Book Reviews

PDF versions for download:  1 Book Review – Games Students Play      2 Book Review – Games People Play      3 Book Review – Between Parent and Child      4 Book Review – I’m OK–You’re OK                 5 Book Review – Getting Past No


My project required me to write five book reviews, of books that were relevant to classroom management.  I looked for ones that were not the typical classroom management books because I felt I had already seen much of current material through online sources.  My choices were:

Games Students Play  by Ken Ernst

Games People Play by Eric Berne

Between Parent and Child by Thomas A. Harris, M.D.

I’m OK — You’re OK by Thomas A. Harris, M.D.

Getting Past No by William Ury

You can read the PDF versions (above) or read the reviews in full below.



Games Students Play by Ken Ernst, published 1975 by Celestial Arts, ISBN 0-912310-16-2

This book uses the concept of Transactional Analysis from Games People Play and applies it to the classroom.

Games Students Play (GSP) is an application of transactional analysis techniques specifically for the classroom.  Transactional analysis is defined by Wikipedia as

psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy wherein social transactions are analyzed to determine the ego state of the patient (whether parent-like, child-like, or adult-like) as a basis for understanding behavior. In transactional analysis, the patient is taught to alter the ego state as a way to solve emotional problems. The method deviates from Freudian psychoanalysis which focuses on increasing awareness of the contents of unconsciously held ideas. Eric Berne developed the concept and paradigm of transactional analysis in the late 1950s. (Wikipedia, “Transactional analysis”, accessed 21Feb2018)

The book starts out with a description of what the “games” are and how the “players” operate in them.  In particular, how the students are the players and how they use the games to disrupt the teacher and the classroom goals.

The word “game” in this book is used in a specific sense.  A game has a seemingly plausible and innocent surface statement, or opening move, which is aimed at getting a sympathetic response from a listener.  If this response is given, the game goes into more detailed maneuvers, with two or more players engaged.

The players choose specific rules which are interchangeable, and the play is conducted in a way ranging from passive to aggressive – that is, to a soft, medium, or hard degree.  These psychological games are not much like childhood games; they are more closely allied to thoughtful activities like chess, contract bridge, or puzzle-solving.

Every game has predictable causes, moves, and payoffs.  Of course, no two games … are exactly alike… But the moves are not random.  The informed teacher or parent can spot the rules governing the seemingly random moves made by the players.

The essential characteristics of a game is that it has two levels – one obvious and the other ulterior.

(GSP, page 9)

It also points out how someone who is savvy to these games can begin to identify them and shut them down.

When anything goes badly in school, this “game detector” can help him figure out who is trying to do what to whom and how to stop it, if it needs stopping.  Games Students Play is designed for this purpose.

Everyone, in effect, plays some sort of game; but some players address themselves to the constructive side of life and should be encouraged, while others are playing for ends that can only be called anti-social.  The first problem for any player, of course, is to know what game he is playing, and then to follow the rules as carefully as possible.  Knowing them, he can avoid games and get on with more creative objectives.

(GSP, page 10)

The book presents a fictional teacher, Mr. Johnson, whose students are playing various games in his classroom.  We access his thought processes and strategies to see how he begins to deal with these games.

Teachers are paid to teach.  Disruptions interfere with the job.  What does the teacher do with a disruptor?

He had long ago learned to listen carefully to roll responses.  He had learned to listen for the opening move in a long series of transactions that are not happenstance, not coincidental, but as subconsciously calculated … Each student had an objective in mind and a favorite strategy to use.

Every student … had long ago learned what to expect from his mother and father and other grownups.  Each had learned the best way of getting along in the world of mom, dad, and other big people.

By watching someone’s behavior, words, intonation, facial expressions, gestures, and mannerism a person can begin to see basically three distinct ego states or personalities.  With practice he can see which of these is in control of a person at any one time.

(GSP, pages 13-14)

The ego states are listed without much definition.  See Games People Play for more details.

These three distinct personalities will be shown as three circles:  Parent, Adult, and Child.

The Child ego state or Child personality is the same one the person had when he was eight or younger.

(GSP, page 15)

The book gives an example of one type of Child state and how to recognize it from its physical manifestations.

… her head was tipped up and tilted to one side.  There were already visible horizontal lines etched on her forehead.  Her jaw jutted.  Her eyes would snap shut for two or three seconds at a time with the eyeball looking up.  She was a perfect example of the defiant Child listener.

(GSP, page 15)

It then continues to give a description of the other two states.

The Adult ego state is basically a computer.  It receives information through the senses, stores it logically, recalls data, and makes predictions.  The Adult, like a computer, has no feelings or emotions.  It develops gradually during the years of childhood and, if given a chance, throughout life.

Mr. Johnson’s Parent ego state is behavior copied from his own parents and modified by copying other authority figures.  When he is in his Parent ego state, Mr. Johnson is like a cassette recorder.  He plugs in an old tape that his mother, father, uncle, or someone else gave him.  Then he will play it through, often with his father’s mannerisms and inflections.

(GSP, page 16)

The Parent state has parts or functions, along with cautions on how they can be overused.

The Parent ego state has two basic functions.  One is nurturing, taking care of the young and protecting them without qualification.  This is a good and necessary function, even though it can be overused to the point of being smothering and over-protective.  The other function of the Parent is to act on prejudiced ideas, which have been accepted uncritically, and which came largely from one’s own parents, grandparents, and teachers.  It is a real advantage to be able to act quickly and without much thought in solve many everyday problems; it would be enormously time-consuming to subject every small daily problem to careful rational scrutiny.  But the prejudiced or critical Parent can also be overused, filling the person in that ego state with many inappropriate “Do’s” and “Don’ts.”

(GSP, page 16)

Similarly, the Child state has two parts.

The natural or free Child is curious, fun-loving, spontaneous, creative.  The adapted or compliant Child state developed in response to pressure from one’s own parents, and acts in ways calculated to please or satisfy them.

(GSP, page 17)

Finally, we get a glimpse of the motivation behind the game playing.

… will play their games … with those persons who promise the most attention in return.  The “when” can be explained by the concept of “trading stamps.”

… Psychological stamps, like the paper variety, come in regular and giant sizes.

There is a physiological reason for collecting psychological trading stamps.  It is that one of the main functions of the brain is to store energy.  Sometimes when we can’t get what we want immediately we have to wait.  We store the desire until we can satisfy it later.

Children learn early how to collect psychological stamps and what to trade them for.

The only difference between paper trading stamps and psychological stamps is that the latter can be reused.

(GSP, page 18)


After this introduction, the book lists game types, varieties, and categories.  The first category is the “Trouble-Maker Games.”  Its first variety is “Disruptor Games” and the first game listed is “Uproar.”


In this scenario, the fictional student, Muriel, initiates the game with a loud, whining response to Mr. Johnson’s mispronunciation of her name.  Mr. Johnson has to analyze Muriel’s approach and determine an effective response.

The book gives us a description of how “Uproar” is played.

… an advanced “Uproar” player, is determined to get all authority figures to play “Uproar” or an allied game.  Her opening attack included knuckle-cracking, gum-popping, finger-tapping, pen-clicking, hair-combing, dress-straightening, pencil-sharpening, paper-rattling, clock-watching, coughing, whispering, pencil and book-dropping, paper-tossing, note-passing, turning around, wiggling, coming in late, acting stupid, and trying to sidetrack the lecture.

… “bugging” the teacher with a series of small incidents to force him to blow up at her.  If Mr. Johnson controlled his temper, she had him at bay and could continue to goad him until he did blow up.  Then she would win; she could complain to her friends, other teachers, the principal, and to her parents that he was “unfair” and had picked on her.  Her whole aim was to get a game of “Uproar” going.

(GSP, page 17)

Mr. Johnson has several possible responses.

  1. Blow up and bawl out Muriel, as the Tyrant Teacher might.

  2. Suffer in silence, as the Martyr Teacher might.

  3. Feel hurt, as the Whining Teacher might.

  4. Argue, as the Scrapping Teacher might.

  5. Kick her out, as the Impatient Teacher might.

  6. Fear her, as the Timid Teacher might.

  7. Turn her game off by using the Transactional Analysis suggested in this book.

(GSP, page 19)

The book gives descriptions of the different “teacher types”.  As you can see from the list, all are reactions a person might have in this situation and the book gives reasons why the first six are not effective.

