The Crystal-Hearted Princess (A Story for Assertiveness)

The Crystal-Hearted Princess (A Story for Assertiveness)

Over the years, a number of parents have been concerned about their child’s hesitance to assert themselves. I wrote the tale below in 2014 with that (and a very special girl) in mind. I like to imagine living in a kingdom where our leader models assertive Confrontive I-Messages! Here’s how one such person came to be so wise.

Digital Use: A Deep Dive into Attachment

Digital Use: A Deep Dive into Attachment

Without a secure bond with a trusted, stable adult, kids are more prone to social media addiction. The nature of Internet communication leads to a digital intimacy that falls short of authentic, vulnerable relationships so they keep grasping for more approval and acceptance.


When Only One Child Cooperates - Aaghh!

When Only One Child Cooperates - Aaghh!

It's so easy to feel aggressive when we impute bad intentions to our kids -- e.g. He's deliberately NOT writing the invites to get a rise out of me. If we pause to contemplate the spins we put on kids' behaviors, we just might choose not to believe them.

Empathy in Action! How I Active Listened my 17 yo

Empathy in Action! How I Active Listened my 17 yo

He grinned down. I grinned up. Then, shaking my head in wonder, I went to my journal to record this remarkable conversation.

"Remarkable" because the old Catherine would not have known what to do. I probably would have peppered him with questions, "What's wrong? Well, have you tried approaching him again? Did you ask him why you you got that score? Have you gone over the rubric - maybe you missed something?"

2017 Was a Springboard

2017 Was a Springboard

Oh gee. I was in one of those "edge states," defined by Zen abbot and medical anthropologist Joan Halifax as "states where the individual’s identity is challenged." 

I learned to be gentle with myself; I had to because I was sick to my stomach for a week. I required time as I licked my wounds and figured out how to make things right the next session, and all subsequent ones (three more to go). I reflected on why I had such a hard time forgiving myself and what my anxiety was, at core, about.

Fights (Part 2/2): Preventing Them in the First Place

Fights (Part 2/2): Preventing Them in the First Place

In the first entry, we laid out a plan for dousing a physical flare-up between siblings.

Over time, that kind of calm leadership models behavior kids take on themselves. We send a message that conflict -- that unavoidable marker of human interaction -- is a chance to get in touch with feelings and needs; to express them assertively; to open up to another's perspective; to make repairs and, finally, to grow closer. 

Now, what else can we do to keep the landscape so well irrigated that these fires are less likely to occur?

Fights (Part 1/2) - My Kids Are In the Middle of One!

Fights (Part 1/2) -  My Kids Are In the Middle of One!

A parent recently wrote: I'm having trouble with hitting. Do you have a P.E.T.-approved way to stop physical violence between brothers?

This is tough! 

In this post, we'll do a skills walkthrough on how to help -- let's call them -- Sean and Jack; in the next, we'll work on prevention.

What I Learn From Teens

What I Learn From Teens

These teens work hard.

Some are lucky -- they take the course with friends who will whisper, "Hey, send an I-Message!" or check, "Do you want me to Active Listen or do you want my advice?"

Others -- buoyed only by an 18 hour respite where they got to glimpse another reality -- reenter a world defined by winners and losers, full of blame and shame and "I get the last word."

My Own Redemption - C.U.E. #11

My Own Redemption - C.U.E. #11

I've written before about how Claudia's whining gets to me. Clearly, I still have some work to do unearthing the button that Claudia may have pressed but did not install! 

That button says it’s dangerous when someone is upset and perilous to assert my needs.

That button tries to convince me that it makes more sense to wait for others to figure out what’s bothering me and change their behavior accordingly.

That button's been around a long time.

Marriage - P.E.T. Thoughts & More

Marriage - P.E.T. Thoughts & More

There were the inevitable struggles and recurring fights that most long term partners have. My inner dialogue usually went something like this: He’s taking advantage of me. He doesn’t appreciate me. Give an inch, he’ll take a mile. The icy chill could last hours, even days.

When I walked into my first parenting course five years ago, I was in a crisis with my 11 year old son. Lo and behold, though, my newfound assertiveness, empathy, and conflict resolution skills helped with my husband who, in turn, responded with his own best efforts.

The wonder of acceptance proved itself time and time again.

P.E.T. & Trump Conversations

P.E.T. & Trump Conversations

While my ire was directed at Trump (and, momentarily, his wife), I drew a line at my fellow Americans. I couldn’t in good conscience put down or label almost half of my country, or presume to know what was going on in their minds and hearts. 

I still believed Thomas Gordon's assertion that all behavior seeks to meet needs. Their vote was doing something FOR themselves, and not TO me, and I wanted to understand what that something was.

5 Ways to Stay In the No Problem Zone

5 Ways to Stay In the No Problem Zone

When the sailing is smooth, there are skills we can actively reach for to keep us in those calm waters longer! Here are the five that I cover in class. 

Making Chocolate When You've Never Tasted It

Making Chocolate When You've Never Tasted It

Felicia, a recent graduate of the P.E.T. course, spoke to a new cohort of parents:

You deserve self-compassion. Ask yourself, 'What do you need? Anything?' This is hard work. We were also children and we are trying to make chocolate without knowing what chocolate is!

The look of This woman totally gets me was on every single grinning face in that sunny room.

Off to College

Off to College

A few weeks ago, I spent two days at your university, listening to deans, advisors and mental health professionals tell us parents how to support you and your classmates in the upcoming year. I was pretty relaxed; nothing they said was too jarring.

It all made me wonder: What would this moment be like had I not learned P.E.T.?

Letting Go of the Story

Letting Go of the Story

"One way under the anger and blame you are both feeling is to ask yourself: If I had to let go of the story of how the other person is wrong, what would I have to feel?"

Severe Parenting Fatigue - P.G.D. #4

Severe Parenting Fatigue - P.G.D. #4

I feel like Severe Parenting Fatigue should be a thing.

As soon as a mom in my course said it, I jotted down SPF!!!! It's so ubiquitous and, personally, all too familiar. Parental burn-out is especially apparent at the end of the long school year but -- believe you me -- it really knows no seasons.

Yet relationships with our children are potentially the most rewarding of this one life we have. So why would we settle for anything approaching SPF? 

A Clear Path

A Clear Path

That softening and willingness to take in someone else's perspective had the startling effect of her daughter picking up a towel and starting to dry the dishes. "We got over it within a matter of minutes whereas before it would have meant a ruined Sunday afternoon," Therese gushed.

Oh, the gratitude we all saw in her wide, winning smile and bright eyes! 

Bullying & the Behavior Window: The Bystander & Prevention, Part 3/3

Bullying & the Behavior Window: The Bystander & Prevention, Part 3/3

There is no doubt that bystanders play a key role, and many parents yearn to raise kids who are willing to intervene. 

The Behavior Window can help clarify ways to support our children in moving out of passivity and avoiding, to the extent possible, becoming bullies or one of the bullied themselves.

Bullying & the Behavior Window: The Bully, Part 2/3

Bullying & the Behavior Window: The Bully, Part 2/3

Starting to forgive ourselves is courageous and arduous work, and utterly necessary. We do whatever it takes to come to a place where we can accept that our child is very much hurting; then we can become a helper and try to turn things around.

Bullying & the Behavior Window: The Bullied Child (Part 1/3)

Bullying & the Behavior Window: The Bullied Child (Part 1/3)

When I teach, all sorts of scenarios come up including, of course, bullying.

It is recognized that this phenomenon is best dealt with preventively and systemically rather than as an interpersonal matter. And yet, what does a P.E.T. parent do if our child becomes a target or is bullying others?