Sep 29, 2008

A word about P.E.T. from Dr. Thomas Gordon's daughter, Michelle

Being raised with P.E.T. was a blessing for which I am eternally grateful. What did P.E.T. do for me? Here are a few things:

1. Because I was listened to with respect and love, I learned that my ideas and feelings count, and I stand up for myself as a result.

2. Because I was confronted in a way that didn’t belittle or scare me, I was more open and willing to listen to them and I learned that my parents have needs, too, and that it was fair for me to listen to them as they listened to me.

3. Because I was included in decision-making, I learned that I have a voice—that my opinion matters. And I feel A LOT more motivated to carry out the solution when I helped create it.

4. Because I wasn’t spanked, and was confronted with I-Messages (and sometimes they were heated, intense I-Messages) instead, I learned that you can solve problems without force, fear, or physical punishment.

5. Because they didn’t simply tell me what to do, and instead talked openly with me about any problems they had with my behavior, I learned how to be self-directed—to police myself, if you will. This has helped me throughout my entire life, because I don’t wait to be rescued by others when I need help—instead, I look inside. And I know I can succeed because my P.E.T. parents supported me, encouraged me, and trusted me to find the best solution to life’s problems. And the love, respect, and trust that P.E.T. has created for me with my family and friends—it’s amazing. It’s hard work, and it takes time and patience, and there are times when I have frustrating exchanges with friends and family. At those times when I “lose” my skills in the heat of the moment, I know we’ll be okay…we can go back and clean it up. I can’t imagine my life without these skills. I wish every kid (and parent) on the planet could have P.E.T. in their lives.

Sep 25, 2008

The Power of the Language of Acceptance

By Thomas Gordon, Ph.D. (author of P.E.T., founder of Gordon Training International)

When people are able to feel and communicate genuine acceptance of another, they possess a capacity for being an effective helping agent for the other. Acceptance of the other, as s/he is, fosters a relationship in which the other person can grow, develop, make constructive changes, learn to solve problems, move in the direction of psychological health, become more productive and creative. It is one of those simple but beautiful paradoxes of life: When a person feels truly accepted by another, then that person is freed to move from there and to begin to think about how to change, how to grow, how to become different, how to become more of what s/he is capable of being.

Acceptance is like the fertile soil that permits a tiny seed to develop into the lovely flower it is capable of becoming. The soil only enables the seed to become the flower. It releases the capacity of the seed to grow, but the capacity is entirely within the seed. As with the seed, a child contains the capacity to develop. Acceptance is like the soil--it merely enables the child to actualize his/her potential.

Why is parental acceptance such a significant positive influence on children? This is not generally understood by parents. Most people have been brought up to believe that if you accept children they will remain just the way they are; and the best way to help children become something better in the future is to tell them what you don't accept about them now.

Therefore, most parents rely heavily on the language of unacceptance in rearing children, believing this is the best way to help them. The soil that most parents provide for their children's growth is heavy with evaluation, judgment, criticism, preaching, moralizing, admonishing, commanding and punishing--messages that convey unacceptance of their children.

The language of acceptance opens kids up. It frees them to share their feelings and problems. Professional therapists and counselors have shown just how powerful such acceptance can be. Those therapists and counselors who are most effective are the ones who can convey to the people who come to them for help that they are truly accepted. This is why one often hears people say that in counseling or therapy they felt totally free of the counselor's judgment. They report that they experienced a freedom to share the worst about themselves because they felt their counselor would accept them no matter what they said or felt. Such acceptance is one of the most important elements contributing to the growth and change that takes place in people through counseling and therapy.

Of all the effects of acceptance none is as important as the feeling of being loved. For to accept others as they are is truly an act of love; to feel accepted is to feel loved. And in psychology, we have only begun to realize the tremendous power of feeling loved: It can promote the growth of mind and body, and is probably the most effective therapeutic force we know for repairing both psychological and physical damage. Your use of Active Listening and the other helping skills can communicate your acceptance and understanding of the significant people in your life

Sep 18, 2008

Should I Be a Strict or Lenient Parent?

To be strict or not to be strict, that is the question - in fact, it's the number-one question among child-rearing and education authorities, among teachers and, of course, parents. It's doubtful that there is a parent who hasn't at one time or another agonized over this.

There is a widespread uncertainty on how to be at home (or how to come across in the classroom) - tough or soft, to be a strict disciplinarian or a permissivist. Have you noticed, however, that you seldom hear a parent or teacher admit "I am authoritarian" or "I am permissive"? These are terms reserved for those with whom you disagree.

The question, whether to be strict or lenient, never ceases to be debated in books and articles, or at conferences and conventions. Dr. Gordon points out that this question is what social scientists call a "pseudo problem" and how it also is a clear case of "either-or thinking". Let's take a look at what he means by that.

Seldom parents or teachers seem to recognize that it is not necessary to make a choice between these two leadership styles. Few adults know it, but there is an alternative to being at either end of the strictness-leniency scale. There is the choice of a third style.

