Oct 18, 2012

Three Outcomes to What Happens When Parents Use Hurtful Words

We've all heard the (very old) familiar saying about sticks and stones breaking bones, but words not hurting us, right? I'm guessing that this phrase was coined somewhere around the same time that the idea of the world being flat was a logical theory. How archaic and grossly wrong they both were! 
Another age-old theory is the idea that children should be verbally "put in their place," insulted, criticized, blamed, yelled at or scolded in order to achieve one of the following:

  • Teach them learn a lesson
  • Change their behavior
  • Prevent them from doing something wrong
The underlying idea here is: say something harsh = get something done. They're just words, right? No harm done? But let's take a look at what happens when you resort to this method...

Outcome Number 1: Defensiveness. Beyond the fact that children aren't typically perceptive to "negative" comments about themselves, people (of all ages) just don't like being told that they are a different person than they like to perceive themselves as. In order to protect one's own self image and self esteem, our natural instinct is to defend ourselves! The loss of self-esteem over time as a result of the cruel words of parents is one of the biggest tragedies that a parent can be responsible for. The following possibilities after this only grow worse.

Outcome Number 2: Feigned acceptance. In order to avoid conflict, many personality types would rather just pretend that they are getting the message, submit or agree to something on the outside, while what they are really doing is "faking it" in order to end the conflict as quickly as possible. This type of response can be seen quite often when children act differently when their parents are around versus when they aren't. How effective is this really, if their behavior varies from situation to situation?

Outcome Number 3: Rebellion. Being ordered what to do only works for so long, if at all! Particularly in the teenage years (after many years of being told what to do), children's frustration and resentment tends to take a turning point. It is also during this time in their life when they realize that they are not so reliant on mom and dad to take care of their needs. "Why listen to what they say if I can take care of myself anyway?", is a common attitude. And often, their anger from this type of treatment simply turns into spite and rebellion in its pinnacle.

Keep in mind that the above list is just a short version of the most common responses to scolding and insult.

So then, how do parents express their expectations and frustrations with their children? By using a non-blameful method of communication called I-Messages. For more on I-Messages, check our website, Wikipedia or the Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) book.

What do you think? Let us know!

by: Selena George, P.E.T. Program Manager

Oct 4, 2012

No Punishment?

Recently, we had an interested question sent to us on our Facebook page:

"Does this program promote no punishment for bad behavior? I don't get this program?"

We responded, and would like to elaborate to our readers here.

First off, to simply say "no," that P.E.T. is not an advocate of punishment would only be giving half of the answer. The use of the term "bad behavior" is a major underlying issue here. P.E.T. encourages parents not to view behaviors as "bad" or "good" because such labeling does not encourage children to change their behavior, among other things (at least, not in the long run!). Given the idea that all behaviors are simply attempts to get a certain need met, we can view things from a different frame of mind. 

For example, in a traditional sense, a screaming child would likely be seen as "behaving badly". But consider that this child is screaming for a reason. Active Listening is the way to find that reason behind the commonly misunderstood behaviors of a child, or of anyone for that matter. This child is experiencing a problem or obstacle to getting his or her need met. She might be hungry, tired, in need of attention/affection, feeling unsafe or insecure, etc. It would be absurd to think that a child could communicate these feelings in an effective manner; especially considering that many adults still struggle from doing this. The question at hand then becomes: Why punish a child for expressing an unmet need?

Our response to the question on Facebook sums it up:

P.E.T. does not promote punishment of any kind, but the most important part of this is the reasoning behind it. Being commonly mistaken as "passive parenting", P.E.T. does not reject the use of punishment simply because "it's bad." When parents begin to look at their child's behaviors as attempts to get a certain need met, they can begin to realize that their children aren't deliberately "misbehaving" in order to upset their parents. On the contrary, children are desperately seeking approval from their moms and dads. When we look at a screaming child and think: "they're behaving bad," this is when the parent-child relationship gets into real trouble. In actuality, children are commonly seeking fulfillment of some need that they don't know how to express in any other way. 

As for the punishment factor, years of psychological and neurological research has proven that using control to manipulate the behavior of your children (or anyone) has serious consequences on the relationship between parent and child. In the short term, punishment can be a quick fix and often does work. But in the long term, it's effects turn out to be quite the opposite of what punishment aims to achieve. Case in point: teenage-hood! 
What are your thoughts on this? We'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment below or send us an email to: family@gordontraining.com

by: Selena George, P.E.T. Program Manager