Reviewing the arts
Submitted by: Engy Fouda
Instructor’s name: Jeremy C. Fox
Thomas Gordon’s ‘Parent Effectiveness Training’
Parenting is a thankless job, and there is no formal training for it in education systems. On this point, Dr. Thomas Gordon presents a spectacular contribution in developing a program to train parents. Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) is a book for mothers and fathers who do not want their children to fire them as parents. It is referenced by several other parenting books, and has sold more than four million copies.
In P.E.T., Dr. Thomas Gordon, who was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, discusses remedies for domestic violence and shows ways to create a democratic, peaceful house, which consequently can bring world peace. Intriguing contemporary methodology in Gordon’s book relies on three techniques: active listening, I-Messages, and no-lose conflict resolutions.
The active listening section states that parents pay attention to their children’s conversation by paraphrasing their kids’ statements or just nodding. This section does not augment a crucial parenting technique; rather it ignores the body language effect. Instead of repeating what the child has said, body language and eye contact show that the parent is paying attention.
Surprisingly, the ineffective messages from parents to their children almost all begin with the word “You,” for example: “You are naughty.” To resolve this confrontation problem, parents should express how they feel in I-Messages, for example: “I don’t feel like playing when I’m tired.”
To accentuate the pronouns’ effect in communication, Dr. James Pennebaker says in his psychological research and book “The Secret Life of Pronouns”, that the person who feels more authoritative uses less “I” words. Gordon’s claim that parents do not use I-messages because of their perceived power over their kids is consistent with Dr. Pennebacker’s research.
Gordon’s no-lose method, “no one wins or loses”, asserts the refutation of the parent’s upper hand notion. The parent and the child talk as peers; each proposes a solution then they compromise to resolve the conflict. Moreover, some problems only affect the child, such as having a hairstyle that bothers the parent. In such cases, the parent is a consultant and does not compel his child to abide the parent’s style.
As I read this book, I felt lucky that I had a father who used such methods. Veritably, he was my best friend; nevertheless, we once had a colossal disagreement. A quote in the book reminded me of it: “I feel frustrated when I come to pick you up and you are not there.” When I was 16 years old, my father came as usual to pick me up after school, yet he did not find me. After 20 minutes, I showed up; I had stayed at school to hang around with my friends. My delay obviously frustrated him, and we had an argument. However, after a couple of hours, when both of us calmed down, my dad talked to me in I-messages. Afterward, he asked me to come up with solutions; we discussed them and found a solution that worked for both of us.
The section: “Parents should accept what they cannot change” was shocking. Gordon suggests that parents should just recognize that they cannot prevent their teenage children from smoking cigarettes and marijuana or having premarital sex! According to this negative strategy: imagine a parent enters his home to find his daughter doing something like this, and in return, he just walks into his room in silence!! Though Gordon offers no helpful advice, there are strategies that others recommend to prevent teens from engaging in such harmful actions. The cultural contexts of such actions vary; nonetheless, they are predominantly taboo; thus Gordon’s strategy is unrealistic and limited in scope for utterly liberal parents.
Even though, the book is rich with examples, some sections are tedious. Another parenting book, Fabers and Mazlish’s “How to Talk So Kids Can Learn,” uses comic drawings to illustrate the dialogues compellingly. If P.E.T. also used comics instead of prose, it will be more engaging.
In conclusion, Gordon’s model is the foundation for various parenting programs. Although the techniques guide the aloof parents and children, they are not as manifest as they sound.
About the author:
Engy Fouda is an author, freelance engineer and journalist. Pursuing master’s degree in journalism at the Harvard Extension School and the Team Lead for Momken Group (Engineering for the Blind), Egypt Scholars Inc. I live in NY and from Egypt.