Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children (Thomas Gordon)

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Emily and I read Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children. Here are notes from the book.

The thesis of P.E.T. seems to be:

  • Treat your kids the same way you'd treat your spouse or a friend -- don't impose your will on them
  • Use active listening when the kid has a problem
  • Use "I" statements, confrontation, shared problem solving, and "no-lose" agreements when you have a problem

Table of Contents

  1. Parents Are Blamed but Not Trained
  2. Parents Are Persons, Not Gods
    The Concept of Acceptance / Parents Can and Will Be Inconsistent / Parents Don't Have to Put Up a "United Front" / False Acceptance / Can You Accept the Child but Not Her Behavior? / Our Definition of Parents Who Are Real Persons / Who Owns the Problem?
  3. How to Listen So Kids Will Talk to You: The Language of Acceptance
  • The Power of the Language of Acceptance
    • Acceptance Must Be Demonstrated
  • Communicating Acceptance Nonverbally
    • Nonintervention to Show Acceptance / Passive Listening to Show Acceptance
  • Communicating Acceptance Verbally
    • What about the 12 Communication Roadblocks?
  • Simple Door-Openers / Active Listening
    • Why Should Parents Learn Active Listening?
    • Attitudes Required to Use Active Listening
    • The Risk of Active Listening
  • Putting your Active Listening Skills to Work
    • When Does the Child "Own" the Problem? / How Parents Make Active Listening Work
      • Danny: The Child Afraid to Go to Sleep
    • When Does a Parent Decide to Use Active Listening? / Common Mistakes in Using Active Listening
      • Manipulating Children Through "Guidance"
      • Opening the Door, Then Slamming It Shut
      • The "Parroting Parent"
      • Listening Without Empathy
      • Active Listening at the Wrong Times
  • How to Listen to Kids Too Young to Talk Much
    • What Are Infants Like?
    • Tuning In to Needs and Problems of Infants
    • Using Active Listening to Help Infants
    • Give the Child a Chance to Meet His Needs Himself
  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen to You
    • When the Parent Owns the Problem / Ineffective Ways of Confronting Children
      • Sending a "Solution Message" / Sending a "Put-Down Message"
    • Effective Ways of Confronting Children
      • You-Messages and I-Messages
    • The Essential Components of an I-Message
      • Describing the Unacceptable Behavior / The Parent's Feeling About the Behavior / How the Behavior Affects the Parent / Why I-Messages Are More Effective
  • Putting I-Messages to Work
    • The Disguised You-Message / Don't Accentuate the Negative / The Right Tool for the Right Job / The Erupting Mount Vesuvius / What Effective I-Messages Can Do / Sending Nonverbal I-Messages to Very Young Kids / Problems with I-Messages
    • Other Applications of I-Messages
      • An Alternative to Praise
      • How to Prevent Some Problems
      • How I-Messages Lead to Problem-Solving
  • Changing Unacceptable Behavior by Changing the Environment
    Changing the Environment / Impoverishing the Environment / Simplifying the Environment / Limiting the Child's Life Space / Child-Proofing the Environment / Substituting One Activity for Another / Preparing the Child for Changes in the Environment / Planning Ahead with Older Children
  • Inevitable Parent-Child Conflicts: Who Should Win?
    • The Parent-Child Power Struggle: Who Wins, Who Loses?
      • The Two Win-Lose Approaches
      • Why Method I is Ineffective
      • Why Method II is Ineffective
      • Some Additional Problems with Method I and Method II
