Win-win way to fix conflicts for parents

Local | Adeline Mak 12 May 2016

Parents should give their children more responsibility and resolve conflicts without making them the losers, according to a parenting method advocate.

Parent Effectiveness Training, established in 1962 by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thomas Gordon, emphasizes that children should be given more responsibility instead of the usual rewards and punishment.

It was introduced to Hong Kong on May 3, with active listening, sympathetic messages and no-lose conflict resolution as its key concepts. More than one million people have benefited from PET in over 45 countries, using 27 languages.

International master trainer Stephen Emmons said the course can fulfill the needs of both parents and children.

"Babies don't come with an instruction manual," he said. "Being a parent is the most important job in the world, but very little attention has been given to teaching and encouraging parents."

Addressing the issue of "helicopter parents" or "monster parents" in Hong Kong, Emmons said PET can help parents to engage children in problem-solving instead of f ixing the problems for them. He said PET has helped a mother who still solves problems for her 45-year-old son.

"Children feel they are part of the solution if they are engaged in the problem-solving process."

Odette Umali, managing director of Gordon Parenting, said active listening can help parents share important values with their children, so that they do not shut the door.

Instead of rewards and punishment, PET establishes self- discipline, advocating a no-lose method. Emmons said if an authoritarian method is adopted, either parents or children lose. But PET can help both fulfill their needs with no one losing.

Umali said the method works for simple conflicts such as getting ready for school and disputes on issues like choice of school.

Emmons said parents should think of their anger as an iceberg.

"Anger is what you show on the iceberg, but there are different emotions underlying the anger, such as fear and worry," he said.

Emmons encouraged parents to use I-Messages to express their emotions to children but not blaming them when they are angry.

The 24-hour course is not magic, Emmons said. It can't change parents with the snap of a finger as it takes hard work.

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