By: Dr. Thomas Gordon (excerpted from the preface from his P.E.T. book)
The model that I developed and describe in this [P.E.T.] book has, over the years, become a part of the way we all talk about communicating and resolving conflicts. Almost everyone nowadays has heard of Active Listening, I-Messages, and no-lose conflict resolution. Early on, we learned that this model—known as the Gordon Model—doesn’t apply just to parent-child relationships: It applies in all relationships— at home, at work, at school, and in the world at large. Its terminology can be found in psychology texts, books, and courses for business leaders, in adult education courses, and, in fact, everywhere interpersonal communication and conflict resolution are important topics.
Over the years, I came to realize that as people use these methods and skills, their relationships become more and more democratic. These democratic relationships produce greater health and well being. When people are accepted, when they are free to express themselves and can participate in making decisions that affect them, they enjoy greater self-esteem, are more self-confident, and lose a sense of powerlessness that’s always present in autocratic families.
These are also skills necessary for world peace. Democratic families are peaceful families, and when there are enough peaceful families, we will have a society that rejects violence and finds warfare unacceptable.
Something I didn’t think about when I was writing the book was the stream of life. I simply didn’t look into the future far enough to see that kids raised with P.E.T. skills would not only grow into healthier, happier adults, but they would also become democratic parents themselves, continuing the cycle of nonviolence into another generation. It has been very gratifying to me to have lived long enough to have talked to many young people whose grandparents brought P.E.T. into the family.
A friend of mine once said, “Every person is granted at least one grand, positive surprise in life.” I suppose my life’s grandest positive surprise is that Peter Wyden was right. Not only has P.E.T. spread across America but also the book has been published in thirty languages with more than 4 million copies now in circulation and the program has been introduced in over 50 countries. That’s not just a grand surprise—it is extremely gratifying.
We have discovered that P.E.T.’s major concepts and skills are as valid now as they were nearly four decades ago when I taught the first P.E.T. course to a group of seven- teen parents in a Pasadena, California, cafeteria. All that’s changed is the need. It’s grown larger and more significant as more and more studies support the finding that spanking, hitting, and other forms of violence in the home cause violence in society. The book you hold in your hand has remedies for home violence and brings, instead, peace and democracy.
In the years since that first P.E.T. group, public opinion has made a remarkable shift. In 1975, almost 95 percent of the American people supported corporal punishment of children at home and at school. Recent polls indicate that less than half the people now hold that belief, and the number who still support corporal punishment continues to fall rapidly—and I’m thrilled about that.
It is my sincere wish that reading this book will be a rewarding and enriching experience for you.
Dr. Thomas Gordon