To intervene or not intervene:- a Supermarket Story

A mother had her 3 year old son sitting in the handbag section of a Woolworth’s trolley. As I entered Woolies, I could already hear him…he was screaming.  Mother was calm, and speaking to him quietly.  As I walked past, I gave both mum and boy a ‘Helllooo’ and touched the boy on the arm, in an attempt to distract him.  He looked and kept crying.  At that very moment, he said to his mother: “I don’t want to be here!’

Some three minutes later, from the furthest corner of Woolies, I could still hear his scream.  ‘Ummmh!….will I or won’t I?’  I found them in Aisle 3.  Mother was still speaking to him calmly while loading the trolley.

The conversation enfolded:

Me:- “Hello again….I met you several minutes ago.  Something is still the matter.”

Mother:- ‘Yes…something is still the matter”  (smiling)

Me: -“Ummh1….I walked past you three minutes ago and you were crying then, and you are still crying now…so I guess you are still unhappy about something.   Just as I walked past you, I heard you say:  ‘I don’t want to be here.’    I am wondering if I heard you correctly.   By the way, my name is Robert,  and your name is…..?”

Boy:- “I don’t have one’…then reaches out for mother in an attempt to get away from me.

Mother:- “Jack…Jack is his name’

Me: –  “Jack…nice to meet you…being here in a supermarket, shopping with mummy is just sooooo boring.  You prefer to be somewhere else…where you can do something else, like playing with your toys…the toys you got for Christmas…that Santa brought you.”

Boy:- (crying stopped…he just looks)

Me:- “…and sitting here in this trolley is not as fun as playing with your toys.”

Boy:- (Nods a ‘no.’)

Me:- “Well Mum….let’s finish off the shopping really really quickly so you can get home….so, I won’t talk to you anymore so that mum can whiz down the aisle and finish the shopping.  Nice to meet you…Bye!”

Outcome:- crying/screaming stopped, he returned my goodbye wave.  Some five minutes later, we met again in an adjacent checkout, and Jack was calm and collected.   We waved at each other again.

PET in Action.   Every situation is a PET Situation.   Story that can be used in Session 2 or 3.

LITTLE GIRLS CAN BE MEAN by Michelle Anthony & Reyna Lindert

A book review by Robert Periera

The intrigue of ‘girl-world’ for the five to ten years age group, is developed in this text, with case stories that all parents will be able to identify with.  The model promoted by the authors to assist parents to deal with the social complexities their daughters are immersed in, is the PET model although they do not specifically mention PET by name.  They speak about the ‘FOUR STEP’ process.  These Four Steps mention and develop all the skills taught in a PET course.

The Four Steps are:

  • Observe
  • Connect
  • Guide
  • Support to Act

Under ‘observe’ they speak about ‘reading the cues’ (non-verbal and verbal) when the child is interacting with other girls; whether the girl is submissive or dominant in her relationships with her peers.

Under ‘connect’ they speak about ‘active listening’ and provide some examples of AL for each of the complex cases described.  How to active listen when the child comes to the parent with a problem.  The authors also discuss how to proceed when the child does not come to the parent directly.  So the I-message and shifting gears feature here.

Under ‘guide’ they promote ‘problem-solving’ (Method-III) and consultancy when it is appropriate to provide an alternative way of thinking about situations.

Under ‘support to act’ the practical implementation of the Method-III conversation is developed for each of the scenarios described.  How to assist the child to speak to her peers about the social dilemma she finds herself in, how to be assertive as the drama unexpectedly unfolds for the child, reflects much of what we teach in a BYB course as well.

As I read this text, with my PET glasses on, I thought that it would be an invaluable resource for instructors.   I have produced (in card form) one of the scenarios from this resource.   It is called ‘Crazy Socks Day’ which can be procured for $ 5.00 + postage.    Also available is a 4-column Grid showing the relationship between the 4-Steps and the PET Course.   (As this grid is in landscape format, those who wish a copy might email me.)  The text is also available from me @ $28.95 + postage.

