Feb 29, 2012

Children of Divorced Families

Lest we forget, I feel it is long overdue to remind ourselves of the sinking fact that more than half of all children come from divorced parents. For those who've never been a child of divorce or have children with someone who you are no longer married to, let's take a short trip into the typical mind of such a child...

Mom and Dad don't like each other anymore.
What did I do wrong? How did this happen?
I can't be with them at the same time.
They always talk bad about each other to me and I don't know what to say.
I feel like I have to pick one or the other.
I want to see Dad more than just the weekends.
Mom spends more time with her boyfriend than me.
Why is he/she spending the night at our house all the time?
Dad acts different towards me when his new wife is around. I wish she would leave us alone.
She isn't my mom so why should I listen to her?
Why does she get to have her own things and now I have to share more?
Dad likes his new baby more than he likes me.
I don't want to spend Christmas apart.
I'm not as important as I used to be. My days are over.
I want Mom and Dad back together.

Parents would be lucky to hear these kind of thoughts uttered aloud from their children, but it's more likely that they are too afraid or confused to even be able to pin-point what it is they're really feeling. Still, there are some parents prepare for these kinds of questions and address their children accordingly:

"It's not your fault. We both love you very much."
"I don't want you to feel like you have to choose."
"She lives with us now and you have to respect her because I said so."

But as the saying goes: talk is cheap. The Gordon Model - along with countless other respected studies on parenting - shows that one of the strongest ways to teach a child something is to do so by modeling your behavior. Not only will parents' verbal cues often clash with their behavioral messages (in many contexts), but this type of confusion creates strong distrust among children towards their parents.

Top this off with the average growing pains of parenting, and families will be having one heck of a time trying to create a loving, peaceful and respectful household.

How do children deal with such emotions and how does this affect their behavior? How do parents respond to this and what can be done in terms of  "damage control"?

I recently received an email from one of these parents who seemed to be in the dark about what the real problem was to begin with. Next week, I'll share my response here. In the meantime, what do you think? Please, respond below or start a conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time...

Feb 22, 2012

What Do You Say to Get Through to Your Teenager?

Through each passing generation, there remain only a few socio-cultural constants that repeat themselves through the decades. Rebellious, overconfident and stubborn teenagers are one group that has stood the test of time. We've figured out ways to video-conference from around the globe, send 3-D images from deep space back to Earth and even locate our own global position from the screens of our handy cellphones. Yet it seems we haven't come a lick closer to shrinking the defiant teenager epidemic.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I realized that I'd personally heard his exact questions asked by parents over and over throughout the years...
"But what do I need to say to get through to him?" 
"How can I reach him so that he realizes the consequences that this could have on him later in life? 
"What do I say to make him care?"
Most people think they have an answer for this. How about talking to the kids in their "lingo", try to have a close family friend of mentor talk to them instead of mom and dad, or explain to them the worst-case scenario to make them scared? Surely, these ways would work right?


The fault lies within the question itself when parents and family members ask: what can I say to them? (Keyword: say)

Without a crucial first step, we may never get to have influence on teenagers. We may talk and lecture until we're blue in the face, but it's high time we start listening to what's really going on inside the hearts and minds of our budding young generation.

Active Listening has proven to be the most effective way to begin a conversation surrounding the conflict at hand. Ordering, advising and sympathizing might be some of our knee-jerk reactions in responding to our teenagers. But let's face it, they don't like to be told what to do just as much as we don't. Asking more questions about the details of their problem only alludes to your segue in finding them the "right answer" for their given problem.

When others feel truly understood, they can begin to move towards a solution to meet their needs. Understanding teenagers on the deepest level can be done shockingly well through active listening. It is then that we can uncover what their own hidden needs are that are navigating their behaviors.
For example, 
  • They don't want to seem like a "loser" at school by wearing old clothes
  • They are tired of not being "allowed" to make their own decisions
  • They are going through something heavy at home, and make drastic attempts to get attention at in other areas
 After which, teens might begin to re-steer the direction of their choices. In some cases after active listening has been done, a new, more trusting relationship is built. This trust sets the scene that can move you into an advisory/teaching position. But be careful, teaching and advising only gives the facts, not our opinions. Under these circumstances are we truly able to have a real and lasting influence on our teenagers.

What do you think? Let me know! Please share and comment below.

For more on Active Listening and to learn how to practice this skill effectively, please see this article: http://www.gordontraining.com/wp-content/uploads/ActiveListening_RogersFarson.pdf

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by: Selena Cruz George, Program Manager

Feb 9, 2012

The Debate Continues

Or can we really even call it a "debate?"

It's been several days since John Rosemond's antagonistic article about P.E.T. was published, and we are still seeing plenty of buzz about it.