The seventh item, using transactional analysis, is explored in detail.

…He should look for the reasons people play this game, and very carefully the antithesis, or how to turn off the game. … She wants attention.

(GSP, page 25)

Mr. Johnson also needs to form a very specific goal for his response.

Muriel is an “Uproar” player with sixteen years of experience.  Mr. Johnson has to remember that he is not likely to change her life style.  What he aims for is to knock off the disruptive part of the game in his classroom.

(GSP, page 28)

The book then lists the steps Mr. Johnson can take to shut down Muriel’s game of “Uproar.”

  1. He confirms she is an “Uproar” player. … If she gets punished regularly for noisy and provocative behavior, he can be sure she is a game player.

  2. He tells her in a calm and firm Adult voice to see him after school. This is a critical point.  Johnson has practiced his Parent, Adult, and Child voices, using a tape recorder to learn the difference.  Muriel is looking for a Parent voice, so he must take special care to be clearly Adult.

  3. This step is taken when Muriel comes in after school. It will only be effective if made without a Parent criticism. … Mr. Johnson tells Muriel about the game of “Uproar” and explains how the game interferes with work and interferes with friendship.

  4. Johnson explains that he is a teacher and that he is paid to help students learn. He must also prevent disruptions.

  5. He tells her that school is like a free supermarket. The student can go in, load up, and leave without paying because her parents have already paid.  If Muriel does not like the grocery clerk she can get even with him by not taking the goodies, or she can ignore her dislike for him and load up anyway.

  6. Johnson does not reply directly to any of Muriel’s “Uproar” comments. His reply is to listen.  Active or reflective listening gives verbal feedback of the content and a guess at the feeling implicit in the spoken words or acts.  Mr. Johnson might say to Muriel’s complaints, “Class seemed boring today and you are angry at having your name mispronounced.  Is that right?”

  7. The final step is for Mr. Johnson to establish some sort of rapport with Muriel or get another faculty member to do so.

(GSP, pages 26 – 27)

The point of the last step is to give Muriel positive attention, to give her the opportunity to stop the “Uproar” game because she can get the attention she craves in a meaningful way.

The next game is a variation of “Uproar” but differs in a significant way.

“Chip on the Shoulder”

In this scenario, Dean is a student who only initiates his game when he has his “chip knocked off his shoulder.”  Dean has a sensitive spot, his “chip”, and creates a ruckus to deflect attention away from himself when that chip is knocked off, whereas Muriel actively looked for opportunities to play “Uproar.”

The given antithesis is “to find out what the student is trying to avoid and then offer him a mutually acceptable alternative.”  (GSP, pg 30)


Here Denny would do things that others would find “stupid”, like bringing the wrong book to class or holding the wrong end of the baseball bat.  He did this so often that after a while, people would call him “stupid” while others would make excuses for him.

Mr. Johnson observed Denny and noticed a pattern in his behavior.  Basically, Denny would initiate a “stupid” move in front of an audience, be made fun of, then would smile slyly.  Apparently, Denny used this game to get attention, much like Muriel did.

From this observation, Mr. Johnson confronted Denny in a friendly way, letting Denny know he was aware of the game playing.  Although it did not cure Denny of the behavior entirely, it did stop the game in Mr. Johnson’s classroom.


This student would imitate Mr. Johnson to make the class laugh.  The book points out that this isn’t necessarily a game, however Mr. Johnson needs to make sure he doesn’t react negatively as long as the behavior is not disrupting class.


This student causes problems by “messing up” other people’s possessions.  For example, knocking papers off a desk or stepping on someone’s purse on the floor.  Most reactions fall in two categories, “persecutor” or “rescuer.”  The persecutor gets angry and the rescuer forgives.  In either case, the “Schlemiel” gets the attention he or she seeks and is tempted to behave this way again.  The antithesis offered is to “be told plainly and in an emotionless Adult voice” (GSP, pg 36) not to handle or touch things, and if the student complains that is unfair, to agree.

Make Me

This student doesn’t do the required work and, in some way, demands that the teacher force them to do it.  This is a challenge to the teacher’s authority.  The antithesis is for the teacher to “set up clear choices and consequences.   If Laura does the work, fine.  If she doesn’t, that is her problem.” (GSP, pg 37)  The book also recommends reducing “I” statements from the teacher, like “What I want you to do is this” since that now makes the work to be done for the teacher, instead of for the student herself.


The book summarizes these six disruptor games by emphasizing that the teacher does not provide the “payoff” the player is looking for.  The responses should be in the calm Adult voice and the teacher should look to give positive attention to replace the negative attention the student may be seeking.

The next variety of disruptor games is the delinquent variety.  These are “Let’s Find”, where the students get into trouble; “Cops and Robbers”, where the students break rules and try to fool the teachers; and “Want Out”, where the student works to get kicked out of school but then sneaks back in.

Delinquent games are especially likely to be played by those who are having identity problems.  To help in establishing his identity to himself and others, every growing youngster makes some identifying mark on a wall, a piece of furniture, or a tree.  As he grows and proceeds through school he will decide on a series of best ways to “leave his mark.” … If a delinquent game player leaves a mark he is assured that his mark is more likely to be permanent.  (GSP, pg 45)

The book lists a variety of physical cues to help the reader identify the various ego states on pages 49 through 51.  It emphasizes that these cues must be taken in their cultural context and that the manifestations may be only a few seconds in duration, so often the teacher has a subliminal feeling for the situation.

It also cautions,

Each student sees and hears those things that fits his script and the games in it.  No psychological game is played alike twice, …, but the patterns, the rules, and the positions remain alike.

Each game a student plays will be played only as long as the teacher and/or the students also play.  Learning about the games that are played in the classroom will help to turn off the one which interfere with education.

There will be cases in which the teacher cannot turn off the turmoil.  The choice of action cannot be random.  Each action must be antithetical to the specific game.  What game a person plays is determined by the person’s script, or unconscious life play, and his position, or how he sees himself or others.

(GSP, pg 53)


The second category of games is called “Put-Down Games”, with the goal of psychological one-upmanship.  The variety is “Discount.”


Take an insult or a hurt for someone, disguise or sugarcoat it, and you have the game of “Sweetheart.”  The reason for sugarcoating is the rule of politeness.  …  The only way to disagree and at the same time be compliant is to disguise the disagreement.  (GSP, pg 59)

Antithesis:  This is a harmless game in itself.  When it is pulled on Mr. Johnson, he has learned to not take offense at the remarks.  He refuses the depression or anger stamps.  He looks at the comment, picks out the “nice” candy-coating part and thanks the “Sweetheart” player for that.  (GSP, pg 60)


Basically fault-finding, no matter how small, by the player who wants the “perfect” teacher.  Generally, not a disruption in the classroom.  Sometimes shows up with administration.

The second variety is “Complainer.”

Why Does It Always Happen to Me?

The student feels sorry for himself and complains about how everything wrong always happens to him.  The way to reduce this game is to have a list of assignments or duties that the student is aware of and removes the teacher from the responsibility of it.


The student claims interest in getting the work done as long as the teacher is reminding him of it, but when left to actually do the work, fails to accomplish it and has a lot of excuses.  The goal is to put in minimum effort and get the Parent ego of the teacher to be in charge.  The antithesis is to put the responsibility onto the student with clearly defined goals and deadlines.

Why Don’t You – Yes, But

The student has many excuses why the work can’t be done.  The teacher offers suggestions, but the student always has a reason why it won’t work.  One way to shut this down is for the teacher to say, “That is quite a problem.  What do you intend to do about it?”  (GSP, pg 67)

Late Paper

The student claims the work is done but forgotten at home and says he will bring it in later.  However, it never makes it in.  The book suggests that the deadline be made earlier than really wanted or made flexible.

Wooden Leg

The student uses a real or imagined disability as an excuse to avoid doing work.  The suggested solution is to offer an alternative assignment, which diffuses the complaint in the classroom.


The third category is “Tempter Games.”  These are games of subtlety and its variety is “Kissy.”


The student is willing to work for one teacher but not another.  Often the student sees the preferred teacher as a parent figure, and he wants to please him or her.  The solution offered is for the second teacher, and suggests that teacher try to make a connection with the student, too.

