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Thomas Gordon quotes

Acceptance Must Be Demonstrated

By Dr. Thomas Gordon, Founder of GTI

It is one thing for a parent to feel acceptance toward a child; it is another thing to make that
acceptance felt. Unless a parents acceptance comes through to the child, it can have no influence
on him. A parent must learn how to demonstrate his acceptance so that the child feels it.

Specific skills are required to be able to do this. Most parents, however, tend to think of
acceptance as a passive thing-a state of mind, an attitude, a feeling. True, acceptance does
originate from within, but to be an effective force in influencing another, it must be actively
communicated or demonstrated. I can never be certain that I am accepted by another until he
demonstrates it in some active way.

The professional psychological counselor or psychotherapist, whose effectiveness as a helping

agent is so greatly dependent on his being able to demonstrate his acceptance of the client, spends
years learning ways to implement this attitude through his own habits of communication.
Through formal training and long experience, professional counselors acquire specific skills in
communicating acceptance. They learn that what they say makes the difference between their
being helpful or not.

Talk can cure, and talk can foster constructive change. But it must be the right kind of talk.

The same is true for parents. How they talk to their children will determine whether they will be
helpful or destructive. The effective parent, like the effective counselor, must learn how to
communicate his acceptance and acquire the same communication skills.

Parents in our classes skeptically ask, Is it possible for a nonprofessional like myself to learn the
skills of a professional counselor? Thirty years ago we would have said, No. However, in our
classes we have demonstrated that if is possible for most parents to learn how to become effective
helping agents for their children. We know now that it is not knowledge of psychology or an
intellectual understanding about people that makes a good counselor. It is primarily a matter of
learning how to talk to people in a constructive way.

Psychologists call this therapeutic communication, meaning that certain kinds of messages
have a therapeutic or healthy effect on people. They make them feel better, encourage them to
talk, help them express their feelings, foster a feeling of worth or self-esteem, reduce threat or
fear, facilitate growth and constructive change.

Other kinds of talk are nontherapeutic or destructive. These messages tend to make people feel
judged or guilty; they restrict expression of honest feelings, threaten the person, foster feelings of
unworthiness or low self-esteem, block growth and constructive change by making the person
defend more strongly the way he is.

While a very small number of parents possess this therapeutic skill intuitively and hence are
naturals, most parents have to go through a process of first unlearning their destructive ways of
communicating and then learning more constructive ways. This means that parents first have to
expose their typical habits of communication to see for themselves how their talk is destructive or
nontherapeutic. Then they need to be taught some new ways of responding to children.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordons P.E.T. book

Are You Listening Without Empathy?
A real danger for parents who try to learn Active Listening solely from a books printed page is
their inability to hear the warmth and empathy that must accompany their efforts. Empathy means
a quality of communication that conveys to the sender of a message that the listener is feeling
with her, putting herself in the shoes of the sender, living, for a moment, inside the sender.

Everyone wants others to understand how she feels when she talks, not just what she is saying.
Children, especially, are feeling people. Therefore, much of what they communicate is
accompanied by feelings: joy, hate, disappointment, fear, love, worry, anger, pride, frustration,
sadness, and so on. When they communicate with parents, they expect empathy with such
feelings. When parents dont empathize, children naturally feel that the essential part of them at
that momenttheir feelingis not being understood.

Probably, the most common mistake parents make when they first try out Active Listening is to
feed back a response devoid of the feeling component of the childs message. Heres an example:

Little Carey, aged six, pleads with his father, who has been trying to encourage him to come into
the water while the family is enjoying a day at the beach:

CAREY: I dont want to go in. Its too deep! And Im afraid of the waves.

FATHER: The water is too deep for you.

CAREY: Im scared! Please dont make me go in!

This father is completely missing the childs feelings, and his attempt at feedback shows it. Carey
is not sending an intellectual evaluation of the depth of the water. He is sending an urgent plea to
his father: Dont make me come in because Im scared stiff! The father should have
acknowledged this with, Youre scared and dont want me to force you into the water.

Some parents find out they are very uncomfortable with feelingstheir own as well as their
childs. It is as if they are compelled to ignore a childs feelings because they cannot tolerate her
having them. Or they want quickly to push her feelings out of the picture, and therefore
deliberately avoid acknowledging them. Some parents are so frightened of feelings that they
actually fail to detect them in their childs messages.

So, please reflect and ask yourself, Are you listening without empathy?

Attitudes Required to Use Active Listening

Active Listening is not a simple technique that parents pull out of their took kit whenever their
children have problems. It is a method for putting to work a set of basic attitudes. Without these
attitudes, the method seldom will be effective; it will sound false, empty, mechanical, insincere.
Here are some basic attitudes that must be present when a parent is using Active Listening.
Whenever these attitudes are not present, a parent cannot be an effective active listener.
1. You must want to hear what the child has to say. This means you are willing to take the
time to listen. If you dont have time, you need only say so.
2. You must genuinely want to be helpful to him with his particular problem at that time. If
you dont want to, wait until you do.

3. You must genuinely be able to accept his feelings, whatever they may be or however
different they may be from your own feelings or from the feelings you think a child should feel.
This attitude takes time to develop.
4. You must have a deep feeling of trust in the childs capacity to handle his feelings, to work
through them, and to find solutions to his problems. Youll acquire this trust by watching your
child solve his own problems.
5. You must appreciate the feelings are transitory, not permanent. Feelings change-hate can
turn into love, discouragement may quickly be replaced by hope. Consequently, you need not be
afraid of feelings getting expressed; they will not become forever fixed inside the child. Active
Listening will demonstrate this to you.
6. You must be able to see your child as someone separate from you-a unique person no
longer joined to you, a separate individual having been given by you his own life and his own
identity. This separateness will enable you to permit the child to have his own feelings, his
own way of perceiving things. Only by feeling separateness will you be able to be a helping
agent for the child. You must be with him as he experiences his problems, but not joined to

Letting Go When You Dont Own The

I hear many parents frustration in feeling as if every problem that their child is experiencing is
something that the parent has to solve.

