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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
disclaimer, I'm not really sure which area of the forums to put this in, mods please move if required!

I am posting this as a book recommendation. But mainly I'd like to know if anyone else uses this approach. I really believe this can work for my family, but I'd like some support in implementing it.

I know the term "training" isn't likely one that is well-liked in this community, and this book's cover and acronym seem really gimmicky. I'm reading this book by Dr. Thomas Gordon, and it is a very reasonable approach.

The book is basically divided into 3 sections. In describing them, I'm just gonna stick with she/her because my two kids happen to be girls.
-The first explains how to guide your child to resolve her problems on her own by using active listening. (i.e. daughter can't find the markers she wants to create some artwork.)
-The second explains how to communicate your needs with "I-messages" when the parent owns the problem. (i.e. I will be late for work if the girls do not get their shoes on now.)
-The third, which is the heft of the book and the part I have not yet finished reading, explains win-win conflict resolution.

Here's why I like the book. The method/strategies advocated avoid judgement, ordering kids around, threats of punishments, rewards, over-permissiveness, helplessness on the part of both the parent and kid. They highlight self-reliance, respect, acceptance, meeting everyone's needs, and peaceful conflict resolution. It outlines a fair way to communicate and work with anyone, not just kids.

The author is a 3 time Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his work in conflict resolution. I could certainly use some peace in my house...
 

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I'm not familiar with book, but I will venture a comment. I don't think that conflict resolution is the same in the parent/child relationship as it is among adults. My experience and what I saw (my daughter is an adult now) is that I-messages from parents usually don't resolve a conflict because the child views the adult as all-powerful and cannot comprehend the ramifications of the adult being late for work. The flip side is the child who is overburdened with a sense of responsibility for the parent. I don't think children are equipped for this type of communication.

The behavior that you could learn (from this book and others as parents) and model in the household could be awesome, however. How you comport yourself, how you communicate with other adults, and the personal authority you bring to your household will be (to my opinion) more important than the "family meeting" or overt training strategy.

Something I noticed in the types of adults that my daughter and her peers respected and enjoyed spending time with was an adult who was clear on their boundaries but otherwise relaxed and accomodating, stimulating but nonconfrontational, patient, patient, patient, composed. Even in their 20s these young people still look to the same adults for leadership.

I'm not against training in any respect. I'm 100% 24-7 365 in favor of self-improvement. Keep reading & follow your intuition! :thumb
 

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My mom tried to use this book with me when I was growing up. I know that merely because I saw it around.

She failed badly to do any of the things you list here. I think she would start out conversations attempting to do this, and dissolve into a screaming, sometimes also hitting, mess. I was a great one for backtalk and argument as a kid, but I remember sitting frozen in silent, sometimes cringing, horror as she escalated into fury all by herself. I never knew what was setting her off.

Not as bad as my friend who told me her mother hit her with Haim Ginott's groundbreaking book on gentle discipline! I mean, physically picked up the book and used it to strike her. (I read the book. It was amazing. He was a wonderful parenting teacher, and it's incredible to me that he wrote his book, Between Parent and Child, in 1965. It seems so contemporary.)

I think all of these books on parenting communication and communication generally are great. The problem is that in the heat of the moment, you can't always do what they advocate. These are the closest relationships we have and the methods for how to deal with them are part of our earliest training.

I've never been able to make myself go back and read Parent Effectiveness Training. I don't blame the book or its author for the weird use my mother made of it. I'm sure it can be as useful as the parenting books that have inspired me. The main thing that sustains me and helps me is my early determination, at age 5 or 6, not to parent like my mother--not to hit, not to lose my temper, not to take out on my child my adult frustrations. I do have to stop and breathe and take things back.
 

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My mother read and tried to use P.E.T. with me, too. I had a similar experience to Optimism with the book, it just gave a language for my mother to express dysfunction. She generally said the wrong thing at the wrong time, using the suggested phrases from the book. I remember times when I desperately needed her to empathize with me and she'd say "I hear you are upset," in the most unemotional way possible. It was like talking to a robot. In retrospect she was trying, she probably knew she was struggling with the parenting gig, but the book couldn't give her what she really needed: emotional health.

Again, I don't fault the book or the tools it teaches, it might be very helpful for many families.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks all.

So I'm hearing a lot of "It doesn't work if you don't do it right." I can understand that. It takes so much patience, and I feel like I can see someone picking up this book because they are already low on that!

