The Parent Effectiveness Training Pay-Off

The Parent Effectiveness Training Pay-Off

[**The following is my guest blogpost for Hunter Clarke-Fields' Yoga Mama, Buddha Mind Blog. Hunter is currently in California doing her certification course!]

Hunter is off this week taking a MASSIVE step towards family peace -- she is training to become a certified P.E.T. instructor! 

I can't wait to welcome her to our instructor ranks. And I am beyond thrilled for you and your families to benefit from her guidance.

P.E.T. is a proven program of teaching parents communication skills that build closeness, mutuality and respect for everyone's needs (truly democratic). Children feel secure knowing their parents can and will listen to them when they have problems. Parents prefer giving children the opportunity to change their behavior out of consideration rather than to get a reward or avoid a punishment. Everyone heaves a sigh of relief that conflict -- an inevitable aspect of family life -- can be resolved in a win-win way and brings people together.

You may be wondering though: Is it worth it?

You bet.

Based on my experience with three kids now 17, 15 and 12, here is how learning Dr. Thomas Gordon's paradigm and skills can pay off in spades.


This jibes with Hunter's background beautifully.

From the first session, P.E.T. participants are called upon to consider what is going on inside of them with their feelings of acceptance or unacceptance toward their children. The weekly assignment involves simply noticing, without judgment, times when they sense their Line of Acceptance rising.

And then, in Session 2, we start learning the skill of Active Listening. Often, though, the hugest hurdle is finding strategies for self-calming in the heat of the moment. That's when we realize we can use our class handouts to Active Listen ourselves: What am I feeling? What am I needing

We grow ever more mindful through the course as we become better adept at touching into the present moment and identifying our experience and that of our children. 

Support for the Parent

The power of groups is that you feel in community with others who share your intent to make positive changes.

Say you come to class ready to blurt out that morning's painful tumult with your child. You will receive the empathy and acceptance that releases you to be your best parenting self. Hunter can help everyone examine what happened in light of the P.E.T. approach and, time permitting, you may even get a chance to practice.

You also benefit from the support of three time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Thomas Gordon whose refreshing and easy to read book -- Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children -- is truly a godsend to those of us prone to guilt.

Here's what one participant shared:

"I've read the first 2 chapters so far and I am soooo grateful for it all. What a weight lifted! I haven't even implemented any behavior changes in our family and I have found such a huge benefit. I can't wait for what the rest of the course has to offer!"

Quick, if not immediate, results

Active Listening is, hands down, the hardest of the P.E.T. skills but inroads can be made immediately. Here's what happened in two families as they were taking the course:

4 year old wants his bubble bath

He desired a luxurious bubble soak but it was late and his mother wanted either a quick shower or nothing at all. She told him this and he started screaming, “No, no, no!”  

Mom: (bending down to meet him eye to eye) “Oh, you must REALLY like bubbles! You are really upset!”  

Son: “Yeah!” He walked off, brushed his teeth and went straight to bed. 

3 year old is jealous of baby sleeping with Mommy

The older sister had developed a pattern of waking in the middle of the night to crawl into bed with the baby and her parents. The mother would take her back to her own bed explaining the choices, "There is no room for us all on our bed, but I am willing to sleep with you in your bed." Very upset, the girl would push back to the master bedroom. After one session on Active Listening, the mother tried another approach.

Mom: "You really want to sleep in our bed because it seems so unfair that the baby gets to sleep with us."

Daughter calmed immediately and they fell asleep together on her bed.

Tween daughter starts referring to her mother as BFF

A year later, this participant reports she is still privileged to hold the title of "Best Friend Forever.""

For other inspiring stories, check out this Jump Right In and Active Listen post!

And it's not just Active Listening. Before finishing the eight sessions, many parents report fewer arguments as a result of using Confrontive I-Messages with their co-parents as well as their children! 

Ah, peace . . . 

Children who want to be with us

I have two teens and a tween and, let me tell you, some peers their age simply do not want to hang out with their parents. Granted, we all want independent young adults but what I'm talking about are kids who actively avoid spending time with their families.

That might have been our situation too. I only started learning the skills when my children were already 13, 11 & 8. But that was in time for my children's remaining years at home to be vastly different.


By learning how to listen with understanding, how to confront honestly and congruently, to solve problems fairly and to share values respectfully, you too can be better assured that your relationship with your children is open and mutually loving however big they get.


When I had two young sons. I stopped commuting to New York City for my full-time legal services job. My stress levels remained high, though, and then I added a third child to the mix.

Sure, I had some happy moments but, overall, parenting was more of a struggle than something I was truly enjoying.

Adopting the P.E.T. skills began to bring about greater periods of harmony in our family life. I am tickled to report that we now spend oodles of time in the No Problem area.

I'm not trying to oversell this. I am very up front -- and it comes as no real surprise when parents stop to think about it -- that eight weeks will not bookend your transformation as a parent. We have a lot of unprogramming to do! 

P.E.T., however, is a crucial first step: having concrete skills to get some things under control -- like sibling fighting, broken communication lines, persistent struggles over housework or gaming -- then creates the space for more reflection.

For instance, the course gave me the incentive to read more, to start a mindfulness practice and to start healing my own inner child. 

Now, I am living a life that I never thought possible: to be happy for no reason. At first, I would wake up disoriented -- Wait, I should be worried about something. That was followed by a glorious and eerie realization -- Oh, yeah right, there's nothing to be anxious or sad about.


Just because you know P.E.T. doesn't mean your family won't have conflict. In fact, for various reasons, last year was the hardest ten months of parenting EVAH!

The difference will be that now you will have something to fall back on, a parenting roadmap that can withstand the most complicated and convoluted problems that can face your brood.

That's important because with older children, we simply have less of the power we used to have based on size (my kids are huge!), punishments (older kids can walk out the door or spank us back) or rewards (sorry, an extra 15 minutes of bath time is not as appealing as hanging out with friends).

All we are left with, if we are lucky, is influence.

P.E.T. gets you that.

I am so grateful my children still listen to me and give my words due consideration.

So . . . . those are some heartfelt reasons why I am so excited to have Hunter as another certified instructor on this planet. To have her in your own backyard is truly a blessing. Do your families a favor and avail yourself of this enduring and acclaimed approach to parenting (and, indeed, to all human relationships).

P.E.T. is not going to be easy, but the skills are learnable with practice and support. It's oh-so-worth-it.

Good luck!

xo Catherine

Credits: Pay-off visual (