I have a science project due tomorrow and I havent started it yet!

I got suspended from school.

He grabbed my toy from me! I want it back now!

Any of these sound familiar? Your natural instincts might have you asking yourself What am I
going to do about this?!

With the Behavior Window and Problem Ownership in mind,you get to let go of the
responsibility of most (if not all) of these sorts of problems that your children are experiencing
not to say that you cant still help them!

In P.E.T., parents are urged to recognize that their children often experience problems that belong
to the child alone. These child-owned problems may not affect the parent in a concrete or
tangible way. However, the parent can still be very concerned and want to help the child resolve
the problem.

P.E.T. suggests that when children own such problems that the parent respond by: Attending,
Accepting, Active Listening.

Active Listening works because it helps the child discharge strong feelings and think through a
problem to get some kind of resolution.

When practicing Active Listening with a problem that your child owns, it is very important to
keep these two especially important things in mind: (1) the importance of staying current (not
rushing ahead or lagging behind) and (2) how tempting it is to want to analyze and interpret
motives and how ineffective and even damaging this can be.

Try it! You owe it to yourself to release your grasp from problems that you dont own and are not
responsible for. Think about it like this: the solution to their problem is out of your control.

Behind the Scenes of Control

We have looked at punishment and rewards and studied how both are supposed to work and the
one word we came across again and again is the word control. In several Family Connection
issues we touched upon control but never really looked at it behind the scenes of punishment
and rewards. Lets do this now.

There are two types of control in the adult-child relationship, external control (adult discipline)
and inner control (self discipline). Parents (and teachers) who manage and dispense rewards and
punishments can be said to use extrinsic rewards and punishments for the external control of
children. Those who do not use rewards and punishments but instead strive to increase the
childrens capability to find their own pleasant (or realize unpleasant) consequences can be said
to use intrinsic rewards and punishments. Those parents and teachers are helping the youngsters
to develop inner control. In spite of substantial research showing that rewards and punishments
do not yield the long term results desired, we are still mostly a society heavily committed to
external control and sadly deficient in promoting inner control.

The concept of adults arranging for (or engineering) aversive consequences is still at the heart of
most parent-training programs, may they be called Positive Parenting, Love and Logic or STEP
Many of these programs heavily borrow from P.E.T., in particular the conflict-resolution skills,
but still due to their advocacy of punishment remain fundamentally different from what P.E.T.
has to offer. Most of these contemporary parenting programs advise to use punishment but warn
against making it too severe, against doing it frequently and against doing it in anger. However,
as research has shown, punishment will only work for a limited time, that is, if in fact it is applied
frequently and severe enough to be aversive and applied at the moment immediately after the
unacceptable behavior has occurred (the moment parents are dealing with their anger). This is
simply bad advice, to first insist to use punitive discipline, but then literally insure that it wont
work by suggesting making it weak, infrequent and non-aversive. So, what is the answer to this
dilemma? What can be done with our children to inspire functional self-discipline that works?

Being an Effective Parent Isnt a Matter of

Parenthood need not be a difficult and demanding experience that brings problems, worries and
anxiety. One survey by parent trainer, Dr. Harold Minden, found that the responses of hundreds
of parents to the question, How would you rate your parenting experience? were as follows:
22% answered fulfilling and positive
37% answered moderately fulfilling
41% answered frustrating and negative

Dr. Minden also found that 69% of the satisfied parents said they would enroll in a parent training
course, but only 37% of the frustrated and negative parents said they would do so. It appeared
they did not recognize the need for assistance in parenting. Those parents typically think that how
kids turn out is outside their controla matter of luck. Many of them rely on the same method of

raising children and dealing with problems in their families that were used by their parents and
grandparents even though they know these methods dont work.

We now know without a doubt that parents who take training and learn how to create democratic,
non-authoritarian relationships with both their spouses and their children will build happy
marriages and create a new species of children. Here is a list of the characteristics of this new
They get their own needs get met, yet are sensitive when others may be affected negatively.
They are very sensitive to all forms of unfairness they see in their world.
They treat their friends the way they have been treated at homethey are good listeners,
good counselors, good at expressing themselves, good at solving problems, and good at resolving
conflicts with others.
They are mature for their age, fun-loving, playful.
They want their needs met, yet are unselfish, altruistic and giving to others.
They have less need to be dependent on other peopleyet they have friendships and make
friends easily.
They are less afraid of being laughed at, less afraid of what people will say, more
They are relatively unfrightened by the unknown, and they dont just cling to the familiar.
They have a high degree of self-acceptanceaccepting the way they are, yet this somehow
frees them to change and improve themselves.

Raising children who develop these characteristics takes time and commitment. Theres no
gimmick or quick way to do it. Parents who take the time to understand and then put what they
learn into practice are richly rewarded, usually far beyond their hopes and expectations.

Being Authoritative Does Not Equal Being

After looking at the four kinds of authority in our last newsletter well take a moment in this
newsletter to clear up some confused thinking caused by the existence of these four different
kinds of authority with regard to children.

