Apr 29, 2010

Method III (Democratic): Nobody Loses, Both Win

Remember this part of the Credo:

At those times when one of us cannot change to meet the other's needs, let us acknowledge that we have a conflict and commit ourselves to resolve each such 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.

The Gordon Model teaches a non-power alternative to the two win-lose methods. It's called Method III--a method in which each conflict is seen as a problem to be solved. The people who have a conflict with each other--parent and child, spouses, coworkers--talk together in search of a solution that is acceptable to both so that no one loses; both win.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource book

Apr 28, 2010

The Disguised You-Message

Mr. G., the father of two adolescent boys, came to class and reported that his first attempt to put I-Messages to work has ended dismally.

"My son, Paul, contrary to what you told us, started sending his own You-Messages right back to me, like h always does."

"Did you send I-Messages yourself? asked the instructor.

"Of course--or I think I did; I tried to anyway," Mr. G. replied.

The instructor suggested acting out the situation in class--he would play the part of Paul and Mr. G. would be himself. After explaining the situation to the class, Mr. G. began to recapture the situation:

MR. G: I feel strongly that you have been neglectful of your chores.
PAUL: How's that?
MR. G: Well, take your job of mowing the lawn. I feel upset every time you goof off. Like last Saturday. I was angry at you because you sneaked off without mowing the backyard. I felt that was irresponsible and I was upset.

At this point, the instructor stopped the role-playing and said to Mr. G., "I did hear a lot of 'I feel's' from you, but let's ask the class if they heard anything else."

One of the fathers in the class immediately chimed in with, "In a few seconds, you told Paul he was neglectful, he was a goof-off, he was sneaky, and he was irresponsible."

"Wow. Did I? I guess maybe I did," Mr. G. said sheepishly. "those sound just like You-Messages."

Mr. G. was correct. He had made the mistake many parents initially make--sending You-Messages under the disguise of putting "I feel" in front of name-calling messages.

It sometimes takes this kind of re-enactment of a real situation for parents to see clearly that "I feel you are a slob" is just as much a You-Message as "You are a slob." Parents are instructed to drop the "I feel" and state what they did feel specifically--such as "I was disappointed," "I wanted the lawn to look nice Sunday," Or "I was upset because I thought we had agreed the lawn would be mowed Saturday."*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. book

Apr 22, 2010

What is the Principle of Participation?

Families Need Rules

All groups, of whatever size of nature, need laws and rules. Without them, groups may very well fall into confusion and conflict. The functions that rules can serve are essential. They can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts between people; define rights and privileges; establish 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 making 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.

When family members are given the opportunity to participate in setting rules, several good things happen. They are: (1) a higher motivation on the part of all family members to carry out or comply with the rules; (2) better decisions; (3) closer, warmer relationships between family members; (4) higher self-esteem, self-confidence, and sense of control over fate; (5) more personal responsibility and self-discipline, and (6) less need for parents to enforce the rules.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource book

Apr 21, 2010

Identifying Who Owns the Problem

Here are the answers to yesterday's quiz! The answers are in blue.
  1. Your child tells you she is worried about failing an important test at school. - Child Owns Problem
  2. Your daughter expresses her disapproval of her brother's friends. - Child Owns Problem
  3. Your children often leave a mess in the kitchen and leave you the responsibility for cleaning. - Parent Owns Problem
  4. Your child is learning to play the guitar and asks you to listen to the chords he's learned. - No Problem
  5. Your child fails to come home on time to leave for a dental appointment which you must pay for anyway. - Parent Owns Problem
  6. Your baby begins to cry while getting a tetanus shot. - Child Owns Problem
  7. Your daughter often gets up too late to catch the school bus and then asks you to drive her to school. - Parent Owns Problem
  8. Your son needs the car to pick up a friend at the airport; you need it to go to a meeting. - Both Own Problem
Please note: These are not the only correct answers; special circumstances in your family may make different answers correct for you.

Apr 20, 2010

Can You Identify Who Owns the Problem?

Here's an exercise/quiz to help identify who owns the problem and an opportunity to receive a 15% discount on your purchase from anything in our GTI store!


The purpose of this exercise is to learn to identify who has unmet needs and therefore "owns the problem."