NEW ROLE PLAY – Crazy Socks Day
Card Set @ $ 5.00 + postage.
5 cards with parent role / 5 child role for use in Sessions 6 or 7 – Method III
To order:
Cheque payable to: ETIA Ltd

To Smack or Not to Smack?

trolley boyRecently, a Youtube clip of a mother pulling her daughter off a bed and smacking her, while the younger sister lay perfectly still while this was occurring, was shown repeatedly on National TV.  This mother defended her strong opinion that smacking (and the accompanying tirade that was recorded by the camera) was/is a valid way of parenting and that it didn’t do her any harm as a child, when smacked by her parent.   Such opinions are not new and are also difficult to discuss.  We all have our opinions on such matters.

My contribution to this discussion focuses on the effect on the child.  The smack (and accompanying tirade), done repeated to a particular child, constitutes an ongoing ‘activating agent’ for the child concerned.    This results in an ongoing ‘consequence’ for the child.  This consequence is both a ‘feeling’ and a ‘behaviour.’  Feelings can range from fear of the parent, to resentment of the parent.  Such feelings can result in an instant submission, and to a long-term hatred for the parent. Such long-term outcomes are difficult for any parent to detect at the time of the incident.

Every child is different and therefore will have a different response to repeated smacking.  For this mother, who claims that there was no long-term effect on herself personally, we could give her the benefit of the doubt, and declare: ‘Lucky you.’  However I don’t think we can claim that this will be the outcome for every child, or even for her two daughters.  Every person’s response will be different.  The human reaction / response to violence can be lasting.

The child who is repeatedly smacked is also a thinking person.  What she now ‘thinks’ about her mother, about what her mother is doing to her, what her mother is not doing to her sister, is less available to the mother during the incident.  We can all read the feelings of another person from observing their non-verbals, and provide a ball-park feeling, however, we cannot know the range of thoughts that the child (or teen) would be thinking at that moment and after the moment passes.  Such thinking can be also called beliefs, perceptions, judgments, automatic thoughts, first thoughts, mental models, irrational thoughts, explanatory style, attributional style,depending on which author you are consulting

As Martin Seligman said in his book ‘The Optimistic Child’…‘Explanatory style develops in childhood, and without explicit intervention is lifelong.” (p.52). The girl in the video clip could be believing right now that: “My mother hates me….she likes my sister better…she loves her more than me.”   Such beliefs can be carried through life and surface in adult counselling at 45 years plus.  Sibling rivalry is often based on such thinking.

What PET can offer any mother and father (who is interested in a non-magic wand approach to parenting), is the I-message method of communicating that would give a child reasons for stopping whatever s/he is doing, and in a manner that could result in:

  •  a change in the child’s behaviour to comply with the parent’s wishes,
  • the child’s self-esteem not being damaged or minimized,
  • a maintaining or enhancement of the parent – child relationship over the long and short term.

And most importantly, PET would offer the parent a method to respond to resistance/defiance to a parent’s request that would normally be expressed by the child, (ie. the skill of ‘shifting gears.’)

Until an alternative is experienced by parents, the age-old debate on ‘To smack or not to smack’ will continue.

Top 10 Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew

Vanessa Van Petten writes Radical Parenting with 120 other teen writers. Vanessa wrote her first parenting book from the kid’s perspective when she was 16.

A social studies teacher I once had in junior high told me that he works with children because “they still have hope” but it was the adults that “couldn’t get any better.”

I disagree. Parents are just as capable of learning as students are, and I interviewed just a few of my hundreds of teachers, including my father, to analyze what teachers most want the parents of their students to know.

“There are two types of students:

1) Those who are internally motivated, and

2) Those who are not. Adjust your parenting accordingly.”

It’s obvious that students are more successful when motivated. Even average students can do better than excellent students when properly motivated. However, the key to motivation is to determine which type of motivation your student responds to. Most students are externally motivated. They do projects because their parents want them to or because they have to or because there’s some shiny reward—or grubby punishment—at the end. Internally motivated students do projects simply because they want to better themselves in that area. Although you may sometimes feel like your teenager couldn’t care less about what you tell them, your words weigh heavily in their lives. When you motivate your student, keep in mind that internally motivated students do not need as much motivation as externally motivated students. If your student is internally motivated, the constant motivation—especially if it is viewed as strict or negative—will only feel like nagging and will cause the student to second guess his success and lose his stamina. And if you don’t motivate the externally motivated students enough, he may lose sight of the reward.

