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279 of 282 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Before I had children, I oscillated between thinking that I would have no idea how to be a father and thinking that I would certainly do better than my parents. Of course, in practice many of my preconceptions have been dispelled as mere imaginings. My son is now thirteen and my daughter nine, so with the notion that I perhaps have not done as good a job as I might, I've been taking a more serious look at some of the parenting guides at my disposal. There are many of these around, but you would do well to start with Gordon's, "Parent Effectiveness Training" or alternatively, with "Liberated Parents, Liberated Children" of Faber and Mazlish. Don't be put off by the P.E.T. acronym or the cover of the book as I was, or the apparent commercialism of the approach, because this is one of the best books on the subject. It is a complete training guide for parents, and it confirmed for me that I had indeed made almost every mistake I could make, even if not in the most severe way possible.

Gordon's premise is that parents need training. He comes to this from a background in psychology and training. He first trained pilots, where he succeeded in replacing ineffective command and control methods of training with demonstrably more effective collaborative forms of training. Building on the theories and client-centered approach of his teacher and mentor Carl Rogers (On Becoming a Person, 1961), Gordon further developed his educational model in providing leadership training for an organization consulting company before returning to psychotherapy for children and families. In these beginnings lie the strength of PET. It is an eminently practical, yet solidly based therapeutic approach, honed by countless hours of classes dealing with the real problems of parents and children.

Gordon builds his model on three key principles: Active Listening, I-messages, and the No Lose Method of conflict resolution. These are not his invention, but these are essential and valuable concepts. In particular, Gordon's mentor Carl Rogers and his collaborator Richard Farson invented the term "Active Listening" and wrote an influential paper on the subject in 1957. Since then this idea has been used by many people in many fields. However, Gordon deserves credit for synthesizing these principles into a practical program for helping parents and children and popularizing them. Steven Covey, incidentally, uses these same three principles in his book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." In fact, of all Covey's 7 habits, Habit 4, Empathic Listening, is probably the one that makes the most positive difference people's success in life, and this is simply Active Listening in another form.

The biggest eye-opener for me and probably for every parent, no matter how well informed or well intentioned, is the chapter "Parents are Persons not Gods." This lays out an undeniable characterization of parenting types and the "12 roadblocks to communication." After reading this, you will inevitably realize that you are, or have been, either a "winner" a "loser" or an "oscillator" depending on your parenting style and that you too have fallen into every trap that lies lurking for unwary parents. Not only that, that you will find you have used, at one time or another, every negative tactic available to control you child. You won't feel good about it, but you can be heartened by the fact that you are in the same boat as 99% of humanity. There is something relatively easy that you can do about it -- and you can start right now.

The 12 roadblocks deserve some attention -- a good exercise would be to be aware of your own use of these methods, not only with your children but with your spouse and colleagues at work. Briefly stated, the 12 roadblocks are:

* Ordering, directing, commanding -- telling the child to do something, giving him an order or command

* Warning, admonishing threatening -- telling the child what consequences will occur if she does something

* Exhorting, moralizing, preaching -- telling the child what he should or ought to do

* Advising, giving solutions, or suggestions -- telling the child how to solve a problem, providing answers or solutions for him

* Lecturing, teaching, giving logical arguments -- trying to influence the child with facts, logic, information, or your own opinions

* Judging, criticizing, disagreeing, blaming -- making a negative judgment of the child

* Praising, agreeing -- offering a positive evaluation or judgment, agreeing

* Name-calling, ridiculing, shaming -- making the child feel foolish, shaming her

* Interpreting, analyzing, diagnosing -- telling the child what her motives are, communicating that you have her figured out

* Reassuring, sympathizing, consoling, supporting -- trying to make the child feel better, talking him out of his feelings, denying the strength of his feelings

* Probing, questioning, interrogating -- trying to find reasons, motives, causes; searching for more information to help you solve the problem

* Withdrawing, distracting, humoring, diverting -- trying to get the child away from the problem; distracting the child, kidding him out of it, pushing the problem aside

Reflection will show you why these typical reactions are not helpful when your child has a problem: they all tend to shut down communication and prevent children from gaining confidence in solving problems for themselves. Instead, active listening is preferred. Gordon argues that listening to, acknowledging and truly understanding your children's feelings are far more effective than providing them with your own solution.

