Parenting expert, Nicholeen Peck, is most well known for teaching Self-Government. Her definition of self-government is: Being able to determine the cause and effect of any given situation and possessing the knowledge of your own behaviors so that you can control them.

By understanding cause and effect we can learn how to control or change our behaviors to create better outcomes both for ourselves and those around us. There are four basic skills that will help us develop self-government. These skills will equip us to have more meaningful relationships. By mastering these skills we could eliminate up to 90% of our relational problems.

The four basic skills are:

  1. Following Instructions
  2. Accepting “No” Answers/Criticism
  3. Disagreeing Appropriately
  4. Accepting Consequences

In this article I will give you the steps to doing skills #1, 2 & 3. Next month I will give you the steps to skill #4, and will go over how to give a proper correction, and how to practice the four skills.

Skill #1: Following Instructions

There are five steps to following instructions.

  1. Look at the person. Stop what you are doing, make and maintain eye contact. This helps them know that you are listening and it shows respect for the other person. Steps 1 & 2 can also be applied to the one giving the instruction. If you have eye contact while giving an instruction the person receiving it is more likely to take you seriously and actually follow the instruction.
  2. Have a calm face, voice and body. Stay calm so you can think rationally and not react to the situation or person. At another time I will go into more detail on how we can practice being calm when we get into a situation that usually makes us frustrated, angered or annoyed.
  3. Say “OK” or ask to disagree appropriately. It is important for the person who just gave the instruction to know that we heard them. We can do this by saying “OK” and being OK too. I think it is a good habit to say “OK” and follow that by repeating back what you were instructed to do. For example, “Okay, I will sweep the kitchen.” Then there is no doubt for the person who asked you to sweep that you heard them and are going to do it. If you have reason to feel that the person instructing you may be lacking some knowledge of the situation, or you just desire to share your thoughts you can also ask to disagree appropriately. This is skill #3 and the steps for doing it are outlined below.
  4. Do the task immediately. If we don’t do what we were instructed to do immediately, are we really following instructions? We need to shew that we are dependable, quick to follow instructions and not easily distracted. This will help build trust between the instructor and the instructie.
  5. Check back. The importance of this is often overlooked but it is important for adults and children to practice checking back when their task is done. This looks like, “I swept the kitchen floor. Is there anything else you would like me to do?” This gives the instructor the opportunity to inspect your work and give you feedback – whether the task was well done (through praise or words of encouragement) or if you could use improvement in some area (constructive criticism). It also helps the instructor to know that you truly have completed the task just as you said you would.

Skill #2: Accepting “No” Answers/Criticism

We need to know how to be accepting when things are not what you would prefer.

  1. Look at the person speaking. (same as above)
  2. Have a calm face, voice and body. (same as above)
  3. Say “OK” (and be okay) or ask to disagree appropriately.

Drop the subject. This is the most difficult step to accepting no answers and criticism. When we drop the subject we choose not to mull over or think about the subject any longer. We drop it. We don’t keep trying to get what we want by whining, continually badgering, or by going to another person in authority to see if they will give us a different answer.

Skill #3: Disagreeing Appropriately

This skill helps us let someone else feel heard while we express ourselves appropriately so that we can feel heard as well.

  1. Look at the person. Maintaining eye contact says to the other person, “I value what you have to say.” It also helps you feel confident about expressing your thoughts/desires/opinions on the matter.
  2. Have a calm face, voice and body. Staying calm is crucial for being able to really hear what the other person is trying to say. It also helps you to appropriately express your thoughts in a way that the other person is more likely to listen to you.
  3. Ask to disagree appropriately. You might ask, “May I disagree?” Or “May I share with you my thoughts on the matter?” This gives the other person the ability to say yes or no. If they say “no” then you are probably better off not expressing your opinions to them because they are not ready to listen. If someone asks you if they may disagree with you, you should always give them the chance to share their thoughts. Remember that listening to someone’s thoughts doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. Explain your understanding of the other person’s view. You always want to start by helping the other person feel heard and understood before you express yourself. Even if you don’t agree with them you can still understand what they are trying to express to you. You would begin by saying, “I understand that you feel/think/want…” then:
  4. Explain your side (point of view). After explaining your side, you and the other person may need to make a decision on how to handle the situation. If a decision is necessary, try to come to an acceptable decision that both parties will be okay with. If you are speaking with someone who is in authority over you (eg. a child disagreeing with a parent) then you will need to allow the one in authority to make the decision and your next step is to say, “OK” and be okay with the decision that is made.
  5. Drop the subject. This is the hardest thing to do but it is what makes peace in relationships. We will not all agree with each other on everything but we can at least feel heard. Accepting the fact that someone else doesn’t see things how you do, and being okay with not trying to change that person’s opinion is huge. By dropping the subject we will stop thinking about it and trying to bring up the subject whenever we are with that person. We have heard them and they have heard us. You should not pursue it any further unless the other person asks to hear more of your point of view on the subject.

(Part 2 will be continued next time looking at skill #4.)

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