Letters to the editor have been sent by the dozens, several of which have already been published. Thank you to all who have contributed to this - we're flattered!

And wouldn't you know it, when there couldn't possibly be a more perfect time, a recent study on the effects of spanking children just came out. (You can read the article by clicking here: http://health.yahoo.net/news/s/nm/spanking-kids-can-cause-long-term-harm-canada-study ) I can't help but wonder what he would have to say about this...

To most, it seems that Rosemond's article is filled with nothing but opinion, which he calls "research." To many savvy individuals who are familiar with him, it seems that Rosemond's untruthfulness is a reputation that has preceded him anyway.

In any case, of the floods of "Letters to the Editor" that we've been given a copy of, I thought it the right thing to do to share the "Best Of" with you all.

For your reading pleasure, enjoy:

Letters to the Editor - Snippets
It would be hard to exaggerate what a profound misinterpretation of, not only Thomas Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.), but of the overwhelming evidence on good parenting, that is found in John Rosemond's baseless attack published in the starpress.com article. Even a rudimentary understanding of Gordon's model, or in fact, the work of Diana Baumrind whom he mistakenly uses to "refute" P.E.T., reveals striking similarities in their advice to parents. Baumrind advocates the "Authoritative Parenting Style," (not to be confused with authoritarian). If Mr. Rosemond had actually bothered to read Dr. Gordon's work, he would have found many similar recommendations and conclusions. One of Rosemond's many incorrect assertions is that Dr. Gordon encourages parents to give in to their children because the child doesn't like being told what to do. This is utter nonsense. P.E.T. certainly encourages parents to be assertive with their children. Dr. Gordon promotes the idea that children are human beings and that, as such, deserve a chance to respond to their parents needs in a responsible way.
 While it may be trendy to talk about the failure of professional psychology, in fact many of Rosemond's assertions are just plain wrong. I cannot tell from the article if he says these things out of spite or shoddy research but this sort of self-indulgent diatribe is damaging: to parents, to children and to our society as a whole. Maybe he is upset about something. As he says, "People who are ruled by their feelings say stupid things…." (Parenting: Children should be taught to control, not be controlled by feelings http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20120124/LIFESTYLE/201240301). 
If you want children who are respectful, thoughtful, caring, independent, assertive, creative, and engaged in the world in a constructive way, listen to Thomas Gordon. If you want more bullies and tyrants, listen to John Rosemond.
-Bill Stinnett, Ph. D.

 I find the tone of John Rosemond's "Parenting: Children should be taught to control, not be controlled by feelings" to be regrettable. For example, his judgmental labeling of Dr. Thomas Gordon and other experienced educators and likeminded professionals as "progressive parenting pundits" pollutes the climate within which constructive public discourse needs to occur when the nature of effective parenting is being discussed. 
Furthermore, when referring to Dr. Gordon's and others' methodologies and conclusions, claiming that they are "pulling this baloney out of thin air" discounts the hard-won discoveries and insights that have come from years of research and practice, and constitutes a form of expression whose usage we typically associate with someone who is being "controlled by feelings" - ironically, a state of being that Mr. Rosemond argues we should teach children to avoid.
- H. Tucker Upshaw, Ph.D.
All but a few parenting advisors (Dr. Rosemond included) have one thing in common: they teach parents to try control their children. This can be attempted either by trying to think for children, or physically restraining them. The former is impossible, the latter grows more difficult every day. Both techniques teach children what parents want, but neither teaches children how parents make decisions.  
But children are ravenous to know how the world works and how achieve their values! They urgently need parents to involve them in the process of gathering and assessing information, including information gained from emotions, and making thoughtful decisions. Effectively expressing intense emotions uncovers the thoughts behind them, allowing reasoned assessment and action. 
- Catherine Dickerson, L.C.S.W., M.Ed.

Gordon believes, as does Rosemond, that permissive parenting is ineffective and Gordon spends one-fifth of his book, Parent Effectiveness Training, explaining what is wrong with permissiveness and associated behaviors. Oddly, Rosemond states in his “Bill of Rights for Children” that children have the right to scream as much as they want. To me it seems contradictory to make your children control their emotions while allowing them to scream ... Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) teaches communication skills that helps children express their thoughts and feelings respectfully, and helps parents respond to a child’s unacceptable behavior while preserving the child’s self esteem and their relationship with the child. There is a reason Gordon’s P.E.T. program is used every day in 44 countries all over the world and why it continues to influence so many parenting programs over time. P.E.T. works.
-Meike Lemmens, Certified P.E.T. Instructor