Lets start with Authority E (E standing for expertise.) This kind of Authority is highly-valued
and quite harmless in human relationships. Most people, including children, respect those who
have expertise, they learn from them, seek out their counsel, and often follow their advice. When
parents and teachers (and authors of dare-to-discipline child-rearing books, too) complain about
todays children not respecting authority, they are thinking of Authority P (P standing for power.)
They really are complaining that children dont obey adults that is, dont do exactly whatever
adults tell them to do, just because adults tell them to do it.

Dr. Gordon points out that its widespread that children actually do have a lot of respect for
people who have some sort of expertise. In fact, they often overestimate the Authority E that
adults have. This is especially true of younger children. They think their parents know everything
there is to know. And they often are awed by the knowledge and skills possessed by doctors,
dentists, teachers, coaches, carpenters, car-mechanics, fire fighters and others.

What about children respecting Authority J (J standing for job)? Again, usually this is not the
kind of authority that is causing major problems. Children usually respect the kind of authority
that derives from the generally understood duties, roles, and functions of the jobs that adults hold.
When adults are driving a car and tell kids to fasten their seat belts, most youngsters accept this as
the drivers legitimate prerogative, a situation not unlike passengers accepting an airline captain
telling them to refasten their seat belts while going through some unexpected turbulence. Kids
typically stand when commanded by an adult saying, Lets stand and sing the National
Anthem. Dr. Gordon would tell us that as the chief cook in his family, his mother had a lot of
Authority J, which the kids (and the Dad too) usually respected. Seldom did they fail to comply
with her demands: Time to come in, dinners ready; Bring the plates in; Eat it while its
hot; Clear the dishes off the table; and so on.

Do children respect Authority P (P standing for power)? The Gordon Model is based on the
observation that they hardly ever do! Can you recall ever respecting a teacher who was bossy and
used power to coerce you into doing what you didnt want to do? Have you ever known a child
who held in high esteem any adult who consistently used power-based punishment or threats of
punishment? Kids, like adults, dont respect power wielders, although they do usually fear them.
Otherwise, why do they retaliate against them, resist them, avoid them, lie to them, and grow to
dislike them? I believe most of us know this from our own experience as youngsters.

Often, parents are unclear about the word authority. Many times parents ask us at Gordon
Training, You urge parents and teachers not to use authority. But dont they have a duty to teach
children their values and beliefs and share with them their superior judgment and wisdom? This
question illustrates confusion between two meanings of authority: Authority P and Authority E.
We urge parents and teachers not to use Authority P, but we certainly advocate that they should
share their Authority E whenever it seems appropriate to do so. In fact, children often seek out the
advice, judgment, and opinion of their elders, and they are often curious about what both parents
and teachers value or believe.

Suggestions and advice are clearly methods of influencing others by sharing ones experience,
wisdom, knowledge, and so on Authority E, distinctly different from controlling others with
Authority P. In other words: It seldom hurts an adult-child relationship for the adult to be
authoritative Authority E or to be an authority on a subject; but it does harm the relationship
to be authoritarian Authority P. And we will look into why this is so in upcoming editions of
the Family Connection.

Can Parents Change Their Attitudes?

By Dr. Thomas Gordon, Founder of GTI

Can Dr. Gordons P.E.T. book or a P.E.T. course bring about change in such parental
attitudes? Can parents learn to become more accepting of their children? Most
practitioners in the helping professions were taught that people dont change much
unless they go through intensive psychotherapy under the guidance of a professional
therapist, usually lasting from six months to a year or even longer.

In recent years, however, there has been a radical shift in the thinking of professional
change agents. Most of us have watched people make significant changes in attitudes
and behaviors as a result of having an experience with individual and family counseling
or therapy, self-help seminars, books, video tapes, and audio tapes. Most professionals

(and many parents) now accept the idea that people can change significantly when they
get the opportunity to learn and practice communication and conflict resolution skills.

Almost all the parents who have participated in the P.E.T. program (both in the
classroom and through self-study) realize that their present attitudes and methods as
parents leave much to be desired. Many know they already have been ineffective with
one or more of their children; others are scared about what their present methods might
ultimately do to the children; all are acutely aware of how many parent-child
relationships deteriorate when the children move into adolescence.

Consequently, most parents in P.E.T. have a readiness and willingness to change to learn new,
more effective methods, to avoid mistakes of other parents (or their own), and to discover any
technique that might make their job easier. We have yet to meet a parent who does not want to
do a better job of raising his children.

With all these things going for us in P.E.T., it is not surprising that the training experience brings
about significant changes in parents attitudes and behavior. Here is one sample of a statement
taken from an evaluation form that we have received from a parent:

It made me realize how much I had underestimated my children and weakened them through my
overprotectiveness and overconscientiousness. I had been a member of a really fine child study
group, but it had only reinforced my guilt feelings and kept me trying to be a perfect Mommy.

But, not all parents are able to make the changes in attitudes required to become more accepting
of their children. Some come to realize that their marriage is not mutually fulfilling, so that one
or both cannot be effective with the children. Either they seldom find the time and energy
because so much of it goes into their own marital conflicts, or they find that they cannot be
accepting of their children because they are not feeling accepting of themselves as husband and

Other parents find it difficult to throw off the oppressive value system, acquired from their own
parents and now causing them to be excessively judgmental and unaccepting of their
children. Still others have trouble modifying their attitude of owning their children or their
deep commitment to a goal of making their children fit a preconceived mold: this attitude is
found mostly in parents who have been strongly influenced by the dogmas of a few religious
sects that teach parents to have a moral obligation to make converts out of their children, even
though it may mean using the power and authority of the parent or using methods of influence not
too dissimilar from brainwashing and thought control.

