Optimize Your Parenting!
I would not normally reach for this word -- optimize -- but my husband recently used it to great effect.
I was hosting The Acorn Within's first ever Co-Parents Reception and Info Session. I wanted to find a way to welcome the other parents of the children I had heard so much about. I also knew that many of the participants were eager to have their co-parents on board with the P.E.T. approach.
That Saturday morning of torrential rains, we had a small group of three couples. Balancing plates of New York style bagels (yes, finally, here in Hong Kong!), they were deeply engaged in discussing this democratic paradigm and set of skills.
And then, one father just put it out there. "The truth is," he posited, "500 years ago there was not such a thing as parenting courses. Millions of parents have done just fine. I wonder if it's a sign of the times that we are thinking about it too much."
Curious how others might respond, I opened the floor up.
First, another dad acknowledged the speaker's sentiments and then said it was really a personal decision whether someone wanted to reach out for a course like this.
It was then that my husband spoke up from the corner.
"I think it has to do with optimization," he began. "We are all in a position where we can provide everything our children need. They, like us, will most likely go to college and lead successful lives. And they know we love them."
"The question is," he continued, "How much will they talk to us after they leave home? How much of a real relationship are we going to have with them? How close can we be?"
The parent who had raised the issue of over-intellectualization suddenly had an Aha! moment. He wondered aloud whether, 30 years down the road, his own children might feel the disconnect that he feels with his parents whom he sees once a year back in his country. He listens out of duty as they describe their physical ailments and . . . well, that's about it.
There was awareness in the room then that the "I turned out just fine!" argument misses a true longing of most parents for a lifetime of connection with our children.
Indeed, when I share the following two stories in class, I sometimes look out to see glistening eyes.
The first one involves a woman I know who had given up her day job to start her own company. It had been about three months but she hadn't yet told her parents, wanting to avoid her father's naysaying. One can imagine the Roadblocks of lecturing, warning, moralizing or maybe even worse -- name-calling, sarcasm or judgment.
The second story -- which was shared with me only a few days later -- describes a special moment for master P.E.T. trainer and my parenting coach, Kathryn Tonges. She was full of glee that one of her sons had proposed to his girlfriend while on their family vacation!
Imagine being with your children and getting invited right then and there to celebrate this momentous addition to your family. A total dream come true.
These stories startle us into remembering what really matters.
Parents in the course see very clearly how refraining from punishments, threats or even rewards and, instead, practicing relationship-building skills is an important investment in the future.
Parents are grateful to learn alternatives to wielding or abusing power. Skills like Active Listening, Confrontive I-Messages and Method III Problem-Solving not only start improving relationships right away with our young children but also hold the promise that our adult kids will keep communication flowing as they navigate life's decisions, transitions and challenges.
To me, that's the most significant illustration of optimization there is. Thank you, dear husband!
Dr. Thomas Gordon once wrote about the common arguments he'd heard against taking P.E.T. -- check them out here!
Credits: Optimization visual (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/optimization)