Sep 30, 2009

Why Parents Should Learn Active Listening

Active Listening facilitates problem-solving by the child.

We know that people do a better job of thinking a problem through and toward a solution when they can "talk it out" as opposed to merely thinking about it. Because Active Listening is so effective in facilitating talking, it helps a person in his search for solutions to his problems. Everybody had heard such expressions as "Let me use you as a sounding board" or "I'd like to kick this problem around with you" or "Maybe it would help me to talk it out with you."

Active Listening influences the child to be more willing to listen to parents' thoughts and ideas.

It is a universal experience that when someone will listen to one's own point of view, it is then easier to listen to his. Children are more likely to open themselves up to receive their parents' messages if their parents first hear them out. When parents complain that their kids don't listen to them, it's a good bet that the parents are not doing an effective job of listening to the kids.

Active Listening "keeps the ball with the child."

When parents respond to their kids' problems by Active Listening, they will observe how often kids start thinking for themselves. A child will start to analyze his problem on his own, eventually arriving at some constructive solutions. Active Listening encourages the child to think for himself, to find his own diagnosis of his problem, to discover his own solutions. Active Listening conveys trust, while messages of advice, logic, instruction, and the like convey distrust by taking over the problem-solving responsibility from the child. Active Listening is therefore one of the most effective ways of helping a child become more self-directing, self-responsible, and independent.

Remember to always be Active Listening!

Sep 29, 2009

What are the Advantages to Active Listening?

Active Listening helps children become less afraid of negative feelings.

"Feelings are friendly" is an expression we use in our classes to help parents come to realize feelings are not "bad". When a parent shows by Active Listening that he accepts a child's feelings, the child is also helped to accept them. He learns from the parent's response that feelings are friendly.

Active Listening promotes a relationship of warmth between parent and child.

The experience of being heard and understood by another person is so satisfying that it invariably makes the sender feel warm toward the listener. Children, particularly, respond with loving ideas and feelings. Similar feelings are evoked within the listener--he begins to feel warmer and closer to the sender. When one listens empathically and accurately to another, he gets to understand that person, to appreciate his way of looking at the world--in a sense, he becomes that person during the period of putting himself in his shoes. Invariably, by allowing oneself to "get inside" the other person, one produces feelings of closeness, caring and love. To empathize with another is to see him as a separate person, yet be willing to join with him or be with him. It means "becoming a companion" to him for a brief period in his journey through life. Such an act involves deep caring and love. Parents who learn empathic Active Listening discover a new kind of appreciation and respect, a deeper feeling of caring; in turn, the child responds to the parent with similar feelings.

More tomorrow on a few more reasons why Active Listening is important.

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's book, Parent Effectiveness Training, P.E.T.

Sep 28, 2009

Why Should Parents Learn Active Listening?

Some parents who are introduced to this skill in our P.E.T. course say:

"It seems so unnatural to me."
"That isn't the way people talk."
"What's the purpose of Active Listening?"
"I'd feel like a dork responding to my kid that way."
"My daughter would think I flipped my lid if I started to use
Active Listening with her."

These are understandable reactions because parents are so accustomed to telling, preaching, questioning, judging, threatening, admonishing, or reassuring. IT is certainly natural for them to ask if it will be worth the trouble to change and learn Active Listening?

One of the more skeptical fathers in a P.E.T. class became convinced after an experience with his daughter, aged fifteen, during the week following the class session in which he was introduced to this new way of listening.

"I want to report to the class an amazing experienced I had this week. My daughter, Roxanne, and I haven't said a civil word to each other for about two years, except maybe, 'Pass the bread', or 'Can I have the salt and pepper?' The other night she and her boyfriend were sitting at the table in the kitchen when I came home. I overheard my daughter telling her boyfriend how much she hated school and how she was disgusted with most of her girlfriends. I decided right then and there I would sit down and do nothing but active listen, even if it killed me. Now, I"m not going to say I did a perfect job, but I surprised myself. I wasn't too bad. Well, will you believe it, they both started talking to me and never stopped for two hours. I learned more about my daughter and what she is like in those two hours than I had in the past five years. On top of that, the rest of the week she was downright friendly to me. What a change!"

