This is the first in a series of interviews conducted with kids, young adults and adults who were/are being raised with P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training—a program designed in 1962 by Dr. Thomas Gordon, founder of Gordon Training International. These interviews are amazing and full of rich details and insights—we’ve compiled the highlights of our first one and it’s here for you now. Enjoy!
Our P.E.T. “Kid” featured in this interview is from John, from South Africa, Age 23
1. Sheryl: Can you share how the Gordon Model skills have affected your life?
John: The skills help me mostly in terms of a social aspect – in dealing with friends, and at school in dealing with my teachers, in dealing with sport coaches, in dealing with everyone I come into contact with.
I have a sense of confidence and belief in myself because of the way I was raised. The way I was raised was that you are always enough. It doesn’t matter whether the people around you do better than you in school, or can run faster than you. Your abilities, what you can do, is enough.
That gave me a lot of confidence to be able to communicate with people, to be able to talk to my teachers with respect, to deal with everyone with respect. If I had issues with either a teacher, or with a coach, or a friend for that matter, I was able to effectively communicate with them and say, “Okay. How do we approach this so that I know in the future what I can expect from you and so that you know what you can expect from me?”
2. S: What specific problems you have had with someone in your life where you used the skills?
J: Funny enough, I think the best example of using the Gordon Training skills was with my own brother, who was also, of course, raised with the Gordon Training skills. He is three years older than me and when I got out of school we started spending more time together than we ever did before.
We spent a lot of time in each other’s company and we actually lived together for a year. We got in a very big fight one night. And we said a lot of things that never should have been said.
The Gordon skills helped us afterwards. They helped us to get out of the mode we were in. It was a very emotional moment, and we reacted emotionally. We were able to come back to the situation, to what started the screaming match, and discuss it effectively.
We were able to just say, “Look, this is what I am feeling in terms of the way you treated me the previous night, because of this.”
It boiled down to the fact that he felt disrespected in the way that I treated him and the way that I acted around his friends. And I felt that he didn’t accommodate me enough in terms of the stage of life I was going through and all the difficulties I was dealing with. Through effective communication, just by stating where both of us were coming from and what we actually need and want out of our relationship, we were able to get past it. We still have a very strong relationship, a very strong bond, after a fight that could have very easily permanently damaged the relationship.
3. S: Can you think of a time you used the skills with a teacher or other person who was in a position of authority?
J: I think the only place that I can say I had an interaction with someone with authority would have been with coaches of mine, in sports.
I had a coach in high school. The way he interacted with me was the same way he interacted with everyone. He used to be like, “If you do something wrong, you’re going to be punished. If you don’t work effectively, then you will get punished and this will happen to you or this will.”
I didn’t react very well to that, because of the way I was raised. So my performance, in terms of my matches, in terms of my training, began to decline. I had no motivation to perform for someone who didn’t communicate the way I do.
When he started to realize I was declining in terms of my motivation, he came to me and said, “What is up? What is wrong?”
I just told him, “Look, I understand if I did something wrong on the field, then I did something wrong on the field. Then there’s something wrong. I’m not going to argue with you. I’m not going to say, ‘No, it’s the way you coached me.’ I will take responsibility for that. But if you’re going to get on my back and shout at me and scream at me, then this is not going to work. I would prefer if you would move me to another team, another coach. I’d rather go and play better for him. That would work more effectively for me.”
After I laid it out for him in that fashion, he was actually a lot more constructive in his communication with me in terms of my abilities, in telling me what I should do and the way I should perform.
4. S: So there was a difference in your relationship after that?
J: Yes, there was a definite positive improvement. I think he was so convinced that the way he did things was the only way to do them. That his was the perfect way. And just through me telling him, “Look, this is not the way it’s going to work with me,” I think he started to realize that each kid or each player reacts to things in a different way.
So in talking to me, instead of shouting at me or screaming at me if I had done something, rather than make me do fitness as punishment, he would rather come to me and say, “This is what you did wrong. This is the way I want you to do it.”
After that we started building a much more positive relationship and, to this day, we still have a very good relationship. So it was a very positive result in terms of our relationship.