Lil Ol’ Me

The student attempts to manipulate the teacher by agreeing with everything he says and proclaiming her life has been changed by the teacher’s words.  The teacher avoids this manipulation by recognizing the game.

The next tempter variety is called “Trap-Baiter.”

Let’s You and Him Fight

The student tries to get two people (presumably the teacher and another student) to argue by making provocative statements.  The trap-baiter then watches the battle ensue.  The antithesis is to put the question back to the baiter.

Miss Muffet

The student tells his parent or non-teacher authority a twisted version of what the teacher said or did in the classroom.  This gives the parent an opportunity to react strongly and become enraged at what was said or done around their darling child.  The antithesis is to explain using the Adult ego state and, under no circumstances, try to defend against the accusations.

Let ‘em Have It

The student bothers the instructor repeatedly until the instructor tells him to make an appointment or to quit bothering her.  Then the student tells a parent or non-teacher authority that the teacher doesn’t like him or is picking on him.  The solution is to tell the student early on in the game to stop being a bother.

High and Proud

The student flaunts foul language, rude or offensive images, or poor behavior, intending to provoke a reaction.  The solution is to ignore it unless it breaks a school rule, then respond with a calm Adult voice to define the rule.

Do Me Something

The student’s attitude is “Try to teach me” with the obvious goal of showing the teacher he won’t be taught.  The antithesis is to avoid “I” statements.


The other listed games deal directly with students who tempt the teacher or classmates with sexual behavior.  The best deflection is to avoid any sort of response that could be interpreted as an interested response.


The final category is “Teacher Games”, game that teachers or administrators might play with other teachers.  Many are variations on the student games listed above.


My Response to Games Students Play

I found the game descriptions to be helpful as I could bring up an example from my own teaching experience for many of them.  I realized that I had identified them as a sort of game-playing, although I wasn’t aware of it in the same detail as pointed out in the book.  “Uproar” is one that I have seen many times, with variations, and the behavioral cues the book listed was astonishingly enlightening.  I hope to be more adept at shutting it down the next time it occurs.

Some of the games listed I felt were not ones that would occur in a community college classroom.  The fact that we only have our students for short times a few days a week cuts down on the solution of spending time getting to know them better outside the classroom or talking to other teachers about the student’s previous behavior.  Those are the games that I either summarized very quickly or just mentioned in passing.

Some of the solutions are also not ones I would use as a professor.  For example, allowing flexible deadlines or alternative assignments because a student plays some sort of delaying game.  I feel this does the student a disservice in making him believe deadlines are negotiable or worthless.   And although the book claims that removing a student from the classroom is not a solution and just passes the problem on to someone else, I feel it is a valid solution for a student who refuses to stop disrupting my class.

My thoughts focused strongly on the idea that my job is to teach, and I should not allow any student to disrupt that.  I appreciated how the book emphasized the need to shut down the game playing quickly, before it escalates.  I also have a better understanding of my own ego state reactions to the situations, so I might be able to shift from a reactive Parent state to a more thoughtful Adult state.

What I hope to apply to my classroom is a heightened awareness of the game-playing, an appropriate set of shutting down strategies, and better control of my own emotional reaction in the classroom.



Games People Play by Eric Berne, M.D.; Random House Publishing, 2004; ISBN 978-0-345-41003-0

I read this book after reading Games Students Play, when I realized I needed a deeper understanding of the concepts, terminology, and ideas.  That is the focus of this review.  This book has a lot of text devoted to helping a counselor or therapist manage clients, which is not relevant to my purpose.


This book was originally written in 1962 and it became extremely popular.  Its terms became part of the pop culture in the 1960s and 70s.  Today people recognize that “transactional analysis is a serious cognitive-behavioral approach to treatment and that it also has very effective ways of dealing with internal models of self and others as well as other psychodynamic issues.” (GPP, pg vi)

I was interested in the book’s detailed description of the three ego states: Child, Parent, Adult.

Berne described ego states as coherent ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving that occur together.  Today, we can also conceptualize them as the manifestations of specific neural networks in the brain.  Thanks to advances in neuroimaging, neural networks can actually be visualized.

Berne labeled networks that develop early in life as Child ego states.  When we activate one of these, we act like the child we once were.  Networks which represent the internalization of the people who raised us, as we experienced them, Berne named Parent.  When in Parent we think, feel, and act like one of our parents or like someone who took their place.  Ego states which deal with the here and now in a nonemotional way are called Adult.  When in Adult, we appraise reality objectively and make fact-based decisions, while making sure that Child or Parent emotions or ideas do not contaminate the process.

It should be noted that ego states are real and observable, not hypothetical like the ego, id, and superego of psychoanalysis.  It should also be noted that we all have three ego states and that we energize different ones depending on what is appropriate to the time and circumstances.  That is, the Adult, which is an ego state or a group of ego states, is not the same thing as a grown-up adult human being.

Once an ego state is recognized, it is more easily recognized again, and this conceptualization gives us a way to describe transactions between ego states within the individual or between different people.

(GPP, pg viii)

The above text is from the introduction written in 2004.  What follows is a description from Berne’s original writing.

In technical language, an ego state may be described phenomenologically as a coherent system of feelings, and operationally as a set of coherent behavior patterns.  …  Each individual seems to have available a limited repertoire of such ego states, which are not roles but psychological realities.  This repertoire can be sorted into the following categories:  (1) ego states which resemble those of parental figures (2) ego states which are autonomously directed toward objective appraisal of reality and (3) those which represent archaic relics, still-active ego states which were fixated in early childhood.

The position is, then, that at any given moment each individual in a social aggregation will exhibit a Parental, Adult, or Child ego state, and that individuals can shift with varying degrees of readiness from one ego state to another.

(GPP, pgs 23-24)

He goes on to describe the purpose or value of these ego states to an individual.

Ego states are normal psychological phenomenon.  … Each type of ego state has its own vital value for the human organism.

In the Child reside intuition, creativity and spontaneous drive and enjoyment.

The Adult is necessary for survival.  It process data and computes the probabilities which are essential for dealing effectively with the outside world. … Another task of the Adult is to regulate the activities of the Parent and the Child, and to mediate objectively between them.

The Parent has two main functions.  First, it enables the individual to act effectively as the parent of actual children, thus promoting the survival of the human race.  … Secondly, it makes many responses automatic, which conserves a great deal of time and energy.  Many things are done because “That’s the way it’s done.”  This frees the Adult from the necessity of making innumerable trivial decisions, so that it can devote itself to more important issues, leaving routine matters to the Parent.

Thus all three aspects of the personality have a high survival and living value, and it is only when one or the other of them disturbs the healthy balance that analysis and reorganization are indicated.  Otherwise each of them, Parent, Adult, and Child, is entitled to equal respect and has its legitimate place in a full and productive life.

(GPP, pgs 27-28)

The book then describes Transactional Analysis.  It starts with defining terms.

The unit of social intercourse is called a transaction.  If two or more people encounter each other in a social aggregation, sooner or later one of them will speak, or give some other indication of acknowledging the presence of the others.  This is called transactional stimulus.  Another person will then say or do something which is in some way related to this stimulus, and that is called the transactional response.  Simple transactional analysis is concerned with diagnosing which ego state implemented the transactional stimulus, and which one executed the transactional response.

Both these transactions are complementary; that is, the response is appropriate and expected and follows the natural order of healthy human relationships.

The first rule of communication is that communication will proceed smoothly as long as transactions are complementary; and its corollary is that as long as transactions are complementary, communication can, in principle, proceed indefinitely.

(GPP, pgs 29-30)

The book points out that complementary transactions tend to be the ones where the ego states match up, for example the stimulus is from an Adult to an Adult, and the response is from an Adult to an Adult; or the stimulus is from a Child to a Parent and elicits a response from a Parent to a Child.

It then says that communication is “broken off when a crossed transaction occurs.” (GPP, pg 30).  For example, the stimulus is from an Adult to an Adult, but the response is from a Child to a Parent.  It gives a specific instance of this:

The stimulus is Adult-Adult: e.g., “Maybe we should find out why you’ve been drinking more lately,” or, “Do you know where my cuff links are?”  The appropriate Adult-Adult response in each case would be: “Maybe we should.  I’d certainly like to know!” or, “On the desk.”  If the respondent flares up, however, the responses will be something like “You’re always criticizing me, just like my father did,” or, “You always blame me for everything.”  These are both Child-Parent responses …  In such cases the Adult problems about drinking or cuff links must be suspended … Either the agent must become Parental as a complement to the respondent’s suddenly activated Child, or the respondent’s Adult must be reactivated to the agent’s Adult.