“It is human nature to lie. Thus, students lie.”

Some common lies: “I turned that assignment in. My teacher just hasn’t finished grading it yet.” “My teacher lost it.” “My teacher hates me.” “I don’t have homework.” “I finished all my homework at school.” “Everybody failed that test.” Though it would be lovely to imagine that your teenagers are perfect at school just as they are at home, that is not always the case. Defending your teenager is one thing, but believing a blatant lie before researching and looking into the situation is another. Before you yell at the teacher for something your teenager said, remember that there are always two sides to every story. Trust your teachers; they are on the same team as you are.

“It’s not our job to parent. No. That’s your job.”

This should be self-explanatory. Parent your teenagers. Discipline them and teach them right from wrong, so when they get into the classroom, they are ready to receive an education from an educator, and not a slap on the wrist from a babysitter.

“We have 100 plus students. You have maybe one or two.”

Sometimes parents forget that their teenager is not the only teen in the school. There are hundreds of other students there for the same reason your child is. Constant emails and voicemails about the same problem from the same student can get tiring when the teacher is dealing with hundreds of students. So be patient. Relax. Get yourself a nice breakfast.

“Your students actually do work hard.”

Don’t forget to acknowledge that in most cases, your teenager really is working hard. It’s not easy being a teenager, and school doesn’t make it any easier. With constant essays and testing and required reading and projects and after school study sessions, remember that high school is not always a walk in the park, even if that is what you experienced in high school. Teachers want parents to know that their students work hard for their grades, and that is something they should be proud of.

“Enabling your child will only hurt them in the future.”

It always irks me when my brother blames my mom for not having his homework in his backpack. It is his responsibility to make sure that his homework is in his backpack, and if it isn’t, then it is his fault. Your teenagers should take responsibility for their actions and learn how to just own it. Everyone makes mistakes, and enabling them to make these mistakes or enabling them to be lazy and nonproductive by doing everything for them because you want them to be “happy” will only rob them their happiness when they enter into adulthood and the hand holding is inevitably over.

“Your students will be more successful academically if they organize themselves in the classroom.”

The number one cause for poor grades is a lack of organization. Reduced organization skills do more damage than a lost assignment every now and then. A lack of organization affects the student’s ability to prioritize, schedule, plan, keep track, adjust, juggle, and remember.

“Students need to know when to speak and when not to speak.”

Teaching your students when to speak and when to be quiet will save your teenager a great deal of detentions in the long run. Proverbs tells us that “even a fool is wise if he keeps silent” and Will Rogers says, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” This wisdom will benefit your teenager greatly. There is a time for everything, and sometimes it is time to speak up. However, sometimes it’s just best to say, “yes sir” and keep it moving.

“We have lives just like you.”

This is not to say, “leave us alone because we have a life”, but that teachers understand that each and every student has a home life, as well as their parents. Communicate with your student’s teachers any trouble that is going on at home because they really do care. Most teachers, like you, are parents. They have children, too, and understand what it’s like to want the best for them. And yes, teachers do buy whipped cream.

“We really are on your side.”

Both you and the teachers have the same goal: success for your students. Teachers are not “out to get you” nor do they have some secret agenda. They really just want your students to succeed and earn the education they so greatly deserve. So talk with them if you have an issue and try to find a common ground. In the end, it’s all about the student.

By Vanessa Van Petten

Radical Parenting: Parenting Advice Written By Kids
Full article can be read at:

Reflections on Running P.E.T. Groups as a Private Provider

ETIA instructor lead courses imageThe Background

This is a reflection on a journey into group leadership, via a passion and experience.   I teach Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) in the ACT.  I discovered P.E.T. with the birth of my first child, some 15 years ago.  I was a new parent with very little knowledge of babies, let alone parenting.  I had only the experience of being parented to guide me around those unseen corners and road bumps on my parenting journey.  As I attended each session of the course, I found the philosophy and skills of P.E.T. changing the entire way I would approach parenting – and my life.