  • Parental Power: Necessary and Justified?
    • What is Authority? / Serious Limitations of Parental Power
      • Parents Inevitably Run Out of Power / The Teen Years / Training by Power Requires Strict Conditions
    • The Effects of Parental Power on the Child
      • Resistance, Defiance, Rebellion, Negativism / Resentment, Anger, Hostility / Aggression, Retaliation, Striking Back / Lying, Hiding Feelings / Blaming Others, Tattling, Cheating / Dominating, Bossiness, Bullying / Needing to Win, Hating to Lose / Forming Alliances, Organizing Against Parents / Submission, Obedience, Compliance / Apple Polishing, Courting Favor / Conformity, Lack of Creativity, Fear of Trying Something New, Requiring Prior Assurance of Success / Withdrawing, Escaping, Fantasizing, Regression
      • Some Deeper Issues About Parental Authority
        • Don't Children Want Authority and Limits?
        • Isn't Authority All Right If Parents Are Consistent?
        • But Isn't It the Parents' Responsibility to Influence Children?
        • Why Has Power Persisted in Child-Rearing?
  • The "No-Lose" Method for Resolving Conflicts
    • Why Method III is So Effective
      • The Child Is Motivated to Carry Out the Solution
      • More Chance of Finding a High-Quality Solution
      • Method III Develops Children's Thinking Skills
      • Less Hostility—More Love
      • Requires Less Enforcement
      • Method III Eliminates the Need for Power
      • Method III Gets to the Real Problems
      • Treating Kids Like Adults
      • Method III as "Therapy" for the Child
  • Parents' Fears' and Concerns About the "No-Lose" Method
    • Just the Old Family Conference Under a New Name?
    • Method III Seen as Parental Weakness
    • "Groups Cannot Make Decisions"
    • "Method III Takes Too Much Time"
    • "Aren't Parents Justified in Using Method I Because They Are Wiser?"
    • "Can Method III Work with Young Children?"
    • "Aren't There Times When Method I Has to Be Used?"
    • "Won't I Lose My Kids' Respect?
  • Putting the "No-Lose" Method to Work
    How Do You Start? / The Six Steps of the No-Lose Method Setting the Stage for Method III / Step 1: Identifying and Defining the Conflict / Step 2: Generating Possible Solutions / Step 3: Evaluating the Alternative Solutions / Step 4: Deciding on the Best Solution / Step 5: Implementing the Decision / Step 6: Following Up to Evaluate How it Worked / The Need for Active Listening and I-Messages / The First No-Lose Attempt
    • Problems Parents Will Encounter
      • Initial Distrust and Resistance
      • "What If We Can't Find an Acceptable Solution?"
      • Reverting to Method I When Method III Bogs Down
      • Should Punishment Be Built into the Decision?
      • When Agreements Are Broken
      • When Children Have Been Accustomed to Winning
    • The No-Lose Method for Child-Child Conflicts / When Both Parents Are Involved in Parent-Child Conflicts
      • Everyone on His Own / One Parent Using Method III, the Other Not
    • "Can We Use All Three Methods?" / "Does The No-Lose Method Ever Fail to Work?"
  • How to Avoid Being Fired as a Parent
    • A Question of Values / A Question of Civil Rights / "Can't I Teach My Values?"
      • The Parent as a Model / The Parent as a Consultant / "To Accept What I Cannot Change"
  • How Parents Can Prevent Conflicts by Modifying Themselves
    Can You Become More Accepting of Yourself? / Whose Children Are They? / Do You Really Like Children—or Just a Certain Type of Child? / Are Your Values and Beliefs the Only True Ones? / Is Your Primary Relationship with Your Spouse? / Can Parents Change Their Attitudes?
  • The Other Parents of Your Children
  • 1. Parents Are Blamed but Not Trained

