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.
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.
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.
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."
"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?"
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?
Showing partiality in a face-off between two children who despise each other at that moment is never a good thing. But I did it. And in such a subtle, indirect way that both stung and stunned.
Sigh. P.E.T. instructor notwithstanding, I am a complicated human being first.
In this latest addition to my Consciously Unskilled Series, I will walk you through my mess-up, what I did to undo what I'd done, and how I've grown. We are truly in this together.
I think most of us can accept discomfort and struggle in many arenas -- a hard work out, a longer than expected hike, even a tough manager who asks a lot of us -- but there's an added level of resistance when it comes to raising kids.
I suspect that, though we may pay lip service to the idea that Parenting is HARD, deep down, most of us still believe that it shouldn’t be.
Or, worse, that it wouldn’t be if our children were just different.
Brene Brown, a mother herself, found that parenting is "a primary predictor of how prone our children will be to shame or guilt.” (page 224) She exhorts us to -- and I love her term for it -- parent with shame resilience as a goal.
So how to do this when confronting our offspring?
With a huge semantic tool: the Confrontive I-Message!
Besides wanting to make peace, I had gone into Claudia's room as her cheerleader.
You see, in my room I had reflected on whether I had ever openly defied my own mother and came up with not a single instance.
No surprise there. I was always a very, very, very "good" girl.
It is truly humbling but, as you may have read in my last post Roadblocks I - Child Owns the Problem, our patterning is just to use a heck of a lot of Communication Roadblocks instead of helping our children or confronting them with good results.
Change starts, though, with a simple decision and firm commitment. We've got your back as you strive to communicate in new ways that better serve you, your child and your relationship together. You will love the results.
How messy does a child's room have to be before we feel steam coming out of our ears?
That is such a personal thing.
Thank you, dear reader, for requesting a post on this very common issue. Let's start where we always do in P.E.T. with our go-to question: Who Owns the Problem?
With all the talk in P.E.T. about how anger is a secondary emotion, however, some participants have seemed stumped and even sheepish when trying to identify their feelings.
"All I know is I'm angry, but I'm not supposed to feel that, am I?"
"I know I have to find what's beneath the anger but what do I do about the fact that I want to strangle my kid?"
Gee, I guess we all must have missed the school lesson on how to deal with anger. Hah! So few of us -- are there any? -- have been supported with processing any emotion, much less this biggie.
Doing this important work now, though, means we can give a ginormous gift to our children through modeling and consulting!
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?"
Do you have the perspective you want on parenting?
Are you full of gratitude? Joy? Confidence? Contentment? Optimism?
If you feel you have no control -- over your anger towards your kids, over your reactions and judgments, over them listening to you -- please know that you are not alone in your burnt out and despairing state! Parenting is supremely difficult and, yet, we are not offered support as a matter of course. By luck, sheer luck, I stumbled upon a class.
I don't think anyone noticed my barely audible intake of breath. I was momentarily dumbstruck but for the best reason: I was stunned by the fact of my own transformation.
I'm still a work in progress but, OMG, I used to be pretty far down on one end of the passive-assertive-aggressive spectrum.
Something was wanting my attention.
I paused with my forehead on the doorjamb of the master bathroom. I knew I needed to reflect on this something. But, tiredly, I thought, I don't have time for this. I can't believe I have to do this. Do I have to? Really?
Yet I knew from experience that it was the only way out.
It's imbalance of another type -- emotional and relational -- that I have always found harder to endure. An argument with a friend or a touchy issue with my child would demand a hefty portion of my attention.
This is a huge boon, right? I wish I had had these skills way back.
Over dinner recently with friends, I was reliving how stressful it was when my eldest was diagnosed with moderate to severe asthma and allergies at the age of three. That began a series of arguments between my husband and me.
Over what? My mother in law.
The Gordon Training International official P.E.T. Facebook page recently shared a humorous video of why some parents don't seem to get anything done. I can refer to it as funny because I am far removed now but I remember feeling exasperated and burnt out A LOT back in the day. I did a fair amount of "No!"-ing, desperate to finish the housework so when the baby napped I could have some precious me time.