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Parent-Child Negotiations



 
 
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  #1  
Old June 7th 04, 09:57 AM
Nathan A. Barclay
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Parent-Child Negotiations


I'd like to expand a little on the issue of parents and children trying to
negotiate mutually satisfactory solutions to problems. For truly fair
negotiations to take place, three things must be true. First, both parties
must be able to negotiate from positions of reasonable strength. Second, it
must be accepted that there are some absolutes that are not part of the
negotiation process. And third, the parties negotiating must not use
extraneous issues to threaten each other.

In regard to the first point, the nature of the parent-child relationship is
such that the parents get to decide how much negotiating power their
children will have. At one extreme, if parents say, "Do this or else," they
give their children no negotiating power. At the other extreme, if parents
refuse to put their foot down at all, they keep no real negotiating power
for themselves. So the trick is for parents to find a place in between that
gives their children enough negotiating power but not too much.

In my view, the best types of negotiations are aimed at dealing with the
issues the parents consider truly important while providing as much
flexibility for the children as possible within that context. For example,
suppose a little girl keeps running late because she can't decide what to
wear to school and Mom, who is busy getting ready for work herself, keeps
having to take time out of her own preparations to deal with the issue. The
important thing for Mom is that the problem of running late be solved, not
exactly how the problem is solved. Further, the solution doesn't
necessarily have to be 100% foolproof. If Mom has to get involved and hurry
her daughter up every now and then, it's probably not the end of the world.

From that understanding of the problem, the mother and daughter could get
together and try to find a way to solve the problem. It doesn't matter
which of them proposes the solution that they ultimately decide together
would work best. What matters is that the problem be solved. And if Mom
has misgivings about her daughter's preferred solution, she might accept it
on only a provisional basis, with the understanding that if it doesn't work,
they'll have to change to something else. With a little luck that will give
the daughter some extra incentive to make her preferred solution work.

Regarding the second issue, it would be highly improper for a child who is
caught shoplifting to be able to demand something from his or her parents in
negotiations in exchange for not shoplifting anymore. When something is
wrong, you don't do it, and you don't expect to get any special reward or
compensation for not doing it. The lesson that some things in life are
non-negotiable is a vital one for children to learn.

On the other hand, if parents want to label something non-negotiable, they
need to be able to defend why they view it in non-negotiable in ways that
have as little as possible to do with "because I said so." And if they use
reasons rooted in their religion, they would be wise to also provide the
strongest reasons they can that are not rooted in their religion as
additional reinforcement. If children understand why their parents hold a
particular belief, and if the parents' behavior is consistent with what they
say, children can respect their parents for standing up for what they
believe is right even if the children disagree. (That is especially true
when the parents and children have a strong relationship in general.) But
if parents just say, "That's non-negotiable," without providing any real
explanation, the risk of anger and resentment is vastly greater.

Finally, if either side brings extraneous matters into a negotiation as a
way of threatening the other, that upsets the balance in the negotiations.
Such behavior is a way of trying to bully the other side into accepting a
win-lose solution, and thus violates the spirit of trying to find a solution
that both sides truly consider acceptable. That also means parents who are
looking for win-win solutions need to try to avoid invoking their parental
authority any more than they feel like they have to.

Now, what does this have to do with the issue of punishment in general and
of spanking in particular? If win-win solutions can be found within the
context of these types of negotiations, it is often possible to avoid the
need for threats and punishment entirely. That is especially true for
children whose sense of honor is strong enough that just reminding them of
what they agreed to is enough for them to comply with their part of an
agreement.

On the other hand, not all children will necessarily comply with an
agreement just because they agreed to it. In those cases, the possibility
of punishment may be needed as an enforcement provision in agreements,
especially if a child wants to be allowed to push to the outermost limits of
what the parents feel like they can accept. (For example, parents might
feel safe allowing a child to stretch a 9:00 bedtime a great deal, but be
unwilling to accept a 9:30 bedtime unless it will be enforced pretty
strictly.) If all goes well, the child's knowledge that deliberately
violating the agreement will result in the punishment coupled with parental
understanding toward accidental violations could still make actual
punishment unnecessary. But for the possibility of punishment to mean
something, parents have to be willing to punish if a child pushes too far.

Note that if a child has made an agreement and agreed to what the punishment
will be if the agreement is violated, it is much harder for the child to
resent being punished for violating the agreement as "unfair" and
"arbitrary" than if the rule and punishment were imposed unilaterally by a
parent, or especially if the child were punished without really
understanding what the rule was (especially in practice) before the
punishment took place. Those kinds of distinctions are extremely important
in understanding how punishment affects children.

Also, consider situations where negotiations fail, either because no common
ground acceptable to both the parents and the child exists or because the
common ground cannot be found in the amount of time available to look for
it. If parents refuse to allow the child to proceed with a solution the
parents view as unacceptable, the need for threats and punishment might
still be averted if the child is willing to defer to the parents and live
with a solution that the child does not really consider acceptable. But if
the child refuses to defer to the parents' authority and judgment out of
respect, the threat of punishment (and, if necessary, the actuality of
punishment) are all the parents have left to prevent the child from doing
something they cannot accept in good conscience. Punishment might not
provide a long-term solution, but it at least has a chance of solving the
problem in the short term. And in the longer term, parents can hope that as
the child gets older, he or she will come to recognize that the parents were
right after all, at least enough to make a solution that both sides can
agree on possible. (Or, in some cases, the problem might solve itself as
the child becomes mature enough to be allowed to do things the parents did
not consider it safe to allow earlier.) Such situations are not ideal, but
considering that we live on Earth, not in Heaven, always having ideal
solutions available would be a bit much to hope for.

As one last interesting point regarding negotiated solutions, consider the
possibility of negotiating what form of punishment should be used in
situations where punishment is required. From a parent's perspective, the
punishment needs to be serious enough to achieve the parent's goals (which
are often short-term in nature, or "serially short-term" - that is, solvable
over an extended period of time through a series of short-term solutions).
In some cases, parents consider it desirable to disrupt the child's
activities (for example, to keep the child away from "the wrong crowd"), but
often, such disruption is considered undesirable. Parents may also feel a
need to consider how punishing one child might impact others. For example,
how do you ground one child from watching television without having an
impact on the lives of the child's siblings? After all, the siblings might
very well want to play with the child who is being punished and watch
television at the same time.

From a child's perspective, the important points are how unpleasant the
punishment will be and how much the punishment will interfere with the
child's doing things he or she enjoys. Some children may view physical pain
as radically worse than other forms of unpleasantness, but many do not.
Children may also consider how different forms of punishment would affect
their friends, and the possible embarrassment if their friends find out
about their having gotten in trouble.

Of all forms of punishment, corporal punishment can concentrate a given
amount of unpleasantness into the shortest amount of time. That's probably
one of the reasons why some people object to it so strongly: the pain of a
child crying from a spanking is a lot easier to see than the same total
amount of unpleasantness spread over a week or two of being grounded. We
can empathize with the pain of the spanking, but it is much harder to
capture the sense of time needed to empathize with the grounding -
especially for people who haven't actually experienced being grounded for an
extended period of time.

Yet ironically, depending on the personalities and the situation involved,
the same concentration of unpleasantness into a short period of time that
makes spanking so objectionable to some outside parties can sometimes make
it a preferred form of punishment for both parents and children. It's over
with quickly, and they can get on with their lives.

Which raises an interesting problem for those who support win-win solutions
but oppose spanking. If parents are going to punish a child, and the child
would rather be spanked than punished in some other way, does that not make
spanking the child a win-win solution to the problem of how to punish the
child (or at least the closest thing to a win-win solution available)?