This amazed father is not unique. Many parents have immediate success when they try out this listening skill. Even before they acquire a reasonable level of competence at Active Listening, they often report some startling results.

Many people think that they can get rid of their feelings by suppressing them, forgetting them, or thinking about something else. Actually, people free themselves of troublesome feelings when they are encouraged to express them openly. Active Listening fosters this kind of catharsis. It helps children to find out exactly what they are feeling. After they express their feelings, the feelings often seem to disappear almost like magic.

Find out tomorrow other reasons why parents should learn Active Listening.

Sep 24, 2009

Do Families Need Rules?

All groups, of whatever size or nature, need laws, regulations, rules, policies, and standard operating procedures. Without them, groups may very well fall into confusion, chaos and conflict. The functions that rules and policies can serve are indispensable. They can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts between people; define rights and privileges; legislate what is considered appropriate, fair and equitable in human relationships; and provide guidelines to help people know what limits they must set on their own behavior.

The issue is not whether groups need rules. They do need them. The real issue is how to motivate all group members to comply with them.

At some time in our lives we all have felt unmotivated to comply with some rule or policy that we had no voice in making. Denied the opportunity to participate in establishing a rule, most people feel imposed upon and resentful of the new rule. But when people actively participate in setting a rule or making a decision that will affect them, they are more highly motivated to comply with it. We call this the Principle of Participation, and it has proven its effectiveness in numerous research studies.

When children are given the opportunity to participate in setting rules or making decisions that will affect them, several good things happen. Children feel better about themselves, have higher self-esteem and self-confidence. Most important, they feel they have gained more "fate control"--more personal control over their own lives. They also feel they are equal members of the family with an equal voice in making decisions and establishing rules--they're part of a team, not second-class citizens. This means that families that function collaboratively and democratically will have closer and warmer relationships than those in which the adults act as bosses or authorities expecting the children to obey the rules made for them.

Another important reason for encouraging the full participation of family members in decision making is that it often produces higher-quality solutions to problems. Two heads (or three, or four) are better than one; shared decisions will be based not only on the knowledge and experience of the adults but also on the knowledge and experience of the children.

The admonition "Father knows best", which implies that father knows better than son or daughter, should be challenged with the more reasonable, "Yes, but does father know better than father and children?"

Enlisting the participation of children in rule-setting results in important benefits:
  • A higher motivation on the part of all family members to implement or comply with the rules
  • Decisions of higher quality
  • Closer, warmer relationships between family members
  • Higher self-esteem, self-confidence, and sense of control over fate on the part of the children
  • More personal responsibility and self-discipline
  • Less need for parents to enforce compliance
Obviously, not all decisions that affect the family are open for participative rule-setting and decision-making. These will be issues that don't affect all the family members or issues that are not negotiable (because they're against the law, etc.). In other words, some issues will be outside the Area of Freedom for family rule-setting and decision-making. For example, how the family income gets spent, whether one of the parents looks for another job or if and what kind of exercise family members get are probably outside the Area of Freedom of other family members to decide.

The most important rule of thumb is that family rule-setting and decision-making meetings should include all the members who will be affected by the rule or decision, and only those members.

It's important that your family agree on which issues, situations and tasks are within the Area of Freedom of the family members.

The list of items that potentially can be handled by participative rule-setting or decision making are many and vary from family to family.

Here's a list of just some of the issues that lend themselves to family rule-setting and decision-making:
  • Bedtime
  • Household chores
  • Ownership and care of pets
  • Yard work
  • How to spend family vacation time, holidays or other free time
  • Use of car/s, bicycles, etc.
  • Allowances
  • TV watching
  • Use of computer
Please Note: Participative Rule-Setting requires some communication skills that you will can learn in the P.E.T. program. These skills are:
  • Expressing your needs and problems
  • Hearing others when they have needs or problems
  • Solving problems and conflicts

Sep 23, 2009

Why are I-Messages More Effective?