P.E.T. taught me to value children as people.  I learnt about empathy, and the importance of helping children learn about feelings.  I learnt to separate my issues from that of my child’s.  I learnt to respect children, and how to communicate that respect.  One of the most mind-blowing aspects of P.E.T., for me, was to find that I did not have to use rewards or punishment in order to bring up a balanced and considerate child.  In fact, I learnt that using rewards and punishments could be deleterious to the outcomes of children. Of course, this was completely opposite to the way I had been brought up. I was hooked!

I was determined to bring this course to other parents. After two years of searching, I found a P.E.T. instructor training course.  The P.E.T. course was designed and structured for parents like me, who simply wanted to bring the skills and principles to others.  I had some facilitator training and experience, but not in parenting course group leadership.

Once I had completed the training, I was ready and rearing to go. I was keen and enthusiastic, younger (then) and idealistic.  I was also an unemployed single mother with a young child, in a new city.  I had no experience in running my own business, leading groups without the support of an organisation, and I had no family able to care for my toddler.

Still, I was (stubbornly) determined to soldier on.

 Setting up the groups

 The P.E.T. instructor manual gives some helpful hints on setting up your first group.  I took some of their ideas on board, and searched around for some friends who might like to be my ‘guinea pigs’.  Some schools also advertised the course. Eight parents joined the first group, being a mixture of friends and interested parents from the community.

These groups had to be self-funding.  I needed to cover the cost of the text-book and workbook that was provided to every participant, along with rent, supper costs, my babysitter etc.  At this time (13 years ago), charging to attend a parenting course seemed a new concept in Canberra.  Any parenting courses the local community centres provided were free, or very low cost.  I had no access to external funding.

The first course went well (no one dropped out!), and as a follow up, I ran courses every term – sometimes up to three groups a week.  There were experiments with both day and night courses, and in varying locations around Canberra and surrounding regions. The groups mostly ran at a monetary loss, but I had to continue – brining these concepts to others was just too important!  There was also tremendous job satisfaction, which is impossible to value monetarily.

 What Worked

Through trial and error, I found it useful to:

  • Offer an evening course (the course is run from 7pm to 10.15pm).
  • Site the course in a central location.  In Canberra, we are fortunate that no matter where we live, the longest it takes it around 40 minutes to travel to the geographic centre. However, parents from the surrounding countryside have also travelled up to one and a half hours each way, to attend the course.
  • Run the course during term time, once a week.
  • Offer the course consistently throughout the year.  This is helpful for couples without a babysitter, as parents can attend consecutive courses.  It also helps with word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Continue to feel passionate about the subject.

 Running the groups

 Shortly after becoming an accredited P.E.T. instructor, I attended an IGL group leader-training workshop, and gained knowledge and skills that would greatly enhance the effectiveness of the groups.  The well set out P.E.T. instructor manual was embedded with group-work principles, which supported the group leader training.

Below is a reflection on some of my learnings regarding group work.

Group rules

Amongst the general group rules we all have as leaders, I found these three to be crucial:

  • Confidentiality. Canberra is a very small community, so tight group rules around confidentiality are essential.
  • Emergency procedure. On two occasions, our class has been interrupted by the fire alarm. I now ensure that emergency procedures are part of the group rules.
  • “It’s OK to make mistakes”.  This rule takes the pressure from parents to be perfect, and allows them to learn through trial and error, both inside and outside the group.
  • Share supper duties.  This helps in the process of cohesion.  I have enduring memories of a couple of groups seated on the floor, gathered around a feast of food prepared by and for the members of that group.

Balancing task and maintenance; therapy and education

As a sole group leader, I find these the most difficult tasks.  P.E.T. is a structured course, with the development of skills the primary focus of the course.  When I first began teaching, I concentrated on the task function. However, over the years I have concluded that being part of a supportive group is as important to the participant as the skills acquisition. As a parent, you can feel isolated, vulnerable and judged, and rarely discuss the impact of parenting on your life.  Through the eight weeks of the course, I observe parents reflect, grow and change.  This is the therapeutic element of the course, which is supported by careful maintenance of the group by the leader.