This alternative is being neither authoritarian nor permissive, neither strict nor lenient. Does that mean being somewhere near the middle of the scale--moderately strict or moderately lenient? Not at all. The alternative is not being on the scale at all! How so?

Authoritarian leadership--whether at home or in the classroom--means that the control is in the hands of the adult leader. It has been researched and proven for decades how ineffective maintaining control through power is. Authoritarianism often creates fearful and subservient children and/or rebellion.

Still, no parent or teacher really wants to suffer the chaotic consequences of unrestricted freedom and lawless permissiveness either. It's also true that most children are uncomfortable with the consequences of permissiveness. Permissive leadership means that control has been "permitted" to be in the hands of the youngsters. Children of permissive parents usually feel guilty about always getting their way. They also feel insecure about being loved, because their inconsiderate behaviors make them feel unlovable.

So what is that third viable alternative to both, authoritarian and permissive adult leadership? It's what Dr. Gordon in detail describes in his model of parenting, a set of skills and methods known as Parent Effectiveness Training that are geared toward rearing self-disciplined children in a harmonious family climate.

For now, let's just emphasize that this new approach to relating to youngsters requires a transformation in the way adults perceive children, as well as a shift in the way they treat them. This transformation can be accomplished by learning a few new skills and methods that are applied in everyday life.

This blog will describe and examine each of these skills and methods in its future editions and hopefully contribute to you having a more harmonious and peaceful home.

Sep 16, 2008

Children Don't Misbehave

By Thomas Gordon, Ph.D. (author of P.E.T., founder of Gordon Training International)

If parents only knew how much trouble this word "misbehavior" causes in families! Thinking in terms of children misbehaving not only spells trouble for the kids, obviously, but it brings on unnecessary problems for their parents.

Why is this so? What is wrong with thinking and saying that your child misbehaved? Every parent does. Yes, and their parents before them did. In fact, the origin of the concept of child misbehavior goes back so far in history it is doubtful if anyone actually knows when it started or why. It's so common nobody thinks to question it.

Strangely enough, the term misbehavior is almost exclusively applied to children--seldom to adults, friends, spouses. Have you ever overheard someone say, "My husband misbehaved yesterday," "I took my friend to lunch and got so angry at her misbehavior," "My team members have been misbehaving," or "Our guests misbehaved at our party last night"? Apparently, then, only children are seen as misbehaving--no one else misbehaves.

Misbehavior then is "parent language", tied up somehow with the way parents traditionally have viewed their offspring. Parents say children misbehave whenever their actions (or their behaviors) are contrary to how parents think their children ought to act or behave. More accurately, misbehavior is behavior that produces some sort of bad consequences for the parent.

Misbehaving = Child is doing something that is bad for the parent

On the other hand, when a child engages in behavior that does not bring bad consequences for the parent, that child is described as "behaving."

"Jack was well-behaved at the store"; "We try to teach our children to behave"; "Behave yourself!"

Now we have:

Behaving = Child is doing something that is acceptable to the parent.

All Behaviors are Solutions to Human Needs

Family life would be infinitely less exasperating for parents and more enjoyable for children as well if parents accepted these basic principles about children:

Principle 1:
Like adults, children have basic needs that are important to them, and they continually strive to meet their needs by doing something.

Principle 2:
Children don't misbehave. Their behaviors are simply actions they have chosen to meet these important needs.

These principles suggest that all children's actions are behaviors. Viewed in this way, all day long a child is behaving, and for the very same reason all other creatures engage in behaviors--they are trying to get their needs met.

This does not mean, however, that parents will like all the behaviors their children engage in. Nor should they be expected to, for the children are bound to do things that sometimes produce unacceptable consequences for their parents. Kids can be loud and destructive, delay you when you're in a hurry, pester you when you need quiet, cause you extra work, clutter up the home, interrupt your conversation, and break your valuables.

Think about such behaviors this way: they are behaviors children are engaging in to meet their needs. If at the same time they happen to interfere with your pursuit of pleasure, that doesn't mean children are misbehaving. Rather, their particular way of behaving is unacceptable to you. Don't interpret that children are trying to do something to you--they are only trying to do something for themselves. And this does not make them bad children or misbehaving children. But it may cause you a problem.

An infant cries because she is hungry or cold, or in pain. Something is wrong; her organism needs something. Crying behavior is the baby's way of saying, "Help." Such behavior, in fact, should be viewed as quite appropriate ("good"), for the crying is apt to bring the child the help that is needed. When you view the child as a creature that is doing something appropriate to get its needs met, you can't really call it misbehaving.

If parents would strike the word "misbehaving" from their vocabulary, they would rarely feel judgmental and angry. Consequently, then they would not feel like retaliating with punishment. However, all parents do need to learn some effective methods of modifying behaviors that interfere with their needs and causes them a problem, but labeling the child as misbehaving is not one of them.