Pssst…Are You a Roadblocker?

(Excerpted from the P.E.T. Instructor Guide by Dr. Thomas Gordon)

communication roadblocks workshop thomas gordon parentingIf you’ve taken a P.E.T. Workshop, for sure you learned about the “The Dirty Dozen” otherwise known as Communication Roadblocks. Since P.E.T.’s inception in 1962, many other programs have incorporated these 12 statements into their own workshops—but they originated with Dr. Thomas Gordon. These responses are called Roadblocks to Communication because they block the flow of communication from the troubled person.

Here is the list of The Dirty Dozen:

  1. Ordering
  2. Warning
  3. Moralizing
  4. Advising
  5. Using Logic
  6. Criticizing
  7. Praising
  8. Labeling
  9. Analyzing
  10. Reassuring
  11. Questioning
  12. Avoiding

Some of the Roadblocks are solutions which suggest that the child is not smart enough to come up with his/her own solution, but is dependent on the parent.

Some Roadblocks discount the feelings of the child or tell the child s/he is stupid or bad.

Roadblocks which question and probe take the responsibility for the solution away from the child and suggest that when the parent has all the data, the parent will provide the solution.

Other Roadblocks are judgmental. They send the message that the child is wrong.

Roadblocks which divert only try to cover up the problem or send the message that the problem is not worthy of discussion.

Professional counselors are taught to avoid the Roadblocks because they are often considered “destructive” rather than “therapeutic.”

Roadblocks communicate a desire to change the child and unacceptance of the way the child is at the moment.

Roadblocks often cause the child to stop talking.

Roadblocks take responsibility for solving the problem away from the other person. (“I don’t think you are capable of handling your problem, so let me take over.”)

These 12 messages are Roadblocks to communication when the child owns a problem. When used in the No Problem Area many of these messages (e.g. advising, questioning) seldom act as Roadblocks and can be used without causing any problems.

Others (e.g. name calling, ridiculing) are almost never appropriate and run the risk of creating a problem in the child (e.g. hurt feelings, worry, fear).

A Special Note About Questions

For many parents asking questions is the response they have the most difficulty accepting as a roadblock and many of us have actually been taught to ask questions as a way of helping others when they have a problem.

When you ask a child (or an adult) a question such as “Why are you confused?” The child has to stop and ask herself; “Do I know the answer?” If the child is unsure or does not know, it blocks her from continuing or at least provides a distraction.

When you ask a question, the other person has to ask herself; “Do I want to tell the answer?” This is a particular issue with teenagers who are often reluctant to answer questions from their parents or don’t want to appear to be stupid or not in control, i.e. “Do I really want to admit to my parent that I don’t know something – that in fact I am confused?”

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