How Do the P.E.T Principles and Christianity Align?

I have used, taught and promoted P.E.T. for more than 40 years. Because some people know that I have also spent many years as a Christian educator I am often asked how I reconcile my spiritual beliefs and values with the philosophy and methods of P.E.T. I am always eager to answer that question and I want to articulate some of my ideas in this blog.

One of the concerns that is raised is around the issue of spanking. Some people seem to believe that unless one spanks one will fall short of properly raising one’s child. I strongly disagree. I have found that parents who spank usually do so out of the desirable goal of raising responsible children whose inappropriate behaviors must be dealt with. I agree. But people who spank usually do so because they think the only alternative is to become permissive. This is not the case.

parent training parenting spare the rod christianEffective confrontation skills and no-lose problem solving can indeed result in children dropping their unacceptable behavior. Give parents listening, confrontation, and problem solving skills and they have wonderful alternatives to spanking. My father spanked me on occasion when I was a child. I spanked our eldest son-before I knew any better. My wife and I raised our younger children completely without spanking, just using the P.E.T. skills and I feel strongly that in doing so I more effectively carried out my God-given parental responsibilities and opportunities.

As mentioned above, some parents fear that if they use the P.E.T. skills they will not be doing “their Christian duty” toward their children. Again, I disagree. I have found that the confrontation skills taught in P.E.T. are very effective. They help identify problems, confront unacceptable behaviors, listen to any defensive responses, problem solve as necessary and hang in there until the unacceptable behavior is changed. The resulting growth in the child and peace in the family are indeed desirable spiritual goals

Another reason I strongly support P.E.T. is because of the skills it provides for effective instruction and sharing of values. Some Bible readers like to quote the passage they believe is in the Bible, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. In fact, this is not a Bible passage but the Bible does urge parents to use the rod. However, I believe that instead of thinking of using the rod as a punishing weapon it should be considered an instrument used to point the way and to provide growth and comfort. As the Bible says in the 23rd Psalm “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Use the “rod” to guide, instruct, comfort.

The P.E.T. model of being an effective consultant in the matter of sharing values (including spiritual values) is very effective. Remember the rules for being an effective consultant: 1. Get hired. That is, have the person with whom you are sharing values be in a trusting respected relationship with you so that they honestly seek your opinion. 2. Share your ideas and values, backed up by the data and reasons you hold those values so dear. 3. Active Listen to any resistance. 4. Restate your values but leave the decision up to the other. Values (including spiritual values) must be held not simply imposed.

It was my good fortune to institute a national program in the Lutheran Church in which tens of thousands of parents were taught P.E.T. I (together with Dr. Gordon) developed Clergy Effectiveness Training which used these same skills to assist ministers in many denominations (including the U.S. Air Force military chaplains) to use these concepts and tools. I led clergy and many other professional leaders of The Lutheran Church of Finland to apply P.E.T. in their parenting, youth leadership and professional roles. It is my judgment that many blessings flowed from this endeavor.

I commend religious believers for taking their parenting responsibilities very seriously and I am grateful that P.E.T. is a tool to help them achieve their admirable goals.

The author of this blog, Melvin Kieschnick, is a Lutheran Minister & P.E.T. Instructor – Retired.

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