Directions: Read the following situations. Have The Behavior Window handy to enter the number of the situation in the appropriate window. If you feel the behavior demonstrates that the child has a problem, place the number of the situation in the "Child Owns Problem" area of the window. If you feel the behavior cause the parent to have a problem, place the number in the "Parent Owns Problem" area of the window. If neither child nor parent seems to have a problem, place the number in the "No Problem" area of the window. If you feel that there is a conflict and both seem to have a problem, place the number in the "Both Own Problem" area.

Here are the situations:
  1. Your child tells you she is worried about failing an important test at school.
  2. Your daughter expresses her disapproval of her brother's friends.
  3. Your children often leave a mess in the kitchen and leave you the responsibility for cleaning.
  4. Your child is learning to play the guitar and asks you to listen to the chords he's learned.
  5. Your child fails to come home on time to leave for a dental appointment which you must pay for anyway.
  6. Your baby begins to cry while getting a tetanus shot.
  7. Your daughter often gets up too late to catch the school bus and then asks you to drive her to school.
  8. Your son needs the car to pick up a friend at the airport; you need it to go to a meeting.
E-mail us at family@gordontraining.com with answers that correctly identifies who "owns the problem" in the situations above. I will choose the first (5) winners. The contest will end tonight, Tuesday, April 20th at 7:30pm PST. I will post the answers to the questions tomorrow, Wednesday, April 21st.

Have fun identifying who owns the problem! Good luck to you! :)

Apr 19, 2010

Do I Keep Active Listening?

Beyond Active Listening to Method III

When the messages are not clear, as in the case of prolonged anger or silence, a lot of Active Listening is necessary. Sometimes even vigorous Active Listening isn't enough and the parent needs to introduce Method III and offer to guide the children through it. A good deal of confronting may be necessary to resist the children's tendency to either give up (Method II) or solve the problem with a solution imposed by the "rescuing" parent.

Children sometimes arrive at satisfactory solutions without anyone's help, but more often than not this does not happen because the real issues are not uncovered. The antagonists rarely listen to and understand each other (even though a lot of words get exchanged).

There is no process for the defusing of strong feelings, and problem-solving doesn't get organized and underway. Parents who facilitate their children to solve their own problems realize a triple benefit: resolution of the immediate problem between the children, more effective problem-solving skills in the future, and mutual respect within all family relationships.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. Participant Workbook

Apr 14, 2010

Do You Intervene in your Child's Activities?

Nonintervention to Show Acceptance

Parents can show acceptance of a child by not intervening in his activities. Take a child who is attempting to build sand castles at the beach. The parent who keeps away from the child and occupies himself with an activity of his own, permitting the child to make "mistakes" or create his own unique design for a castle (which will probably not be like the parent's design or, for that matter, may not even look like a castle)--that parent is sending a nonverbal message of acceptance.

The child will feel, "What I am doing is okay," "My castle building behavior is acceptable," "Mother accepts me doing what I am doing as of now."

Keeping hands off when a child is engaged in some activity is a strong nonverbal way of communicating acceptance. Many parents fail to realize how frequently they communicate nonacceptance to their children simply by interfering, intruding, moving in, checking up, joining in. Too often adults do no let children just be. They invade the privacy of their rooms, refusing to permit them a separateness. Often this is the result of parental fears and anxieties, their own feelings of insecurity.

Parents what children to learn ("Here's what a castle should really look like"). They are uncomfortable when children make a mistake ("Build the castle farther from the water so a wave won't topple the castle wall"). They want to be proud of their children's accomplishments ("Look at the perfect castle Cody made"). They impose on kids rigid adult concepts of right and wrong ("Shouldn't your castle have a moat?"). They have secret ambitions for their children ("You're never going to learn anything, building that thing all afternoon"). They are overly concerned about what others think of their children ("That's not as good a castle as you're capable of making"). They want to feel that their child needs them ("Let Daddy help"), and so on.

Thus, doing nothing in a situation when the child is engaged in an activity can communicate clearly that the parents accept him. It is my experience that parents do not permit this kind of "separateness" frequently enough. Understandably, a "hands-off" attitude comes hard.

