PARENT EFFECTIVENESS TRAINING
9 June 2005
Before we moved to Davis, when the kids were even smaller than they were when we moved here, it was probably inevitable that with five kids under the age of 6, there were going to be lots of squabbles.
I finally was at my wits' end when I read that a course of P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training, was going to be given at a school near our house.
The principles of Effectiveness Training may or may not have been developed by its founder, Thomas Gordon, but the aim of his classes (which worked for adults as well as for children, though this particular course was geared to children) was to teach communication skills in order to reduce problems and know how to discuss things "effectively."
Says the promotional material.
With hopes high, I went off to P.E.T. for what, I think, was six sessions.
We learned the Gordon philosophy and we practiced with the facilitator and with each other. We learned how to listen actively, and how to give "I" messages. If you acknowledged the child's feelings you could gradually get a discussion going and solve the immediate crisis.
I was quite enthused about what I'd learned. Ned was, at that time, causing the most tension in the family. He had a high sense of indignation (hmmm) and was incensed at what he felt were the indignities heaped upon him by his siblings.
When I felt that I had sufficient information at hand that I could give it a try, I chose my time carefully. It didn't take long. Ned was in a snit and I decided to try my hand at P.E.T.
I would say A and Ned would say B
I would say 1 and Ned would say 2
I would say black and Ned would say white.
It was all going beautifully. Just the way the facilitator told us it would. It was as if Ned had his own copy of the script. I was thrilled. This was going to change our family life.
The next problem that arose involved having to deal with Paul. More confident now, I started my active listening.
I would say A and Paul would say rhubarb.
I would say 1 and Paul would say huckleberry
I would say black and Paul would say Guy Flebbich.
NOTHING went as scripted. There was absolutely no way I could get Paul to where he would engage in a session of Active listening with me.
Over the years, I did attempt the Gordon methods from time to time, but I never had quite the same faith in it that I had after that first session with Ned.
Ned is grown now (and still has a high level of indignation), so P.E.T. isn't really needed for parenting, but I have this dog, you see...
I've been watching The Dog Whisperer carefully, realizing how Cesar Milan is saying exactly what my dog trainer told me, and how everything he said made perfect sense.
I started working with Sheila, attempting to be calm and in control and establishing myself as the pack leader. It works beautifully. She no longer pulls ahead of me when we are out for a walk. She walks by my side unhesitatingly.
Her problem is still that she does not come when called when off the leash, which makes it tricky at the dog park, where the people who come are very persnickety about a dog who isn't on voice command. But Cesar Milan says that if you give the dog a job, these dogs who are bred to work, they are much happier and you get them in control easier. They accept you more easily as the pack leader and, in theory, it should make it easy to transfer this over to voice command as well.
When Cesar has them trained to walk on lead (which takes about 5 seconds, same as it did for Sheila), he adds a pack to their back, the theory being that they are now being given a "job," and since they have been bred to work, they will feel much more happy, much more fulfilled and will get much more benefit out of the walk.
So today I bought a backpack.
Despite the fact that Sheila has been watching The Dog Whisperer with me, I think she's been too busy concentrating on the dogs and hasn't heard about this "job/fulfillment" jazz.
For one thing, as soon as I picked up the back and put it on her back, she lay flat on her stomach, which made it impossible to buckle the bag. We finally got past that and the bag was in place. I added some weight to it so she'd feel she was really being useful, put her on her lead and off we went.
This was the very first time ever that she refused to budge. Absolutely would not move.
I stood there with her, me calm, waiting for her to calm down. Then I set off again, calm leader in control, while at the other end of the leash was Sheila leaping into the air and contorting her body trying to get rid of the damn backpack. We only made it just past the neighbor's driveway, Sheila fighting all the way and when she had to stop fighting, licking my hand as if to say "please, Mom--please take it off me!"
I decided it wasn't working so turned around and started walking in the direction of the house. Instantly Sheila turned into the perfect dog. She walked calmly by my side just like all of Cesar Milan's subjects do. Hey! This was working. In fact, it was working so well, that I decided to walk past the house and go in the other direction around the block, only when Sheila discovered we were not going to the house, she began writhing in the air again. There was no bloody way she was going to carry that backpack at all.
So we came back into the house and I've put the backpack away. Another $15 donation to Petco. She walks on lead just fine without the backpack, so I suppose I don't need to work with making her wear it, but I feel like I did when I tried P.E.T. techniques on Paul.
Sheila forgot to read the script too.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Kimba just looks on in bemused tolerance.