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Instructor Interview: Sophie Nie

Instructor Interview: Sophie Nie

Written by Kathryn Tonges

Thank you Sophie for agreeing to be interviewed. You are an incredibly active and inspiring instructor and there is so much that other instructors can learn from your experience.

Sophie please tell us a little about yourself?

Hello everyone. My name is Sophie Nie.

I came from China. Back in University, I met two “foreign” teachers named Cameron and Julie from Australia. They taught me Spoken English and impressed me with Australian culture and society, which planted a seed in my mind to see what Australia is. Eight years ago, I moved to Australia with my husband and settled down in Melbourne. The next year, our lovely daughter Christina was born.

Since then, I started my parenting journey and connected with P.E.T. closely.

How did you first hear about P.E.T.? 

One day, I was reading a Chinese book named “Unconditional Parenting” written by Alfie Kohn and translated by Xiao Wu, a Chinese American author.

On the preface of the book, Xiao Wu highly recommended an 8-week P.E.T. parenting workshop facilitated by Kathryn Tonges, an experienced parenting educator in Australia.

I was greatly attracted by the Effective Parenting concept and contacted Kathryn about the workshop. Kathryn referred me to Judith Richardson an experienced P.E.T. instructor in Melbourne with whom I was finally trained.

What inspired you to become a P.E.T. instructor?

It was the change in my family that inspired me to become a P.E.T. instructor.

A crying baby, an anxious mother and a panicked father, that’s how it looked in my family five years ago. As new parents, and being raised by parents who didn’t receive any parenting training, especially me being a perfectionist, raising our daughter had been the greatest challenge I ever had in my life. It was far more challenging than any exams or work that I had ever taken.

After taking Judith’s 8-week P.E.T. workshop and with constant practice, great changes had taken place in my family. The first obvious change was that I could tell who actually owned the problem in the family. When my daughter was crying, I could stay calm and support her with what she needed instead of being frustrated, anxious and growing angry; when my husband got stuck in business, I would stand by his side and listen to him instead of kindly “helping” him with various roadblocks; when my own needs were not met, I would lie down and have a little rest, or give myself some treat, instead of starting to complain to others.

Gradually, everyone in our family was able to be responsible for our own business. Meanwhile, everyone was a great support to each other. Even my daughter became responsible for her own needs. Our family hadn’t been so peaceful and joyful before.

That change inspired me to get trained and become an instructor in the Chinese community. I wanted to support other parents who desperately needed support just as I needed years ago. I wanted to see more families become peaceful and happy after they learn a set of effective parenting skills.

To be honest, becoming an instructor is also my special way to keep lifelong learning. As indicated by the Learning Pyramid, teaching others is the most effective way of learning. My own facilitation experience has proved that I have been constantly learning through teaching and I have benefited most from P.E.T. workshops.

Sophie you have been very active in the Chinese community in Melbourne teaching P.E.T. courses and supporting participants, tell us what you have been doing and the variety of ways you have been engaging with people about P.E.T.

For the past three years, I have been actively running P.E.T. courses in the Chinese community in Melbourne. I have been engaging with people about P.E.T. mainly through the following ways.

One-on-one coaching:

I am open and available to friends and parents when they need support. I have constantly received phone calls from friends and parents regarding parent-child relationships, couple relationships, and family relationships. Usually I listen to them, facilitating them to change their mindset, and they usually leave by feeling empowered.

Group seminars:

These group seminars were given to Chinese community groups and educational groups, such as Melbourne Chinese Ethnic School, Rise and Shine Music School, Chinese Community Social Service Center, Early Learning Centers, etc. Parents are usually informed about the general knowledge and skills in Parenting. Apart from that, they had the chance to ask questions in their daily life. Sometimes, I gave P.E.T. books to parents as gifts.

Book clubs:

Over the last two years, I have organized several book clubs online. I read Dr Thomas Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training for five minutes every day, with some scripts from the book and my personal examples to explain it. I also read Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen, and other parenting books. Last year, around 1000 parents participated in our book club.

Professional lectures:

These lectures are given by parenting professionals, for example, Psychologists. They are my friends or teachers that I know personally or from social media. I invite them to my place, WeChat group or zoom meeting room to talk to the parents. Last year, I invited a psychologist from London named Maggie Shen to give a lecture on parenting while she was travelling in Melbourne. Around 30 parents attended the event at my house. Parents gave quite positive feedback on it.

Parenting workshops:

At the beginning of each term, I would start two or three parenting workshops. For example, one on Tuesday morning, one on Thursday night, and one on Saturday morning, to cater for parents’ different time preferences. These workshops usually last for a term, with 3 hours a week and 8 successive weeks. Parents benefit most from this plan.

Monthly catch-ups:

At the end of each workshop, I would announce a monthly catch-up plan. I encourage the participants to take turns to host the catchups. The host is responsible for managing the online group discussion, booking café, organizing catch-ups, taking down notes, etc. Each month, I attend the meeting with some new ideas and support participants who got stuck in their daily parenting practice.