At the first party that one of our daughters gave during her first year in high school, I remember feeling very rejected after being told by her that my highly imaginative and constructive suggestions for the entertainment of her guests were quite unwelcome. Only after recovering from my mild depression after being asked to stay out could I comprehend how I was communicating nonverbal messages on nonacceptance--"You can't give a good party by yourself," "You need my help," "I don't trust your judgment" "You are not being a perfect hostess," "You might make a mistake," "I don't want this party to be a failure," and so on.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. book

Apr 8, 2010

How Do Children React to Control?

How Children Really React to Control
by Thomas Gordon, Ph.D.

When one person tries to control another, you can always expect some kind of reaction from the controllee. The use of power involves two people in a special kind of relationship - one wielding power, and the other reacting to it.
This seemingly obvious fact is not usually dealt with in the writings of the dare-to-discipline advocates. Invariably, they leave the child out of the formula, omitting any reference to how the youngster reacts to the control of his or her parents or teachers.
They insist, "Parents must set limits," but seldom say anything about how children respond to having their needs denied in this way. "Parents should not be afraid to exercise their authority," they counsel, but rarely mention how youngsters react to authority-based coercion. By omitting the child from the interaction, the discipline advocates leave the impression that the child submits willingly and consistently to adults' power and does precisely what is demanded.
These are actual quotes from the many power-to-the-parent books I've collected along the way:
  • "Be firm but fair."
  • "Insist that your children obey."
  • "Don't be afraid to express disapproval by spanking."
  • "There are times when you have to say 'no'."
  • "Discipline with love."
  • "Demonstrate your parental right to lead."
  • "The toddler should be taught to obey and yield to parental leadership."
What these books have in common is advocacy of the use of power-based discipline with no mention of how children react to it. In other words, the dare-to-discipline advocates never present power-based discipline in full, as a cause-and-effect phenomenon, an action-and-reaction event.
This omission is important, for it implies that all children passively submit to adult demands, perfectly content and secure in an obedient role, first in relationships with their parents and teachers and, eventually, with all adult power-wielders they might encounter.
However, I have found not a shred of evidence to support this view. In fact, as most of us remember only too well from our childhood, we did almost anything we could to defend against power-based control. We tried to avoid it, postpone it, weaken it, avert it, escape from it. We lied, we put the blame on someone else, we tattled, hid, pleaded, begged for mercy, or promised we would never do it again.
We also experienced punitive discipline as embarrassing, demeaning, humiliating, frightening, and painful. To be coerced into doing something against our will was a personal insult and an affront to our dignity, an act that devalued the importance of our needs.
Punitive discipline is by definition need-depriving as opposed to need-satisfying. Recall that punishment will be effective only if it is felt by the child as aversive, painful, unpleasant. When controllers employ punishment, they always intend for it to cause pain or deprivation. It seems so obvious, then, that children don't ever want punitive discipline, contrary to what its advocates would have us believe. No child "asks for it," "feels a need for it," or is "grateful for it." And it is probably true, too, that no child ever forgets or forgives a punitive parent or teacher. This is why I find it incredible that the authors of power-to-the-parent books try to justify power-based discipline with such statements as:
  • "Kids not only need punishment, they want it."
  • "Children basically want what is coming to them, good or bad, because justice is security."
  • "Punishment will prove to kids that their parents love them."
  • "The youngster who knows he deserves a spanking appears almost relieved when it finally comes."
  • "Rather than be insulted by the discipline, [the child] understands its purpose and appreciates the control it gives him over his own impulses."
  • "Corporal punishment in the hands of a loving parent is entirely different in purpose and practice [from child abuse]....One is an act of love; the other is an act of hostility."
  • "Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be spanked, and their wishes should be granted."
  • "Punishment will make children feel more secure in their relationship."
  • "Discipline makes for happy families; healthy relationships."*
*Writings from Dr. Thomas Gordon

Apr 7, 2010

What Are the Benefits of Clear Self-Disclosure?

You may learn how similar you are to other people or how different you are.

You become more aware of what your thoughts, feelings and needs are so you can act in accordance with them.

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

Clear self-disclosure is a way of taking responsibility for yourself.

Clear self-disclosure is important in relationships because it helps each know how the other person feels-how the situation appears from the other's point of view.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource book

Apr 6, 2010

What Are Some Typical Questions About I-Messages?