For some parents whose own basic attitudes they find hard to modify, the P.E.T. experience, for
whatever reason, opens the door to seek other kinds of help group therapy, marital counseling,
family therapy, or even individual therapy. Quite a few of these parents have said that before
P.E.T. they never would have consulted a psychologist or psychiatrist for help. Apparently,
P.E.T. creates greater self-awareness and the motivation and desire for people to change, even
when P.E.T. itself may not be enough to bring about significant change.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordons P.E.T. book

Can You Become More Accepting of Yourself?

Studies show that a direct relationship exists between how accepting people are of others and how
accepting they are of themselves. A person who accepts himself as a person is likely to feel a lot

of acceptance for others. People who cannot tolerate a lot of things about themselves usually find
it difficult to tolerate a lot in others.

A parent needs to ask himself a penetrating question: How much do I like who I am?

If the honest answer indicates a lack of acceptance of himself as a person, that parent needs to
reexamine his own life to find ways to become more fulfilled from his own achievements.
Persons with high self-acceptance and self-regard are generally productive achievers who are
using their own talents, who are actualizing their own potential, who accomplish things, who are

Parents who satisfy their own needs through independent productive effort not only accept
themselves but also neednt seek gratification of their needs from the way their children behave.
They dont need their children to turn out in a particular way. People with high self-esteem,
resting on a firm foundation of their own independent achievement, are more accepting of their
children and the way they behave.

On the other hand, if a parent has few or no sources of satisfaction and self-esteem from his own
life and must depend heavily on getting satisfaction from the way others evaluate his children, he
is likely to be unaccepting of his childrenespecially those behaviors that he fears may make him
look like a bad parent.

Relying upon this indirect self-acceptance, such a parent will need to have his children behave
in certain specified ways. And he is more likely to be unaccepting of them and upset with them
when they deviate from his blueprint.

Producing good childrenhigh achievers in school, socially successful, competent in athletics,

and so onhas become a status symbol for many parents. They need to be proud of their
children; they need their children to behave in a way that will make them look like good parents
to others.

In a sense, many parents are using their children to bring themselves a feeling of self-worth and
self-esteem. If a parent has no other source of self-worth and self-esteem, which is unhappily true
of many parents whose lives are limited to raising good children, the stage is set for a
dependency on children that makes the parent overanxious and severely needful that the children
behave in particular ways.

Children Dont Misbehave

By Thomas Gordon, Ph.D. (author of P.E.T., founder of Gordon Training International)

If parents only knew how much trouble this word misbehavior causes in families! Thinking in
terms of children misbehaving not only spells trouble for the kids, obviously, but it brings on
unnecessary problems for their parents.

Why is this so? What is wrong with thinking and saying that your child misbehaved? Every
parent does. Yes, and their parents before them did. In fact, the origin of the concept of child
misbehavior goes back so far in history it is doubtful if anyone actually knows when it started or
why. Its so common nobody thinks to question it.

Strangely enough, the term misbehavior is almost exclusively applied to childrenseldom to

adults, friends, spouses. Have you ever overheard someone say, My husband misbehaved

yesterday, I took my friend to lunch and got so angry at her misbehavior, My team members
have been misbehaving, or Our guests misbehaved at our party last night? Apparently, then,
only children are seen as misbehavingno one else misbehaves.

Misbehavior then is parent language, tied up somehow with the way parents traditionally have
viewed their offspring. Parents say children misbehave whenever their actions (or their behaviors)
are contrary to how parents think their children ought to act or behave. More accurately,
misbehavior is behavior that produces some sort of bad consequences for the parent.

Misbehaving = Child is doing something that is bad for the parent

On the other hand, when a child engages in behavior that does not bring bad consequences for the
parent, that child is described as behaving.

Jack was well-behaved at the store; We try to teach our children to behave; Behave

Now we have:

Behaving = Child is doing something that is acceptable to the parent.

All Behaviors are Solutions to Human Needs

Family life would be infinitely less exasperating for parents and more enjoyable for children as
well if parents accepted these basic principles about children:

Principle 1:
Like adults, children have basic needs that are important to them, and they continually strive to
meet their needs by doing something.

Principle 2:
Children dont misbehave. Their behaviors are simply actions they have chosen to meet these
important needs.

These principles suggest that all childrens 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 behaviorsthey 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
youre 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 doesnt
mean children are misbehaving. Rather, their particular way of behaving is unacceptable to you.
Dont interpret that children are trying to do something to youthey 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 babys 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 you view the child as a creature that is doing something appropriate to get its
needs met, you cant really call it misbehaving.

If parents would strike the word misbehaving from their vocabulary, they would rarely feel
judgmental and angry. Consequently, then they would not feel like retaliating with punishment.
However, all parents do need to learn some effective methods of modifying behaviors that
interfere with their needs and causes them a problem, but labeling the child as misbehaving is not
one of them.

(Excerpted from the P.E.T. Participant Workbook. Copyright 2006, Gordon Training

Clear Sending In The No-Problem Area

Letting Them Know The Real You
In Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.), self-disclosing messages are referred to as I-Messages.
An I-Message is a communication about the selfthe I.

An I-Message is authentic, honest, and congruentreflecting the actual nature and strength of
your thoughts and feelings. It is a clear message, understandable, and to the point, not masked in
indirect or vague language.

Declarative I-Messages Are The Basic Form of Self-Disclosure

They are the declaration to others of your beliefs, ideas, likes, dislikes, feelings, thoughts,
reactionsor any other statement that helps others know you better and understand how you are
experiencing your life.