Thus far it has been hit or miss. I haven't completely given up my previous ways, though. Old habits. I am having trouble implementing the tools, particularly with DD2. It seems to work a charm with DD1, but DD2 will kinda "stonewall" on me when I'm trying to active listen to her. IDK if it is because she is younger and less articulate, or just stubborn (like her mama!) When I try to use i-messages, she just kind of ignores me half the time. No sympathy for my needs, apparently. :frown:

I tried really hard this morning to use these methods and getting ready for the day went nicely. DD2 was still a whining mess at times, but at least I heard her out and didn't end up getting angry.

I'm thinking I need to stick with this and be as consistent as possible with my actions if this is going to work out. When it's crunch time and I need to get out the door so I can make it to work, or bedtime is approaching, it's hard not to do the less nice, but effective approach of counting, warning of potential consequences if they don't comply, etc.

This morning I worked really hard on sticking to the method. The morning was relatively smooth, but not completely without whining and conflict. I was 10 minutes late to work, but I'm thinking if I keep it up things will improve. Here's to hoping.

I'm also having a hard time figuring out what is my problem and what is my kid's problem. Like, if my kid doesn't eat her dinner, is that my problem or her problem? It seems that if I leave it as her problem, and she ends up not eating, it will later become my problem, because it will no longer be mealtime and she'll be hungry. Still her problem? No, because now I need to feed her. And if that happens, than I feel like she has learned that she can decide to eat whenever she wants, which interferes with my needs... This hasn't actually played out because I have resorted to old methods of power to get her to sit down and eat. (If you don't eat that you can't have dessert. -or- You have x minutes to finish eating before we need to go upstairs, so if you want to eat you have to eat now.)
 

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Don't worry so much about doing the book exactly as written. Your little one is only four, so it would be really weird if she was developmentally ready to hear your needs. It sounds like the best message you can take from PET is that "win-win" message.

It's a good thing for all of you if your child eats dinner and gets ready for bed and has a peaceful time. It's a problem for everyone if she doesn't eat and is either hungry or late going to bed, because you're all in a family together.

It's so easy to fall into power struggles with a four year old over food. I'm sure a lot of people on here have tips about how to avoid that! My ways were probably wrong. I mean, they worked very well for me, and now I have fantastic meal times with my polite, not picky 12-year-old, but I don't know whether it would work for everyone. When my son was four, I catered to his tastes, which you aren't supposed to do, and I offered a snack before toothbrushing, which you aren't supposed to do. For me that made sense to do. It was just too hard for him at that age to sit still and eat at dinner. I did what worked for both of us at that age, and it turned out well, but other moms might not want to make a plain version of every part of dinner, or have a snack every night before bed.

I think if you decide what you are willing and not willing to do about dinner, you can set a tone and have a calm routine. Then you can say, "In our family, we do it this way." (That's from my all time favorite parenting book, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be.) Little kids believe in their family. They are your best cheerleaders.

Remember that they love you and want to be with you. Also, you have a four year old and a seven year old and you work outside the home! This isn't so easy, even if you follow the Nobel Prize winners and other experts. There should be a book about how to enjoy your children when you have to rush around and get everyone ready!
 

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OK, I just wrote a whole post that 1. advises you to abandon an aspect the book you're asking about as age-inappropriate (oops, sorry!) and 2. fails to ask you a key question.

How come you posted a PET/gentle discipline question in Parents as Partners? Was it just because the model in the book is of parents and children as partners in the sense of being on the same side? Usually posts here are about spouses.

Thinking back on when my son was three and four really made me think about when my ex started checking out emotionally from our relationship. It's a sad reflection! Now that we aren't together, I think he has moved back to being more present as a parent. How is that going with you?

I was also working full time outside my home when my son was four, and I think having two parents on a work schedule was a big factor in the kid's resistance to getting ready in the morning. At that age, they really want to be with you and everything else is not their concern!
 

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You have x minutes to finish eating before we need to go upstairs, so if you want to eat you have to eat now.
I see nothing wrong with this. It isn't coercion it's the truth! Your family has things they need to do and maybe you are taking on the idea (and sending the message to the children) that YOU are the one who decides what will happen. You aren't the one who decides: your job has paramenters, preschools etc have parameters, the sun goes up and down and every day has a rhythm. That's not up to you. The concept of the book, if I understand it from what's been written here, is that you are communicating your needs to your child and listening to their needs. That's fine for interpersonal relationships (with older children, IMO) but getting ready for each day is a family team effort that is meeting external, not interpersonal, demands. Can you try to step out of the sightline for your child who is still not coping. It sounds as though the child is focused on you and not on her own life and her own day: eating her own food so she won't be hungry later, dressing so she can have the activities and experiences she wants in her life. It really isn't about you and it sounds as though the child is transferring her feelings about getting ready for her day onto you.

