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.