    Motivation for the book—parents get blamed for their kids' behavior, but aren't given training on how to be parents.

    2. Parents Are Persons, Not Gods

    Unfortunately, parents feel like they need to play a role of "parent," instead of just being genuine.  Think of all possible behaviors of your child as being separated into "Behaviors that you find acceptable in that moment" and "Behaviors that you do not find acceptable in that moment".  Determine an accurate boundary, as if you pretend to accept a behavior that you actually don't, your child will get "mixed messages" and won't be sure what to do.

    Be genuine, as opposed to trying to be consistent if you're not, trying to have a "united front" if you don't, or trying to accept a behavior if you don't.

    Can You Accept the Child but Not Her Behavior?


    Who Owns the Problem?

    Think of all possible situations as being divided into ones where the child owns a problem, there is no problem, and the parent owns a problem.  Listening skills may help the child solve some of the problems they own.  In the first subset, use listening skills.  In the third subset, use confrontation skills.

    3. How to Listen So Kids Will Talk to You: The Language of Acceptance

    Don't interfere with what their mistakes.  Be "hands-off".  Passive listening without adding your own opinion.

    Don't use the twelve "roadblocks":
    1. Ordering, directing, commanding: Telling the child to do something, giving him an order or a command:
    • You have to do the yardwork
    • Don't talk to your mother like that
    • Go play with Ginny and Ashley
    • Stop complaining
  • Warning, admonishing, threatening: Telling the child what consequences will occur if he does something
    • If you do that, you'll be sorry
    • One more remark like that and you'll leave the room
    • You'd better not do that if you know what's good for you
  • Exhorting, moralizing, preaching
    • You shouldn't act like that
    • You ought to do this...
    • You must always respect adults
  • Advising, giving solutions or suggestions: Telling the child how to solve a problem, giving him advice or suggestions; providing answers or solutions for him
    • Why don't you ask both Ginny and Ashley to play down here?
    • Just wait a couple of years before deciding on college
    • I suggest you talk to your teachers about that
    • Go make friends with other girls
  • Lecturing, teaching, giving logical arguments: Trying to influence the child with facts, counterarguments, logic, information, or your own opinion
    • College can be the most wonderful experience you'll ever have
    • Children must learn how to get along with each other
    • Let's look at the facts about college graduates
    • If kids learn to take responsibility around the house, they'll grow up to be responsible adults.
    • Look at it this way—your mother needs help around the house
    • When I was your age, I had twice as much to do as you
  • Judging, criticizing, disagreeing, blaming: Making a negative judgment or evaluation of the child
    • You're not thinking clearly
    • That's very immature
    • You're very wrong about that
    • I couldn't diagree with you more
  • Praising, agreeing: Offering a positive evaluation or judgment, agreeing
    • Well, I think you're pretty
    • You have the ability to do well
    • I think you're right
    • I agree with you
  • Name-calling, ridiculing, shaming: Making the child feel foolish, putting the child into a category, shaming him
    • You're a spoiled brat
    • Look here, Mr. Know-It-All
    • You're acting like a wild animal
    • Okay, little baby
  • Interpreting, analyzing, diagnosing: Telling teh child what his motives are or analyzing why he is doing or saying something; communicating that you have him figured out or have him diagnosed
    • You're just jealous of Ginny
    • You're saying that to bug me
    • You really don't believe that at all
    • You feel that way because you're not doing well in school
  • Reassuring, sympathizing, consoling, supporting: Trying to make the child feel better, talking him out of his feelings, trying to make his feelings go away, denying the strength of his feelings
    • You'll feel different tomorrow
    • All kids go through this sometime
    • Don't worry, things'll work out
    • You could be an excellent student, with your potential
    • I used to think that too
    • I know, school can be pretty boring sometimes
    • You usually get along with other kids very well
  • Probing, questioning, interrogating: Trying to find reasons, motives, causes; searching for more information to help you solve the problem
    • When did you start feeling this way?
    • Why do you suppose you hate school?
    • Do the kids ever tell you why they don't want to play with you?
    • How many other kids have you talked to about the work they have to do?
    • Who put that idea into your head?
    • What will you do if you don't go to college?
  • Withdrawing, distracting, humoring, diverting: Trying to get the child away from the problem; withdrawing from the problem yourself; distracting the child, kidding him out of it, pushing the problem aside
    • Just forget about it
    • Let's not talk about it at the table
    • Come on—let's talk about something more pleasant
    • How's it going with your soccer?
    • I'll bet the President doesn't have problems as complicated as yours
    • We've been through all this before
    Instead, use simple door openers, "oh", "i see", "tell me more", or use active listening, where you empathize with the feeling behind a statement, and make statements like "you feel X"/"you want X" as a way of confirming whether or not what the feeling they have was successfully communicated.

    4. Putting your Active Listening Skills to Work

    Use active listening when the child owns a problem.  Don't take over problem solving for the child and make their problem into your problem.

    Danny: The Child Afraid to Go to Sleep

    Story of a kid who wouldn't go to sleep—the mother listened to him and determined that he was afraid he would stop breathing

    It is okay to let an active listening session end on an inconclusive or incomplete note—often a child wants to be understood.

    Don't use active listening when a child is simply asking for specific factual information or in general if the child is not trying to send a message.  If the child wants to stop talking, then they don't have a problem anymore, and that's time to stop.

    5. How to Listen to Kids Too Young to Talk Much

    Try solving their crying using different means until something works.

    Give the Child a Chance to Meet His Needs Himself

    The book includes a dialog starting with: "CHILD (crying): Truck, truck—no truck." and the parent guessing what the child is feeling, like "You want your truck, but you can't find it."

    6. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen to You

    When the parent owns a problem (something bothers them),
    1. They can try to modify the child
    2. They can try to modify the environment
    3. They can try to modify themselves
    Ineffective ways of confronting children:

    Sending "solution message"

      1. Ordering, directing, commanding
      2. Warning, admonishing, threatening
      3. Exhorting, preaching, moralizing
      4. Advising, giving suggestions, or solutions
    Imagine doing the above to a friend or other adult

    Sending a "Put-Down Message"

    1. Judging, criticizing, blaming
      1. You are being bad/thoughtless/inconsiderate
      2. You ought to know better
    2. Name-calling, ridiculing, shaming
      1. Shame on you
      2. You're a spoiled brat
    3. Interpreting, diagnosing, psychoanalyzing
      1. You just want to get some attention
      2. You're just trying to make me mad
      3. You just love to see how far you can go
      4. You always want to play where I'm working
    4. Teaching, instructing
      1. It's not good manners to interrupt someone
      2. Nice children don't do that
      3. How would you like it if I did that to you?
      4. Why odn't you be good for a change?
      5. Do unto others . . . etc.
      6. We don't leave our dishes dirty.
    "You are being a pest" is a poor way to communicate "I am tired."  Identify the feeling you are having and use I-messages.