Some Examples of Declarative I-Messages:

I believe the homework that your teachers given you is really important.

I think that we should have a military draft.

I feel discouraged about how much things cost these days.

Preventive I-Messages Stop Trouble Before It Starts

Another important type of self-disclosure is one that lets your children and others know of some
future need that you want to meet; it anticipates what you want to do or see happen. Such a
message, because it clearly describes how you want events to turn out, greatly increases the
chances that others will adjust their actions so as not to block what you need. Such a message
may prevent a conflict. Such Preventive I-Messages are especially appropriate in the home. An
example, familiar to every parent, is the announcement of the time dinner will be ready so that the
children can finish what theyre doing and, ideally, help out in the kitchen!

Some examples of Preventive I-Messages:

I need some uninterrupted time tonight so I can get the bills paid.

Id like to hear of your weekend plans this evening so we can work out transportation ahead of

Id love to come to dinner. Please remember, I dont eat meat.

Id like to set a limit on our holiday spending this year.

Positive I-Messages Enhance and Strengthen Relationships

One of the most enriching forms of self-disclosure is the Positive I-Message. These are messages
that exclusively describe parents positive feelings toward their children. Although kids do plenty
of things that are a problem for parents, they also say and do many things that are a pleasure,
often helping a parent in unexpected ways or displaying kindness, maturity, considerateness, or
good humor just when its needed the most. When these behaviors occur, it is appropriate and
important for parents to disclose any genuine positive feelings they have about them.

Unfortunately, many parents are only self-disclosing when they are upset with their childs
behavior. This is clearly appropriate self-disclosure, but the important point is that parents should
disclose both their feelings of unacceptance and acceptance. Positive I-Messages that express
appreciation, love, enjoyment, and affection toward children (spouse, friends, and others) can
contribute greatly to warmer, closer, and more enjoyable relationships. Very young children, with
their budding self-esteem and desire to be a helper, seem especially to thrive on Positive I-

Consider the value for you, your children, or others in the following examples of Positive I-

I appreciate how quiet you were when I was paying the bills. I did it a lot faster, thanks to you!

I really like the story you wrote, James.

I was so proud when I heard you telling those kids you wouldnt lie to cover them!

Honey, I really love you.

It is important that Positive I-Message not be used to manipulate or shape a childs behavior.
Such ulterior motives invariably come through to the child and make your sincerity suspect. The
Positive I-Message should be a no-strings attached expression of acceptance and

Even though changing your child should not be the motive, parents who express a lot of positive
feelings toward their children are often automatically rewarded with less unacceptable behavior,
more trust, mutual respect and cooperation, more affection and caring. Like honesty, warmth and
affection are highly contagious in families!

Defining Discipline
In the last Family Connection we looked at the noun discipline and the verb discipline and the
drastic differences between the two. We also proposed that disciplining children is the least
effective way to achieve discipline at home. What is it that helps raise disciplined children?

Again, lets take one more look at our language. Even as a verb, to discipline has two very
different meanings. The first meaning (A), we looked is the most commonly used application,
where disciplining is used for the purpose of controlling, as in correcting and punishing children.
The second meaning (B) of disciplining has to do with the act of instructing, teaching and

educating. In fact, all of the following verbs are synonymous to disciplining: train, coach,
instruct, tutor, teach, inform, prepare, guide, familiarize.

While the first use of disciplining (A) causes much controversy, the second meaning (B) seldom
does. Most of us would say it is the duty of effective parents and competent teachers to provide
this kind of training, coaching, and guidance. Nobody wants to eliminate the teach-train-inform
kind of disciplinewe want to raise respectful, kind and good citizens, right?

Still today many, even after countless studies have shown that the punishment kind of
disciplining produces aggression and violence in children, many parents continue to support the
first (A) use, the control-restrict-punish kind of disciplining children. In fact many parenting
books argue that kids not only need it but also want it; that they will feel insecure without it; that
they will think you dont love them if you dont use it; that they will become unmanageable
children without it. It is important to recognize that the teach-train-inform kind of discipline
represents an effort to influence children, while the restrict-punish kind of discipline (B) is always
an effort to control them. This fact is a key element in Dr. Thomas Gordons P.E.T.

The difference between influencing and controlling children is a crucial for gaining awareness
about the effects of either: Obviously, most parents want nothing more than the ability to
influence their children and thus have a positive effect on their lives. But in their zeal to
influence, many parents unfortunately fall into a trap: rather than use only influence methods,
they impose limits, give orders, send commands, punish or threaten to punish. Recall how you
were raisedperhaps these concepts sound familiar (and sometimes arent the best memories).
These control-type methods (A) dont actually influence youngsters; they only coerce or compel
them. And when a child is compelled to do something, that child is not really influenced; even if
she or he complies, he usually does it out of fear of punishment.

To have a profound and lasting influence on the lives of children, adults must forgo using power
methods to control children and instead employ certain new methods that will greatly enhance
their ability to be a positive influence in the lives of their children. These methods, and we will
explore them all in later issues of the Family Connection, serve to reduce the natural tendency of
children to resist change, to motivate kids to assume responsibility for modifying their behavior,
to influence kids to stick to agreements, and to foster childrens consideration of others. In P.E.T.
we call this the difference between other-imposed discipline and self-discipline, and well take a
closer look at that in our next newsletter.

