May 31, 2012

Should You Make Your Child "Finish What They Started"?

So your kid gets excited about starting a new hobby or sport and she begs you to sign her up for classes. Proper attire or equipment has been bought and lessons have been paid for. But a few sessions in, she tells you that she doesn't want to do it anymore.

You're now at a crossroad - do you "let" your child quit and lose out on the money, not to mention the apparent opportunity to teach them a lesson in making commitments? Or, do you accept the fact that she is no longer interested and don't want to force her into doing something unwillingly?

Your needs:

  1. To teach your child the importance of commitments
  2. To not lose out on money that has already been spent and could have possibly been used for something else 

Here's where most parents would tell their kids something along the lines of:
"I already paid for it and I don't want my money going down the drain. You've got to finish what you started!"
The question is, how do you deal with this situation to get yours and your child's needs met?

A Quick Lesson in Discipline:

When motivation in doing something comes in an external form (like the parent forcing a child to do something), they usually will simply do the bare minimum to finish the job at hand. When problems are resolved this way, parents often have to nag, remind and constantly check in on their child. One of the most important factors in place here is that children do not learn discipline and the consequences of real-life decisions in external forms. You might be able to "make" your child eat broccoli, but that doesn't mean that you are making them actually enjoy it. You might scare your child into not giving up on something that they started, but what you're really doing is just making the child scared of you -- not scare them about how the real-life consequences on giving-up may affect them. Your forcing her won't make her interested. Almost always, when the parents needs "win" over the child, the child will bear hate and resentment.

Three "Gordon Model" Methods To Use:

Preventive I-Message - Tell your child ahead of time that the money spent on their activities is something that you cannot get back whether they decide to continue or not and how losing that money could affect you. Explain to your children (as an informant, not a disciplinarian) the importance of making commitments and how they affect other people that are involved in the commitment.

Modify The Environment - Here's an easy one! Don't sign your child up for classes that are non-refundable. Wait to purchase necessary materials and see if you can have your child sit in and participate in a few classes before they make the commitment. Or find a place where you can pay per session, instead of for a whole month, for example.

Method III - In this situation, we are in the area of both people owning a problem (you and your child). Go through the six-step process and begin by finding out what your child's needs are in this situation and what the underlying reason is behind his or her feelings. Maybe she isn't comfortable taking karate in the same class as boys or maybe her skill level is more advanced than the rest of the kids, leaving her un-stimulated.

Before jumping to the first conclusion you can think of in these types of situations, consider the option that both you and your child can get your needs met and resolve conflicts in a respectful and effective way.

May 16, 2012

Do Kids Really Need to be "Toughened Up" for the Real World?

Some parents believe that their children should be treated with the use of punitive power in order to prepare them for the "real world".

This belief leans toward the idea that in the crass adult world, kids need to be "toughened up" in their childhood in order to survive as grown-ups. Those who belong to this school of thought believe that this tough love should be shown in form of punishment and the use of punitive, parental power. 

Here's why this theory is amiss:

Let's start with the general idea that parents want their children to grow up to become responsible, capable adults. They raise their children to show them the differences between "right and wrong" and the skills needed to fulfill their basic needs. Growing up, children learn a language for communicating with others, how to use numbers, how to drive, etc. Very few of these children take a course that teaches how to communicate effectively with others in order to get their needs met, especially during times of conflict. They learn how to talk with people and how to problem solve by mimicking what their parents do. After all, "modeling" is the most powerful way to teach anyone, anything.

In a world where most of us grow up with the use of punishment and parental superiority, it's no wonder that the "real world" we are planted in is so tough. Imagine millions of crying, whining adults scolding each other, telling each other what to do, striking out in anger and stepping on the heads of others; all of this in attempt to get some need met. The inadequacy of trying to solve problems this way is monumental.

Let's delve deeper into the mind of a child raised this way. What happens to the human psyche when our needs are met with threats, commands, blame, judgement and name-calling (just to name a few)?

These common reactions to children produce a countless number of side-effects. When a child begins to fear a parent, they are also hearing a threat of getting hurt by someone bigger and stronger than they are. While the power might work to modify the child's behavior for the moment, the child will almost ALWAYS fester resentment, which will trigger hostile responses in the future. Alternatively, this may cause a child to become submissive and fearful. 