Nathan


  #2  
Old June 7th 04, 10:44 PM
Carlson LaVonne
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Parent-Child Negotiations

Nathan,

On the other hand, a two-year-old has few bargaining tools. He or she
is physically tiny, compared to his/her parents. This little child is
just beginning to understand case/effect, and only in immediate
situations. When this little child begins to understand cause/effect,
the spanked child learns to hit. The non spanked child learns other
ways to handle anger.

LaVonne

Nathan A. Barclay wrote:

I'd like to expand a little on the issue of parents and children trying to
negotiate mutually satisfactory solutions to problems. For truly fair
negotiations to take place, three things must be true. First, both parties
must be able to negotiate from positions of reasonable strength. Second, it
must be accepted that there are some absolutes that are not part of the
negotiation process. And third, the parties negotiating must not use
extraneous issues to threaten each other.

In regard to the first point, the nature of the parent-child relationship is
such that the parents get to decide how much negotiating power their
children will have. At one extreme, if parents say, "Do this or else," they
give their children no negotiating power. At the other extreme, if parents
refuse to put their foot down at all, they keep no real negotiating power
for themselves. So the trick is for parents to find a place in between that
gives their children enough negotiating power but not too much.

In my view, the best types of negotiations are aimed at dealing with the
issues the parents consider truly important while providing as much
flexibility for the children as possible within that context. For example,
suppose a little girl keeps running late because she can't decide what to
wear to school and Mom, who is busy getting ready for work herself, keeps
having to take time out of her own preparations to deal with the issue. The
important thing for Mom is that the problem of running late be solved, not
exactly how the problem is solved. Further, the solution doesn't
necessarily have to be 100% foolproof. If Mom has to get involved and hurry
her daughter up every now and then, it's probably not the end of the world.

From that understanding of the problem, the mother and daughter could get
together and try to find a way to solve the problem. It doesn't matter
which of them proposes the solution that they ultimately decide together
would work best. What matters is that the problem be solved. And if Mom
has misgivings about her daughter's preferred solution, she might accept it
on only a provisional basis, with the understanding that if it doesn't work,
they'll have to change to something else. With a little luck that will give
the daughter some extra incentive to make her preferred solution work.

Regarding the second issue, it would be highly improper for a child who is
caught shoplifting to be able to demand something from his or her parents in
negotiations in exchange for not shoplifting anymore. When something is
wrong, you don't do it, and you don't expect to get any special reward or
compensation for not doing it. The lesson that some things in life are
non-negotiable is a vital one for children to learn.

On the other hand, if parents want to label something non-negotiable, they
need to be able to defend why they view it in non-negotiable in ways that
have as little as possible to do with "because I said so." And if they use
reasons rooted in their religion, they would be wise to also provide the
strongest reasons they can that are not rooted in their religion as
additional reinforcement. If children understand why their parents hold a
particular belief, and if the parents' behavior is consistent with what they
say, children can respect their parents for standing up for what they
believe is right even if the children disagree. (That is especially true
when the parents and children have a strong relationship in general.) But
if parents just say, "That's non-negotiable," without providing any real
explanation, the risk of anger and resentment is vastly greater.

Finally, if either side brings extraneous matters into a negotiation as a
way of threatening the other, that upsets the balance in the negotiations.
Such behavior is a way of trying to bully the other side into accepting a
win-lose solution, and thus violates the spirit of trying to find a solution
that both sides truly consider acceptable. That also means parents who are
looking for win-win solutions need to try to avoid invoking their parental
authority any more than they feel like they have to.

Now, what does this have to do with the issue of punishment in general and
of spanking in particular? If win-win solutions can be found within the
context of these types of negotiations, it is often possible to avoid the
need for threats and punishment entirely. That is especially true for
children whose sense of honor is strong enough that just reminding them of
what they agreed to is enough for them to comply with their part of an
agreement.

On the other hand, not all children will necessarily comply with an
agreement just because they agreed to it. In those cases, the possibility
of punishment may be needed as an enforcement provision in agreements,
especially if a child wants to be allowed to push to the outermost limits of
what the parents feel like they can accept. (For example, parents might
feel safe allowing a child to stretch a 9:00 bedtime a great deal, but be
unwilling to accept a 9:30 bedtime unless it will be enforced pretty
strictly.) If all goes well, the child's knowledge that deliberately
violating the agreement will result in the punishment coupled with parental
understanding toward accidental violations could still make actual
punishment unnecessary. But for the possibility of punishment to mean
something, parents have to be willing to punish if a child pushes too far.

Note that if a child has made an agreement and agreed to what the punishment
will be if the agreement is violated, it is much harder for the child to
resent being punished for violating the agreement as "unfair" and
"arbitrary" than if the rule and punishment were imposed unilaterally by a
parent, or especially if the child were punished without really
understanding what the rule was (especially in practice) before the
punishment took place. Those kinds of distinctions are extremely important
in understanding how punishment affects children.

Also, consider situations where negotiations fail, either because no common
ground acceptable to both the parents and the child exists or because the
common ground cannot be found in the amount of time available to look for
it. If parents refuse to allow the child to proceed with a solution the
parents view as unacceptable, the need for threats and punishment might
still be averted if the child is willing to defer to the parents and live
with a solution that the child does not really consider acceptable. But if
the child refuses to defer to the parents' authority and judgment out of
respect, the threat of punishment (and, if necessary, the actuality of
punishment) are all the parents have left to prevent the child from doing
something they cannot accept in good conscience. Punishment might not
provide a long-term solution, but it at least has a chance of solving the
problem in the short term. And in the longer term, parents can hope that as
the child gets older, he or she will come to recognize that the parents were
right after all, at least enough to make a solution that both sides can
agree on possible. (Or, in some cases, the problem might solve itself as
the child becomes mature enough to be allowed to do things the parents did
not consider it safe to allow earlier.) Such situations are not ideal, but
considering that we live on Earth, not in Heaven, always having ideal
solutions available would be a bit much to hope for.

As one last interesting point regarding negotiated solutions, consider the
possibility of negotiating what form of punishment should be used in
situations where punishment is required. From a parent's perspective, the
punishment needs to be serious enough to achieve the parent's goals (which
are often short-term in nature, or "serially short-term" - that is, solvable
over an extended period of time through a series of short-term solutions).
In some cases, parents consider it desirable to disrupt the child's
activities (for example, to keep the child away from "the wrong crowd"), but
often, such disruption is considered undesirable. Parents may also feel a
need to consider how punishing one child might impact others. For example,
how do you ground one child from watching television without having an
impact on the lives of the child's siblings? After all, the siblings might
very well want to play with the child who is being punished and watch
television at the same time.

From a child's perspective, the important points are how unpleasant the
punishment will be and how much the punishment will interfere with the
child's doing things he or she enjoys. Some children may view physical pain
as radically worse than other forms of unpleasantness, but many do not.
Children may also consider how different forms of punishment would affect
their friends, and the possible embarrassment if their friends find out
about their having gotten in trouble.

Of all forms of punishment, corporal punishment can concentrate a given
amount of unpleasantness into the shortest amount of time. That's probably
one of the reasons why some people object to it so strongly: the pain of a
child crying from a spanking is a lot easier to see than the same total
amount of unpleasantness spread over a week or two of being grounded. We
can empathize with the pain of the spanking, but it is much harder to
capture the sense of time needed to empathize with the grounding -
especially for people who haven't actually experienced being grounded for an
extended period of time.

Yet ironically, depending on the personalities and the situation involved,
the same concentration of unpleasantness into a short period of time that
makes spanking so objectionable to some outside parties can sometimes make
it a preferred form of punishment for both parents and children. It's over
with quickly, and they can get on with their lives.

Which raises an interesting problem for those who support win-win solutions
but oppose spanking. If parents are going to punish a child, and the child
would rather be spanked than punished in some other way, does that not make
spanking the child a win-win solution to the problem of how to punish the
child (or at least the closest thing to a win-win solution available)?

