Learning To Parent Is As Important As Preparing For Birth

Larissa Dann 

 

When I was pregnant I planned. I prepared for the birth by attending antenatal classes, where I learned about stages of labour, and how to breathe through pain. I thought I was ready . . . to have a baby. But was I ready to be a parent?

How A Parenting Course Helped Our Family. Stories from Parents Putting Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) into Practice.

Larissa Dann

As a parent educator, I find coaching parents, carers and grandparents an indescribable privilege.  I meet people who love their children deeply, who have compassion, curiosity, humility, self-awareness, an eagerness to learn, and a sense of humour.  I meet people who may, at times, struggle with their role as a parent or carer.

P.E.T on a Page: a Summary of the Skills and Principles of Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.).

Larissa Dann

Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) is a gentle, peaceful parenting approach that helps develop a relationship of warmth and respect, between children and their parents or carers. Importantly, P.E.T does not use punishment and reward to change a child’s behaviour. In my opinion, the skills and philosophy of P.E.T underpin many modern parenting practices, including gentle, peaceful or attachment parenting.

The positive outcomes for children, parents and families who adopt the skills taught in P.E.T. are now, I believe, strongly backed by research and evidence. You can read more in ‘How the Evidence of Today Supports the Wisdom of Yesterday’, and read real stories from parents putting P.E.T into practice here.

The Danger of Taking Your Child’s Behaviour Personally.

My journey as a parent has required openness to new ideas, learning from my best teachers (my children), and a lot of personal reflection. Sometimes, the most unlikely of situations can offer opportunities for discovery.

One light-bulb parenting moment was recognising the strong connection between me taking behaviour personally, and my anger.

Fear or Regard – Why Do Our Children Respect Us?

 

“Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to respect us?” said a father in a session of my parenting class.  “I certainly respected my father – I always did what he said. How can you get a child to respect you if you don’t use punishment or rewards?”

Whoa. A parent was confronting me with a question that had hovered in my sub-conscious for years, but which I had not examined because it was too difficult, too challenging.  What was ‘respect’? How would I answer him?

I teach, and try to live by, an approach to parenting called Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.).  When I write or speak about P.E.T., I summarise the course as ‘helping parents and children to develop a relationship of mutual respect’.  I emphasise that P.E.T. differentiates itself because it helps parents avoid the use of rewards and punishment.

Now I was faced with a vexed question: “Are there different types of respect, and why do I think it is important in parenting?” .  Read on for the full article.

Larissa Dann blog post 26 April 2016    Image courtesy Shutterstock

 

Avoiding the Phrase 'Makes Me', and What to Say Instead.

Blog post by Larissa Dann 17 November 2015, on Gordon Training International         Photo courtesy Shutterstock

We use the phrase “makes me” in situations where we are impacted by things our children do – by their actions, or their behaviour.  Often, we’ll say, “makes me” with the best of intentions – we just want our children to know how we feel.

My question is: does my child’s action make me feel something? Or do I feel an emotion in response to my child’s behaviour?  Am I a passive victim of their behaviour, or will I actively own my feelings about their behaviour?

I think there can be hidden consequences when we use “makes me” with our children. Read on for the full article.

Saying “I’m disappointed” can Damage Relationships: Children and Adults

                                                                          

Respectful communication is the life-blood of all relationships. A subtle choice of words may either enhance or diminish family connection.  In my efforts to improve my relationships, one word I’m trying to avoid is ‘disappointed’.

Reasoning with a Very Young Child (1) - It's Really Possible!

Part (1) of the series: Reasoning with a Very Young Child

Reasoning with a child aged three and under? Is that really possible? Surely, they’re not developmentally capable of responding to reason? Aren’t punishments such as smacking or time-out, and rewards such as star charts, the only way we can only get young children to learn, and to change their behaviour?

My lived experience (and that of hundreds of parents I’ve met through parenting classes) is that yes, you can reason with children - from a very young age. And yes, it is possible for them to change their behaviour, without parents resorting to rewards or punishment.

You just need to give them the chance.

Reasoning with a Very Young Child (2): When Your Child is Unhappy

Larissa Dann: posted 29 June 2015                                                       Image from Shutterstock

Part (2) of the series: Reasoning with a Very Young Child

Very young children can respond to Active Listening and reasoning by becoming calm, and even finding a solution to their difficulty. 

Active Listening

Active Listening is the best way I have to show empathy, and is the first skill I turn to when my child is unhappy. Firstly, I have to recognise the cues and clues that my child is not OK. Often ‘naughty’ behaviour is simply a signal that things aren’t going well for my child.

I then need to remember that there is a reason for them to be unhappy. For example, they may need my attention, or something happened at childcare, or their basic needs (food, water, rest and toileting) have not been met.

Now, I need to listen to my child, so they can talk about their unhappiness. This will help me to understand what is happening for them, and help them to understand themselves. I try to guess their feelings, and the reason they feel that way. I put these into a statement such as “You’re feeling . . . because . . . ”. For example “Sounds like you’re feeling frustrated because your toy truck’s wheels fell off”.

Reasoning with a VeryYoung Child (3): When Parents are Unhappy with their Child’s Behaviour

Larissa Dann: posted 29 June 2015                                                           Image used under license from Shutterstock

Part (3) of the series: Reasoning with a Very Young Child

Giving your very young children a reason for your upset can help them understand and empathise with you.  They may even come up with a solution to help you (which may mean changing their behaviour).

I-Messages

When I am unhappy about my children’s behaviour, I need to avoid blaming or putting down my child with a ‘you’ message. Examples of ‘you’ messages might be: “you’re just being naughty”; “you’ve been told 1000 times” “you’re old enough to know better”.

Instead of ‘you’ messages, I need to use an ‘I-Message’ when I’m upset with my child. A three part I-Message looks something like this: “when . . .(describe child’s behaviour) I feel . . .(a feeling word) because . . . (describe how you have been affected) “. For example “When I see the toys on the floor, I feel concerned that I might step on them and hurt myself”.

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