    The essential components of an I-Message

    1. Description of the unacceptable behavior
    2. The parent's feeling about the behavior
    3. Tangible and concrete effect on the parent

    7. Putting I-Messages to Work

    Don't Accentuate the Negative: Try to avoid skipping positive I-messages

    The Right Tool for the Right Job: Don't play down your feelings

    The Erupting Mount Vesuvius: Avoid "I am angry"—instead look for root cause of anger

    What Effective I-Messages Can Do: Child may choose to modify their behavior

    How to Prevent Some Problems: Announce your intentions/plans ahead of time using I-message [this actually seems unrelated]

    When an I message doesn't influence the child to decide to modify their behavior, there is a "conflict of needs" situation.

    8. Changing Unacceptable Behavior by Changing the Environment

    Enriching the environment: give children interesting things to do so that they don't do unacceptable things instead.

    Impoverishing the environment: Remove stimuli before bedtime

    Simplifying the environment: Give the kids tools so they can do things for themselves (stools, clothes that are easy to put on, putting things low where they can reach, washable paint on walls in their room)

    Limiting the child's life space: Fenced in backyards, special play areas, "noisy" areas—sometimes kids will accept these limitations

    Child proofing the environment: Turning pot handles, unbreakable cups, keeping doors, tools, matches, expensive objects locked, non-slip mats/rugs.

    Substituting one activity for another: Offer a dull knife if child is playing with sharp one, give empty cosmetics to replace real ones, magazines you don't want to replace ones you do wan't

    Preparing the child for changes in the environment: Announce upcoming changes in routine well ahead of time.

    Planning ahead with older children: Teach child to be more independent, give them tools to be more independent, and tell them ahead of time of changes to routines.

    Imagine what kinds of changes you'd make to your house if your own parent became partially paralyzed and needs crutches and a wheelchari, and you were going to bring them into your house, what changes would you make to your home?  Then consider making similar changes for your child.

    9. Inevitable Parent-Child Conflicts: Who Should Win?

    Method I: Parent wins

    Needs enforcement, creates resentment, no buy-in, child does not learn self-discipline

    Method II: Child wins

    Parenthood is seldom a joy

    10. Parental Power: Necessary and Justified?

    Parents eventually run out of power once kid becomes more self sufficient. Engenders rebellion and hostility.  Training by power needs strict conditions:
    1. Subject must be highly motivated
    2. If punishment is too severe, subject will avoid situation entirely
    3. Reward has to be available quickly after behavior
    4. There must be a great deal of consistency
    5. Reward and punishment are seldom effective in teaching complex behaviors
    The book lists 12 effects of parental power on the child.

    Isn't authority all right if parents are consistent?

    Consistency is essential if you choose to use power and authority.  Book describes an experiment by Norman Maier on rats where inconsistent rewards and punishment made rats "neurotic": skin disorders, catatonic state, ran around in their cages frantically and aimlessly, refused to associate with other rats, would not eat.

    11. The "No-Lose" Method for Resolving Conflicts

    12. Parents' Fears' and Concerns About the "No-Lose" Method

    "Aren't Parents Justified in Using Method I Because They Are Wiser?"

    Were there times when you rown parents were wrong about something?

    "Aren't There Times When Method I Has to Be Used?"

    Yes (life and limb).  But try to solve the underlying problem (like child has tendency to run into street)

    13. Putting the "No-Lose" Method to Work

    Should punishment be built into the decision?

    No.  Assume the kids will carry out the decision.

    When agreements are broken

    Send an I-message, then go back to assuming the kid will carry out the decision.

    The no-lose method for child-child conflicts

    Parent can act as facilitator by active listening with both children present.

    Does the no-lose method ever fail to work?


    14. How to Avoid Being Fired as a Parent

    For problems owned by the parent, some will be solved by I-Messages.  Some will be solved by Method III.  The rest are "Value Collisions".  You can be a role model for your kids, and you can be a consultant or adviser to your kids.  If a consultant spends too much time on a hard-sell of an idea a client doesn't want, they will get fired.  Same with parents.

    Serenity Prayer

    15. How Parents Can Prevent Conflicts by Modifying Themselves

    Don't try to live vicariously through your children.

    Your children are separate people -- they are not your children.

    Are your values and beliefs the only true ones?

    Make sure your primary relationship is with your spouse, and your kids are secondary in your life, or at least not primary.

    16. The Other Parents of Your Children

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