Nathan



  #3  
Old June 8th 04, 03:25 AM
Nathan A. Barclay
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Parent-Child Negotiations


"Carlson LaVonne" wrote in message
...
Nathan,

On the other hand, a two-year-old has few bargaining tools. He or she
is physically tiny, compared to his/her parents. This little child is
just beginning to understand case/effect, and only in immediate
situations. When this little child begins to understand cause/effect,
the spanked child learns to hit. The non spanked child learns other
ways to handle anger.


Actually, there is at least one form of meaningful two-way negotiation with
a two-year-old that parents can engage in: redirecting the child's
attention. When a parent tries to redirect a child's attention, the parent
is saying, "How about if you do this instead?" If the child rejects the
parent's idea and tries to start doing something else, that is, in effect a
counterproposal: "No, I don't like that idea. How about this?" Much of the
communication is nonverbal, yet a form of genuine negotiation is taking
place in an attempt to find a solution acceptable to both the parent and the
child.

But like other forms of negotiation, that form can break down if the child
refuses to be redirected and keeps going back to a behavior the parents
consider non-negotiable. In theory, parents could spend the rest of the day
trying to redirect the child, but that is often not workable in practice.
Which can bring us back to the problem that parents have to either tolerate
unacceptable behavior or resort to some form of punishment.

As for how spanking affects children's learning to hit, it seems to me that
three factors almost have to be involved. (1) How often the child is
spanked or hit. (2) How well the child understands that the spanking or
hitting is associated with a particular behavior, and (3) how much the
spanking or hitting as punishment looks like other forms of hitting.

The first of these issues is self-evident. In regard to the second, I'm no
expert on two-year-olds, but I suspect that if a parent says no a couple
times and tries to redirect the child's behavior a couple times, even a
two-year-old can probably start to get the idea that he or she is doing
something the parent doesn't like. If I'm right, that would provide an
enormous head start toward making the connection that the swat that follows
was a result of unacceptable behavior, not just because the parent was
angry.

Regarding the third, if spankings are always on the bottom (or maybe a swat
to the back of the legs for a child in diapers, as long as it's not hard
enough to be dangerous), that makes spanking less of a precedent for a
child's going around hitting people anywhere he or she wants to than if
swats from the parent land in a wider variety of places. A ritual such as
putting the child over a knee or lap first might do even more to draw a
differentiation that the kind of hitting parents do when the child
misbehaves is different from other kinds of hitting.

Of course even under the best of circumstances, spanking would almost
certainly have some potential to help a child learn to hit. On the other
hand, teaching a child not to hit is something that parents are going to
face sooner or later whether they spank or not. So if parents use spanking
carefully and judiciously, I'm not convinced that the difference is big
enough to be worth worrying about.

Nathan


  #4  
Old June 8th 04, 07:45 AM
Chris
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Parent-Child Negotiations

Nathan A. Barclay wrote:

: I'd like to expand a little on the issue of parents and children trying to
: negotiate mutually satisfactory solutions to problems. For truly fair
: negotiations to take place, three things must be true. First, both parties
: must be able to negotiate from positions of reasonable strength. Second, it
: must be accepted that there are some absolutes that are not part of the
: negotiation process. And third, the parties negotiating must not use
: extraneous issues to threaten each other.

Hi Nathan. Welcome back. Your previous message did not propagate to
my site. I found it on Google and wrote a longish response this morning
before work only to lose it due to a computer glitch. Sorry, but I can't
promise I will rewrite it due to the pressure I am under this semester
teaching 13 credits at three different schools. I am glad you are back,
though, since you are a member of an increasingly rare breed: an
intelligent, articulate, nonflamey prospanker with whom one may have a
courteous exchange of views.

With regard to your three points, I question your assumptions. You
make mutual rulemaking between parents and children sound like class
struggle, like labor negotiating with management, or rival warlords
carving up respective spheres of influence. In a loving relationship of
any kind, both parties either win more intimacy, harmony and joy with one
another, or both lose. "Strength" is not the issue here. In this kind of
negotiation the aim is for everyone to win not because everyone's
"strength" is "reasonable" but because it is in the common interest of
everyone for there to be no losers in the negotiation.

In regard to your second point, yes there are certainly some things
which aren't going to be negotiable. Safety issues in particular come to
mind; also financially related issues.

Regarding your third point about parties to the negotiation
"threatening" each other with extraneous issues, you are back to your view
of parent/child negotiation sounding a lot more like a parlay between
adversaries than a mutually rewarding process of processing away conflicts
in a loving relationship. And given the fact that your point in all of
this is to defend the use of physical pain on children by parents, I find
your concern about "threatening" rather ironic.

Punishment and threats of punishment do nothing to enhance
cooperative win/win methods of discipline and do everything to undermine
it and render it unworkable. You invoke the need for "consequences" if a
child doesn't keep their end of a bargain. What you seem to miss it that
there is a natural consequence built in to the breaking of a promise to a
loved one, regardless of the ages and nature of the relationship of the
interactants. One damages the harmony of ones relationship with a special
and important figure in one's life, loses some of their trust and regard,
and sacrifices the harmony of one's relationship with them. Children
certainly do sometimes engage in behaviors which have this effect, but
when they do there is always a reason. It behooves parents to uncover the
reason by means of I messages, active listening etc. and deal with the
underying cause rather than mindlessly punish the surface behavior.

Win/win cooperative methods of discipline are not an abstract concept
not yet tried in practice, nor are they anything new. Thomas Gordon's
classic, "Parent Effectiveness Training," has been in print for four
decades now and many thousands of families have used this sort of approach
successfully.

Chris
  #5  
Old June 8th 04, 08:23 AM
Chris
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default How Children REALLY React To Control


How Children Really React to Control

by Thomas Gordon, Ph.D.


When one person tries to control another, you can always expect
some kind of reaction from the controllee. The use of power involves two
people in a special kind of relationship - one wielding power, and the
other reacting to it.

This seemingly obvious fact is not usually dealt with in the
writings of the dare-to-discipline advocates. Invariably, they leave the
child out of the formula, omitting any reference to how the youngster
reacts to the control of his or her parents or teachers.

They insist, "Parents must set limits," but seldom say anything
about how children respond to having their needs denied in this way.
"Parents should not be afraid to exercise their authority," they counsel,
but rarely mention how youngsters react to authority-based coercion. By
omitting the child from the interaction, the discipline advocates leave
the impression that the child submits willingly and consistently to
adults' power and does precisely what is demanded.

These are actual quotes from the many power-to-the-parent books
I've collected along the way:

"Be firm but fair."
"Insist that your children obey."
"Don't be afraid to express disapproval by spanking."
"Discipline with love."
"Demonstrate your parental right to lead."
"The toddler should be taught to obey and yield to parental
leadership."

What these books have in common is advocacy of the use of
power-based discipline with no mention of how children react to it. In
other words, the dare-to-discipline advocates never present power-based
discipline in full, as a cause-and-effect phenomenon, an
action-and-reaction event.

This omission is important, for it implies that all children
passively submit to adult demands, perfectly content and secure in an
obedient role, first in relationships with their parents and teachers and,
eventually, with all adult power-wielders they might encounter.

However, I have found not a shred of evidence to support this
view. In fact, as most of us remember only too well from our childhood, we
did almost anything we could to defend against power-based control. We
tried to avoid it, postpone it, weaken it, avert it, escape from it. We
lied, we put the blame on someone else, we tattled, hid, pleaded, begged
for mercy, or promised we would never do it again.

We also experienced punitive discipline as embarrassing,
demeaning, humiliating, frightening, and painful. To be coerced into doing
something against our will was a personal insult and an affront to our
dignity, an act that devalued the importance of our needs.

