Parent Effectiveness Training

Parent Trainin

Parent Effectiveness Training:
The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children

By Thomas Gordon (2000)



What the Book is About:

Dr. Thomas Gordon’s, Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) class is the pioneering program that has helped millions of parents around the world. Classes are offered by certified P.E.T. Instructors throughout the country and in many different countries.

Whether you’re the parent of a toddler or a teenager, you know that parenting can be challenging–even overwhelming at times. Unfortunately, children don’t come with an instruction manual. And, being a parent doesn’t always mean that you automatically or instinctively know what to do.

Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) offers proven communication skills that really work. When parents use these skills, they are amazed with the dramatic improvement both in their families and in all their relationships.  (info taken from

The book gathers the class curriculum into one place and puts it into a readable workbook format that both instructs by providing information and transforms by providing practical examples and action steps for parents to take with their children.

I would say that P.E.T. is a complete training guide in many ways for effective parenting. If you were only going to read one book as a parent-in-training, this might be the best one you could pick.

I found the following quoted review by Graham Lawes on exceptionally helpful and very informative.

Gordon’s premise is that parents need training. He comes to this from a background in psychology and training. He first trained pilots, where he succeeded in replacing ineffective command and control methods of training with demonstrably more effective collaborative forms of training. Building on the theories and client-centered approach of his teacher and mentor Carl Rogers (On Becoming a Person, 1961), Gordon further developed his educational model in providing leadership training for an organization consulting company before returning to psychotherapy for children and families. In these beginnings lie the strength of PET. It is an eminently practical, yet solidly based therapeutic approach, honed by countless hours of classes dealing with the real problems of parents and children.

Gordon builds his model on three key principles: Active Listening, I-messages, and the No Lose Method of conflict resolution. These are not his invention, but these are essential and valuable concepts. In particular, Gordon’s mentor Carl Rogers and his collaborator Richard Farson invented the term “Active Listening” and wrote an influential paper on the subject in 1957. Since then this idea has been used by many people in many fields. However, Gordon deserves credit for synthesizing these principles into a practical program for helping parents and children and popularizing them. Steven Covey, incidentally, uses these same three principles in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” In fact, of all Covey’s 7 habits, Habit 4, Empathic Listening, is probably the one that makes the most positive difference people’s success in life, and this is simply Active Listening in another form.

Keith’s Reflections:

When my wife and I were first exposed to the parenting philosophy and practices taught in this book, we were so impressed and motivated we signed up for the classes that would train us to apply it’s methods. It radically changed my parenting style, teaching me most of all to listen long and hard, reflectively and compassionately, to really understand what was happening for my kids before I jumped to a conclusion and applied a solution, discipline, or whatever. This book and the course based on it taught me to be a much more caring, accepting, empathetic, effective, and happy father.

I found Gordon’s chapter “Parents are Persons Not Gods” revealing and at times humiliating, though inspiring toward change. He explains and illustrates 12 roadblocks to effective parenting—mistakes all parents make at times. I may have identified with every one of them at some point in my early parenting failures. To understand why Gordon identifies these as mistakes (some of them don’t appear to be, at first, without understanding Gordon’s explanations), check out his helpful book.

Briefly stated, the 12 roadblocks are:

  1. Ordering, directing, commanding — telling the child to do something, giving him an order or command.
  2. Warning, admonishing threatening — telling the child what consequences will occur if she does something.
  3. Exhorting, moralizing, preaching — telling the child what he should or ought to do.
  4. Advising, giving solutions, or suggestions — telling the child how to solve a problem, providing answers or solutions for him.
  5. Lecturing, teaching, giving logical arguments — trying to influence the child with facts, logic, information, or your own opinions.
  6. Judging, criticizing, disagreeing, blaming — making a negative judgment of the child.
  7. Praising, agreeing — offering a positive evaluation or judgment.
  8. Name-calling, ridiculing, shaming — making the child feel foolish, shaming her.
  9. Interpreting, analyzing, diagnosing — telling the child what her motives are, communicating that you have her figured out.
  10. Reassuring, sympathizing, consoling, supporting — trying to make the child feel better, talking him out of his feelings, denying the strength of his feelings.
  11. Probing, questioning, interrogating — trying to find reasons, motives, causes; searching for more information to help you solve the problem.
  12. Withdrawing, distracting, humoring, diverting — trying to get the child away from the problem; distracting the child, kidding him out of it, pushing the problem aside.

I’m so grateful I not only found this book but also took the classes based on it. There is no question I’m a better father today because of this excellent and comprehensive parenting philosophy and the very practical parenting methods it promotes.

For More Information (and to find a workshop near you):


The Author:

This program was created by award-winning psychologist and three-time Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Dr. Thomas Gordon in 1962. A major revision of the P.E.T. program was completed in July, 2006 with up-to-date examples, new content and more.  (bio taken from

Target Audience:

The book really is targeted for all parents of children from birth to high school graduation, and perhaps beyond. As I suppose is true of all parenting books, the earlier parents learn the information and skills presented in this book, the better off they (and their children) will be! A parent who is struggling to work out a relationship with a teenage son or daughter will benefit profoundly from reading this book, even if it’s the first parenting book you’ve ever read. Parents of all aged children will find this training useful.

Parent Trainin


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Recent Posts

When Our Kids Amaze us

Have you had one of those moments when one of your kids amazed you with how grown up they seem, how articulate they are, or how mature they’ve become, as if you missed a few years of their development somehow? And there they are now, standing before you as a wonderful young man or woman. Where did the time go?

Who is this lovely creature?

I had that experience last May when my two oldest boys, JD and Cal, now sixteen and almost fifteen, went to their spring formal dressed in sport coats and ties. I looked at these two handsome young men in wonder. And truly they looked like men, and they carried themselves that way. I shook my head, and I felt so proud of them.


I had that wonder-filled experience again a few weeks ago when a friend of mine, Dr. Lori, suggested she interview my youngest son, Kai, about an experience he and I had with one of my painting customers (I’m bi-vocational). She heard Kai tell the story earlier and thought it would be great for other dads to hear. They had so much fun planning it together, and the idea quickly grew to include several other subjects, all related to The Great Dads Project.

I shot the video, and stood there with my mouth hanging open most of the time. I could hardly believe this was my little twelve-year-old son still in braces. His thoughts, ideas, suggestions, insights, humor, and his way with words floored me. Seriously, this kid could be an actor. He was so comfortable on camera, and carried himself with such poise, grace, and presence. I’m not kidding. I know, I’m his dad, I’m bound to think he’s great. But seriously, check this out for yourself, and see if you don’t think he’s as great as I do. Enjoy.


If you like this, leave a comment below, and share
a story about a time one of your kids amazed you.


To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

Large Book with Outline


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