Dr.John Rosemond says it is not complicated to deal with feelings. Adults simply need to teach their children to control them. So, you would think that adults must already know for themselves how to control their feelings, right? Here is the problem: You would rather not think of feelings because many of your feelings are quite scary. We are so unfamiliar with "feelings"!  We don’t know their strength or how to calm them down. Rosemond calls them "unruly and destructive beasts". However it is not the feelings or the emotions that are the beasts; it is the pain that we (un)consciously have attached to them. This pain can become so heavy that we would rather kill ourselves than feel it. By suppressing feelings and not acknowledging them, the pain expands and grows bigger. What you suppress expands. What was at first an insignificant event, becomes heavier and heavier. And there is where it becomes scary: when the pain is too heavy to bear, we don’t know what it will develop into or when this pain will be triggered.
Dr. Thomas Gordon was in his time looking for causes of filled up psychology and psychiatrist offices as well. But he made a daring change: to open up feelings and emotions to work with, instead of suppressing them. In promoting his belief and findings, he was the first one who understood that the parent should work on themselves first. Dr. Thomas Gordon incorporated working with feelings, making a training that works for all parents and making it accessible to the general public. This indeed brought him the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Psychological Association and got him three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
- Cielja Kieft, Certified P.E.T. Instructor 

'Nuff said. What do you think? Let us know! Please respond by commenting below or chatting with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Feb 1, 2012

Standing for the Truth Against Bad-Mouthing P.E.T.

Recently there was a very anti-Parent Effectiveness Training article written by John Rosemond, which was published here:http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20120124/LIFESTYLE/201240301 (Warning, this may cause your blood to boil).

Linda Adams, the President of Gordon Training International, wrote a reply and sent it to the editor. 

We strongly encourage you to share your comments with the editor as well. We'd like to bombard them with supportive comments and rebuttals against this, well, ridiculous and unfounded article he has written--will you join us?

Here's Linda's reply (which we hope they publish!): 

From: Linda Adams 
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 1:46 PM
To: 'letters@muncie.gannett.com'
Subject: Response to John Rosemond's Column entitled "Parenting: Children should be taught to control....

Dear Lifestyle Editor:

Last week I read a column by John Rosemond in which he made some statements about Parent Effectiveness Training and Dr. Thomas Gordon with which I take issue. Dr. Gordon was my late husband and I am the President of Gordon Training Int’l, the organization he founded. I have written a response to Mr. Rosemond’s piece and hope that you will consider printing it, especially in light of the negative remarks he made about P.E.T. and Dr. Gordon.

If you wish to contact me, you can do so at the email address or phone no. listed at the end of my response.

Thank you very much,
Linda Adams

Response to John Rosemond Article of January 23, 2012

This letter is in response to John Rosemond’s recent article entitled “Parenting: Children should be taught to control, not be controlled by feelings” in which he declares that it has now become obvious that Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and other programs of its kind do not and did not work. In fact, he blames parents’ use of P.E.T. and similar programs over the last 40 years for what he terms the “child mental health crisis in America”. 

Mr. Rosemond states that when children are allowed and encouraged to talk about their feelings, they become ruled by them instead of by reason. His belief is that parents should raise their children the same way they were raised with a heavy reliance on traditional authority where the parent is in control and expects complete obedience. 

There is a great deal of evidence, knowledge and experience to refute these statements. Over the last 50 years, we have learned a lot about what helps children grow up to be psychologically healthy or unhealthy. Chief among those is the emotional climate in a family or simply put, the way parents treat their children and each other. P.E.T. offers parents the communication and conflict resolution skills that are essential for having a family in which both the needs of the parents and the children are respected. A key element is listening with empathy. When parents learn to listen to their children’s feelings with acceptance and understanding, Instead of getting stronger, these feelings dissipate so that the child can be rational and logical once again. Just because a child is told to control his/her feelings and not express them, doesn’t mean those feelings will go away, quite the opposite. Unexpressed feelings, especially strong ones, tend to fester and intensify. Listening with empathy helps children to learn to identify, understand and regulate their emotions. It helps them grow, learn to solve their own problems, make constructive changes—signs of emotional competence. And studies show that emotional competence is the best predictor of a child’s well-being and success; it’s even more important than his or her IQ (see research on social and emotional learning). 

With 50 years of experience in offering parents the P.E.T. skills both here and in over 40 countries around the world, it is clear that they have made and continue to make a significant difference in the lives of millions of people—parents, teachers, leaders and youth who have the skills of emotional competence. It is the absence of these attitudes and skills and the continued reliance on authoritarian parenting and teaching that cause such difficulty and pain for children.

Linda Adams
President, Gordon Training International
(Dr. Gordon was my late husband)

Please join us in standing up for what is right.  

-the GTI Staff