Families Need Rules

By Dr. Thomas Gordon, Founder of GTI

All groups, of whatever size or nature, need laws, regulations, rules, policies, and standard
operating procedures. Without them, groups may very well fall into confusion, chaos and conflict.
The functions that rules and policies can serve are indispensable. They can prevent
misunderstandings and conflicts between people; define rights and privileges; legislate what is
considered appropriate, fair and equitable in human relationships; and provide guidelines to help
people know what limits they must set on their own behavior.

The issue is not whether groups need rules. They do need them. The real issue is how to motivate
all group members to comply with them.

At some time in our lives we all have felt unmotivated to comply with some rule or policy that we
had no voice in making. Denied the opportunity to participate in establishing a rule, most people

feel imposed upon and resentful of the new rule. But when people actively participate in setting a
rule or making a decision that will affect them, they are more highly motivated to comply with it.
We call this the Principle of Participation, and it has proven its effectiveness in numerous
research studies.

When children are given the opportunity to participate in setting rules or making decisions that
will affect them, several good things happen. Children feel better about themselves, have higher
self-esteem and self-confidence. Most important, they feel they have gained more fate control
more personal control over their own lives. They also feel they are equal members of the family
with an equal voice in making decisions and establishing rulestheyre part of a team, not second-
class citizens. This means that families that function collaboratively and democratically will have
closer and warmer relationships than those in which the adults act as bosses or authorities
expecting the children to obey the rules made for them.

Another important reason for encouraging the full participation of family members in decision
making is that it often produces higher-quality solutions to problems. Two heads (or three, or
four) are better than one; shared decisions will be based not only on the knowledge and
experience of the adults but also on the knowledge and experience of the children.

The admonition Father knows best, which implies that father knows better than son or
daughter, should be challenged with the more reasonable, Yes, but does father know better than
father and children?

Enlisting the participation of children in rule-setting results in important benefits:

A higher motivation on the part of all family members to implement or comply with the
Decisions of higher quality
Closer, warmer relationships between family members
Higher self-esteem, self-confidence, and sense of control over fate on the part of the
More personal responsibility and self-discipline
Less need for parents to enforce compliance

Obviously, not all decisions that affect the family are open for participative rule-setting and
decision-making. These will be issues that dont affect all the family members or issues that are
not negotiable (because theyre against the law, etc.). In other words, some issues will be outside
the Area of Freedom for family rule-setting and decision-making. For example, how the family
income gets spent, whether one of the parents looks for another job or if and what kind of
exercise family members get are probably outside the Area of Freedom of other family members
to decide.

The most important rule of thumb is that family rule-setting and decision-making meetings
should include all the members who will be affected by the rule or decision, and only those

Its important that your family agree on which issues, situations and tasks are within the Area of
Freedom of the family members.

The list of items that potentially can be handled by participative rule-setting or decision making
are many and vary from family to family.

Heres a list of just some of the issues that lend themselves to family rule-setting and decision-

Household chores
Ownership and care of pets
Yard work
How to spend family vacation time, holidays or other free time
Use of car/s, bicycles, etc.
TV watching
Use of computer

Please Note: Participative Rule-Setting requires some communication skills that you will can
learn in the P.E.T. program. These skills are:
Expressing your needs and problems
Hearing others when they have needs or problems
Solving problems and conflicts

Get What You Need Every Time: Method III

Last month, the Family Connection explored how compromise can be detrimental to a
relationship rather than healthy. Compromising involves people in a conflict trying to keep as
much of their own solution as possible, and lose as little as possible. In the end, someones needs
are what actually end up being compromised, and this usually results in feelings of anger,
resentment, sadness, etc.

Method III is a different way of resolving conflict that fosters healthy, close relationships. Instead
of putting ourselves through the frustration of not having our needs met through compromise, or
feeling like we have to battle our loved ones in a my needs vs. your needs battle, we can clearly
state our needs and then discuss and reach a solution that meets everyones needs. In other words,
we really can make sure everyone gets what they need all of the time.

Next time you have a conflict, instead of giving in to the other person and sacrificing your needs
for theirs (Method II), implementing your own solutions and putting your needs ahead of theirs
(Method I), or going through the frustration of a compromise, try these six simple steps of
Method III instead:
1. Define everyones needs
2. Brainstorm solutions
3. Evaluate the solutions
4. Decide on final solutions
5. Implement solutions
6. Evaluate solutions

Lets take a look at how this would work using one of last months examples.

I dont want to eat my broccoli; it makes me gag!

You need your vegetables. Now just take 5 bites!

Before you launch into Method III, make sure you set a time that everyone involved in the
conflict can sit down and go through all six steps. Depending on the conflict and who is involved,

Method III could take 5 minutes, or it could take 30. Make sure you leave adequate time open,
and that it is a good time for everyone!

Method III is about getting your needs met, not getting your solution met as it were. It can be a
challenge separating solutions from needs. For example, when a child says I need my own
room, they have presented a solution for his/her underlying needs. What s/he actually might
need may be more privacy or more spaceand that need is something both parties involved can
determine together with Active Listening.

Defining needs (Step 1) is the most critical of the six steps, since steps 2-6 are all about finding
solutions for the needs defined in the first step. The next Family Connection will discuss Step 1
and separating needs from solutions in more detail.

Both of these thingsmaking sure you choose a good time, and begin Method III without
predetermined solutionsare part of what P.E.T. calls Setting the Stage. For more information
on Setting the Stage, check out the P.E.T. blog!

Step 1: Define Everyones Needs

Parent: So you really hate that broccoli, dont you?
Child: Yeah. It really grosses me out! I gag! I cant eat it.
Parent: Ok, so you need to stay away from broccoli.
Child: Yeah!
Parent: Well, I need to make sure youre getting all of your veggies.