Punitive discipline is by definition need-depriving as opposed to
need-satisfying. Recall that punishment will be effective only if it is
felt by the child as aversive, painful, unpleasant. When controllers
employ punishment, they always intend for it to cause pain or deprivation.
It seems so obvious, then, that children don't ever want punitive
discipline, contrary to what its advocates would have us believe. No child
"asks for it," "feels a need for it," or is "grateful for it." And it is
probably true, too, that no child ever forgets or forgives a punitive
parent or teacher. This is why I find it incredible that the authors of
power-to-the-parent books try to justify power-based discipline with such
statements as:

* "Kids not only need punishment, they want it."

* "Children basically want what is coming to them, good or
bad, because justice is security."

* "Punishment will prove to kids that their parents love
them."

* "The youngster who knows he deserves a spanking appears
almost relieved when it finally comes."

* "Rather than be insulted by the discipline, [the child]
understands its purpose and appreciates the control it gives him over his
own impulses."

* "Corporal punishment in the hands of a loving parent is
entirely different in purpose and practice [from child abuse]....One is an
act of love; the other is an act of hostility."

* "Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be
spanked, and their wishes should be granted."

* "Punishment will make children feel more secure in their
relationship."

* "Discipline makes for happy families; healthy
relationships."

Could these be rationalizations intended to relieve the guilt that
controllers feel after coercing or committing acts of physical violence
against their children? It seems possible in view of the repeated
insistence that the punishing adult is really a loving adult, doing it
only "for the child's own good," or as a dutiful act of "benevolent
leadership." It appears that being firm with children has to be justified
by saying, "Be firm but fair"; being tough is acceptable as long as it's
"Tough Love"; being an autocrat is justifiable as long as you're a
"benevolent autocrat"; coercing children is okay as long as you're not a
"dictator"; and physically abusing children is not abuse as long as you
"do it lovingly."

Disciplinarians' insistence that punishment is benign and
constructive might be explained by their desire that children eventually
become subservient to a Supreme Being or higher authority. This can only
be achieved, they believe, if children first learn to obey their parents
and other adults. James Dobson (1978) stresses this point time and time
again:

* "While yielding to the loving leadership of their parents,
children are also learning to yield to the benevolent leadership of God
Himself."

* "With regard to the specific discipline of the strong-willed
toddler, mild spankings can begin between 15 and 18 months of age....To
repeat, the toddler should be taught to obey and yield to parental
leadership, but that end will not be accomplished overnight."


It's the familiar story of believing that the ends justify the
means. Obedience to parental authority first, and then later to some
higher authority, is so strongly valued by some advocates of punitive
discipline that the means they utilize to achieve that end are distorted
to appear beneficial to children rather than harmful.

The hope that children eventually will submit to all authority is,
I think, wishful thinking. Not all children submit when adults try to
control them. In fact, children respond with a wide variety of reactions,
an assortment of behaviors. Psychologists call these reactions "coping
behaviors" or "coping mechanisms".

The Coping Mechanisms Children Use

Over the years I have compiled a long list of the various coping
mechanisms youngsters use when adults try to control them. This list comes
primarily out of our Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and Teacher
Effectiveness Training (T.E.T.) classes, where we employ a simple but
revealing classroom exercise. Participants are asked to recall the
specific ways they themselves coped with power-based discipline when they
were youngsters. The question yields nearly identical lists in every
class, which confirms how universal children's coping mechanisms are. The
complete list is reproduced below, in no particular order. Note how varied
these recurring themes are. (Can you pick out the particular coping
methods you employed as a youngster?)

* Resisting, defying, being negative

* Rebelling, disobeying, being insubordinate, sassing

* Retaliating, striking back, counterattacking, vandalizing

* Hitting, being belligerent, combative

* Breaking rules and laws

* Throwing temper tantrums, getting angry

* Lying, deceiving, hiding the truth

* Blaming others, tattling, telling on others

* Bossing or bullying others

* Banding together, forming alliances, organizing against the
adult

* Apple-polishing, buttering up, soft-soaping, bootlicking,
currying favor with adults

* Withdrawing, fantasizing, daydreaming

* Competing, needing to win, hating to lose, needing to look
good, making others look bad

* Giving up, feeling defeated, loafing, goofing off

* Leaving, escaping, staying away from home, running away,
quitting school, cutting classes

* Not talking, ignoring, using the silent treatment, writing
the adult off, keeping one's distance

* Crying, weeping; feeling depressed or hopeless

* Becoming fearful, shy, timid, afraid to speak up, hesitant
to try anything new Needing reassurance, seeking constant
approval, feeling insecure

* Getting sick, developing psychosomatic ailments

* Overeating, excessive dieting

* Being submissive, conforming, complying; being dutiful,
docile, apple-polishing, being a goody-goody, teacher's pet

* Drinking heavily, using drugs

* Cheating in school, plagiarizing

As you might expect, after parents and teachers in the class
generate their list, and realize that it was created out of their own
experience, they invariably make such comments as:

"Why would anyone want to use power, if these are the
behaviors it produces?"

"All of these coping mechanisms are behaviors that I wouldn't
want to see in my children [or my students]."

"I don't see in the list any good effects or positive
behaviors."

"If we reacted to power in those ways when we were kids, our
own children certainly will, too."

After this exercise, some parents and teachers undergo a
180-degree shift in their thinking. They see much more clearly that power
creates the very behavior patterns they most dislike in children! They
begin to understand that as parents and teachers they are paying a
terrible price for using power: they are causing their children or
students to develop habits, traits, and characteristics considered both
unacceptable by most adults and unhealthy by mental health professionals.





For more information about Parent Effectiveness Training and
Teacher Effectiveness Training, contact Gordon Training International:

USA
Gordon Training International
531 Stevens Avenue West
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Telephone (858) 481-8121
E-mail:
Website:
http://www.gordontraining.com



  #6  
Old June 8th 04, 09:38 AM
Doan
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default How Children REALLY React To Control


From=20the thomas gordon's website:

"Reviews of Research of the P.E.T. Course
There have been two extensive reviews of P.E.T. course evaluation studies.
The first, by Ronald Levant of Boston University, reviewed 23 different
studies. The author concluded that many of the studies had methodological
discrepancies. Nevertheless, out of a total of 149 comparisons between
P.E.T. and control groups or alternative programs, 32% favored P.E.T., 11%
favored the alternative group, and 57% found no significant differences."

The point here is not blindly believe to any book or philosoply but learn
and filter out what is applicable to you and what is not. Hey, even
Dobson recommended Thomas Gordon. :-)

Doan




On 8 Jun 2004, Chris wrote:


How Children Really React to Control

by Thomas Gordon, Ph.D.


When one person tries to control another, you can always expect
some kind of reaction from the controllee. The use of power involves two
people in a special kind of relationship - one wielding power, and the
other reacting to it.

This seemingly obvious fact is not usually dealt with in the
writings of the dare-to-discipline advocates. Invariably, they leave the
child out of the formula, omitting any reference to how the youngster
reacts to the control of his or her parents or teachers.

They insist, "Parents must set limits," but seldom say anything
about how children respond to having their needs denied in this way.
"Parents should not be afraid to exercise their authority," they counsel,
but rarely mention how youngsters react to authority-based coercion. By
omitting the child from the interaction, the discipline advocates leave
the impression that the child submits willingly and consistently to
adults' power and does precisely what is demanded.

These are actual quotes from the many power-to-the-parent books
I've collected along the way:

"Be firm but fair."
"Insist that your children obey."
"Don't be afraid to express disapproval by spanking."
"Discipline with love."
"Demonstrate your parental right to lead."
"The toddler should be taught to obey and yield to parental
=09 leadership."

What these books have in common is advocacy of the use of
power-based discipline with no mention of how children react to it. In
other words, the dare-to-discipline advocates never present power-based
discipline in full, as a cause-and-effect phenomenon, an
action-and-reaction event.