Gordon provides many examples of PET in practice -- what works and what doesn't. He addresses those common questions of how to discipline children and how to get the parent's needs satisfied as well as the child's. Gordon, in line with the evolutionary thinking of many of the visionaries and leaders in this field, such as Dr Spock (Baby and Child Care, 1946), Haim Ginnott (Between Parent and Child, 1956) and Alfie Kohn (Punished by Rewards, 1999) does not believe in strong parental control, including spanking, "time-outs," withdrawal of privileges, or rewards. These are all instruments of parental power. He worked with thousands of parents and became convinced that all but a small handful of parents hate to use power over their children and continue to use it anyway only because they have no experience in their own lives with people who use non-power methods of influence. The consequences of using parental power are severe. As Gordon puts it, ""more and more often, children fire their parents. As they move into adolescence kids dismiss their mothers and fathers, write them off, sever their relationships with them." This doesn't have to be. You can find many examples in these books and on the Internet where parents have successfully used Gordon's methods to maintain loving relationships with their children through to adulthood, even after making a bad start.

There are other gems in the mold of PET. For example, my personal favorite is "Playful Parenting," by Lawrence Cohen (2001) because one of his examples helped me understand something that I was completely missing and make a breakthrough in my relationship with my daughter. He believes in connection rather than separation - a "meeting-on-the-couch" rather than "a time-out." Surprisingly Gordon doesn't mention Haim Ginnot, the renowned child psychologist who wrote "Between Parent and Child," and who inspired a previous generation, although he does provide this book as a reference in his later book, "PET in Action." The latest edition does however acknowledge, in the suggested reading list, Faber and Mazlish, whose many contributions follow in Ginnot's tradition. It's interesting to read Ginnot for historical perspective, because his work was done in a time when spanking was the norm and children were meant to be "seen and not heard," But his book is inevitably dated and you would do better to spend the time with Faber and Mazlish.

In contrast, even in comparison with more recent books, the latest edition of Gordon's book does not appear dated in any significant way, and is totally relevant and actionable in today's world. As Gordon points out in the preface, the need for PET is greater than ever with more violence in the world, and perhaps Gordon's greatest contribution is to point out in a forceful and coherent way that peace starts in the home. He has helped spread this message to millions of parents in countries all over the world.

At the end of the book, Gordon talks about other adults in a child's life: "By and large, the adults who touch the lives of children lack the basic attitudes and skills to be effective helping agents. Like parents, they have not been adequately trained to be effective...and so, unhappily, they can do damage to your children." It is unlikely that you can do much to change the culture in which your children grow up, or the society of their peers. You can, however, fight some of the influences of school, TV, and video games. "Parents must get off the bench and go to bat to protect their children's civil rights whenever they are threatened by adults who feel that kids do not deserve such rights," says Gordon. By truly understanding our children's needs and becoming more effective parents, we can create a safe home and start repairing the damage.

This book could really change your life. If you're analytical and can get what you want from books, start with PET, which is a complete method and has a sound practical and theoretical basis. Or you might want to start with Faber and Mazlish, which is less structured, but is generally more accessible and easier to read. Of course, reading a single book once is not necessarily going to change anything, so if the only thing that works for you is to get the support and help of other people, then you might consider signing up for a PET course. It could well be worth it, because this stuff really works and may help you succeed in the most important job you have.

Graham Lawes
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219 of 231 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
My parents swear by P.E.T. They used its techniques with me when I was a child. I can't describe how nice it felt to be listened to, treated like an intelligent being, given the freedom to regulate my own behavior, to chose right from wrong and have credit for the outcome of my decisions (or to deal with the consequences). It taught me self-control. And it taught me that I control my behavior based on consideration for others, not because I fear punishment. Now, as an independent adult, that's the self-regulation that keeps me from commiting crimes or cheating others. I don't keep from doing bad things to others because I fear punishment (jail, being fired, etc.), I do it out of consideration for their feelings. I guess if I had to distill PET's message down to its core, it would be: Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Now that I'm an adult -- even though I don't have kids -- I've read the book several times and use the 'Gordon Model' with all my relationships. So does my girlfriend. Our relationship is the envy of all our friends. I like this book so much I just replaced my yellowed, dog-eared copy with the new 30th-anniversary edition.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic book.