I-Messages are more effective in influencing a child to modify behavior that is unacceptable to the parent as well as healthier for the child and the parent-child relationship.

The I-Message is much less apt to provoke resistance and rebellion. To communicate to a child honestly the effect of her behavior on you is far less threatening than to suggest that there is something bad about her because she engaged in that behavior. Think of the significant difference in a child's reaction to these two messages, sent by a parent after a child kicks her in the shins:

"Ouch! That really hurt me--I don't like to be kicked."
"That's being a very bad girl. Don't you ever kick anybody like that!"

The first message only tells the child how her kick made you feel, a fact with which she can hardly argue. The second tells the child that she was "bad" and warns her not to do it again, both of which she can argue against and probably resist strongly.

I-Messages are also infinitely more effective because they place responsibility within the child for modifying her behavior. "Ouch! That really hurt me" and "I don't like to be kicked" tell the child how you feel, yet leave her to be responsible for doing something about it.

Consequently, I-Messages help a child grow, help her learn to assume responsibility for her own behavior. An I-Message tells a child that you are leaving the responsibility with her, trusting her to handle the situation constructively, trusting her to respect your needs, giving her a chance to start behaving constructively.

Because I-Messages are honest, they tend to influence children to send similar honest messages whenever they have a feeling. I-Messages from one person in a relationship promote I-Messages from the other.

Sep 22, 2009

What is a Suitable Code?

In yesterday's post, we discussed the difference from a You-Message and an I-Message. Today, we determine what this looks like as a suitable code.

Here's an example:

For the parent who is tired and does not feel like playing with her five-year-old child, the encoding process is--

PARENT - Tired - (Encoding process) = (Code) "I am tired"

But if this parent selects a code that is "you" - oriented, she would not be coding her "feeling tired" accurately:

CHILD - Parent being Tired - (Encoding process) = (Code) "You are being a pest"

"You are being a pest" is a very poor code for the parent's tired feeling. A code that is clear and accurate would always be an I-Message: "I am tired," "I don't feel up to playing," "I want to rest." This communicates the feeling the parent is experiencing. A You-Message code does not send the feeling. It refers much more to the child than to the parent. A You-Message is child-oriented, not parent-oriented.

Remember to always use I-Messages!

*Excerpt from Dr. Gordon's book, Parent Effectiveness Training, P.E.T.

Sep 21, 2009

Do You Use I-Messages?

You-Messages and I-Messages

An easy way for parents to see the difference between ineffective and effective confrontation is to think sending either You-Messages or I-Messages. When we ask parents to examine the previously noted ineffective messages, they are surprised to discover that almost all begin with the word "You" or contain that word. All these messages are "You" - oriented:

You stop that.
You shouldn't do that.
Don't you ever...
If you don't stop that, then...
Why don't you do this?
You are naught.
You are acting like a baby.
You want attention.
Why don't you be good?
You should know better.

But when a parent simply tells a child how some unacceptable behavior is making the parent feel, the message generally turns out to be an I-Message.

"I don't feel like playing when I'm tired."
"I feel frustrated when I come to pick you up and you're not there."
"I sure get discouraged when I see the mess in the kitchen after I just cleaned it up."

Parents readily understand the difference between I-Messages and You-Messages, but its full significance is appreciated only after we return to the diagram of the communication process, first introduced to explain Active Listening. It helps parents appreciate the importance of I-Messages.

When a child's behavior is unacceptable to a parent because in some tangible way it interferes with the parent's enjoyment of life or her right to satisfy her own needs, the parent clearly "owns" the problem. She is upset, disappointed, tired, worried, harassed, burdened, etc., and to let the child know what is inside her, the parent must select a suitable code.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, which explains what a "suitable code" is and how to decipher them.