5. S: What are some of the main issues you and your peers faced when you were in high school, when you were a teenager?
J: I think one of the biggest issues that we faced was acceptance, within your peer group, and acceptance within your school.
From what I remember, people would constantly do things just for the fact that it was the only way they thought they were going to gain acceptance from their peers, from their teachers.
6. S: How do you think being raised with PET has made a difference in your life?.
J: I was raised with the idea that I am enough. That what I can do, what I achieve is enough. I don’t need to make honors, or to be accepted, or to be seen as a decent guy, or as a person you would want to be friends with.
I had acceptance of myself, and I always said that I’m enough. I don’t have to go out of my way to prove myself, because what I am, what I can do, is enough.
6. S: Can you think of a situation where you had a big problem and you went to your parents?
J: I always make a joke when someone asks me this. I always say that when I was in school, if I asked them anything, the first words out of their mouths would have been, “Well, that sucks!” But it wasn’t said in a mean way. It was just the way it was handled if I came to them with a problem.
They would listen to me. They would hear my situation and afterwards they would say, “OK, now what’s your plan forward? How are you going to approach this? How are you gonna move forward?”
They gave me the opportunity to try and figure out, “What is my next step?” Instead of getting told what to do the whole time, I had to learn to deal with my situations on my own.
I’m 23 now and I had an issue at the beginning of the year where I was not allowed back into the university, because of a grade dispute. Because of our relationship, I immediately went to my parents and I said, “Look, this is the situation and these are my plans, and these are my backup plans, in terms of what I’m going to do.” They listened and there was no issue after that.
Because I was raised like this, I know I need to take care of my own problems. It’s not my parents’ problem. It’s not my friend’s problem. Because they always had that “That sucks!” mentality, because they would tell me, “We’re sorry to hear about it, but if you’re not going to do anything about it, it’s not going to change.” That taught me to solve my own problems and I that I could deal with my own situations.
7. S: How did it make you feel when they said, “That sucks!” That it was your problem?
J: Where the difference comes in, in terms of Gordon and non-Gordon methods, is that I always felt that I had a safety net to fall back on. Even though I was always told to fix the situation on my own, I always knew that if push came to shove, if I really couldn’t deal with a situation, I always knew I had my parents’ backing. I always knew my parents would be there to help pick me up, to help dust me off, to help show me the way.
This is especially true in big situations, like the beginning of this year, when the future was not looking good. When I went to my parents with these ideas, all these plans, I think the first thing my dad told me was, “OK, calm down. Take a breath. Let’s discuss this. Just you and me. Before we even talk about what we’re going to do, let’s just figure out where you are.”
If I had all these plans, but none of them would have actually worked, or would have actually been beneficial for me, if that was the case, I knew my parents would always be there to just step in and just say, “Hey, let’s look at this in a different way. Let’s see this from a different perspective.”
So even though I was raised with the idea of “try and figure it out for yourself”, if I was going down the wrong path, or was going to go down in flames, my parents would always just step in. Not to take over and not to say, “No you’re completely wrong. Let me take over.” It was, “ Just look, I love to see you working, but let’s try and move this in a different direction. Let’s try and see if this won’t benefit you more or help you more.”
So I’ve always had that. And I must say that’s not something a lot of people at my age can say. – that I always have a safety net in my parents and I always have a backup plan in my parents.
8. S: Is there anything else that you would like to share?
J: I think PET gave me the opportunity that a lot of people had taken away from them. The opportunity to feel good about themselves. The opportunity to feel that you can do what you set your mind to. The feeling that you can help yourself out of your own situations. And that you always have a backup in your parents. You always have someone behind you. You always have someone motivating you to get somewhere, even though they’re not going to do it for you.
Your parents are there for you no matter what. The sense of security and the sense of ambition that gives you is indescribable. I know I can honestly reach for the stars, but if I can’t grab hold of one and I fall back to earth, I always have my parents there to catch me. And that is the biggest thing that I can ever say thank you for in terms of Gordon Training International. I can honestly strive for greatness, but know that if I fall, there is someone always there to pick me up and dust me off.