Remember, this is a simple example; often times, there are several needs. Write everyones needs
down if you like!

Step 2: Brainstorm Solutions

Next, put your heads together and brainstorm solutions. The purpose of this is to generate lots of
alternative solutions without any discussion or evaluation; keeping evaluation out of this step
encourages thinking off the top of your heads. It is important to write down every solution that is
suggested, even if it seems silly or impossible. Save the evaluation for later! Evaluating during
brainstorming might discourage people from voicing their ideas, and you might miss a good one!

Parent: So what can we do so that you dont have to eat broccoli and I know youre getting all
your vitamins?
Child: Eat more vitamins!
Parent: Ok, Ill write that idea down. And Im also going to write down serving vegetables you
Child: Or what about smoothies?

Once youre done brainstorming ideas, go ahead and move on to the next step.

Step 3: Evaluate the Solutions

Go down the list and discuss all of the ideas with each other. A good idea is to put a checkmark
next to the ideas you both agree on, cross out the ones no one agrees on, and put a question mark
next to the ones on which you have a difference of opinion. You can use your I-Messages and
Active Listening skills to discuss the items with a question mark, until you can both agree on a
checkmark or crossing it out. You should be left with a list of solutions that you both agree on.

In this case, our parent-child pair put a checkmark next to the smoothies solution, and the
choosing vegetables that the child likes solution. They both agreed to cross out the vitamins after
a brief discussion, since the parent says that theres a limit on how many vitamins the child can
safely take per day.

Step 4: Decide on Final Solution(s)
Decide together on the final solution to your conflict. This could include putting one or more of
your ideas into action. Since the parent and child here put checkmarks next to 2 solutions, they
take a closer look at these two. They decide that choosing a vegetable the child likes and drinking
smoothies will both work. The child will be eating something s/he likes, and the parent will know
that his/her child will be getting proper nutrition. Remember, the final solution(s) should be
mutually agreed on!

Step 5: Implement Solution(s)

At this point, all parties involved should decide who is responsible for the different parts of the
solution(s) and what each agrees to do to carry it out. Its important to agree on when to begin
and then put your solution into practice.

In this example, the child agrees to prepare a list of vegetables he likes and get it to the parent
before her next grocery shopping trip, which will be on Friday. The parent agrees to pick up these
veggies and serve them with dinner, and s/he also agrees to make smoothies for the child on
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Step 6: Evaluate Solution(s)

The next step is to work out a plan to check later on to be sure the solution(s) is still working and
everyones needs continue to be met if it is an ongoing situation. If it is a one-time event, then be
sure that everyones needs have been met and the problem has been solved.

Parent and child decide that they will sit down to talk again in a month. They choose a date on the
calendar that works for both of them.

If the solution(s) isnt working at that point, they may need to re-evaluate, discuss a different way
of implementing their solution, or even brainstorm more ideas.

Method III can help you resolve conflicts without power struggles, hurt feelings, resentment, or
anger. It makes sure everyones needs are met, and everyone will feel satisfied.

Give it a try!

For more tips on using Method III and Setting the Stage, remember to check out the P.E.T. Blog!

How To Uncover Hidden Needs

Over the last couple of months, the Family Connection has discussed the problems that power,
permissiveness, and compromise create in our relationships. We have seen that all three of these
approaches to resolving conflict can cause hurt feelings, anger, resentment, mistrust, sadness, and

We also closely examined Dr. Gordons No-Lose Conflict Resolution, Method III, the problem-
solving alternative to Method I (Authoritarian), Method II (Permissive) and Compromise. Instead
of creating feelings of resentment, frustration, anger, or sadness, Method III creates a safe
environment in which all parties involved in a conflict work together to meet everyones needs, in
turn, resolving the conflict.

Recall the six steps of Method III:

1. Define Needs

2. Brainstorm Solutions
3. Evaluate Solutions
4. Choose Solution
5. Implement Solution
6. Check Results

Most of the time, Method I, Method II and Compromise begin immediately with the parent and
child (or other) trying to impose, sell or trade solutions. Step 1Defining Needssets Method III
apart from Method I, Method II and Compromise.

While Defining Needs is an essential ingredient of Method III, it is also the most difficult of the
Six Steps. Identifying real needs is often challenging.

Frequently, we unconsciously offer our preconceived solutions that will meet our need rather than
expressing the need itself.

If the underlying needs of the parent and of the child are not clearly understood and expressed, all
subsequent steps of Method III will be misdirected and the conflict will not be resolved.

Separating needs from solutions can be very difficult. Even when people use the word need,
what they are saying is often a solution. Also, keep an eye out for wants, as most wants are

For example, your child might say: I need my own room. This is actually a solution, not a
need. What will having his/her own room do for the child? It would provide privacy or a feeling
of having his/her own space or quiet, etc. These are the needs; a room of his/her own is a

Active Listening is an essential skill to use when determining what is a need vs. what is a
solution. From the example given above, if your child says I need my own room, a little bit of
Active Listening can go a long way towards uncovering what his/her real needs are. Maybe you
can say, You would really like your own spacecan you say more about that? and in turn your
child reveals that s/he feels like its noisy all the time and s/he cant concentrate. You have now
defined your childs need for more quiet, and you can both start on Step 2 and brainstorm for
possible solutions to help meet his/her need for quiet time.