(GPP, pg 31)

There is a distinction between the types of complementary transactions.

Simple complementary transactions most commonly occur in superficial working and social relationships, and these are easily disturbed by simple crossed transactions.  In fact a superficial relationship may be defined as one which is confined to simple complementary transactions.  Such relationships occur in activities, rituals and patterns.  More complex are ulterior transactions – those involving the activity of more than two ego states simultaneously – and this category is the basis for games.  Salesmen are particularly adept at angular transactions, those involving three ego states.

(GPP, pg 33)

The idea of the salesman’s angular transactions is that the transaction may be Adult-Adult at the social level but Adult-Child at the psychological level.  The salesman directs the overt statement to the Adult of the person to whom he wishes to sell something, but the underlying implication is to the Child in order to manipulate the person to buy.

There is also a duplex ulterior transaction that involves four ego states, often seen in flirtation, where the comments are Adult-Adult, but the psychological implications are Child-Child.

There are distinctions between procedures, rituals, pastimes, and games.  They all serve to help us structure time.  In particular,

A game is an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome.  Descriptively it is a recurring set of transactions. often repetitious, superficially plausible, with a concealed motivation; or, more colloquially, a series of moves with a snare, or “gimmick.”  Games are clearly differentiated from procedures, rituals, and pastimes by two chief characteristics:  (1) their ulterior quality and (2) the payoff. … Every game … is basically dishonest, and the outcome has a dramatic, as distinct from merely exciting, quality.

(GPP, pg 48)

While there are games that are consciously planned, “What we are concerned about here, however, are the unconscious games played by innocent people engaged in duplex transactions of which they are not fully aware, and which form the most important aspect of social life all over the world.” (GPP, pg 49).

There is a structure or scheme to analyzing games.  The steps are:

    1. Thesis – “a general description of the game, including the immediate sequence of events” (GPP, pg 52)
    2. Antithesis – the moves or reactions that are needed to undercut the payoff or to stop the game.
    3. Aim – the general purpose of the game, or its alternatives
    4. Roles – who is playing which part, as based on the ego states used in the game
    5. Dynamics – the driving force behind the game
    6. Examples – to help understand the game’s origins and to assist in the formal description; often referring to children’s games because that is often how the adult games are formed
    7. Transactional paradigm – a description of the social and psychological levels that reveal the ulterior transaction
    8. Moves – the behaviors or transactions used by the players
    9. Advantages – what the players get out of the game playing; could be biological, existential, social, or psychological
    10. Relatives – complementary, allied, or antithetical games

The book also addresses the function of games in more detail.

Because there is so little opportunity for intimacy in daily life, and because some forms of intimacy are psychologically impossible for most people, the bulk of the time in serious social life is taken up with playing games.  Hence games are both necessary and desirable, and the only problem at issue is whether the games played by an individual offer the best yield for him.  In this connection is should be remembered that the essential feature of a game is its culmination, or payoff.  The principal function of the preliminary moves is to set up the situation for this payoff, but they are always designed to harvest the maximum permissible satisfaction at each step as a secondary product.

(GPP, pg 61)

One important point:  most games are identified and described by therapists, as seen in people who play destructive games.  There are also constructive games.  For example, “to go around asking for advice about how best to help people.  This is an example of a jolly and constructive game worth encouraging.”  (GPP, pg 80)

A “good” game might be described as one whose social contribution outweighs the complexity of its motivations, particularly if the player has come to terms with those motivations without futility or cynicism.  That is, a “good” game would be one which contributes both to the well-being of the other players and to the unfolding of the one who is “it.”

(GPP, pg 163)

The thesaurus of games I found worth reading, both to see what games my students might play and to understand what games I might play or have encountered in my life, but I am not going to try to list them in this review.

The book then discusses the significance of games.

    1. Historical – “Games are passed on from generation to generation. … Games may be diluted or altered from one generation to another, but there seems to be a strong tendency to inbreed with people who play a game of the same family, if not of the same genus.” (GPP, pg 171)
    2. Cultural – “’Raising’ children is primarily a matter of teaching them what games to play.” (GPP, pg 171)
    3. Social – Social time needs to be structured. It can be filled with pastimes and/or intimacy, but pastimes can get boring and intimacy is often scary or socially forbidden.  Playing games can be a compromise activity.
    4. Personal – “People pick as friends, associates and intimates other people who play the same games. Hence ‘everybody who is anybody’ in a given social circle … behaves in a way which may seem quite foreign to members of a different social circle.” (GPP, pg 172)


My Response to Games People Play

It met my need in that it gave me a better understanding of the terminology, concepts, and ideas presented in the Games Students Play book.  I feel that, as an amateur, I can now reflect on my teaching experiences and start identifying the games my students have played and be aware of any that arise in the future.  I also feel that I can examine my own reactions from the ego state perspective and attempt to respond appropriately to the student games while also reducing the chance that I might be playing a game with the students.

I was grateful for the knowledge that there are good games, as I was beginning to think that game playing as a social interaction could only be destructive.  Seeing the various types of game significance helped with my attitude toward games, too.

Chapter 15 gives an example of an Adult-Adult conversation that contained certain words or phrases which I thought would have sparked an argument or petulant Child reaction.  The book includes a discussion as to why they didn’t cause problems, pointing out the Adult analytical aspect of the conversation.  I appreciated this because it is helpful to know the difference between the Adult response and the Child response.




Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim G. Ginott, Avon Books, ISBN 0-380-00821-1

I first read this book around 1989 and it greatly influenced my child-rearing practices.  In fact, it influenced the way I speak to everyone, especially during conflicts.  After reading Games Students Play and Games People Play, I thought it was worthwhile rereading this book to see how its ideas connected with theirs.  This review only covers the parts I thought are relevant to the community college classroom.

If you pay attention to how people talk to each other, both spontaneously and scripted (as in television or movie shows), you can see we have a culturally-implanted habit of using insults.  Phrases like “you shouldn’t have done that, you idiot” or “that was a stupid thing to do” or “obviously you can’t do this” are common.  Between Parent and Child points this out and reveals the internal emotional reactions people have to them.  It also offers alternatives which allow us to communicate with others in a more productive, less reactive way.

While its focus is on communications between parents and their children, in the summary I will interpret it for communication between teachers and their students.


The book presents a conversation between three women and the group leader.  The leader describes a scenario:  it is a busy morning and, in getting everyone ready for school and work, the toast is burned.  Then the leader gives different reactions the husband could have: (1) “My God!  When will you ever learn to make toast!”, (2) “Let me show you, honey, how to make toast.”, or (3) “Gee, honey, it is a rough morning for you – the baby, the phone, and now the toast.”  (BPC, pgs 28-29) Each woman responds to the husband’s comments and it is clear that the third reaction was the one that was appreciated and did not cause resentment.

The first two comments caused the women to feel anger at their husbands while the third communicated compassion and support during a difficult moment.

The women realized that they tended to use comments like (1) and (2) when communicating with their children.  It was then they realized why their children reacted so negatively to them.  They also recognized that their own parents talked to them the same way when they were children, and how much they hated it.  In fact, some commented how much they hated themselves when they heard themselves talking like that to their children.

What they realized in themselves and in their children is:

When a child is in the midst of strong emotions, he cannot listen to anyone.  He cannot accept advice or consolation or constructive criticism. (BPC, pg 26)

A child’s strong feelings do not disappear when he is told, “It is not nice to feel that way,” or when the parent tries to convince him that he “has no reason to feel that way.” (BPC, pg 27)

In order to change this destructive cycle, the book gives strategies for a person’s attitude and wording when responding to challenging situations:

The new code of communication with children is based on respect and on skill.  It requires (a) that messages preserve the child’s as well as the parent’s self-respect; (b) that statements of understanding precede statements of advice or instruction. (BPC, pg 25)

Strong feelings do not vanish by being banished; they do diminish in intensity and lose their sharp edges when the listener accepts them with sympathy and understanding.  This statement holds true not only for children, but also for adults …  (BPC, pgs 27-28)

The book points out that

Children love and resent us at the same time.  They feel two ways about parents, teachers, and all persons who have authority over them.  Parents find it difficult to accept ambivalence as a fact of life.  They do not like it in themselves and cannot tolerate it in their children.  They think that there is something inherently wrong in feeling two ways about people…

We can learn to accept the existence of ambivalent feelings in ourselves and in our children.  To avoid unnecessary conflicts, children need to know that such feelings are normal and natural. …

A calm, noncritical statement of their ambivalence is helpful to children because it conveys to them that even their “mixed-up” feelings are not beyond comprehension. …

(BPC, pgs 37-38)

So what techniques can be employed to improve our communication?  The first is a focus on praise.