I would say that's her problem, but one that you can and should help with because it's a natural developmental hurlde, but ultimately every person has to be able to feel and act effectively in their own life. Even a 4-yr-old can grasp the basics of achievement. i used a lot of rewards, something I wasn't terribly comfortable with, but unless the child sees that there is a good outcome for her by taking responsibility, why should she try?
 

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PET is not the most effective parenting method:

http://www.cebc4cw.org/topic/parent-training/

It scientific rating is 3. No randomized control trials support it.

The PET methods are necessary and not sufficient according to the The Evidence-based Parenting Practitioner's Handbook. PET methods are included in a number of the methods that get a scientific rating of 1.

I'd use the Incredible Years book instead of or in addition to PET. And use Kazdin Method if you have significant defiance issues.

The Incredible Year's base is similar to PET, but it adds some other techniques.

But, if you have a easy kid then you can get by with PET, I think.
 

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I like Tom Gordon's book, despite its unfortunate title! In some ways it's probably dated but I believe the essential message stands up well. I think of it in the same mental category as "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk," and for that matter, Haim Ginott's "Between Parent & Child."

Thomas Gordon (like Marshall Rosenberg of NonViolent Communication) was a student of Carl Rogers. To me, that influence is obvious.

I think of the "I messages" vs. "You messages" a little differently than "trying to get" a child to recognize your needs. I think of it as literally speaking personally, rather than in ways focused on the other person. "I want ---" versus "You have to ---"

This also extends to, "I'm insisting on this" or "I'm not willing to ---" etc. If I were literally stopping a child from something, or if I were refusing to agree to or allow something, I definitely would speak personally in this way.

I also think of it as applying to speaking personally (and owning responsibility) rather than speaking more vaguely (such as "It's time to...." or "We have to....") I use "I messages" in the sense of acknowledging, explicitly, the dynamic at those times. "I'm choosing to --" or "I've decided...." The fact is, I'm choosing to exert my power.

Even if it is "time to" do something, go somewhere, or leave the park, it's still the parent's decision to do so & to impose her own will and power (even if it's for good reason, or out of necessity!) I know my kids have responded better when I acknowledge this in the way I speak. I think it is honest and it also makes more room for their feelings in response, if only because I'm more conscious/aware of the dynamic rather than unconsciously hoping for their sympathy or approval, or trying to avoid their upsets, since it's not my fault that we have to go now....it's "time"! Speaking personally rather than passively in these ways really, really helped to increase cooperation with my young children. This was in the context of me being clearly on their side, caring about their preferences & concerns and clearly willing to accommodate them if I could do so while also honoring my personal limits & our other responsibilities. But when I didn't need their "permission" to make decisions that honored important commitments (like being on time to pick up dad from the train, or making sure I had enough time to take care of something important to me), I think ME recognizing this & speaking in a way that owned and acknowledged this really helped our flow.

It has been a long time since I've looked at the P.E.T. book but I remember his thoughts on "when the child owns the problem" as being very important and helpful. (It's not a unique message but a valuable one from whatever source.) Allowing feelings is something that, in practice, often is counter-intuitive for parents. Even when we respect emotions and deeply want to support & honor our kids and their feelings! Parents frequently resort to treating upset feelings as problems to fix or solve, or we feel irritated and agitated, and Gordon's discussion of this situation (speaking clearly in terms of when the child "owns the problem") really helps to describe the dynamic and identify the problems with these knee-jerk reactions. And to spell out an alternate role & attitude for the parent.

Those knee-jerk responses are about alleviating the anxiety that the child's emotional reactions & agitation trigger in the parent, and I'm not sure that Gordon fully discusses that aspect (how parental anxiety, and poorly-developed self-regulation capacities, are behind a parent's focus on adjusting the environment to relieve discomfort and restore equilibrium. We try to stop upsets & fix situations to get our internal thermostats back in the comfort zone. So we negate feelings, reason or explain, give advice, get exasperated or impatient...) I don't remember him necessarily addressing this dynamic of a parent's stress tolerance (or lack/deficiency) and how it drives these moments. In that sense, an additional discussion might be helpful for parents who are very triggered, or who have significant difficulty tolerating the uncomfortable sensations that frequently get triggered (this is me.) But that possible omission or lack of emphasis doesn't make his existing comments and focus somehow incompatible or incorrect, or unhelpful.