Especially good for those who are struggling with living up to our own ideals. Because I don't believe in being overly restrictive, and I do not spank, I struggle with my fear of being too permissive...and occasionally I AM too permissive...anyway, we often reach a boiling point where my kids literally drive me crazy and I say things or handle a situation in a way I definitely regret later. Basically I overreact.

This book is a lifesaver, with clearly defined terms, and ways of thinking about conflict that you can implement TODAY. Your family life will be forever changed...and as a matter of fact, by studying these principles you will quickly see improvements in other areas, too.

One section, beginning on page 143 did more to help me with my anger than all the other books I ever read put together! I highly recommend this book, for its psychological soundness and the depth of change it will make in all your intimate relationships.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book was a great tool in helping me communicate better with my kids. Using this book in combination with Adele Faber's "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" and Matt Pasquinilli's "The Child Whisperer," I have developed cammunication lines with my children that I thought only existed on the Cosby Show.
While I liked the book, it was denser and less fun to read than the other two books I mentioned. It was a nice suppliment but in order of ease of reading and ease of implementation, I would suggest you buy "The Child Whisperer" first, then Faber's book, and then this book.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I first read PET about 30 years ago. It was simply quite stunning in its impact. I have used the skills over the years and found virtually 100% effective. I have heard my children successfully use "active listening", "I messages" and problem solving techiniques without knowing it. Training yourself to listen to people, honestly state your problems and ernestly try to solve problems to mutual benefit creates a good way to live.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've read this book twice in the past year and it has not been an easy read or an easy learning experience. Most of what the author says make sense if you have an older child, maybe 6-8 year old. The book very briefly touches on how to communicate with an infant, but nothing for how to deal with a toddler or preschooler, which for me is the real challenge. How do you negotiate with someone who doesn't have enough vocabulary to communicate their needs/wants or even put a label on their own feelings? At what point you stop negotiating and start using Method I(ordering?). How do you resolve a conflict with someone who has attention span of 2-3 minutes and is off chasing a butterfly? I can see trying to use the techniques later on, but for parents of younger children "Kids are worth it" is a better read.
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90 of 107 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have been a Clinical Psychologist for over 40 years. I am familiar with the
P.E.T. program. It is a good program but it is not the first "national" Parent
Effectiveness Program nor is it as good as the source from where the author took many of his ideas including his book's title.

The person who is credited for the first national parent effectiveness program
is Rudolph Dreikurs. He has written many books in the 1950's and 1960's. His
books are as relevant today as back then. His most popular and easy to find
program that has much more to offer than P.E.T. is "Children: the challenge".

One of Dreikurs' students, Don Dinkmeyer, has written a series of "Parent Effectiveness Books" for specific age groups, from early childhood to teen years.

As a parenting instructor, I would highly recommend either Rudolph Dreikurs'
well written book or Don Dinkmeyer's books. Both can be purchased at Amazon.com

Dr. John A. Abraitis
Battle Creek, Michigan 49017
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Once in a while one comes across a book that is life-changing. Parent Effectiveness Training is such a book. Having read many other books on child raising, only to find that the methods and techniques are short-term at best or positively harmful, this book provides a welcome change. It makes a lot of sense and although parents may find it difficult to change the habits of a lifetime, Dr Gordon provides practical answers that we found very quickly started to yield positive results. In particular, the atmosphere in our family has changed for the better and we feel prepared for the way ahead. Finally, this book is not just about raising children. It has changed the way I look at all my interactions with family, friends and colleagues, and has given me a new perspective on the world.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
I've used the book as a parent and now as a therapist I recommend it to parents. It's wrtitten clearly, easy to read, and contains timeless strategies for listening and talking to children as well as anyone else in your life. The vernacular is somewhat dated as it was written almost 40 years ago, but the book continues to be a great parenting manual.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
As a parent who has been experiencing a lot of frustration over the summer with getting my kids to participate more in the household responsibilities, and with having my kids constantly come to me with issues they have with each other, I TRULY appreciate the perspective Dr. Gordon gives on what they are really rebelling against and what they are really needing. I found the book to be compelling, well written, and offering many good examples to illustrate his points. I was desparately searching for some help in reducing the tension in our household, and the change has already become evident after beginning the book 2 weeks ago. My husband is now reading it!
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