The single, most important rule is that praise deal only with the child’s efforts and accomplishments, not with his character and personality.

Words of praise should mirror for the child a realistic picture of his accomplishments

Direct praise of personality, like direct sunlight, is uncomfortable and blinding.  It is embarrassing for a person to be told that he is wonderful, angelic, generous, and humble.  He feels called upon to deny at least part of the praise.  Publicly, he cannot stand up and say, “Thank you, I accept your words that I am wonderful.”  Privately, too, he must reject such praise.

Our comments should be so phrased that the child draws from them positive inferences about his personality.

Our words should state clearly that we appreciate the child’s effort, work, achievement, help, consideration, or creation.

(BPC, pgs 45-47)

What is important is that the praise describes the accomplishment.  Examples I have used in the classroom are: “That was an insightful question,” “It was kind of you to give your classmate a paperclip,” and “I like the way you explained that to him.”

The second focus is on criticism.

When is criticism constructive and when is it destructive?  Constructive criticism confines itself to pointing out how to do what has to be done, entirely omitting negative remarks about the personality of the child.

When things go wrong is not the right time to teach on offender about his personality.  When things go wrong, it is best to deal only with the event, not with the person.

(BPC, pg 51)

Examples I have used are: (1) When a student told me he left his work at home on the day it was due, “I don’t accept late work.  I hope it doesn’t happen again.”  (2) When a student arrived late after being told she could not be late any more, “You understood last time that you cannot be late again.  You need to leave now but you can try to be on time again for the next class.”

Next, the book discusses the impact of abusive adjectives.

Abusive adjectives, like poisonous arrows, are to be used only against enemies …  When a person says, “This is an ugly chair,” nothing happens to the chair.  … However, when a child is called ugly or stupid or clumsy, something does happen to the child.  There are reactions in his body and in his soul.  There are resentment and anger and hate.  There are fantasies about revenge. … And there may be undesirable behavior and symptoms. (BPC, pgs 54-55)

At this point in the book, one might get the impression that a parent should, at all times, be the model of patience, calmness, and understanding.  Not so.  The next focus is on handling our own anger.

In our own childhood, we were not taught how to deal with anger as a fact of life.  We were made to feel guilty for experiencing anger and sinful for expressing it.  We were led to believe that to be angry is to be bad.  Anger was not only a misdemeanor:  it was a felony.

With our own children, we try to be patient; in fact, so patient that sooner or later we must explode.

Anger, like the common cold, is a recurrent problem.  We may not like it, but we cannot ignore it. … Anger arises in predictable sequences and situations, yet is always seems sudden and unexpected. …

When we lose our temper, we act as thought we have lost our sanity.  We say and do things to our children that we would hesitate to inflict on an enemy.  We yell, insult, and hit below the belt. …

Resolutions about not becoming angry are worse than futile.  They only add fuel to the fire. … The peaceful home, …, does not depend on a sudden benevolent change in human nature.  It does depend on deliberate procedures that methodically reduce tensions before they lead to explosions.

There is a place for parental anger in child education.  In fact, failure to get angry at certain moments would only convey to the child indifference, not goodness.  Those who care cannot altogether shun anger.  This does not mean that children can withstand floods of fury and violence; it only means that they can stand and understand anger which says: “There are limits to my tolerance.”

… Anger should so come out that it brings some relief to the parent, some insight to the child, and no harmful side effects to either of them. … We are not interested in creating or perpetuating waves of anger, defiance, retaliation, and revenge.  On the contrary, we want to get our point across and let the stormy clouds evaporate.

Three steps to survival. – To prepare ourselves in times of peace to deal with times of stress, we should acknowledge the following truths:

  1. We accept the fact that children will make us angry.
  2. We are entitled to our anger without guilt or shame.
  3. Except for one safeguard, we are entitled to express what we feel. We can express our angry feelings provided we do not attack the child’s personality or character.

These assumptions should be implemented in concrete procedures for dealing with anger.  The first step in handling turbulent feelings is to identify them loudly by name. … If our short statements and long faces have not brought relief, we proceed to the second step.  We express our anger with increasing intensity… At other times it may be necessary to proceed to the third step, which is to give the reason for our anger, to state our inner reactions, and wishful actions.

(BPC, pgs 55-58)

Examples of the procedures are, “When you continue talking with your neighbor, I feel annoyed.”  Or, “When you are late again, I get so mad I want to lock the door.”  These sorts of statements feel somewhat awkward in the classroom.  My preference is to describe the situation:  “Talking to your neighbor is disruptive and needs to stop.”

The book spends time discussing self-defeating patterns of behavior.  This includes “threats, bribes, promises, sarcasm, sermons on lying and stealing, and rude teaching of politeness.” (BPC, pg 63) Threats are invitations to misbehavior; often the person receiving the threat will misbehave to prove his autonomy.  Instead, one should uphold the standards of acceptable behavior and enforce the consequences of the actions without any damage to the person’s ego.

A similar situation happens with bribes.  “Our very words convey to him that we doubt his ability to change for the better.” (BPC, pg 65) Some people respond to bribes by “bargaining and blackmail, and to ever increasing demands for prizes and fringe benefits in exchange for ‘good’ behavior. … Rewards are most helpful and more enjoyable when they are unannounced in advance, when they come as a surprise, when they represent recognition and appreciation.” (BPC, pg 66)

As for promises, they “should neither be made to, nor demanded of, children. … Relations with our children should be built on trust.  When a parent must make promises to emphasize that he means what he says, then he is as much as admitting that his ‘unpromised’ word is not trustworthy.” (BPC, pg 66)

Sarcasm blocks communication “by stirring children to preoccupation with revenge fantasies.” (BPC, pg 68)

Lying is a behavior that can be understood by knowing the reasons behind it.  The first is about why children lie in the first place:  It could be because they are not allowed to tell the truth.  The parental reaction to the truth is so negative that the child lies to avoid it.  “If we want to teach honesty, then we must be prepared to listen to bitter truths as well as to pleasant truths.”  (BPC, pg 69)

It could be that the child lies

to give themselves in fantasy what they lack in reality. … Lies tell truths about fears and hopes. … A mature reaction to a lie should reflect understanding of its meaning, rather than denial of its content or condemnation of its author. (BPC, pg 69)

Finally, there is provoked lying.

Children resent being interrogated by a parent, especially when they suspect that the answers are already known.  They hate questions that are traps, questions that force them to choose between an awkward lie or an embarrassing confession. (BPC, pg 70)

It important to know how to deal with lying.

Our policy towards lying is clear:  on the one hand, we should not play D.A. or ask for confessions or make a federal case out of a tall story.  On the other hand, we should not hesitate to call a spade a spade.

In short, we do not provoke the child into defensive lying, nor do we intentionally set up opportunities for lying.  When a child does lie, our reaction should be not hysterical and moralistic, but factual and realistic.  We want our child to learn that there is no need to lie to us.

The rule is that when we know the answer, we do not ask the question.

(BPC, pg 71-73)

An example from my experience is when I saw a student using a cellphone in class and I called her name.  She dropped the phone into her lap to hide it.  I stated, “Cellphone use during class is not allowed.”  She responded by telling me she wasn’t using her phone.  I said, “The cellphone in your lap needs to be put out of reach.”  At this point she looked chagrined and put the phone into her backpack.