As far as "implementing" the principles Gordon describes, I do think connection is the primary thing. It's more about presence & connection than about specific words, phrases or techniques. If a parent is using words/phrases to "do to" a child, or as a way to "get through" uncomfortable emotional situations and achieve some outcome (fixing the problem and avoiding uncomfortable contact!), it can feel manipulative & alienating to the child. "I hear you are upset" (as mentioned in an earlier post) can become a way to "handle" someone, and that kind of formula isn't about connection or empathy!

But specific strategy CAN be helpful in challenging situations, because it gives a parent options they might not have had otherwise. Having some way to respond instead of feeling at a complete loss, or instead of venting anger and becoming punitive, is a great gift. Having specific strategies & a way to think about certain words or tones of voice/attitude can help when a parent is triggered, because woodenly saying something that acknowledges a child's feelings in that tense moment is more optimal than reacting with "you messages" and judgments to something that felt disrespectful, provocative or rude. ("Decoding" what was being communicated by the angry words and being able to recognize and acknowledge, for example, that the child didn't like feeling bossed around, instead of reacting to the form that communication took, is more constructive. Plus it models the kind of language & behavior you'd probably prefer from the child when they really dislike what is happening!!) So there is real value to having skills & principles, even when they are more about an effort to "implement" something learned than about spontaneously and genuinely embodying it. But ideally it goes beyond strategy or method, to connection, empathy, responsiveness. The principles describe a way of being.

I do think books like this show the way. In my experience, so much of parenting is providing "emotional containment"....really being able to hold (like a big bowl) and reflect back (not always in words) what seems to be going on for the child. Being a witness who sees, cares, is able to "allow" (including tolerating some discomfort and feelings of helplessness or aversion), and ultimately through all of this facilitates an emotional process in the other person. Another big part of parenting is assuming clear responsibility for your own emotions, and also assuming responsibility for recognizing and honoring your actual personal limits, so that you are not taking over responsibility for things that you DON'T own and becoming resentful as a result! Thomas Gordon is aware of these things and identifies habitual ways of being and speaking that are big potential pitfalls for parents. I definitely have a soft spot for P.E.T.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
OK, I just wrote a whole post that 1. advises you to abandon an aspect the book you're asking about as age-inappropriate (oops, sorry!) and 2. fails to ask you a key question.

How come you posted a PET/gentle discipline question in Parents as Partners? Was it just because the model in the book is of parents and children as partners in the sense of being on the same side? Usually posts here are about spouses.
So I started this thread a few months ago, and I'm not in the habit of checking back here frequently enough, obviously. I really, really appreciate all the responses, and I'm sorry I'm haven't been more prompt in responding.

I just today realized that there is an umbrella forum for parenting in general. Ha, I though you had to pick a subtopic! So to answer your question, I posted in this forum because I really couldn't find any other subtopics that made sense, and my partner and I parent as partners. I can see how this forum is meant for other things...

If a mod would like to move this to the general parenting forum, that would probably be a good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
You aren't the one who decides: your job has paramenters, preschools etc have parameters, the sun goes up and down and every day has a rhythm. That's not up to you. The concept of the book, if I understand it from what's been written here, is that you are communicating your needs to your child and listening to their needs. That's fine for interpersonal relationships (with older children, IMO) but getting ready for each day is a family team effort that is meeting external, not interpersonal, demands.
Thank you, really good points here. I did have my daughter the other day express that she didn't want me to get in trouble for being late to work. So I think pointing out external constraints is a good idea.

I think I suck at listening, or maybe I just sometimes come off too patronizing with my active listening (I personally would hate it if someone talked to me in this way). My older daughter might feel the same way. She's seen the book laying around, I suppose she's picked it up and read it. This conversation happened last night:
DD1: (irritated) DD2 is messing up my toy and won't let me play with it!
Me: You're really frustrated that she won't even let you play with your own toy, huh?
DD1: (angry) Why do you always ask questions like that?! I know it's from that book!!
Me: (defensive) Well, I'm just trying to make sure I understand what you are telling me. Would you rather me say, "too bad, I guess you can play with it later?!"
DD1: (still angry) no.

I didn't say anything after that. Anyway, my point is, since I recognize I would be annoyed with this approach, maybe I need to do it more subtly, or pick and choose when active listening would really help the situation.