Group composition and dynamic

An aspect of groups that has intrigued me over the years is the group composition, because of the effect on dynamic.  When you advertise a course, you gamble on the mix of participants who will be interested in attending this course, at this particular moment in time.  You, as a group leader, cannot determine the personality or background of a participant. Even with pre-group interviews, the person may be quite different in a group.  The mix and spark of a group is its own property.  You can try to help set the tone – be relaxed, respectful, sensitive, use some humour, not take yourself too seriously.  But the group will ultimately define itself – largely through the mix of people attending.  And this will influence the overall dynamic of the group.

Summarising at the end of the session

At the end of each session (even if we are running late), each participant is asked to answer the question “what you are taking away from the night – what stood out for you?’.  This is done methodically, so that every person is able to speak, including the choice to pass.  This provides a wonderful summary of the session, as inevitably each person will recall a different segment of the night, and has their own take on meaning.  Another important outcome is that each person has a designated space in which to speak, which I feel is particularly important for the quieter members of the group.  This segment also gives the group leader feedback on the efficacy of the session.


Self-disclosure is an aspect of group leadership with which I grapple.  How much is too much? And what are the ethics of including examples from my experience with my children? I find that I am, in a way, telling ‘my story’, bringing alive the skills of P.E.T. in practice – the successes, and, importantly, the struggles of being a parent who chooses to use the P.E.T. techniques. Of course, I intersperse my personal examples with anonymous stories from past participants.

The feedback from participants has been encouraging, with many commenting on the usefulness of hearing real stories, as opposed to textbook examples.  Recently, one parent who had completed the course with me three years ago, commented on how valuable she found the personal examples – and in fact, it was these “incidental learnings” (her words) that continued to stick with her, years after the course.


The evaluations at the end of the course have been invaluable, providing feedback on the changes in the participant and their family, and for me as a group leader.  I endeavour to incorporate realistic suggestions into my course – and of course, some feedback can be challenging! For those of us who role-play, and perhaps ‘put on a voice’ (such as pretending to be a child), take heed! I was fortunate to receive this honest feedback some years back, which said “we can differentiate when a child is ‘speaking’ without a ‘child’ voice”.  Consequently, I now role-play with my ‘normal’ voice. Mind you – this feedback contrasts with those who tell me they hear my voice in their head when they are trying P.E.T. with their children!

Difficult moments

One of the most difficult moments occurred when I (inadvertently) let a husband know that his wife was attending the course – with her adulterous lover! At 11am one Sunday morning, the distraught husband phoned me, very angry.  All I could do was listen to his hurt.  Many years later, I came across an article entitled ‘The Adultery Factor’, in a book by Drusilla Modjeska.  She described her time as an adult educator, and discovering ‘the adultery factor’, where lovers enrol in evening courses in order to get time together (they will often stop coming to class after the first couple of sessions).


The retention rate of participants in my P.E.T. courses has been around 93%.  I believe this is due to the content of the course, rather than the monetary contribution made by the participants.  For most parents, the most difficult investment is their time.  However, once they begin the course, they find they look forward to the next session – as much to be part of the group, as well as for the skills development.

Fathers and couples

The P.E.T. course has consistently attracted a relatively high proportion of fathers.  When I first began, the rate was around 30%, and in the latter years around 37% of course participants have been fathers.  Sometimes the men have been ‘conscripted’ by their partners, but have enthusiastically stayed.  One father described himself as becoming “evangelical” about the course after the first session, despite having been convinced to attend by his wife.

Many couples attend the P.E.T. course.  Practically, couples often find it hard to attend together, so often one parent will attend one term, to be followed the next term by their partner.  My observation is that couples attending together gain great benefit in being able to support each other immediately.  The other benefit is the time the couples spend together at the course – without children.  It becomes a source of relationship time.


 Supervision is an essential element of providing a quality, professional service to parents.  I value the professional development I gain through supervision, and the support.  There have been ‘emergency’ times in groups, where the ability to reach out to someone else and discuss options, has been essential in maintaining the integrity of the group.