The book’s next section explores responsibility: “Are there any definite attitudes and practices that are likely to create a desired sense of responsibility in our children?” (BPC, pg 81) To answer, we first recognize that responsibility “requires daily practice in exercising judgment and in making choices about matters appropriate to one’s age and comprehension.”  (BPC, pg 87)

Responsibility is fostered by allowing children a voice, and wherever indicated, a choice, in matters that affect them.  A deliberate distinction is made here between a voice and a choice.  There are matters affecting the child’s welfare that are exclusively within our realm of responsibility.  In such matters he may have a voice, but not a choice.  We make the choice for him—while helping him to accept the inevitable. (BPC, pg 87)

One example I can offer is when a student is disruptive in class.  I will at first give a warning, asking him to stop disrupting.  If he persists, I might say, “You have a choice.  You can stop being disruptive and stay in the class, or you can take your things and leave.”  If he decides to stay and stops his disruption, I consider the problem over.  But if he stays and continues to disrupt, I say, “You are choosing to leave.  Take your things and leave now.”

The book concludes this section with this advice:

A good parent, like a good teacher, is one who makes himself increasingly dispensable to children.  He finds satisfaction in relationships that lead children to make their own choices and to use their own powers.  In conversations with children, we can consciously use phrases that indicate our belief in their capacity to make wise decisions for themselves.  Thus, when our inner response to a child’s request is “yes,” we can express it in statements designed to foster the child’s independence. (BPC, pgs 102-103)

Examples: “If that is what you want.”  “It is entirely your choice.” “Whatever you decide is fine with me.”

In the section on discipline, we have these two words defined:

Permissiveness is an attitude of accepting the childishness of children. … The essence of permissiveness is the acceptance of children as persons who have a constitutional right to have all kinds of feelings and wishes. … permitted expression is through appropriate symbolic means.  Destructive behavior is not permitted; …

In short, permissiveness is the acceptance of imaginary and symbolic behavior.  Overpermissiveness is the allowing of undesirable acts.  Permissiveness brings confidence and an increasing capacity to express feelings and thoughts.  Overpermissiveness brings anxiety and increasing demands for privileges that cannot be granted.

The cornerstone of … discipline is the distinction between wishes and acts.  We set limits on acts; we do not restrict wishes. … At times, identification of the child’s feelings may in itself be sufficient to clear the air.

(BPC, pgs 110-111)

Discipline in itself has guidelines.

The limits are set in a manner that preserves the self-respect of the parent as well as the child.  The limits are neither arbitrary nor capricious, but educational and character-building.

The restrictions are applied without violence or excessive anger.  The child’s resentment of the restrictions is anticipated and understood; he is not punished additionally for not liking prohibitions.

(BPC, pg 113)

Next are the techniques for setting limits.

A limit should be so stated that it tells the child clearly (a) what constitutes unacceptable conduct; (b) what substitute will be accepted.

It is preferable that a limit be total rather than partial. … Such a vague statement leaves the child without a clear criterion for making decisions.

A limit must be stated firmly, so that it carries only one message to the child: “This prohibition is for real.  I mean business.”  When a parent is not sure of what to do, it is best that he do nothing but think and clarify his own attitudes.  In setting limits, he who hesitates is lost in endless arguments.  Restrictions, invoked haltingly and clumsily, become a challenge to children and evoke a battle of wills, which no one can win.  A limit must be stated in a manner that is deliberately calculated to minimize resentment, and to save self-esteem.  The very process of limit-setting should convey authority, not insult.  It should deal with a specific event, not with a developmental history.  The temptation to clean away all problems with one big sweep should be resisted.

Limits should be phrased in a language that does not challenge the child’s self-respect.  Limits are heeded better when stated succinctly and impersonally.

Limits are accepted more willingly when they point out the function of an object.

(BPC, pg 116-120)

Examples are “Cellphones are to be put away when class starts.”  Or “Quizzes are turned in as soon as the time is up.”  Stated like this, the rule becomes a “classroom rule” instead of my rule, which is much easier for students to follow.

The rest of the book deals with specific child behavior problems that I do not think are applicable to the community college classroom.

My Response to Between Parent and Child

As mentioned before, this book had a profound impact on the way I speak to people, especially in conflict situations.  While I do not always act in the best possible way, overall, I tend to use these techniques automatically.  It was natural for me to use them in the classroom and with my students.

Many of the statements made about dealing with children apply readily to dealing with students of all ages and grade levels.  Try rereading them while changing the word “child” to “student” to see how it works.

It is not a perfect solution that always works, but it has reduced problems in my classroom. It has also helped me deal with my own emotional reactions to student misbehavior.  I can react and then contemplate the students’ reasons behind their actions, which calms me down and offers me the chance to respond or not.  Sometimes I use the techniques to redirect student-to-student interactions.

In comparing the techniques in this book to those in the “Games” books, I see that the “poor” communication appears to be directly from the Parent ego state and the “good” communication is from the Adult, in that the Adult would give a more rational and reality-based response to the child’s behavior.  Many of the techniques are from an Adult in an effort to engage the child’s Adult ego state.  The battles that occur are from Parent to Child or Child to Child.  When the Child response happens, the Adult then phrases the rules impersonally, again to engage the respondent’s Adult.

This book, and its companion book, Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, give many examples of typical parent-child interactions that go wrong and strategies to steer them in the right direction.  They both have a rational approach with concrete procedures and ideas.



I’m OK–You’re OK by Thomas A. Harris, M.D., Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-072427-6

This book is a companion to the transactional analysis book Games People Play.  It is written by a psychiatrist who used the concepts in group and individual therapy sessions for many years.  The author of GPP wrote this about him:

I am grateful to Dr. Harris for doing a job that needed doing.  In this book he has clarified the principles of Transactional Analysis with cogent, easily understood examples and has related them to broader considerations, including ethics, in a thoughtful and skillful way. (IOYO, inside cover)

My goal in reviewing it is to connect the information it gives with the other books I have read (Games Students Play, Games People Play, Between Parent and Child) – to fill out more details about the three ego states, to understand how to look at game playing, and to make stronger connections to the strategies in BPC.  I will skip the parts I think don’t apply to this goal.


In GPP we were introduced to the concepts of three ego states:  Parent, Adult, and Child.  Everyone has these states inside them and it was pointed out that there are physical manifestations that give us clues as to which ego state is in control of a person at the time.  I wanted to know more about the definitions of the states and those physical clues.

…Berne observed that as you watched and listened to people you can see them change before your eyes.  It is a total kind of change.  There are simultaneous changes in facial expression, vocabulary, gestures, posture, and body functions, which may cause the face to flush, the heart to pound, or the breathing to become rapid.

We can observe these changes in everyone:  the little boy who bursts into tears when he can’t make a toy work, the teenage girl whose woeful face floods with excitement when the phone finally rings, the man who grows pale and trembles when he gets the news of a business failure, the father whose face “turns to stone” when his son disagrees with him.  The individual who changes in these ways is still the same person in terms of bone structure, skin, and clothes.  So what changes inside him?  He changes from what to what?

Continual observation has supported the assumption that these three states exist in all people.  It is as if in each person there is the same little person he was when he was three years old.  There are also within him his own parents.  These are recordings in the brain of actual experiences of internal and external events, the most significant of which happened in the first five years of life.  There is a third state, different from these two.  The first two are called Parent and Child, and the third, Adult.

These states of being are not roles but psychological realities. … The state is produced by the playback of recorded data of events in the past, involving real people, real times, real places, real decisions, and real feelings.

(IOYO, pgs 18-20)

The Parent is defined by the experiences the child (roughly from birth to age five) has with his parents or parent substitutes.  “The mother and father become internalized in the Parent, as recordings of what the child observed them say and do.”  (IOYO, pg 21) “It is a permanent recording.  A person cannot erase it.  It is available for replay throughout life.” (IOYO, pg 23)

These “recordings” cover facial expressions, words, attitudes, “how-to” statements, restrictions, and more.  It is a “comprehensive, vast store of data. … These rules are the origins of compulsions and quirks and eccentricities that appear in later behavior.” (IOYO, pg 26)

The Child is defined by the simultaneous recording of “internal events, the responses of the little person to what he sees and hears.” (IOYO, pg 27) Most of these recordings are about feelings, since at a young age, the child does not have the words to put to the experiences.

An interesting aspect of the Child recordings is that the “predominant by-product of the frustrating, civilizing process is negative feelings.” (IOYO, pg 28) The book points out that every child feels this, and it is not dependent on how his parents treated him.