This omission is important, for it implies that all children
passively submit to adult demands, perfectly content and secure in an
obedient role, first in relationships with their parents and teachers and=

,
eventually, with all adult power-wielders they might encounter.

However, I have found not a shred of evidence to support this
view. In fact, as most of us remember only too well from our childhood, w=

e
did almost anything we could to defend against power-based control. We
tried to avoid it, postpone it, weaken it, avert it, escape from it. We
lied, we put the blame on someone else, we tattled, hid, pleaded, begged
for mercy, or promised we would never do it again.

We also experienced punitive discipline as embarrassing,
demeaning, humiliating, frightening, and painful. To be coerced into doin=

g
something against our will was a personal insult and an affront to our
dignity, an act that devalued the importance of our needs.

Punitive discipline is by definition need-depriving as opposed to
need-satisfying. Recall that punishment will be effective only if it is
felt by the child as aversive, painful, unpleasant. When controllers
employ punishment, they always intend for it to cause pain or deprivation=

=2E
It seems so obvious, then, that children don't ever want punitive
discipline, contrary to what its advocates would have us believe. No chil=

d
"asks for it," "feels a need for it," or is "grateful for it." And it is
probably true, too, that no child ever forgets or forgives a punitive
parent or teacher. This is why I find it incredible that the authors of
power-to-the-parent books try to justify power-based discipline with such
statements as:

* "Kids not only need punishment, they want it."

* "Children basically want what is coming to them, good or
bad, because justice is security."

* "Punishment will prove to kids that their parents love
them."

* "The youngster who knows he deserves a spanking appears
almost relieved when it finally comes."

* "Rather than be insulted by the discipline, [the child]
understands its purpose and appreciates the control it gives him over his
own impulses."

* "Corporal punishment in the hands of a loving parent is
entirely different in purpose and practice [from child abuse]....One is a=

n
act of love; the other is an act of hostility."

* "Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be
spanked, and their wishes should be granted."

* "Punishment will make children feel more secure in their
relationship."

* "Discipline makes for happy families; healthy
relationships."

Could these be rationalizations intended to relieve the guilt tha=

t
controllers feel after coercing or committing acts of physical violence
against their children? It seems possible in view of the repeated
insistence that the punishing adult is really a loving adult, doing it
only "for the child's own good," or as a dutiful act of "benevolent
leadership." It appears that being firm with children has to be justified
by saying, "Be firm but fair"; being tough is acceptable as long as it's
"Tough Love"; being an autocrat is justifiable as long as you're a
"benevolent autocrat"; coercing children is okay as long as you're not a
"dictator"; and physically abusing children is not abuse as long as you
"do it lovingly."

Disciplinarians' insistence that punishment is benign and
constructive might be explained by their desire that children eventually
become subservient to a Supreme Being or higher authority. This can only
be achieved, they believe, if children first learn to obey their parents
and other adults. James Dobson (1978) stresses this point time and time
again:

* "While yielding to the loving leadership of their parents,
children are also learning to yield to the benevolent leadership of God
Himself."

* "With regard to the specific discipline of the strong-willed
toddler, mild spankings can begin between 15 and 18 months of age....To
repeat, the toddler should be taught to obey and yield to parental
leadership, but that end will not be accomplished overnight."


It's the familiar story of believing that the ends justify the
means. Obedience to parental authority first, and then later to some
higher authority, is so strongly valued by some advocates of punitive
discipline that the means they utilize to achieve that end are distorted
to appear beneficial to children rather than harmful.

The hope that children eventually will submit to all authority is=

,
I think, wishful thinking. Not all children submit when adults try to
control them. In fact, children respond with a wide variety of reactions,
an assortment of behaviors. Psychologists call these reactions "coping
behaviors" or "coping mechanisms".

The Coping Mechanisms Children Use

Over the years I have compiled a long list of the various coping
mechanisms youngsters use when adults try to control them. This list come=

s
primarily out of our Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and Teacher
Effectiveness Training (T.E.T.) classes, where we employ a simple but
revealing classroom exercise. Participants are asked to recall the
specific ways they themselves coped with power-based discipline when they
were youngsters. The question yields nearly identical lists in every
class, which confirms how universal children's coping mechanisms are. The
complete list is reproduced below, in no particular order. Note how varie=

d
these recurring themes are. (Can you pick out the particular coping
methods you employed as a youngster?)

* Resisting, defying, being negative

* Rebelling, disobeying, being insubordinate, sassing

* Retaliating, striking back, counterattacking, vandalizing

* Hitting, being belligerent, combative

* Breaking rules and laws

* Throwing temper tantrums, getting angry

* Lying, deceiving, hiding the truth

* Blaming others, tattling, telling on others

* Bossing or bullying others

* Banding together, forming alliances, organizing against the
adult

* Apple-polishing, buttering up, soft-soaping, bootlicking,
currying favor with adults

* Withdrawing, fantasizing, daydreaming

* Competing, needing to win, hating to lose, needing to look
good, making others look bad

* Giving up, feeling defeated, loafing, goofing off

* Leaving, escaping, staying away from home, running away,
quitting school, cutting classes

* Not talking, ignoring, using the silent treatment, writing
the adult off, keeping one's distance

* Crying, weeping; feeling depressed or hopeless

* Becoming fearful, shy, timid, afraid to speak up, hesitant
to try anything new Needing reassurance, seeking constant
approval, feeling insecure

* Getting sick, developing psychosomatic ailments

* Overeating, excessive dieting

* Being submissive, conforming, complying; being dutiful,
docile, apple-polishing, being a goody-goody, teacher's pet

* Drinking heavily, using drugs

* Cheating in school, plagiarizing

As you might expect, after parents and teachers in the class
generate their list, and realize that it was created out of their own
experience, they invariably make such comments as:

"Why would anyone want to use power, if these are the
behaviors it produces?"

"All of these coping mechanisms are behaviors that I wouldn'=

t
want to see in my children [or my students]."

"I don't see in the list any good effects or positive
behaviors."

"If we reacted to power in those ways when we were kids, our
own children certainly will, too."

After this exercise, some parents and teachers undergo a
180-degree shift in their thinking. They see much more clearly that powe=

r
creates the very behavior patterns they most dislike in children! They
begin to understand that as parents and teachers they are paying a
terrible price for using power: they are causing their children or
students to develop habits, traits, and characteristics considered both
unacceptable by most adults and unhealthy by mental health professionals.





For more information about Parent Effectiveness Training and
Teacher Effectiveness Training, contact Gordon Training International:

USA
Gordon Training International
531 Stevens Avenue West
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Telephone (858) 481-8121
E-mail:
Website:
http://www.gordontraining.com





  #7  
Old June 8th 04, 01:58 PM
Nathan A. Barclay
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Parent-Child Negotiations


"Chris" wrote in message
...
Nathan A. Barclay wrote:


With regard to your three points, I question your assumptions. You
make mutual rulemaking between parents and children sound like class
struggle, like labor negotiating with management, or rival warlords
carving up respective spheres of influence. In a loving relationship of
any kind, both parties either win more intimacy, harmony and joy with one
another, or both lose. "Strength" is not the issue here. In this kind of
negotiation the aim is for everyone to win not because everyone's
"strength" is "reasonable" but because it is in the common interest of
everyone for there to be no losers in the negotiation.


What you describe is certainly the best-case scenario for what can happen.
It reminds me a bit of when my mother and her siblings fight over a check in
a restaurant - with everyone trying to insist that they be the ones who will
pay. When both sides are willing to voluntarily concede enough to find a
solution that works, not only is "strength" irrelevant, but what happens
isn't really something I'd normally characterize as a negotiation.

But for the purposes of this newsgroup, best-case scenarios really aren't
all that interesting - except, perhaps, for the value of reminding people to
look for opportunities when they can be made to happen. "Carol, would you
please load the dishwasher?" "Sure, Mom. I'll start on it right away."
It's great when life works that smoothly, but the times when parents start
thinking about using spanking are times when it doesn't.

