Good Parenting: Advanced Skills For The Savvy Parent


In a previous post we spoke about the benefits of using “I” statements with our near and dear ones. We discussed how “I” statements can be used to help us parents, stop accusing and blaming. We also mentioned how we can use “I” statements to help us teach our kids what is important to us: our values, principles and belief systems.

Similarly we can also use “I” statements to confront our kids about their poor behavior.
Thomas Gordon of Parent Effectiveness Training talks about how we need to use the Confrontive “I” message to help our kids understand their misbehavior and help them improve their actions.

It has 3 elements:

1. Description of child’s undesirable behavior:

When you describe your child’s behavior you want to say something neutral, like:

“When the toys are left out…”
“When there is arguing between siblings…”
“When the dog is left hungry…”

You should try to avoid using judgment statements or what Gordon calls, “triggering catch words” like, “you always” and “you never.”:

“When you always leave the toys so messy…”
“When you never leave your sister alone and are so mean to her…”
“When you are so irresponsible and forget to feed the dog…”

2. Description of the tangible, negative effects it has upon you:

Gordon explains that a behavior will have a negative tangible effect upon you if it will:

a. Cost you time, money or even your energy that you would have rather used for something else:

Your time could be impacted if you have to clean up a mess because your child was being irresponsible with his toys or food. Or if a child is playing with the toothpaste and wasting, it can require another trip to the store, which would take up your time, energy and cost you money.

b. Prevents you from doing something you want or need to do:

If your child is refusing to get dressed and you need to get to a doctor’s appointment. If your children are fighting and you can’t get dinner ready because you have to mediate.

c. Assaults your body or senses:

Loud noises that give you a headache, hitting, or flicking on and off lights which can be annoying.

d. Causes partial or complete loss of some use, enjoyment or pride:

It could be a broken bike or toy, stained clothing or lost jewelry.

So you would add on to your description of your child’s negative behavior the following:

“When the toys are left out, I need to spend extra time cleaning…
“When there is arguing between sibling, I find the noise distracting…”
“When the dog is left hungry, I have to stop what I am doing… ”

3. Description of your feelings

The last part of the Confrontive “I” message should let your child know how his/her actions make you feel.

You can use the following feeling words:


To put it all together a Confrontive “I” message looks like this:

“When the toys are left out, I need to spend extra time cleaning and I get upset because I don’t have time to relax.

“When there is arguing between sibling, I find the noise distracting and I get frustrated that dinner is not made in a timely fashion”

“When the dog is left hungry, I have to stop what I am doing and feed him. I worry that he is not being taken care of properly. ”

When I first read about the Confrontive “I” message, it sounded very technical to me. It felt like diagramming a sentence, which I hated doing way back when in 8th grade. After explaining it here in the article it definitely makes more sense to me.

Let us know what you think. Too technical or easily understood?
Comment below:


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