These two “recordings” can come into play in anyone, at any age, to influence his behavior and reactions to events in his life.  But we are not haplessly influenced by them because of the third ego state, the Adult.  When a child can start controlling his body, manipulating objects, experimenting with his surroundings, the Adult ego state begins to form.

Adult data accumulates as a result of the child’s ability to find out for himself what is different about life from the “taught concept” of life in his Parent and the “felt concept” of life in his Child.  The Adult develops a “thought concept” of life based on data gathering and data processing.  (IOYO, pg 31)

The Adult ego state serves as a computer, a data processor and probability estimator, and it updates the information from the Parent and Child recordings.  It also keeps emotional expressions appropriate for the social situation.  It can be impaired, which could allow the Parent or Child state to take over.  The book spends considerable time discussing the ways the balance of Parent-Adult-Child could be changed and the possible personality or behavioral traits that can occur.

The Adult gives us the opportunity and freedom to change our behavior.  It can, emotionlessly, evaluate the reactions of the Parent and Child and decide if those reactions are truly appropriate or if they need updating.  It uses evidence and reality to make those evaluations and allows us to make decisions without necessarily having all the facts.

If the Adult is impaired, then the Parent or Child dominates, and this is when game playing occurs.  “This is one of the essential characteristics of games.  They always turn out painfully, but it is a pain that the player has learned to handle.” (IOYO, pg 63)

We can use physical and verbal clues to help us determine which ego state is in charge.


Furrowed brow, pursed lips, the pointing index finger, head-wagging, the “horrified look,” foot-tapping, hands on hips, arms folded across chest, wringing hands, tongue-clucking, sighing, patting another on the head.  These are typical Parent gestures.  However, there may be other Parent gestures peculiar to one’s own Parent. … Also, there are cultural differences.

I am going to put a stop to this once and for all; I can’t for the life of me …; Now always remember…; (“always” and “never” are almost always Parent words, which reveal the limitations of an archaic system closed to new data); How many times have I told you?  If I were you…

Many evaluative words, whether critical or supportive, may identify the Parent inasmuch as they make a judgment about another, based not on Adult evaluation but on automatic, archaic responses. … It is important to keep in mind that these words are clues, and are not conclusive.  The Adult may decide after serious deliberation that, on the basis of an Adult ethical system, certain things are stupid, ridiculous, disgusting, and shocking.  Two words, “should” and “ought” frequently are giveaways to the Parent state … It is the automatic, archaic, unthinking use of these words which signal the activation of the Parent.  The use of these words, together with body gestures and the context of the transaction, helps us identify the Parent.


Since the Child’s earliest responses to the external world were non-verbal, the most readily apparent Child clues are seen in physical expressions.  Any of the following signal the involvement of the Child in a transaction:  tears; the quivering lip; pouting; temper tantrums; the high-pitched, whining voice; rolling eyes; shrugging shoulders; downcast eyes; teasing; delight; laughter; hand-raising for permission to speak; nail-biting; nose-thumbing; squirming; and giggling.

Many words, in addition to baby talk, identify the Child:  I wish, I want, I dunno, I gonna, I don’t care, I guess, when I grow up, bigger, biggest, better, best.



…listening with the Adult is identified by continual movement—of the face, the eyes, the body—with an eyeblink every three to five seconds.  Nonmovement signifies non-listening.  The Adult face is straightforward…If the head is tilted, the person is listening with an angle in mind.  The Adult also allows the curious, excited Child to show its face.

…the basic vocabulary of the Adult consists of why, what, where, when, who, and how.  Other words are: how much, in what way, comparative, true, false, probably, possible, unknown, objective, I think, I see, it is my opinion, etc.  These words all indicate Adult data processing.

(IOYO, pgs 69-71)

In the other books, the authors emphasize that we don’t need to be in the Adult ego state all the time.  It can be helpful, wise, and beneficial to “let out” the Parent or Child in certain occasions – they have something to contribute to a balanced life.  But we do need to have the Adult in charge, at least most of the time.  How can we achieve this?

The Adult develops later than the Parent and Child and seems to have a difficult time catching up throughout life.  The Parent and Child occupy primary circuits, which tend to come on automatically in response to stimuli.  The first way, therefore, is to build the strength of the Adult is to become sensitive to one’s own Not OK feelings… Processing this data takes a moment.  Counting to ten is a useful way to delay the automatic response in order that the Adult maintain control of the transaction….

It is helpful to program into the computer certain Adult questions … Is it true?  Does it apply?  Is it appropriate?  Where did I get that idea?  What is the evidence?

Another way to strengthen the Adult is to take the time to make some big decisions about basic values, which will make a lot of smaller decisions unnecessary.  These big decisions can always be re-examined, but the time it takes to make them does not have to be spent on every incident in which basic values apply.  These big decisions form an ethical basis for the moment-to-moment questions of what to do.

(IOYO, pgs 97-99)

A piece of advice I found useful:

The Adult has a choice:  to play, to not play, to modify the game into something less destructive, or to try to explain the insights that help persons give up games.

My Response to I’m OK–You’re OK

I see that this book does clarify many details about Transactional Analysis for me.  When I read the two Games books, I wondered how I would ever keep all the game descriptions straight, but now I see I don’t have to.  What I really need to do is determine what ego state a person is in and then adjust my response to be complementary to that.  In this book’s wording, I need to “hook” the Adult ego state of the person and I can try that with the strategies from BPC.

I also see the need for me to be very aware of my reactions and ego states when I am in a stressful or challenging situation.  I can recall times when I felt irrationally stubborn about suggested changes – now I know how to identify what I am feeling and how to analyze it with my Adult.

The author points out, near the end of the book, that Transactional Analysis makes the person become responsible for his own behavior along with being empowered to change that behavior by understanding why he is behaving that way.




Getting Past No, by William Ury; ISBN 0-553-37131-2

The subtitle for this book is “Negotiating Your Way from Confrontation to Cooperation.”  It is a book teaching the art of negotiation.  I decided to review it because it emphasizes the same techniques I see for classroom management and for getting along with people in general.  It also offers useful techniques for calming yourself down and getting focused when the situation gets stressful.  I will concentrate my review on the relevant parts.


In Part II of this book, “Using the Breakthrough Strategy”, the author starts with an interchange between two people where the first states the problem but then they both react emotionally to each other’s words.  At the end of the conversation, the problem has been lost in the battle of hostile words and negative feelings.  “Action provokes reaction, reaction provokes counterreaction, and on it goes in an endless argument.”  (GPN, pg 12)

“Human beings are reaction machines.  The most natural thing to do when confronted with a difficult situation is to react – to act without thinking.  There are three common reactions…” (GPN, pg 12) Those reactions are:  striking back, giving in, and breaking off.

The author describes striking back first.

When the other side attacks you, your instinctive reaction is to attack right back, to “fight fire with fire” and “give them a taste of their own medicine.”  If they take a rigid and extreme position, you do the same.

Occasionally, this shows them that two can play the same game and makes them stop.  More often, however, this strategy lands you in a futile and costly confrontation.  You provide them with a justification for their unreasonable behavior.  They think: “Ah, I knew that you were out to get me.  This proves it.”  Escalation often follows in the form of a shouting match, a corporate shutdown, a lawsuit, or a war.
(GPN, pg 33)

Once the hostilities increase, it is difficult to scale them back.  “Even if you do win the battle, you may lose the war.” (GPN, pg 33) Furthermore,

The other problem with striking back is that people who play hardball are usually very good at it.  They may actually be hoping that you are going to attack them.  If you do, you put yourself on their home turf, playing the game the way they like to play it.
(GPN, pg 34)

The reaction of giving up is described as “the opposite of striking back.” (GPN, pg 34)

The other side may succeed in making you feel so uncomfortable with the negotiation that you give in just to be done with it.  They pressure you, implying that you are the one who is blocking agreement.  Do you really want to be the one responsible for dragging out the negotiations, disrupting the relationship, missing the opportunity of a lifetime?  Wouldn’t it just be better to say yes?

