Oh boy, it’s been a busy couple of weeks! We go back to class tomorrow and I haven’t posted about last weeks session! This week we discussed more about active listening and remembering to avoid roadblocks. I had a great experience from the prior week which I had been excited about. Last Monday C did not want to go to school (the girls are in Jr. Kindergarten three days a week). I used active listening and followed it down to find what the actual problem was. Apparently C tends to be noisy during their quiet time and is scared the teacher will be mad at her for it. It is a little tough on them because right now I pick them up halfway through the day, which means they are there waiting for me for about 15 minutes of quiet time. As it turns out, in a week we will be moving them to full day, so they won’t be up and waiting for me. Of course this means that they are now going to have to follow the quiet time rules for even longer. Hopefully it goes well. Although what is it my training would say? This is their problem? Ahhh yes.
After our second session of parent effectiveness training (P.E.T.) I’m beginning to think our parenting skills are not the only thing that will be improved by attending. Today was about helping children solve their problems. This technique is to be used when the problem is only the child’s. We went over roadblocks to communication – which surprisingly enough include questioning, advising, praising and sympathizing. We had a chance to “try out” using the different roadblocks with each other as we each took turns talking about a problem. We both used real life problems too. It was immediately obvious that the roadblocks truly are that. When helping a child, or anyone for that matter out, it is important to be accepting, genuine and empathetic towards the person. From there you can use skills such as attending, silence and active listening. We practiced active listening – which involves hearing facts and feeling and then responding in a way that the speaker knows that you are truly understanding. And the best part? If you aren’t understanding correctly, by sending it back to the speaker they can correct you so you do understand. Active listening is not simply repeating or rephrasing what was said, it is truly getting to the feelings and emotions behind the words.
So the first day of PET class is in the books. And it went very well. As it turns out, my husband (Z) and I are the only ones in the class, which we actually like. There are two instructors, both lovely ladies who in addition to teaching parenting classes are Doulas and birthing educators. We got along very well with them well, which is always a plus! Our first class was spent going over the basics of what the course is for and laying out what our goals are. Next we discussed what we consider to be acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in our children – which is completely subjective and personal. Not surprising, behaviors can move between the two extremes depending on several different variables. For example, I hate it when my children put their feet on me. Even I think that seems silly and yet… it just drives me crazy. My husband doesn’t have that problem. The kids could put all their feet on him at once and it wouldn’t phase him one bit. From here we moved into problem ownership. One of the most important ideas they teach is how to recognize who’s problem it really is and then based on the answer use the appropriate tools. Z and I had a great discussion on the way home (we drive a little over an hour each way to attend the class) about some of the issues we are facing in our home and who’s problem we think it is. It’s really not as easy as it sounds. For example, children not going to bed at bedtime.. who’s problem? The parent’s? The child’s? Or both? Feel free to leave your thoughts – I can’t tell you the right answer, I’m not sure. But it’s really interesting to think about. Our homework this week is to notice things that change what behaviors are acceptable vs unacceptable and when we run into problems try to recognize who’s problems they actually are. If you want to learn more about P.E.T., I highly recommend reading the book. If it really resonates with you, as it did for me, look into attending a class to really get some in depth training and practice (see Gordon Training International for more information.)
To be completely honest, I am not happy with how I am parenting. I love my kids so much that it hurts sometimes. But being a parent has never felt comfortable for me. The responsibility to help such a small being develop into a fully function adult is overwhelming sometimes. I want them to be good hearted and kind, I want them to be polite and generous, I want them to be strong emotionally so that whatever life throws at them they can handle. I want so much for them and it’s so hard knowing if I’m doing the right thing. Or knowing that sometimes I am, but sometimes I’m not. I forget sometimes that they are only four, that they don’t know better, that physiologically and psychologically they CAN’T know any better – they are still getting there. And yet I still have these throw down screaming matches with them because I just don’t have my shit together yet and somehow I expect them to. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend all my time beating myself up for these things – but I know I should do better – I can do better – and that they deserve it.