Sep 17, 2009

Do You Plan Ahead?

Here is a quick re-cap of the first seven methods of changing unacceptable behavior by changing the environment:
  1. Enriching the environment.
  2. Impoverishing it.
  3. Simplifying it.
  4. Restricting it.
  5. Child-proofing it.
  6. Substituting one activity for another.
  7. Preparing the child for changes in her environment.
Now, we have reached the eighth and final method:

Planning Ahead With Other Children

Conflicts can be prevented by thoughtfully arranging the environment of teenagers, too. They also need adequate space for their personal belongings, privacy, opportunity for independent activity. Here are suggestions for "enlarging your area of acceptance" for older children:
  • Provide the child with her own alarm clock.
  • Provide adequate closet space with numerous hooks.
  • Establish a message center in the home.
  • Provide a child with her own personal calendar for recording commitments.
  • Go over instructions on new appliances together.
  • Inform children ahead of time when you expect guests, so that they know when to clean up their rooms.
  • Provide a house key on a fun key ring the choose.
  • Give allowance monthly, instead of weekly, and agree ahead of time what things a child is not expected to purchase out of her allowance.
  • Discuss in advance such complicated matters as the curfew, auto liability insurance, responsibility in case of auto accidents, use of alcohol and drugs, and so on.
  • When a teenager is doing her own laundry, make the job easier by having all necessary equipment and supplies readily available.
  • Suggest that a child always carry a phone card for an emergency telephone call.
  • Tell a child what foods in the refrigerator are earmarked for guests.
  • Have a child write out a list of friends and their telephone numbers, in case the child has to be located unexpectedly.
  • Give a child advance notice whenever special work needs to be done to prepare for company.
  • Encourage a child to work out a personal list and time schedule for things to do to prepare for a family trip.
  • Encourage a child to read the morning weather forecast in the paper (or listen on TV or radio) as a guide for what to wear to school.
  • Tell a child ahead of time that bathtime and bedtime will be earlier than normal because you need to work at home on a project without interruption.
  • Tell children well in advance when you are going out of town so they can make their own plans for activities.
  • Teach a child how to take phone messages.
  • Always knock before entering a child's room.
  • Include children in discussions involving family plans that will affect them.
Most parents can think of many other examples in each of these categories. The more parents use environmental modification, the more enjoyable living with their children can be and the less parents need to confront the kids.

Are there other suggestions for "enlarging your area of acceptance" for your child(ren)? If so, please share with all of us!

We love to hear your feedback!

Sep 16, 2009

Are You Prepared?

The seventh method of changing unacceptable behavior by changing the environment is:

Preparing The Child For Changes In The Environment

Many unacceptable behaviors can be prevented by preparing the child ahead of time for changes in her environment. If her usual baby-sitter is unable to come on Friday, start talking with the child on Wednesday about the new babysitter who is going to come. If you are going to spend your vacation at the beach, prepare the child weeks ahead for some of the things she is going to encounter--sleeping in a strange bed, meeting new friends, not having her bicycle with her, the big waves, proper behavior in a boat, and so on.

Children have an amazing capacity to adjust comfortably to changes, if parents would only discuss these things ahead of time. This holds true even when children may have to suffer some pain or discomfort, as in the case of going to the doctor to get shots. Discussing hurt for a second, can do wonders to help them cope with such a situation when it occurs.

Remember to always prepare!

Tomorrow's post is the eight and final method of changing the environment:

Planning Ahead With Other Children

Sep 15, 2009

May I Trade With You?

The sixth method of changing unacceptable behavior by changing the environment is:

Substituting One Activity For Another

If a child is playing with a sharp knife, offer her a dull one. If she is bent on examining the contents of your cosmetic drawer, give her some empty bottles or cartons to play with on the floor. If she is about to rip out pages in a magazine you wish to keep, give her one you don't want. If she wants to draw with a crayon on your wallpaper, get her a large piece of wrapping paper to draw on.

