This may be a controversial blog. We’ve been speaking with individuals from across the globe, raised with P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training, a program designed in 1962 by Dr. Thomas Gordon, founder of Gordon Training International. This is the third and final blog from EZ, a P.E.T. Kid and Parent. (If you want to read the first two EZ stories, click here to read the first, and here to read the second.) In this final story from EZ, the topic of drug use came up – and when he told us what he’s heard some parents say when talking to their children about this issue:
“If you get caught (using marijuana) you’re getting sent off to Siberia.” – non P.E.T. parent
We thought about it, a lot, and we think the issue is important, especially today. We don’t endorse or condone the use of marijuana by teens, but regardless of our beliefs and our values about it, marijuana use is on the rise.
Below EZ shares his personal example of using P.E.T. skills to talk to his son about drug use. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, we believe this example shows how P.E.T. can strengthen relationships, even with what some may consider to be very difficult, values-based issues.
Sheryl: What are your thoughts on reward and punishment, the benefits of using them, or not using them?
EZ: Well, I’ll tell you something, actually, that’s personal. So, a lot of kids are smoking pot. More than I remember in my childhood. And they’re also…maybe it’s linked to a sense of entitlement…they’re certainly a lot less secretive about it. Even though I was raised in the cool sort of hippy ’70s, if you were going to get high you did not tell your parents- or you were dead, right? And every family’s going to have their own personal approach to how they look at that, managing that reality. Doesn’t mean that every single kid is smoking marijuana, but lots of kids do, so you could be really punitive.
I do know some of my son’s friends that have gotten caught and then they’ve gotten their car taken away, or whatever. And when we knew that that experimentation was happening…it’s not too hard to figure out…rather than do that, I sat my son down, and I said, “Look, I don’t want you to do this. I don’t believe in it. I can’t condone. I can’t tell you, ‘Hey, go buy some pot. It’s fine.‘ I can’t do that. But I know that you’re going to do it. So let’s just start there at that conversation.
“I know that you’re going to do it. So I would rather you be honest with me, knowing that you’re not going to get in trouble, so that we can go through this phase in your life together with as much openness as possible. So that we can learn from my life experience. I can help you through your experience. I’d rather be your partner in this than your warden.”
And I’m glad I did that, because what I found with hearing through other parents and through my son, that the parents that have just put the hammer down and said, “If you get caught you’re getting sent off to Siberia,” then that honesty of the parent-child relationship is gone. They’re going to lie forever, because they’re scared. And the parents sometimes think that their kid is an angel. And they’re nowhere near meeting middle ground. So there’s, I think, a good example of not using punishment but using communication.
What are your thoughts about using the P.E.T. skills vs. using rewards and punishment?
(This interview is part of an ongoing series focusing on learning the real-world effects of being raised with the Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) skills. To read prior blogs, you can go here.