Annual gathering:

At the end of the year, usually around Christmas, I will organize an annual gathering and encourage all parents to come. Last year, our annual gathering was enjoyable. We had a P.E.T. knowledge and skills contest at the beginning. Participants were formed in different workshop groups, racing to answer the questions, acting the real-life family scene. Followed by that, we had group games and activities. Last was our special gathering activity – Chinese cuisine sharing. Each participant brought a special family dish and everyone shared them together. There were lots of funny moments and beautiful memories.

How did you become known and market your P.E.T. courses?

By giving one-on-one coaching, group seminars, book clubs, professional lectures for free, more and more parents get to know about P.E.T. and they sign up the P.E.T. workshops to know more.

By follow-up services, such as monthly catch-ups and annual gatherings, graduates feel a sense of belonging and they would recommend P.E.T. to their family members and friends.

Congratulations Sophie, you have been authorized by ETIA Ltd as a P.E.T. National Trainer for the Chinese community in Australia. What will this mean for you?

I wholeheartedly appreciate the trust from Kathryn and ETIA National Management Team to authorize me as a P.E.T. National Trainer for the Chinese community in Australia. I am sincerely grateful to Judith Richardson, the Melbourne Instructor Trainer, who has been continuously supporting my personal growth and professional development. Apart from that, I am thankful to all instructors, for us learning and working together to make progress in our life and work.

More and more parents in the Chinese community have strong awareness and needs to learn parenting skills. As a parent-to-parent community program, I will encourage more P.E.T. graduates to step out and support other parents in the community, while also keeping lifelong learning themselves.

What are your future plans as a P.E.T. Instructor and National Instructor Trainer?

I will continue to raise parents’ awareness to learn scientific, systematic and effective parenting skills through free one-on-one coaching, group seminars, book clubs and other group activities.

I will continue to deliver P.E.T. workshops and train parents with a set of effective parenting skills, followed by catchup activities to reinforce their skills.

I will also encourage graduates to further study and be a P.E.T. instructor, and to support more parents around them.

In one sentence, I will do my best to empower instructors and participants while empowering myself.

Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for new instructors generally, and specifically if instructors have participants where English is a second language?

Generally speaking, I would encourage new instructors to be confident in themselves when delivering P.E.T. courses. Being a new instructor, you can’t be as experienced as Kathryn or Judith, but you are an accredited and qualified instructor with lots of real-life experience. As a new instructor, you have just gone through the troubles or worries that most parents are going through, and you have the most understanding and empathy for the participants. By looking at you, they see the possibility of becoming better parents and growing confidence in themselves Thus, you become the best example for the participants. I believe this will have a positive influence on the participants unconsciously.

I would advise new instructors to take good care of themselves before taking care of their family and reaching out to help other parents. I believe taking good care of ourselves is the key source of our continuous energy and attention. Everybody is different in ways of caring for themselves, either by sleep, entertainment, or spending time alone. Please remember to fill your own cup full before pouring to others.

I believe it is not easy to handle the situation when we have participants with different backgrounds and languages. By bearing in mind our common human nature we could make communication easier, and that everyone needs attention and understanding. Being open, inclusive and empathetic will make participants feel comfortable and just like at home. Then they will keep their mind open, which is the best way for them to embrace and absorb new ideas, concepts and skills.

Thank you Sophie for taking the time to share. I have been so inspired by what you do. ETIA wishes you all the very best as you take on your new role as a National Instructor Trainer for the Chinese Community.

Kathryn Tonges

Kathryn Tonges

Online Australia & NZ, QLD

I have been deeply rewarded seeing positive transformations in families by teaching P.E.T. effective communication skills since 1978. My two sons are now parents, and I am witness to their natural use of P.E.T. skills in all their interactions with children and people. My passion is to share these skills with others through these options: 1. Parent Effectiveness Training - for parents, grandparents, carers. 2. Be Your Best – personal empowerment skills for self, relationships, and the workplace. 3. Teacher Effectiveness Training – increases the quality of interactions between student and teacher with more teaching-learning time. 4. Instructor Training - I am a Master Trainer of P.E.T., B.Y.B., T.E.T. and Y.E.T. for ETIA Ltd. In my teaching career I taught from early childhood to tertiary level focusing on Child Development and Communication Skills. I lived in Beijing for seven years and conducted P.E.T. and B.Y.B. courses for expatriates as well as training expatriates to become P.E.T. instructors. I have written for parenting magazines in Beijing and Australia and blog for my website The Parent Within ( Whilst in Beijing I co-authored a book with P.E.T. Instructors I had trained, to help expatriate children cope with the changes in their life. In the last couple of years I have taken on the position of President of ETIA Ltd. Children, parenting, and effective communications continues to be my passion as I share these courses both online (Australia and NZ) or face to face in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast as well as coaching parents individually.

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About ETIA

The Effectiveness Training Institute of Australia (ETIA) Ltd is a not-for-profit, community based organisation that is dedicated to making courses in communication and conflict resolution skills available and accessible to all people in Australia.

ETIA’s mission is to provide individuals with effective communication and conflict resolution skills to build connected, harmonious relationships.

Our inspiration and programs come from the late Dr Thomas Gordon who is the author and founder of Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) program and Gordon Training International (GTI).

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