Failure to offer a child an alternative before taking something away from her will generally produce frustration and tears. But children frequently accept a substitute without fuss, provided the parent offers it gently and calmly.

Let's trade!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, the seventh method:

Preparing the Child for Changes in the Environment

*An excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's book, PE.T., Parent Effectiveness Training

Sep 14, 2009

Is Your Child's Environment Child-Proof?

There are eight methods of changing unacceptable behavior by changing the environment. We have discussed four of the methods thus far:
  1. Enriching the environment.
  2. Impoverishing it.
  3. Simplifying it.
  4. Restricting it.
Now, we move on to the fifth method:

Child-proofing it

Child-Proofing the Environment

Although most parents remove medicines, sharp knives, and dangerous chemicals from the reach of children, a more thorough job of child-proofing might include such things as:
  • Turning pot handles to the back of the stove when cooking.
  • Buying unbreakable cups and glasses
  • Putting matches out of reach.
  • Repairing frayed electric cords and plugs.
  • Keeping the basement door locked.
  • Removing expensive breakable objects.
  • Locking up sharp tools.
  • Putting a rubber mat in the bathtub.
  • Making upstairs screens secure.
  • Storing slippery throw rugs.
Each family should conduct its own child-proofing inspection. With very little trouble most parents can find many ways to child-proof the home more thoroughly to prevent behaviors that would be unacceptable to them.

Happy child-proofing!

Sep 10, 2009

What is "Limiting the Child's Life Space" mean?

The fourth method of changing unacceptable behavior by changing the environment is:

Restricting it

Limiting the Child's Life Space

Placing an unacceptably behaving child in a playpen, is an attempt to limit the child's "life space" so that her subsequent behaviors will be acceptable to the parent. Fenced-in backyards are effective in preventing such behavior as running out into the street, walking through the neighbor's flower garden, getting lost, and so on.

Some parents designate a special area in the house where the child is permitted to play with clay, to paint, to cut up paper, or to glue, limiting such messy activities to that special area. Special areas can also be designated as places for children to be noisy, roughhouse, dig in the mud, and so on.

Children generally accept such limitations of their life space, provided they seem reasonable and leave children considerable freedom to meet their own needs. Sometimes a child will resist the limitation and cause conflict with the parent.

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training book

Sep 9, 2009

How Do I Simplify the Environment?

Let's do a quick re-cap on the first two methods of changing unacceptable behavior by changing the environment:
  1. Enriching the environment
  2. Impoverishing the environment
Which, leads us to the third method:

Simplifying the Environment

Children often engage in "unacceptable behavior because their environment is too difficult and complex for them; they pester the parent for help, give up an activity entirely, show aggression, throw things on the floor, whine, run away, cry.

The home environment needs to be modified in many ways to make it easier for a child to do things for herself, to manipulate objects safely, and to avoid frustration that comes when she cannot control her own environment. Many parents consciously make an effort to simplify the child's environment by:
  • Buying clothes that are for the child to put on by herself.
  • Providing a stool or box the child can stand on to reach her clothes in the closet and the bathroom faucet.
  • Purchasing child-sized eating implements.
  • Putting closet hooks at a low level.
  • Buying unbreakable cups and glasses.
  • Nailing a door handle on screen doors low enough for the child to reach.
  • Putting washable paint or wall covering on the walls of the child's room.
Easy enough! Let's simplify the environment for our child(ren)!

Sep 8, 2009

What is the Second Method of Changing the Environment?

To continue with the different methods of changing unacceptable behavior by changing the environment, we move on to the second method:

Impoverishing the Environment

At times children need an environment with few stimuli--for example just before bedtime. Parents, especially fathers, sometimes overstimulate their children before bedtime or mealtime and then expect them suddenly to become quiet and controlled. These are times when the child's environment should be impoverished, not enriched. Much of the storm and stress that occurs at these times could be avoided if parents made an effort to reduce the stimulation of the child's environment.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post--The third method of changing the environment:

Simplifying the Environment

*An excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's book, P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training

Sep 3, 2009

What is the First Method of Changing the Environment?

