Communicating with a baby, toddler or child can be more challenging
than your most complicated adult relationship. But if you’re like me, plopping down after a
long day to check out a scintillating chapter from the latest parenting tome makes you feel like you're reading, How to Fall Into a Deep Sleep Within Five Minutes. I need hands-on, in-my-face
action to grab my attention and have it sink in, let alone stick. I need my parenting
lessons in Dolby and 3-D. Since IMAX has yet to unroll its parenting technique films,
I enrolled in a 10-week course called Parent Effectiveness Training.
I was already anxious since I was the only parent in the class, and assumed I would have to turn around and give lessons to dad. But I needn't have worried. The course does some solid parenting myth debunking and one of them is that you and your partner have to be totally aligned on every single solitary thing. I bet you all just took a huge sigh of relief.
Just the name alone should clue you in. P.E.T. means business. A group of around 20 parents gathered on Wednesday nights in a private home,
for 2-hour-interactive sessions where our inspired instructor, Meike would chat, chart, map and draw out the
techniques of Thomas Gordon. That is, when we weren’t off with a partner or in groups,
role playing P.E.T. style solutions for common parent-child problems. I’ve never been so
excited about learning anything parenting-related ever. Why? Because, as the weeks
progressed and I put P.E.T. to the test with my own two kids, there was a marked
change in me and them, and in our relating to each other and their own interactions as siblings. The shift in my
home was as mind-blowing as the steps, themselves. I was learning to be a kick-ass
listener and problem solver. On top of that I was honing a skill to move my kids in the direction of discovering problem resolutions on their own.
They need to experience us as being authentic and truthful about our needs so they can learn to do the same with their own needs.
The Gordon Method teaches parents to simply become exceptional listeners,
communicators and smooth conflict resolvers. This "Active Listening" technique is crucial for parents. After all, we need to be able to process what is happening in our home, so we can understand where the problem falls in a behavior ownership/acceptance
window. Whose problem is it? Yours? Your toddler's? Big sister's? That might not be as clear as you think it is, but paying close attention—and listening—can make a murky situation clear. Once you understand whom the problem belongs to, different methods are
employed to infuse your child with a sense of independence, self and responsibility.
The best part is that I learned communicating honestly with your kid is OK. In fact, they need to experience us as being
authentic and truthful about our needs so they can learn to do the same with their own needs. The
ultimate goal is to find solutions to solve problems fairly so that everyone in the family
gets their needs met and there are no losers.
The information in every
session was so juicy and vital, at one point I decided that maybe this could be my life’s work: to become a Gordon parenting coach and help confused, wayward parents everywhere find lightness
in the tangled path of parenthood with these amazingly workable P.E.T. tools. I am still
taking notes in my workbook and text now that the class has ended, and my family dynamics are shifting in a more positive direction.
I never really thought I would need a class on parenting, but obviously I was wrong. Your baby doesn't come with a manual, but listening and understanding—and tools when that's a struggle—have been working quite well for us.