There are times when parents and children have genuine conflicts in their
needs and desires, when solutions in which both sides can achieve a complete
win are impossible. Actually, your labor analogy is not entirely off
target - or would not be if labor and management treated each other like
family instead of like enemies. The real problem in too many
labor-management negotiations, and in too many parent-child negotiations as
well, is that the two sides each focus on getting as much as possible for
themselves without regard to the cost to the other. Negotiations are more
constructive, more productive, and more mutually beneficial if both sides
keep each other's needs and desires in mind and try to find ways to meet
each other's needs without an unacceptable cost to themselves. The trick in
both cases is to look for a solution that, while probably not ideal from
either side's perspective, is acceptable to both sides and that will give
both sides as much of what they need and want as is possible considering the
fact that the other side has competing needs and desires.

The reason why I view the balance of power as important is to help make sure
that both sides will negotiate in good faith when their needs and desires
compete. A good compromise is one in which each side gets as much of what
they want as possible, and in which both sides give up a reasonably equal
amount in return for making the compromise work. And for that to happen,
the balance of power has to be such that the two sides both have more to
gain from negotiating in good faith than from demanding to get things mostly
their way "or else." (And while it is traditionally the parents who say "or
else," it is quite possible for children to do so too - especially if
parents are unwilling to exercise their authority.)

Regarding your third point about parties to the negotiation
"threatening" each other with extraneous issues, you are back to your view
of parent/child negotiation sounding a lot more like a parlay between
adversaries than a mutually rewarding process of processing away conflicts
in a loving relationship. And given the fact that your point in all of
this is to defend the use of physical pain on children by parents, I find
your concern about "threatening" rather ironic.


My "point in all of this" is a lot more complicated than you give it credit
for being. Yes, I defend spanking. But I also argue that there are other
tools parents can use that are better in many situations. Indeed, I'm
probably actually closer to agreeing with you than I am to agreeing with a
lot of people who support spanking in regard to what parenting styles work
best.

So why is my energy focused toward opposing you rather than opposing them?
Because I think you, and people like you, are far more dangerous in the long
term.

People like Dr. Dobson, and even those who support spanking more strongly
than he does, are not trying to close off the lines of debate. They try to
persuade, but they do not attempt to use the force of law to impose their
preference onto those who disagree with them. Thus, in the long term, they
can be dealt with in the free market of ideas. The more people succeed
using parenting techniques that are at least primarily cooperative, the
harder it will be to convince people that a more confrontational appraoch to
parenting is good.

But when large numbers of people put on a mantle of science to make claims
that go beyond what scientific methodology can justify, that seriously
undermines society's ability to consider an issue objectively. Worse, if
spanking would be outlawed, the debate would be all but shut down because it
is hard to engage in scientific study of something that no longer exists.
(I suppose studies could be done by looking at parents who spank illegally,
or by giving parents special permission to spank as part of a scientific
study. But in either of those cases, the fact that the parents involved
would not be normal parents operating under normal conditions would raise
serious questions about the validity of the results.)

If we continue to allow spanking, and non-spanking methods work best,
non-spanking methods can be expected to win out over time. But if the best
parenting methods, at least for some children, do involve the use of
spanking, a ban on spanking could easily keep us from ever learning about
them.

Anyhow, in the context of a newsgroup as polarized as this one, I can see
how it can seem ironic to have a person who supports spanking in some
situations but also supports parents' trying to do things that reduce (and
maybe eliminate) their need to spank. But I see nothing inherently
inconsistant or contradictory about such a position.

Looking into the way I view things a bit more deeply, I suppose my view
might be explained as a sort of hierarchy of ways of resolving conflicts
between parents and children. (I haven't really thought of it this way
before, so this is as much an exercise in organizing my own thoughts as it
is an explanation.) At the top of the hierarchy are mutually desirable
solutions - solutions that both sides genuinely like. Next are solutions
that involve voluntary concessions, where one or both sides have to give up
a little but don't really mind giving it up. Third on the hierarchy are
negotiated solutions in which each side agrees to make concessions in
exchange for the other side's making concessions. Next would be the "choose
from these options" approach, in which the parent defines what options are
available for the child to choose from. And finally, the least desirable
type of solution is something imposed unilaterally by the parents.

At the first two stages of the hierarchy, punishment is completely
unnecessary. If the child wants to do something that the parents consider
acceptable, or is voluntarily willing to stay within the limits of what the
parents consider acceptable, there is no need for punishment.

With negotiated settlements, the child does have to give up something he or
she didn't want to, so whether or not a possibility of punishment is needed
depends on whether or not the child is willing to abide by the agreement
without that possibility. Also, if the child abides by the agreement
strictly on his or her own, or if just reminding the child of the agreement
and of why keeping the agreement is important is enough, there is no need to
bring up the issue of punishment. But if the child is not willing to abide
by the agreement voluntarily, punishment may be necessary.

With the lowest two levels of the hierarchy, the child is being forced to
accept something without his or her consent, or with only a very limited
form of consent. That gives the child a bit less of a stake in making
things work without the threat of punishment, and thus increases the risk
that threats or actual punishment will be needed.

The way I look at it, it is best for parents (and children) to look for
solutions as high in that hierarchy as is practical, but when they have to
settle for something lower in the hierarchy, punishment may be necessary.
So on the one hand, I support ideas that help parents avoid the need to
spank (or punish in other ways). While on the other hand, I think there are
times when punishment is necessary, and I view spanking as a form of
punishment that has advantages in some types of situations (at least
depending on the personalities of the people involved).

I would also note that there is one other thing about my hierarchy that
makes the issues involved a whole lot more complicated: time. Solutions
imposed unilaterally by parents are the least desirable on a conceptual
level, but they are also the quickest. To some extent, it can actually make
sense for parents to unilaterally tell their children what to do because the
value added in a solution higher in the hierarchy would not be worth the
time required to find it. And there are times when external time
constraints make finding a workable solution "now" a lot more important than
finding a perfect solution that is "too late."

On the other hand, there are also things parents can do to mitigate the time
issue. If parents can see an issue coming in advance, they can start the
process of looking for a good solution with the child before they start
running out of time. Parents can talk with their children about what sorts
of things it is okay with the children for the parents to decide
unilaterally and what kinds of things need to be discussed together. And
families could arrange something the children can say if they have a special
reason why they want to discuss a type of decision a parent normally makes
unilaterally. Such approaches can't entirely eliminate the time issue, but
they could help move more of the decision-making process higher up the
hierarchy.

Punishment and threats of punishment do nothing to enhance
cooperative win/win methods of discipline and do everything to undermine
it and render it unworkable. You invoke the need for "consequences" if a
child doesn't keep their end of a bargain. What you seem to miss it that
there is a natural consequence built in to the breaking of a promise to a
loved one, regardless of the ages and nature of the relationship of the
interactants. One damages the harmony of ones relationship with a special
and important figure in one's life, loses some of their trust and regard,
and sacrifices the harmony of one's relationship with them. Children
certainly do sometimes engage in behaviors which have this effect, but
when they do there is always a reason. It behooves parents to uncover the
reason by means of I messages, active listening etc. and deal with the
underying cause rather than mindlessly punish the surface behavior.


Now we're getting into the question of the fundamental nature of human
beings, something that has been debated by theologians and philosophers for
millennia. For me accept the position you are taking here, I would have to
accept two things.

1) Human beings do not have free will, and cannot choose for themselves
whether to follow a path of good or evil.

2) Human beings are naturally good, and as long as people love each other
and communicate their needs effectively, no one will ever choose to do evil.

