Apr 10, 2013

How Can Children Be Trusted to Use Their Own Judgment?

By Certified P.E.T. Instructor, Catherine Dickerson, LCSW, Lic #24454

Recently, several parents and teachers have asked, "How on earth can a child know what to do if we don't tell them?!"  How can children whose unacceptable behaviors seem completely natural to them know what you need them to do instead?

The answer is actually pretty simple: they know what to do because you've been teaching them since the day they were born. Every day you have been modeling for them the details of how you live your life. Every day, your children have been watching and following you, absorbing your words and most of all, your actions. Admittedly, many of those actions have been too quick for a child to absorb the details (I recall the story of the little girl who wanted to tie her own shoes and, when given the opportunity, just moved her fingers together quickly with the laces between them--then was disappointed at the result!). Your two-year-old may not know that it's her job to put away her toys (for example), but if she has witnessed the way that you put them away for her and if you help her to get started before things become overwhelming, she's certainly got an idea of how to get it done!

Your 4-year-old may not know exactly how to set the table, but he's got a pretty good idea as well! Your school age child certainly knows where his dirty laundry goes, and how to make and clean up after a simple snack or meal. Teenagers know . . . let's just say, a great deal more than we give them credit for.

The P.E.T. skills of Active Listening, I-Messages and Method III all help you to give your children additional essential information and experience that most adults deny children. Additionally, being a consultant to your children in the No-Problem area is a highly effective way to influence your children's values by sharing your own. Benefits of implementing these P.E.T. methods include:

  1. Increased self awareness as they explore the depths of their thoughts and feelings (while you Active Listen);
  2. The impact their actions have on themselves, others, and their world (from your I-Messages);
  3. The experience of thinking and solving problems with a bigger picture in mind (Method III, where they help find solutions that allow everyone to get their needs met).

The end result? 
For you:  P.E.T. skills take the burden off of you to do other people's thinking and problem-solving for them, and instead leave the responsibility for that work with each individual (including helping you meet your own needs);

For your children: The satisfaction of experiencing themselves as capable, intelligent, contributing, respected individuals in a loving family, and of experiencing their parents as complete human beings (not just "my parents").

Parents say it best:  "[P.E.T.] Opened my eyes to a whole new world of loving and affectionate interactions in our family when conflicts arise (vs. yelling and stress where everyone feels bad after). My daughter is more empowered to make her own decisions and resolve conflicts on her own. Less stress on me to solve everyone else's problems."

"Seeking to really understand what is going on is something that is really helping, and working with my child to help her develop her own solutions to problems has been very helpful."

Catherine's next P.E.T. workshop begins on April 16th in Solana Beach, CA. Fore more information, please email us at family@gordontraining.com.