Typical Questions About I-Messages

Q: Won't I-Messages be perceived as disguised You-Messages and therefore meet similar resistance?
A: Quite possibly...however, as the level of trust increases in a relationship over time, the likelihood of resistance may diminish. In any case, Shifting Gears to Active Listening will help.

Q: Won't I-Messages make the other person feel guilty?
A: Yes, they might, especially if his/her behavior has hurt you. But such guilt may be appropriate. And you can help the other to handle any guilt s/he expresses by Shifting Gears to Active Listening.

Q: Must all three parts always be present in a Confrontive I-Message?
A: No. Sending the three elements-behavior, tangible effects, and feelings--is the strongest, most potent influencer available; but just feelings or just effects may produce change--especially if the other's need is not strong and/or the relationship is close.

Q: If there are no tangible and concrete effects on me from the other person's unacceptable behavior, does that mean I'm supposed to stop feeling unaccepting, hurt, sad, or worried?
A: No. It simply means that since the other person's behavior is not tangibly interfering with your needs, s/he may be unmotivated to change, and you will have to rely on the less predictable Values Collision options. And you may still feel upset about the other's behavior.

Q: Doesn't the influencing ability of I-Messages eventually "wear out" from overuse, and don't I-Messages then have to be replaced by reprimanding, "training", or the use of coercive power?
A: The consistent use of I-Messages (as opposed to You-Messages or power) usually results in a closer, more mutually respectful relationship, especially if you also help the other when s/he has a problem. I-Messages only "wear out" if they continue to be used repeatedly when, in fact, the situation is an unacknowledged Conflict of Needs or Values Collision. Remedy: Switch to Method III or the Values Options.

Q: Am I doomed to send nothing but I-Messages from now on and to seeing all other ways of influencing people's behavior as "no-no's"?
A: No. You can ask or request someone to do something, or to change their behavior. The critical issue here is that a request is not fair unless you're willing to accept either yes or no for an answer.

Q: What is wrong with I-Messages that deal with my perception of the other person's attitudes (for example, that the other person is inconsiderate, rude, negative, rejecting, or uncaring)?
A: These are usually ineffective--except occasionally in primary relationships, such as with spouses or close friends, in which the issue of caring is paramount. And even then, unless the other is very secure and undefensive, these messages are hard to handle. The reasons why messages about the other's attitude are usually ineffective are:
  • No matter how one dresses them up, they are always You-Messages--the problem is identified as the fault of the other person.
  • The tangible effect of another's attitude on the sender is not clear and, therefore, not very motivating.
  • They almost never square with the other's self-perception--the other has only been trying to meet some personal need. Trying to convince him/her his/her goal-seeking behavior entailed a bad attitude as well simply stirs up unproductive resistance.
  • And, finally, even if I am correct, how can I change another's insides anyway?
In these situations, the best and truest I-Message is often, "When I experience you (behavior), I feel concerned and it is interfering with the quality of our relationship." Such courageous self-disclosure can work wonders.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource book

Apr 5, 2010

Why Are I-Messages More Effective?

Why I-Messages Are 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" tells 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.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. book

Apr 1, 2010

Is Punishment Acceptable if It's Mild?

Advocates of punishing children never fail to rationalize that their punishment is mild, benign, loving. They use such terms as: discipline with love, behavior management, behavior modification, discipline with dignity. Severe punishment, they maintain, would be cruel and inhumane (non-loving). There is good reason to question the wisdom of such advice.

In the first place, researchers consistently have found that mild punishment most often fails as a deterrent. Every parent has had the experience of giving a mild punishment most often fails as a deterrent. Every parent has had the experience of giving a mild punishment to a child, only to watch in exasperation as the child repeats the unacceptable behavior as if nothing had happened. Consider this example: When Laurie grabs her brother's toy out of his hands, her mother responds by slapping her on the wrist and recovering the toy for her brother. Laurie looks startled, but then proceeds to snatch the truck away once more, giving her mother a guilty little grin in passing.

With regards to spanking which most parents consider to be mild punishment, Dr. Murray Straus, a well-known researcher, conducted a study of 900 mothers of children between the ages of 6 and 9. He found that when the parents attempted to correct the child's behavior by spanking, the more they spanked the worse the child behaved two and four years later in spite of how much love, attention and affection the parents gave the child.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book