If your religion and your philosophy accept those principles, I am not
prepared to take the time to try to convince you otherwise. But I do not
accept either of them. I believe that mankind does have free will, and that
while the way children are reared helps influence their behavior, even
perfect parents could not make it impossible for their children to choose to
do wrong. And I believe that human beings are born with a mixture of
competing desires such that no matter how loving and harmonious an
environment they are reared in, they will face real and serious temptations
to put other types of self-interest ahead of their desire for harmony.

Unless you can convince me to change my religious and philosophical beliefs
regarding the fundamental nature of mankind, you have no hope of convincing
me with this line of argument because it is based on a foundation that I
regard as invalid. Likewise, if you truly do accept the
religious/philosophical basis that would have to be valid for the argument
you make here to be logically sound, I have no chance of changing your mind
without first convincing you to change your religious/philosophical basis.
In that case, we are probably essentially in a state of deadlock, each with
a position that is logically sound relative to our own beliefs about the
nature of mankind but unsound relative to the other's beliefs.

If we are indeed in such a deadlock, we could still attempt to discuss the
issue relative to each other's beliefs. However, I am inclined to concede
that if the interpretation of the nature of mankind that you are relying on
is accurate (in practice, not just in theory with perfect parents), there
are indeed always better options than spanking. The only real potential
point of debate left would be whether those better techniques would always
be worth the time they require, but that realm is so hypothetical that it
does not seem worth the time to debate it. And if your interpretation does
not work reliably in practice, than in practical terms, we are back to what
I believe is the case, namely that there are times when children's desire
for harmony will not be sufficient to produce acceptable behavior in spite
of their parents' best efforts with positive methods..

For you to debate relative to my beliefs, you would have to accept as an
operating hypothesis that even if parents try their best with positive
techniques, some children will deliberately choose to behave unacceptably in
spite of their parents' efforts. And you would have to make a case that
even starting from that hypothesis, there are still always better options
than spanking.

Win/win cooperative methods of discipline are not an abstract concept
not yet tried in practice, nor are they anything new. Thomas Gordon's
classic, "Parent Effectiveness Training," has been in print for four
decades now and many thousands of families have used this sort of approach
successfully.


Anecdotal evidence. The interesting thing about Thomas Gordon's approach is
that the extent to which it works depends very heavily on how willing the
child is to cooperate. Thus, even if tens of millions of children would be
willing to cooperate enough for that approach to be considered effective
with them, that does not address the question of how to handle children who
are unwilling to cooperate sufficiently. You may be willing to accept on
faith that no such children exist, that Dr,.Gordon's methods always work on
every child if parents do their best to use them. But you cannot persuade
me to accept that assumption without compelling evidence to support it.




  #8  
Old June 8th 04, 02:38 PM
Doan
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Parent-Child Negotiations


Let me ask you, LaVonne. You were spanked as a child, right? Did you
learn to hit? Using that logic, if you take toys away from your child,
the child will learn to rob and steal??? :-)

Doan

On Mon, 7 Jun 2004, Carlson LaVonne wrote:

Nathan,

On the other hand, a two-year-old has few bargaining tools. He or she
is physically tiny, compared to his/her parents. This little child is
just beginning to understand case/effect, and only in immediate
situations. When this little child begins to understand cause/effect,
the spanked child learns to hit. The non spanked child learns other
ways to handle anger.

LaVonne

Nathan A. Barclay wrote:

I'd like to expand a little on the issue of parents and children trying to
negotiate mutually satisfactory solutions to problems. For truly fair
negotiations to take place, three things must be true. First, both parties
must be able to negotiate from positions of reasonable strength. Second, it
must be accepted that there are some absolutes that are not part of the
negotiation process. And third, the parties negotiating must not use
extraneous issues to threaten each other.

In regard to the first point, the nature of the parent-child relationship is
such that the parents get to decide how much negotiating power their
children will have. At one extreme, if parents say, "Do this or else," they
give their children no negotiating power. At the other extreme, if parents
refuse to put their foot down at all, they keep no real negotiating power
for themselves. So the trick is for parents to find a place in between that
gives their children enough negotiating power but not too much.

In my view, the best types of negotiations are aimed at dealing with the
issues the parents consider truly important while providing as much
flexibility for the children as possible within that context. For example,
suppose a little girl keeps running late because she can't decide what to
wear to school and Mom, who is busy getting ready for work herself, keeps
having to take time out of her own preparations to deal with the issue. The
important thing for Mom is that the problem of running late be solved, not
exactly how the problem is solved. Further, the solution doesn't
necessarily have to be 100% foolproof. If Mom has to get involved and hurry
her daughter up every now and then, it's probably not the end of the world.

From that understanding of the problem, the mother and daughter could get
together and try to find a way to solve the problem. It doesn't matter
which of them proposes the solution that they ultimately decide together
would work best. What matters is that the problem be solved. And if Mom
has misgivings about her daughter's preferred solution, she might accept it
on only a provisional basis, with the understanding that if it doesn't work,
they'll have to change to something else. With a little luck that will give
the daughter some extra incentive to make her preferred solution work.

Regarding the second issue, it would be highly improper for a child who is
caught shoplifting to be able to demand something from his or her parents in
negotiations in exchange for not shoplifting anymore. When something is
wrong, you don't do it, and you don't expect to get any special reward or
compensation for not doing it. The lesson that some things in life are
non-negotiable is a vital one for children to learn.

On the other hand, if parents want to label something non-negotiable, they
need to be able to defend why they view it in non-negotiable in ways that
have as little as possible to do with "because I said so." And if they use
reasons rooted in their religion, they would be wise to also provide the
strongest reasons they can that are not rooted in their religion as
additional reinforcement. If children understand why their parents hold a
particular belief, and if the parents' behavior is consistent with what they
say, children can respect their parents for standing up for what they
believe is right even if the children disagree. (That is especially true
when the parents and children have a strong relationship in general.) But
if parents just say, "That's non-negotiable," without providing any real
explanation, the risk of anger and resentment is vastly greater.

Finally, if either side brings extraneous matters into a negotiation as a
way of threatening the other, that upsets the balance in the negotiations.
Such behavior is a way of trying to bully the other side into accepting a
win-lose solution, and thus violates the spirit of trying to find a solution
that both sides truly consider acceptable. That also means parents who are
looking for win-win solutions need to try to avoid invoking their parental
authority any more than they feel like they have to.

Now, what does this have to do with the issue of punishment in general and
of spanking in particular? If win-win solutions can be found within the
context of these types of negotiations, it is often possible to avoid the
need for threats and punishment entirely. That is especially true for
children whose sense of honor is strong enough that just reminding them of
what they agreed to is enough for them to comply with their part of an
agreement.

On the other hand, not all children will necessarily comply with an
agreement just because they agreed to it. In those cases, the possibility
of punishment may be needed as an enforcement provision in agreements,
especially if a child wants to be allowed to push to the outermost limits of
what the parents feel like they can accept. (For example, parents might
feel safe allowing a child to stretch a 9:00 bedtime a great deal, but be
unwilling to accept a 9:30 bedtime unless it will be enforced pretty
strictly.) If all goes well, the child's knowledge that deliberately
violating the agreement will result in the punishment coupled with parental
understanding toward accidental violations could still make actual
punishment unnecessary. But for the possibility of punishment to mean
something, parents have to be willing to punish if a child pushes too far.

Note that if a child has made an agreement and agreed to what the punishment
will be if the agreement is violated, it is much harder for the child to
resent being punished for violating the agreement as "unfair" and
"arbitrary" than if the rule and punishment were imposed unilaterally by a
parent, or especially if the child were punished without really
understanding what the rule was (especially in practice) before the
punishment took place. Those kinds of distinctions are extremely important
in understanding how punishment affects children.