PET is not the most effective parenting method:

I'd use the Incredible Years book instead of or in addition to PET. And use Kazdin Method if you have significant defiance issues.

The Incredible Year's base is similar to PET, but it adds some other techniques.
Thanks so much for the link and this suggestion. I will definitely check it out! I do feel that the theory is nice on paper, but the techniques don't seem like enough.

I like Tom Gordon's book, despite its unfortunate title! In some ways it's probably dated but I believe the essential message stands up well. I think of it in the same mental category as "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk," and for that matter, Haim Ginott's "Between Parent & Child."
Wow, so many helpful notes here on PET and what it is and isn't. I will have to read and re-read your post and think hard about I can use PET to help my family.

I listened to the "How to talk" audiobook recently and found many parallels to PET. I felt the book had more specific "instructions" on how to parent in this manner, and not just theory. So it was helpful. I think it takes the kids off guard at first and works because they are surprised, but the novelty wears off.

You are also making some points about the parents' anxiety that make me think of yet another parenting book I'm reading, Conscious Parenting. I've just started it, so we'll see what changes it brings, if any.


p.s., everyone, I read in my "spare" time. (aka when I should be doing housework). Or listen to audiobooks on my commute to work. My kids aren't getting put on a back burner when I should be present with them so I can get this stuff in. Just in case anyone was thinking that...
 

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I think I suck at listening, or maybe I just sometimes come off too patronizing with my active listening (I personally would hate it if someone talked to me in this way). My older daughter might feel the same way. She's seen the book laying around, I suppose she's picked it up and read it. This conversation happened last night:
DD1: (irritated) DD2 is messing up my toy and won't let me play with it!
Me: You're really frustrated that she won't even let you play with your own toy, huh?
DD1: (angry) Why do you always ask questions like that?! I know it's from that book!!
Me: (defensive) Well, I'm just trying to make sure I understand what you are telling me. Would you rather me say, "too bad, I guess you can play with it later?!"
DD1: (still angry) no.

I didn't say anything after that. Anyway, my point is, since I recognize I would be annoyed with this approach, maybe I need to do it more subtly, or pick and choose when active listening would really help the situation.
You are very insightful and eager to makes changes, good for you!

There are a few different communication styles, usually this comes out in business training and marriage counseling. It seems that your style (in this situation, anyway) is adversarial. Cooperative style is considered the target style for best prosocial activities like families and organizations. That means that you and the book are not one team and the kids on the other. You and the book and your kids are one team that is building something.

To my thinking there is no better place to look for the dominance of adversarial communication style than the hyper competitive modern lifestyle in the US. No one can just achieve something, they have beat somene else (even if actually don't "beat" someone else, such as adequate placement in a public childhood program it's somehow considered a competition). And the types of play also with the emphasis on competitive sport and power brokering rather than pooling resources and bonding without needing an Other (enemy) to rail against. And look at all this competitive TV programming, real and fantasy.

Not only can you get better at cooperative communication but your children have to as well. They shouldn't feel "against" one another in the family (I have an only child & I know rivalry is natural but generally I think families hope that the children will love and enjoy each other).

Why not tell your kids what you're learning and how it can help all of you. They will need to learn this stuff too. Try to get yourselves all on the same page so you can function with the external and internal strifes with better cooperation. It sounds like you are already working in this direction and best wishes to you!
 

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Thank you, really good points here. I did have my daughter the other day express that she didn't want me to get in trouble for being late to work. So I think pointing out external constraints is a good idea.

I think I suck at listening, or maybe I just sometimes come off too patronizing with my active listening (I personally would hate it if someone talked to me in this way). My older daughter might feel the same way. She's seen the book laying around, I suppose she's picked it up and read it. This conversation happened last night:
DD1: (irritated) DD2 is messing up my toy and won't let me play with it!
Me: You're really frustrated that she won't even let you play with your own toy, huh?
DD1: (angry) Why do you always ask questions like that?! I know it's from that book!!
Me: (defensive) Well, I'm just trying to make sure I understand what you are telling me. Would you rather me say, "too bad, I guess you can play with it later?!"
DD1: (still angry) no.

I didn't say anything after that. Anyway, my point is, since I recognize I would be annoyed with this approach, maybe I need to do it more subtly, or pick and choose when active listening would really help the situation.
That is hilarious. What a smart kid!

I agree with @pumabearclan. Tell them what you're trying to do and get their help.

Parenting books are a little bit like cookbooks. Sometimes, you have to substitute some of the ingredients. When you really like a recipe, you tweak it and then you own it.
 
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