten] confrontations."

This holiday season, give yourselves and your loved ones the gift of solving the problem before it happens. You may very well end up with one less item to add to the donation pile. We'll keep our fingers crossed for you. ;)

by: Selena George at Gordon Training International 

Sep 4, 2013

Greetings Fans o' PET! 

Some of you know what this is, some of you might not.  I think it's quite something. If you'd like a "fancy" copy sent to you via the post office, we'd be happy to mail you one.  Just email us and we will be happy to send you one.  

Okay, without further delay, here's one of Tom's masterpieces. Enjoy.  :) 

A Credo for My Relationships - by Dr. Thomas Gordon

You and I are in a relationship which I value and want to keep. We are also two separate persons with our own individual values and needs.

So that we will better know and understand what each of us values and needs, let us always be open and honest in our communication.

When you are experiencing a problem in your life, I will try to listen with genuine acceptance and understanding in order to help you find your own solutions rather than imposing mine. And I want you to be a listener for me when I need to find solutions to my problems.

At those times when your behavior interferes with what I must do to get my own needs met, I will tell you openly and honestly how your behavior affects me, trusting that you respect my needs and feelings enough to try to change the behavior that is unacceptable to me. Also, whenever some behavior of mine is unacceptable to you, I hope you will tell me openly and honestly so I can try to change my behavior.

And when we experience conflicts in our relationship, let us agree to resolve each conflict without either of us resorting to the use of power to win at the expense of the other’s losing. I respect your needs, but I also must respect my own. So let us always strive to search for a solution that will be acceptable to both of us. Your needs will be met, and so will mine—neither will lose, both will win.

In this way, you can continue to develop as a person through satisfying your needs, and so can I. Thus, ours can be a healthy relationship in which both of us can strive to become what we are capable of being. And we can continue to relate to each other with mutual respect, love and peace.

Thomas Gordon, Ph.D., Founder
©1964, 1978 Gordon Training International

Sent by Gordon Training International, the makers of P.E.T. (and L.E.T., Y.E.T., Be Your Best, T.E.T., Synergistic Selling)

Jul 31, 2013

Learning to Loosen the Apron Strings

My nephew is three years old and full of insatiable curiosity, as all children his age seem to be. Most members of my family imagine that watching him for an evening is not for the weak at heart, but personally, I jump at the opportunity to take care of him while my sister is away. He turns on and off the faucet to just to watch the water disappear through the drain. He walks through bushes and shrubs just to figure out if he can do it or not. If he bruises himself in the process of one of his experiments, I know it isn't something that he's going to do again. But if he is entertained and amused by the outcome of the enchanting physics of the world, then it's probably going to be something he will want to repeat ad nauseum. This is simply the essence of the inquisitive and absorptive mind of a young child. Which makes it all the more painful to watch when I witness my sister put a shrieking halt to a majority of his elementary investigations.

A hefty part of the idea here is understanding that not all behaviors of our children have a tangible and direct effect on you as a parent. Your daughter might get her hands a little dirty, her shirt a little stained or her socks a little wet (you get where I'm going with this) but stepping aside and realizing that no real harm is being done to them or you is the first step in understanding that you don't really have to say no to everything that they attempt to do. Upon this realization, you might even find that fewer and fewer behaviors become unacceptable to you (recall the "Behavior Window" from the P.E.T. book). 

Whatever it is that gets you to a place of broader acceptance and greater awareness of the intentions behind many of your child's behaviors will ultimately create a fertile context for them to learn and grow.

But here's why this one's hard:

Parents get caught up on the idea that their child might get hurt or experience some form of discomfort by participating in certain activities. It's true that there is some risk involved in almost everything, especially with the life-experience and stature of a child. Let me clarify one important idea here.

In the face of clear and apparent danger, the answer is always and without question, to do whatever means necessary in order to stop your child from serious harm. Yes, that might mean the use of your parental power. However, when it comes to the proverbial spilled milk that we as adults steer away from, the most powerful way to teach and influence your child is to first model your own behavior and then give them the opportunity to try it for themselves.

As they get older, the inevitable trials of life begin to get more and more complex. Getting a bad grade in school or resolving a conflict with a friend are two of the most common things that parents want to step in on and help their child through. Or shall we say, solve for them? While you might be jumping at the chance to provide your wisdom and assistance during times like these, you might actually be doing more harm than good. 

When asked for, advice can be helpful at times. But when your child is walking straight through a thorny bush for the first time (just as you did at their age), stop yourself and consider what lesson might be unfolding before you decide to step in and stop them. You just might be surprised with what it is they're learning. 

By: Selena C. George, Program Manager