6 P.E.T. Highlights of Summer 2014

6 P.E.T. Highlights of Summer 2014

I spent the lion's share of the summer in that special placed called California, land of crazy good food (a vegan dog at the movies!), sweet pedicures and stunning nature (sigh - the home of one of my best friends practically backs onto Muir Woods!). 

The summer was also special because it was my first one really, as a certified instructor and blogger, living and breathing P.E.T. Many moments made me pause in deep gratitude, and I'd love to share.

1. Closeness with Jake 

Robles Hall, Harrison's Stanford dormitory for a month

Robles Hall, Harrison's Stanford dormitory for a month

The summer started off rockily, with Jake (13) refusing to go back to camp and the near constant bickering between him and Claudia (11). Part of the problem was that my eldest, Harrison, a rising high school junior, was away at camp for four weeks.

Finally, the long-awaited day arrived and Jake and I went to pick up his brother. After a short tour of the campus, we proceeded to the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in San Francisco. While I waited in line for coffee, they went exploring.

All of a sudden, I felt an arm drape around me. Jake was so happy with the day's reunion but took time to circle back and whisper: "Thank you. Thank you for keeping me company while Harrison was away."

"You're so welcome, Jake," I smiled with my whole being.

I won't lie -- the conflict up until that point had been intense and tiring. Once very averse to confrontation and conflict -- it would fill me with feelings of panic, dread and helplessness -- this summer, I was equipped with P.E.T. skills that allowed me to remain calm and see opportunities for growth and learning in each episode. Conflict in life is unavoidable, after all, so why not harness its power to teach and bring together?

As necessary preparation for the inevitable conflicts the child will encounter outside of the home, family conflict may actually be beneficial to the child, always provided that the conflict in the home gets resolved constructively. This is the critical factor in any relationship: how the conflict gets resolved, not how many conflicts occur.
— Dr. Thomas Gordon, Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children, page 173

As a reward, I got to savor Jake's unabashed affection for the rest of the summer; it was warmer than California sunshine. 

2. Spending time with the nieces and nephews

It's hard living so far away when all I want to do is be a doting aunt!! I got a good share of reconnection though and my next post will showcase the P.E.T. practice I had with the younger ones!   

3. Writing this blog

This is my first summer blogging. I've been reaching more people on Facebook and Linked In and want to thank the folks at Gordon Training International for their support!

My favorite reader (I'm allowed to say this, right?) is my husband. During one of our FaceTime sessions while he was in Hong Kong, he was searching for something to fill his free time, "I'm bored. I wonder what I should do." Suddenly, he exclaimed, "Oh yeah, I'll read your blog. Ok, I'm off to read it, bye!" 

My entries have brought our parenting styles more in line by giving me the chance to crystallize my thoughts on hard issues and be a more persuasive P.E.T. proponent. For instance, when our son refused to return to camp, it was hard to explain the daily developments over the phone to an exasperated husband. Instead, I promised he would be able to read about it in the next entry; I too craved the clarity I knew writing would give me. 

He read it and guess what? Not only was he not angry with Jake anymore but, a couple of weeks later, I overheard him recounting the story to a cousin as an example of how to share values with our children! 

4. Summer P.E.T. course with a very dear person

I was lucky to be able to hold a Skype course with my sister in law. One day, about halfway through, we were texting back and forth as we did some bicoastal packing together -- I was in CA, she was in Virginia and we were to meet at Banff National Park in Canada.

Then there was a lull followed by this message:

This was right after our first of two sessions on Method III, the P.E.T. way to solve conflicts. 

This was right after our first of two sessions on Method III, the P.E.T. way to solve conflicts. 

The remainder of the course was magical in many other ways too. Thank you, sis! xoxo

5.  A more open window

I spent most of the summer in the No Problem sweet spot, with my Line of Acceptance rolled way down.

This is the overarching goal of the P.E.T. program - to allow families to truly enjoy their lives together as much as possible!

This is the overarching goal of the P.E.T. program - to allow families to truly enjoy their lives together as much as possible!

We often discuss in the course the fact that the P.E.T. communication skills are hard(!!!!!!!) and require intention and practice. Most parents share that they were raised with parents who, though loving and well-intentioned, were not equipped to listen empathically; to model assertive confrontation; or to use a problem-solving paradigm that democratically balanced the needs of all. So, of course, how could these skills come naturally?  

But I am living proof that we can establish new "circuitry" and patterns of behavior. (Read more about this in psychiatrist and pediatrician Daniel Siegel's astounding book Mindsight.) Being more aware of my own beliefs, feelings and needs, I now more often choose my response rather than a response choosing me. This way, I extend my stay in my favorite spot -- the NP zone. 

6. A P.E.T. practitioner in the making

Jake takes his older cousin role pretty seriously, including coaching on Active Listening

Jake takes his older cousin role pretty seriously, including coaching on Active Listening

One day, my niece and nephew were bickering in the back seat while I was driving them and my kids to dinner. I overhead Jake offer a quick Active Listen and then tell the older cousin, "You just need to show her compassion and acceptance of the way she is."

On another occasion, Jake was already upset about something as he got into the car. When he heard we had to get gas before going home, he lost it and swore. I Active Listened a little bit and thought I felt an energy shift. When I gently raised the topic of language I realized I was jumping the gun. "Mom," he said solemnly. "I don't need that right now. I need to be Active Listened. You're supposed to do that stuff later. I'm still very upset."

I didn't mind the correction at all. Not. At. All.