Also, consider situations where negotiations fail, either because no common
ground acceptable to both the parents and the child exists or because the
common ground cannot be found in the amount of time available to look for
it. If parents refuse to allow the child to proceed with a solution the
parents view as unacceptable, the need for threats and punishment might
still be averted if the child is willing to defer to the parents and live
with a solution that the child does not really consider acceptable. But if
the child refuses to defer to the parents' authority and judgment out of
respect, the threat of punishment (and, if necessary, the actuality of
punishment) are all the parents have left to prevent the child from doing
something they cannot accept in good conscience. Punishment might not
provide a long-term solution, but it at least has a chance of solving the
problem in the short term. And in the longer term, parents can hope that as
the child gets older, he or she will come to recognize that the parents were
right after all, at least enough to make a solution that both sides can
agree on possible. (Or, in some cases, the problem might solve itself as
the child becomes mature enough to be allowed to do things the parents did
not consider it safe to allow earlier.) Such situations are not ideal, but
considering that we live on Earth, not in Heaven, always having ideal
solutions available would be a bit much to hope for.

As one last interesting point regarding negotiated solutions, consider the
possibility of negotiating what form of punishment should be used in
situations where punishment is required. From a parent's perspective, the
punishment needs to be serious enough to achieve the parent's goals (which
are often short-term in nature, or "serially short-term" - that is, solvable
over an extended period of time through a series of short-term solutions).
In some cases, parents consider it desirable to disrupt the child's
activities (for example, to keep the child away from "the wrong crowd"), but
often, such disruption is considered undesirable. Parents may also feel a
need to consider how punishing one child might impact others. For example,
how do you ground one child from watching television without having an
impact on the lives of the child's siblings? After all, the siblings might
very well want to play with the child who is being punished and watch
television at the same time.

From a child's perspective, the important points are how unpleasant the
punishment will be and how much the punishment will interfere with the
child's doing things he or she enjoys. Some children may view physical pain
as radically worse than other forms of unpleasantness, but many do not.
Children may also consider how different forms of punishment would affect
their friends, and the possible embarrassment if their friends find out
about their having gotten in trouble.

Of all forms of punishment, corporal punishment can concentrate a given
amount of unpleasantness into the shortest amount of time. That's probably
one of the reasons why some people object to it so strongly: the pain of a
child crying from a spanking is a lot easier to see than the same total
amount of unpleasantness spread over a week or two of being grounded. We
can empathize with the pain of the spanking, but it is much harder to
capture the sense of time needed to empathize with the grounding -
especially for people who haven't actually experienced being grounded for an
extended period of time.

Yet ironically, depending on the personalities and the situation involved,
the same concentration of unpleasantness into a short period of time that
makes spanking so objectionable to some outside parties can sometimes make
it a preferred form of punishment for both parents and children. It's over
with quickly, and they can get on with their lives.

Which raises an interesting problem for those who support win-win solutions
but oppose spanking. If parents are going to punish a child, and the child
would rather be spanked than punished in some other way, does that not make
spanking the child a win-win solution to the problem of how to punish the
child (or at least the closest thing to a win-win solution available)?

Nathan





  #9  
Old June 8th 04, 03:09 PM
Nathan A. Barclay
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default How Children REALLY React To Control


"Chris" wrote in message
...

How Children Really React to Control

by Thomas Gordon, Ph.D.


Punitive discipline is by definition need-depriving as opposed to
need-satisfying. Recall that punishment will be effective only if it is
felt by the child as aversive, painful, unpleasant. When controllers
employ punishment, they always intend for it to cause pain or deprivation.
It seems so obvious, then, that children don't ever want punitive
discipline, contrary to what its advocates would have us believe. No child
"asks for it," "feels a need for it," or is "grateful for it." And it is
probably true, too, that no child ever forgets or forgives a punitive
parent or teacher.


There is a difference between a "punitive" parent or teacher and one who
occasionally makes reasonable use of punishment. One of my best friends in
elementary school was my fourth grade teacher (who I first became friends
with when I was in second grade and stayed friends with until she left the
school sometime when I was in junior high). Teachers in my school did spank
occasionally, and one time she paddled me on the hand (her normal method of
using corporal punishment - this was in the mid 1970's, by the way). I was
embarrassed to get in trouble with her, and I was afraid my getting in
trouble like that might hurt the way she felt about me, but I don't remember
ever holding it against her. And as I said, we remained friends long after
I left her class.

From my experience (and I think anecdotal evidence I've seen from others
tends to back me up), what is really important is how the use of authority
fits into the overall relationship. If an adult exercises authority in a
way that exhibits a lack of concern for a child's needs or desires, the
child probably will react to punishment from that person in much the way Dr.
Gordon describes. If an adult normally cares about what a child needs and
wants and generally exercises authority only for reasons that the child can
respect (if not necessarily always agree with), occasional instances of
punishment are far less likely to cause any significant harm to the
relationship.

I'm certainly not trying to say that Dr. Gordon is entirely wrong, because
I'm sure the attitudes he's criticizing here do lead a lot of parents into
the kind of highly authoritarian mindsets that are most likely to cause
children to react negatively - and, perhaps more importantly, lead parents
away from more positive ways of addressing problems. But I do think he's
overstating the case, and thus throwing the baby out with the bathwater
where some types of situations are concerned.

snip

The Coping Mechanisms Children Use

Over the years I have compiled a long list of the various coping
mechanisms youngsters use when adults try to control them. This list comes
primarily out of our Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and Teacher
Effectiveness Training (T.E.T.) classes, where we employ a simple but
revealing classroom exercise. Participants are asked to recall the
specific ways they themselves coped with power-based discipline when they
were youngsters. The question yields nearly identical lists in every
class, which confirms how universal children's coping mechanisms are. The
complete list is reproduced below, in no particular order. Note how varied
these recurring themes are. (Can you pick out the particular coping
methods you employed as a youngster?)


I won't quote the list, but there is something not included on the list that
causes me to view the exercise as highly deceptive. That omission is
BEHAVING. When an exercise focuses exclusively on negative reactions to
authority and completely ignores the possibility that children might exhibit
the desired reaction, the exercise will almost inevitably skew people's
thinking.

I agree that children sometimes react to power-based discipline in
undesirable ways. That is one of the reasons why I consider the kinds of
methods Dr. Gordon promotes better - as long as they work.








  #10  
Old June 8th 04, 04:41 PM
Nathan A. Barclay
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default How Children REALLY React To Control


"Chris" wrote in message
...

How Children Really React to Control

by Thomas Gordon, Ph.D.


snip

The Coping Mechanisms Children Use

Over the years I have compiled a long list of the various coping
mechanisms youngsters use when adults try to control them. This list comes
primarily out of our Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and Teacher
Effectiveness Training (T.E.T.) classes, where we employ a simple but
revealing classroom exercise. Participants are asked to recall the
specific ways they themselves coped with power-based discipline when they
were youngsters. The question yields nearly identical lists in every
class, which confirms how universal children's coping mechanisms are. The
complete list is reproduced below, in no particular order. Note how varied
these recurring themes are. (Can you pick out the particular coping
methods you employed as a youngster?)


The more I think about this exercise, the more it looks like something
deliberately contrived to generate a particular emotional reaction. An
objective analysis would try to pin down how control by adults is likely to
affect individual children. This exercise, instead, creates an amalgam of
negative effects across all the people in the group, a combination that will
almost certainly be significantly longer and uglier than a typical child is
likely to exhibit. Worse, a person might add something to the list because
it happened once or twice, but have others end up thinking it happened on a
much more regular basis.

I'm not saying that efforts to control children through force don't have
negative consequences, or that parents should adopt a dismissive attitude
toward the risk of such consequences. But it is important not to blow the
risks out of proportion either. If parents want to do a risk/benefit
analysis regarding whether the risk involved in exerting their authority in
certain types of situations is likely to be greater or less than the
benefits, they need an accurate appraisal of the risks, not an exaggerated
one.

Nathan


 




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