Your child (or other) may not know right away why s/he feels s/he needs his own room (this of
course applies to any solution that is being presented as a need). While Active Listening is the
major skill to use in separating needs from solutions, the question, What will that do for me? (or
you?) can also be an extremely helpful one. For example, if you say I need a new car, is that a
need or a solution? Ask the question, What will that do for me? Possible answers might be:
Ill get to work safely.
Ill feel good about my image/myself.
Ill save money since my old car uses a lot of gas and requires lots of repairs.

These answers are the needs; a new car is the solution.

When you use this clarifying question, What will that do for you? avoid overdoing it or using a
probing or pushy tone of voice. This question is intended as a gentle way of helping others to find
the need behind a solution. Active Listening is still the skill of choice when it is difficult to
identify a childs/others needs.

When you express your own needs, use I-Language. In essence, this means you need to Active
Listen to yourself first to be sure you have identified your need and not just your solution. Asking
yourself the same clarifying question, What will that do for me? can also be helpful.

The key to clearly understanding needs is:

For a parent expressing needs in congruent I-Messages. This involves the parent in Active
Listening to herself/himself to understand what is really wanted or needed as opposed to the
question of how to get itthen expressing these needs in I-Messages.

For a child the parent needs to Active Listen to the child, especially if the childs messages
seem unclear or coded (masking some deeper need).

Active Listening will aid the child to express her/his needs in I-Messages as well.

For more information on defining needs, see the P.E.T. Blogs post Defining Needs with
Maslows Hierarchy.

Other-Imposed Discipline vs. Self-Discipline

Weve been looking at what discipline means in the last two Family Connections. Lets explore
this further by differentiating between externally administered (other-imposed) and internally
administered (self-imposed) discipline. These are two radically different kinds of control-type

Everyone is familiar with the term self-discipline, but what does it actually mean? Psychologists
use the term locus of control. Self-discipline means the locus of control is inside the person,
while with discipline enforced by others, the locus of control is outside the person in fact it is
inside the controller.

We dont encounter much controversy about whether self-control is desirable. Most everyone
places a high value on children being capable of self-control, self-regulation and self-discipline.
But there is still much controversy over what the best way is to foster these desired traits in
children and youth.

Most parents and teachers take the position that children eventually will develop inner control
automatically, as a direct result of adults applying outer control (discipline). This belief still stems
from the Freudian theory that claims that as children get older they will gradually internalize the
early coercive controls of parents and other adults, until eventually those outer controls are
transformed into inner controls and self-discipline. However, considerable evidence exists
refuting this theory as well as everyday observation which is telling us that self-discipline isnt
formed that way. Remember the adage when the cat is away, the mice will play? Well, when
adult controllers turn their backs, youngsters usually show little self-control. Sometimes they
rebelliously do exactly what the adult authority has previously prohibited them from doing.
Children who meekly submit to parental authority often turn into rebellious teenage delinquents
later, reacting aggressively to all adult authority, incapable of any self-control or self-discipline.

Self-disciplined youngsters, however, are those who have always been given considerable
personal freedom. Why? Because they have been allowed the chance to make many of their own
choices and decisions. Children will learn to control or limit behavior that is disturbing to adults
only if those adults have shown a similar consideration for them; children will use self-control to
follow rules when they have been given the chance to join with adults in deciding what those
rules should be.

The Family Connection we will continue to explore how disciplining kids does not produce
disciplined kids, in other words, how adult-imposed (other-imposed) discipline does not
produce self-disciplined children.

Reward and Punish your Child Really?

The next few editions of the Family Connection will examine step-by-step and then scrutinize
something that has been the status quo of parenting and teaching for ages, the idea that children
will benefit from being rewarded and the idea that children will learn to change by being
punished. Well start by clarifying something about control.

Remember the long list of synonyms we looked at a few editions back (for past editions of the
Family Connection go here) for the verb to discipline: govern, hold in line, constrain, restrict,
prohibit, direct, restrain, etc. Each identifies some form of control. Each implies the use of power.
In the minds of many adults, disciplining children is but a euphemism for employing power to
control them. Lets see exactly how this power-based control is supposed to work.

The aim of controllers is to place themselves in charge of their controllees, in a position to

dominate or coerce them. The controllers wish, of course, is that the controllee will respond by
being compliant, submissive, tractable, willing, nonresistant, yieldingeuphemisms for obedient.
Controllers hope that their controllees will always be obedient.

Lets also keep in mind that this sort of discipline is employed to bring about specific behaviors
judged desirable by the controller. The goals or ends are always decided for the controllee by the
controller. It is important to be aware of the fact that controllers may very well choose ends that
are seen as beneficial to the child. Their intentions may be good indeed. How many of us have
heard when we grew up: Youll thank me when youre older, or Im only doing it for your
own good? Its not hard to spot how many controllers whether they be parents, teachers,
bosses, religious figures, politicians or dictators try to justify their use of control by this logic.
Certainly many controllers feel that they know whats best because they are older, wiser, more
experienced, better trained whatever.

There is also the possibility that controllers sometimes choose ends beneficial primarily to
themselves rather than to the controllee, as when a teacher decides to expel a student who is
making her miserable by interfering with her need to teach her students.

Its a tricky thing to feel in control and controllers often deceive themselves into thinking they
exercise control to help the controllee when actually they do it to meet their own needs. Can you
think of a situation when you used your Authority P (power) to control others? And can you think
of a situation when someone used power to control you? Do you remember how the controllee
reacted? And do you remember, when you were the controllee how you felt?

Parent Effectiveness Training and Teacher Effectiveness Training are based on the observation
that only extremely rarely any youngster would view coercive power as being for his or her own
good, even if they obey the controllers directions.

Next month well go one step further and look at where controllers get their power and how
exactly it is applied to the controllee.