A Clear Path

A Clear Path

The clarity that comes from P.E.T. can lead to change that feels nothing short of "miraculous." Let me delight you with a recent account of progress, the kind of which must have led Dr. Thomas Gordon to write:

P.E.T. parents have taught me how much they are capable of changing, given the opportunity for training. I have new trust in the ability of mothers and fathers to comprehend new knowledge and acquire new skills.
— Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children, page 3

I met Therese (a pseudonym) at an information session a few months ago in February. She divulged that this would not be her first parenting course but she was intrigued and eager to try something new to help in raising her two tweens.

At the first session, Therese described feeling stuck in the "same old" patterns, not knowing a way out of the daily nagging; her 12 year old daughter had made fun of her taking "yet another course!" As we discussed the glorious Behavior Window, Therese realized part of the problem was that, in their home, "everything is everyone's problem." 

She benefited from reflecting on the Line of Acceptance, the notion that, at any given point and with any particular person, we are going to feel one of two different ways in response to their behavior: accepting of unaccepting. Therese and her co-participants determined that, while the child and the environment played a role, mostly it was inner stuff -- lack of sleep, stress at work, our expectations, etc. -- that moved our Line of Acceptance up or down. 

Therese opened her heart and mind to the urging that we use the Behavior Window paradigm to better understand our interactions and mindfully choose our responses to our children, a far cry from being swept up in emotional reactivity. As we finished Session 1, she wondered aloud, "Perhaps I don't need to yell if my daughter owns the problem."

Over the next few weeks, Therese often read the assignments in advance. She soaked up the practice with gusto, enjoying especially the round robin format where parents work on a common scenario, taking turns using a skill. She honestly disclosed that she was working on empathy: "I had told my daughter I was worried about the trampoline and then when she hurt her neck, it was hard to feel compassionate!"

Therese was getting better at noticing -- and not necessarily acting on -- what she was thinking and feeling. A string of small successes increased her sense of competence and, for the first time, she was operating from a whole new place: the problems of the kids were actually "opportunities" to help through Active Listening! 

Even when it meant a re-do, Therese was determined to foster new levels of emotional literacy and intimacy. One weekend, her daughter demanded something without saying "please." When Therese asked her to say the word, her daughter got defensive and they had a heated exchange before parting ways. 

That's when Therese remembered the Behavior Window! Having this to fall back on, she told us all, lowered her Line of Acceptance to a more spacious state of calm. Pausing with this new tool, Therese saw that, actually, her daughter's tone indicated that she was distressed about something. It was in the Child Owns Problem box and Therese had inadvertently Roadblocked by being stuck on a solution -- an apology, young Miss! -- when the time wasn't right at all.

A little while later, Therese was washing dishes when her daughter sauntered into the kitchen. Feeling better equipped now to use her Helping Skills, her mother reopened the issue: "Hey, you were really mad when I told you to ask me again 'nicely.'"

"Yeah, it didn't need a 'please!'" came the response.

And here was the Active Listen: "And then it was hard because I was insisting on it when you needed my help." 

That softening and willingness to take in someone else's perspective had the startling effect of her daughter picking up a towel and commencing 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! 

At the end of a remarkable eight weeks, Therese slipped me a handwritten card. I cried as I read:

With great kindness and patience you have shown that the joy I hoped to create in my family is in fact possible not just a pipe dream of an optimist like myself. I have hope during emotional situations where I previously despaired. I fumbled in the confusion of parenting and now I have a clear path I am proud to follow. My frustration has been replaced with compassion. I am filled with wonder and touched by peace.

A deep bow to Therese's hard work and dedication to changing the dynamics of her family. Thanks for allowing me to share this extra-charged P.E.T. vitamin!

For some of us -- including yours truly -- learning and living P.E.T. is much more of an uphill slog. May Therese's tale sprinkle generous amounts of of fairy dust to inspire us all and light our own paths!

Credits: Clear path (http://www.napoleonohio.com/files/1213/3054/7154/Oakwood_Park_Walking_Path.jpg); Adams quote (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/--fNgrcbq79o/Vf933vFc31I/AAAAAAAAH1U/soq4q005xII/s1600/Leader.png)