 The road to teaching Parent Effectiveness Training as a private provider has been fascinating and exciting, and I continue to love the journey.  I have met the most amazing people, and heard heart-warming and moving stories of changes in the lives of people and their families.  When parents tell me that their children now talk to them and tell them they love them, that they and their children are more confident and considerate, that they feel less stressed, and are enjoying being a parent again – then I know that this is a voyage worth every bump along the way.

Modelling Honesty or White Lies?

‘Father Christmas only comes to good little children’: Parents tell children 3,000 ‘white lies’ as they grow up… to get THEIR own way.

The average parent tells their child a little white lie every single day – just to get their own way.white lies

Among classic fibs are that Father Christmas only gives presents to good children, spinach gives you big muscles and sitting in front of the television for too long gives you square eyes.  Others include that eating crusts puts hair on your chest and that the jingle of an ice cream van means it has sold out.

The survey of 3,000 mums and dads found that 66 per cent were prepared to turn to a white lie if all else failed.  The most common lie – told by 84 per cent of parents – is that Father Christmas only gives presents to good little children.  Second was that Father Christmas only visits children who go to sleep nicely on Christmas Eve – used by eight in ten.  A further 60 per cent of adults have told their children that sitting too close to the television will make their eyes go square.

Kathryn Crawford, of The Baby Website, which commissioned the study, said: ‘The funny thing is that most of the little white lies we tell our own children are ones that our parents told us and chances are, they came from our grandparents too. So the fables get passed automatically from each generation to the next.’  Other little white lies include the fact that crocodiles live under the bed and that making silly faces will make God cross and he will freeze your face.

White lie: ‘Father Christmas only comes to good little children’

The majority of parents agreed their children usually stopped believing everything they were told without question by their eighth birthday.  But the study found that until then, youngsters absorb everything with 57 per cent repeating lies to teachers, friends and even family members.

Eight in ten parents said they often told little white lies to their children to protect them from the truth, whilst 46 per cent made lies up if they didn’t know the real answer to a question.  And two thirds of the parents polled claimed they told lies only to encourage their children to behave nicely.

Top ten tales we tell our kids:

  1. Father Christmas only comes to good little children (84 per cent)
  2. Father Christmas only visits children who go to sleep (81 per cent)
  3. Sitting too close to the 3. TV makes your eyes go square (60 per cent)
  4. Spinach makes you strong (48 per cent)
  5. If you cross your eyes, the wind will change and they’ll stay there (39 per cent)
  6. An apple tree will grown in their tummies if they eat apple pips (27 per cent)
  7. If children play with their privates too much, they will drop off (25 per cent)
  8. The ice cream van only plays music to let children know it has run out of ice cream (22 per cent)
  9. Eating crusts will put hair on your chest (22 per cent)
  10. The police arrest children who swear (20 per cent)

This article can be found at: Daily Mail Reporter 

The 5 Most Common Forms of Punishment

A few weeks ago, I was able to get away for the weekend to hunt down the hottest summer weather I could find in California and headed to Palm Springs. I suppose everyone else had the same idea…punishment

It seems that in many of the popular vacation spots, you can usually count on the infiltration of families and young children. That being said, these places are also hotspots for witnessing parents from all over the world, scolding their kids.

Call me biased, but I know that after learning about P.E.T., my awareness towards parenting the “other” way is extremely sensitive. It’s almost as if I have acquired a sense of selective hearing for punishment and scoldings which can be like nails on a chalkboard!

After pondering on this some more, I’ve come up with a list of what I believe to be the 5 most common forms of punishment – and of course, the case against it!

  1. Yelling – scolding, name calling, demanding
  2. Withdrawing or Withholding – taking away privileges which may or may not have anything to do with their unacceptable behaviour
  3. Using “Logical Consequences” – i.e. if the child is late for dinner, they are made to go without eating
  4. Grounding – not allowing them to do anything but what is (according to the parents) necessary
  5. Isolation – giving them “time outs”, alone and away from everyone else

In P.E.T., we learn about the different types of authority and that Authority P (power) is used in relationships where there is an imbalance of power. No question about it, power and punishment does work at times. However, as the old saying goes: When the cat’s away the mice will play. Punishment usually works only as long as the parent is present. As kids grow older and discover their own ways to get their needs met, their reliance on their parents lessens. As a result of this, kids begin to learn that their parent’s threats will not affect them. Inevitably, parents run out of things to threaten or punish their children with.