As we briefly discussed on yesterday's post, it is essential to change unacceptable behavior by changing the environment. The first method of changing the environment:

Enriching the Environment

Every good nursery school teacher knows that one effective way of stopping or preventing unacceptable behavior is to provide children with a great many interesting things to do--enrich their environment with play materials, reading materials, games, clay, dolls, puzzles, and so on. Effective parents, too, make use of this principle: if children are involved in something interesting, they are likely to "get into things" or pester parents.

Some of our parents in training have reported excellent results from setting up a special area in the garage or in a corner of the backyard and designating it as a place where the child is free to dig, pound, build, paint, mess, and create. The parents select a place where the child can do almost anything she wants to do without damaging anything.

Car trips are times when kids especially "bug" their parents. Some families make certain that their children have play materials, games, and puzzles that will keep them from becoming bored or restless.

Most parents know that their children are less likely to behave unacceptable if arrangements are made to have friends and playmates come over to the house. Frequently, two or three children will find it easier to find "acceptable" things to do than will a child alone.

Easels for painting, clay for modeling, puppet theaters for putting on shows, a doll family and a dollhouse, Play-Doh, finger paints for smearing, fun card games--all these can greatly reduce aggressive, restless, or troublesome behavior. Too often parents forget that children need interesting and challenging activities to keep them occupied, just as adults do.

Tomorrow, we discuss the second method of changing the environment: Impoverishing the environment

Sep 2, 2009

Do You Need to Change Your Environment?

Changing Unacceptable Behavior by Changing the Environment

Not enough parents try to change the behavior of their children by changing their children's surroundings.

Environmental modification is used more with infants and small children than with older children because, as kids get older, parents start relying more on verbal methods, especially those that "put down" a child or threaten her with parental power; they neglect environmental modification and try to talk the child out of unacceptable behavior. This is unfortunate, since environmental modication is often very simple and extremely effective with children of all ages.

Parents begin using this method more extensively once they become aware of its wide range of possibilities:
  1. Enriching the environment.
  2. Impoverishing it.
  3. Simplifying it.
  4. Restricting it.
  5. Child-proofing it.
  6. Substituting one activity for another.
  7. Preparing the child for changes in her environment.
  8. Planning ahead with older children.
More tomorrow on the first method: Enriching the environment

Stay tuned!

Sep 1, 2009

Does a Parent Run Out of Power?

Parents Inevitably Run Out of Power

Using power to control children works only under special conditions. The parent must be sure to possess the power--the rewards have to be attractive enough to be wanted by the child and the punishments have to be potent enough to warrant avoidance. The child must be dependent upon the parent; the more the child depends on what the parent possesses (rewards), the more power the parent has.

This is true in all human relationships. If I need something very badly--say money to buy food for my children--and I must depend solely on another person for money--probably my employer, then obviously he will have a great deal of power over me. If I am dependent on this one employer, I will be inclined to do almost anything he wants in order to insure getting what I need so desperately. But a person has power over another only as long as the second is in a position of weakness, want, need, deprivation, helplessness, dependency.

As a child becomes less helpless, less dependent upon the parent for what she needs, the parent gradually loses power. This is why parents discover to their dismay that rewards and punishment that worked when their child was younger, become less effective as she grows older.

Parents express feelings that most parents experience as their children begin to grow out of their dependency. This inevitably occurs as children approach adolescence. Now they can acquire many rewards from their own activities (school, sports, friends, achievements). They also begin to figure out ways to avoid their parents' punishments. In those families where the parents have relied principally on power to control and direct their children throughout their early years, the parents inevitably come in for a rude shock when their power runs out and they are left with little or no influence.