Parents' use of demanding or ordering their children to do something communicate to the child that the parent does not have faith in the child's own judgement or capability. Patterns like this create reluctance in decision-making and an inability to problem-solve on their own, simply because they haven't been given the chance to practice using their own judgement. The common thought here would be, "I always do it wrong so why try?"

Criticizing and name-calling have some of the worst effects on children. Dr. Thomas Gordon wrote, "A child's self-concept gets shaped by parental judgement and evaluation. As the parent judges the child, so will the child judge himself." Like adults, children will respond with defensiveness even in cases disguised as "constructive criticism." In order to protect their own self image, children can become very hostile in the face of blame, ridicule and disagreement.

Stepping out from behind the microscope, we know how and why punitive parenting causes hostile and apprehensive adults. The failure of many marriages, business partnerships and friendships can be found as a result of "how you were raised" versus "how he/she was raised." It's important to know that the true test of a relationship isn't how many conflicts occur, but rather, how each conflict is handled. Gordon said conflict to be the "true test of a relationship."

When one learns how to deal with their own feelings AND the intense feelings of others, while accomplishing the common goal of each person getting what they need WITHOUT having to compromise, our work here is done.
 By now, you might be wondering: "How can I do that?!" Well, ahem, there are half a dozen books that can explain it all! Check out the work of Dr. Thomas Gordon and Linda Adams here.

And as always, let us know what you think.

written by: Selena George

May 9, 2012

What's In a Tantrum?

As toddlers everywhere are screaming bloody murder, destructing living rooms, attempting to escape car seats and harassing their siblings, their frazzled parents are on the verge of experiencing meltdowns of their own. After "trying everything," parents still can't seem to put an end to their children's exasperating behaviors. Difficult as it may be, understanding what lies behind these actions is the key to finding the solution that will help bring peace to everyone within earshot.

Dr. Thomas Gordon said that "all behaviors are solutions to human needs." When parents begin to understand and accept this basic principle, things might start to get a bit clearer. If all of our behaviors are expressions or attempts to fulfill an inner need, then what's in a tantrum?

Gordon wrote: "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 seeing children as a fellow human being who is doing whatever means necessary to get his or her needs met, you might be inclined to find out what the child's need really is. Your child is not throwing a fit in order to frustrate you. On the contrary, your child inherently wants your approval and acceptance. Since children are dependent creatures who rely on external assistance in getting their needs met, denying them of such would simply be cruel. 

Could it be that they refuse to wear shoes because they're causing pain? Might they stretch and pry out of their high chair because they want their bottle they see sitting at the other end of the table? Do they hate taking showers because it reminds them of the time that they slipped and fell?

Let them be the ones to tell you. How? Start by Active Listening.

More on Active Listening to very young children can be found in Chapter Five of the P.E.T. Book.

What do you think? Let us know!

Click here to learn more about our once in a lifetime P.E.T. Instructor Training this year.

May 2, 2012

P.E.T. Working With Religion

One of the reasons why Parent Effectiveness Training is so widely accepted is because of its versatility in any culture or family no matter race, creed or religion. P.E.T. is adaptable in any relationship without sacrificing in its effectiveness.

In Earl Gaulke's book "You Can Have A Family Where Everybody Wins," he takes a Christian approach on utilizing the P.E.T. skills with religious teachings. Perhaps his introduction described it best, being appropriately titled "Needed: Skills for Christian Parents."

In his book, Gaulke cross references Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. with biblical scripture and explains in detail how to be a P.E.T. parent and a Christian parent synchronously. In doing so, Gaulke outlines many real-life conflicts that arise between parents and their children, like drugs and alcohol, doing homework, watching TV, decision making, etc.

To learn more about this book, click on the photo below which will take you to it's page.

You Can Have a Family Where Everybody Wins: Christian Perspectives on Parent Effectiveness Training

"Parents want to help their children grow up successfully, but too often end by harming them instead. This book tells how parents and children can grow together."
-Dr. Paul Popenoe