Aside from the uselessness that punishment incurs, the long term effects on the child’s behavior can be experienced as a very rude awakening for their parents. It is a commonly accepted idea that teenagers are inherently rebellious. I can’t help but wonder if people really believe that this rebellion comes from no other reason aside from their age.

According to P.E.T., children don’t rebel against their parents; they rebel against their parents’ power. The teen years are those in which the children gain more independence and ability to survive without needing mom and dad.

“In direct contrast to the conventional, “common sense” belief that punishment will prevent aggressive behavior by children, the evidence that indicates that harsh, punitive, power-based punishment actually causes aggression in children. Clearly, punishment doesn’t prevent aggressive behavior by children; it promotes it.” – Dr. Thomas Gordon

Article is written by Selena Cruz George – P.E.T. Program Manager – Gordon Training International and can be found at e-parenting-articles/the-5-most- common-forms-of-punishment/

Can P.E.T skills help with the first day at child care?

Last week, a young Mother shared with me her own experience of ‘separation anxiety’. Having just left her little boy at child-care for the first time, she said that she was intensely aware of the silence in the car as she drove away. ‘I realised just how much I had grown accustomed to his chatter from the back seat and I did not enjoy the total quiet as I drove to work’. She explained that, while her little boy would only be at child care one day a week, she still felt sad as it dawned on her that the day was nonetheless a marker indicating the end of a beautiful period of intense daily interaction with her son. She commented that while at one level she always knew and accepted this would happen, at another level, she still felt a sense of loss.

She also reported feeling a little anxious as she knew she had to trust others with the care of her little boy. Would they introduce their routines to him in a way that he understood? Would they pick up those signs that he was lost or anxious or frightened?

Parents’ concern about the environment of the institutions where their child is placed is a topic of much discussion and media attention. Such concern is the reason, most frequently given, as to why millions of parents, worldwide, are now opting for home schooling. Most parents, however, realize that the withdraw option may not be the best way to assist their child to develop into a confident and resilient young person. So, how can parent’s best help their child deal with these transitions into different environments?

1. Problem ownership:

It will help the relationship with the child if the parent can own their sadness when the child enters this new phase of their life.

2. Declarative I-Message:

If however, the child does detect the parent’s sadness, the parent can send a declarative I-Message about their feelings. It could be a valuable experience for the child to hear that the parent is a real person who experiences sadness. The child may even learn a little about problem ownership because they hear that Mum or Dad is sad about the situation through a message that is honest, revealing and non-blameful.

3. Positive I-Message:

When the parent is declaring that they feel sad, they could easily add a positive I- Message about how much they enjoy their child’s company and how much they look forward to hearing about their day when they meet in the afternoon. All of this discourse in the No-

Problem area has the potential to enhance and strengthen the relationship with the child.

4. No-Problem Area:

When the opportunity arises, the parent can use the No-Problem Area to invite the child to share with them what they did at child care.

5. Preventive I-Message:

When discussing with the child their experience of child care the parent can use preventive I-Messages to prepare the child for the procedures and routines that they will experience in the child care environment. These preventive I- Messages should focus on what the parent knows will happen at the pre-school as a matter of fact. In other words, they should be used to mentally prepare the child for any procedures or routines that may be new to the child, but they should not be used to prepare them for situations that the parent imagines might occur.


Finally, the parent should employ their active listening skills if the child’s verbal or non-verbal cues indicate they have a problem in their new environment.

Our Mission

The Effectiveness Training Institute of Australia (ETIA) Ltd is a not-for-profit, community based organisation that is dedicated to making courses in communication and conflict resolution skills available and accessible to all people in Australia.

Our ETIA Ltd mission is, “to bring peace to the world by offering people in families, schools and the workplace the skills they need to build and maintain satisfying relationships.”

In this context, Effectiveness Training Institute (Qld) Inc., has applied for and been granted Registered Training Organisation accreditation, to deliver Effective Parenting  Course 30727, and Personal Empowerment Course 30726

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