Giving in usually results in an unsatisfactory outcome.  You feel “had.”  Moreover, it rewards the other side for bad behavior and gives you a reputation for weakness that they – and others – may try to exploit in the future. …

Sometimes we are intimidated and appease unreasonable people under the illusion that if we give in just this one last time, we will get them off our back and will never have to deal with them again.  All too often, however, such people come back for further concessions.  There is a saying that an appeaser is someone who believes that if you keep on throwing steaks to a tiger, the tiger will eventually become a vegetarian.
(GPN, pgs 34-35)

The third common reaction is to “break off.”  That is, to withdraw from the relationship or situation.  This can be an appropriate reaction in some cases.  For example, “if continuing means being taken advantage of or getting into fights again and again … Sometimes, too, breaking off reminds the other side of their stake in the relationship and leads them to act more reasonably.”  (GPN, pg 35) It is also important to consider the costs of this action, both financially and personally.  They are often high, and you need to decide if breaking off is worth it.  It might be better to explore the motives and reasons behind the conflict in an attempt to preserve the relationship.

Next, the author explores the dangers of reacting without thinking.

In reacting, we lose sight of our interests.  …

Often the other side is actually trying to make you react.  The first casualty of an attack is your objectivity – the faculty you need most to negotiate effectively.  They are trying to throw you off balance and prevent you from thinking straight.  They are trying to bait you like a fish so that they can control you.  When you react, you are hooked.

Much of your opponent’s power derives from the ability to make you react.  …

Even if reacting doesn’t lead to a gross error on your part, it feeds the unproductive cycle of action and reaction.
(GPN, pgs 36-37)

So what are we to do?  The author describes a technique he calls, “Go to the Balcony.”

… the good news is that you have the power the break the cycle at any time – unilaterally.  How”  by not reacting. … Objects react.  Minds can choose not to.

When you find yourself facing a difficult negotiation, you need to step back, collect your wits, and see the situation objectively.  Imagine you are negotiating on a stage and then imagine yourself climbing onto a balcony overlooking the stage.  The “balcony” is a metaphor for a mental attitude of detachment.  From the balcony you can calmly evaluate the conflict almost as if you were a third party.  You can think constructively for both sides and look for a mutually satisfactory way to resolve the problem.

Going to the balcony means distancing yourself from your natural impulses and emotions.

you should go to the balcony at every possible opportunity throughout the negotiation.  At all times you will be tempted to react impulsively to your opponent’s difficult behavior.  But at all times you need to keep your eyes on the prize.
(GPN, pgs 38-39)

Next the author provides techniques for suspending our natural reactions.

Often you don’t even realize you are reacting, because you are too enmeshed in the situation.  The first task, therefore, is to recognize the tactic.  In ancient mythology, calling an evil spirit by its name enabled you to ward it off.  So, too, with unfair tactics – identify them and you break the spell they cast.
(GPN, pg 39)

There are many tactics, but the author groups them into three categories:  obstructive, offensive, or deceptive:

Stone walls.  A stone wall tactic is a refusal to budge. The other side may try to convince you that they have no flexibility and that there is no choice other than their position. … Any other suggestion on your part is met with a no.

Attacks. Attacks are pressure tactics designed to intimidate you and make you feel so uncomfortable that you ultimately give in to the other side’s demands.  Perhaps the most common form of attack is to threaten you with dire consequences unless you accept their position … Your opponents may also attack your proposal …, your credibility …, or your status and authority …  Attackers will insult, badger, and bully until they get their way.

Tricks.  Tricks are tactics that dupe you into giving in.  They take advantage of the fact that you assume your counterpart is acting in good faith and is telling the truth.  One kind of trick is manipulating the data – using false, phony, or confusing figures.  Another is the “no authority” ploy, in which the other side misleads you into believing they have the authority to decide the issue, only to inform you after you have given up as much as you can that in fact someone else must decide.  A third trick is the “add on,” the last minute additional demand that comes after your opponent has led you to believe you have already reached agreement.
(GPN, pgs 40-41)

There are advantages to recognizing the methods used to manipulate you.

The key to neutralizing a tactic’s effect on you is to recognize it.  If you recognize the other side’s tactic as a stone wall, you are less likely to believe that they are inflexible.  If you recognize an attack, you are less likely to fall prey to fear and discomfort.  If you recognize a trick, you will not be taken in by the deception.

Many ploys depend on your not knowing what is being done to you.  … Recognizing the tactic puts you on your guard.

The hardest tactics to recognize are lies.  You need to watch for mismatch – between their words, on the one hand, and their previous words or actions, facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, on the other.  Whereas liars can manipulate words, they cannot easily control the anxiety that raises their voice pitch.  Nor can they control the symmetry of their facial expressions; a liar’s smile, for instance, may become crooked.  Bear in mind that anxiety can stem from other causes and that one clue alone is unreliable.  You need to look for multiple clues.

Watching out for tactics means being alert, not overly suspicious.  Sometimes you may have misunderstood the other person’s behavior. …

So put on your radar, not your armor.  Make a mental note when you detect a possible trick or subtle attack.  Neutralize it by naming it, and keep it in mind as a possibility, not a certainty.  Look for additional evidence, remembering that difficult people rarely limit themselves to a single tactic.

(GPN, pgs 41-42)

To summarize so far, you need to recognize your reaction to a difficult situation.  You should “go to the balcony” to help you maintain your perspective during the discussions.  You should be on alert for various tactics used by the other side that are designed to distract you and allow them to control the situation.  The next part addresses your reaction and going to the balcony in more detail.

… you need to recognize not only what they are doing but also what you are feeling.

The first clue that we are reacting usually comes from our bodies.  Our stomachs get tied up in knots.  Our heats start to pound.  Our faces flush.  Our palms sweat.  These are all visceral responses signaling that something is wrong and that we are losing our composure in the negotiation.  They are cues that we need to go to the balcony.

Each of us has certain emotional susceptibilities, or “hot buttons.” …

If you understand what your “hot buttons” are, you can more easily recognize when your opponent is pushing them.  Recognizing them in turn allows you to control your natural reaction. …

We live and work in competitive environments.  So expect verbal attacks and don’t take them personally.  Remember that your accusers are hoping to play on your anger, fear, and guilt.  They may want you to lose control of your emotions so that you cannot negotiate effectively. …

When you are being attacked, it may help to see your opponent as someone who doesn’t know any better.

(GPN, pg 43-44)

Techniques for “going to the balcony” are for buying yourself time for thought and composure.

Pause and Say Nothing

The simplest way to buy time to think in the middle of a tense negotiation is to pause and say nothing.  It does you little good to respond when you’re feeling angry or frustrated.  Your judgment is distorted. …

Pausing will not only give you a chance to step up to the balcony for a few seconds, but it may also help the other side cool down.  By saying nothing you give them nothing to push against.  Your silence may make them feel a little uncomfortable.  The onus of keeping the conversation going shifts back to them.  Uncertain about what is going on in your head, they may respond more reasonably.

You obviously can’t eliminate your feelings, nor do you need to do so.  You need only to disconnect the automatic link between emotion and action.  Feel the anger, frustration, or fear – even imagine attacking your opponent if you like – but don’t channel your feelings and impulses into action.  Suspend your impulses; freeze your behavior.  While it may feel like hours, it will probably last only a few seconds.  This may not be easy when your opponent is shouting or stonewalling, but it is necessary for successful negotiation. …

Rewind the Tape

You can only pause for so long.  To buy more time to think, try rewinding the tape.  Slow down the conversation by playing it back.  Tell your counterpart: “Let me just make sure I understand what you’re saying.”  Review the discussion up to that point.

An easy way to slow down negotiation is to take careful notes.  Writing down what your counterpart says gives you a good excuse: “I’m sorry, I missed that.  Could you please repeat it?”

Take a Time Out

If you need more time to think, take a break. … A time-out gives both sides a chance to cool off and go to the balcony.

Don’t Make Important Decisions on the Spot

In the presence of the other person, you are under strong psychological pressure to agree.  One simple rule of thumb will help keep you out of trouble: Never make an important decision on the spot.  Go to the balcony and keep it there.

Once you are away from the table, the psychological pressure eases.  It no longer seems so urgent to reach a decision.  Having suspended your initial reaction, you can now consider the decisions in a more objective fashion …

In sum, the most natural thing to do when faced with a difficult person or situation is to react.  It is also the biggest mistake you can make.

(GPN, pgs 45-50)

My Response to Getting Past No

What appealed to me about this book is how it teaches personal control in the face of difficulty.  Now that I am more aware of it, I am more likely to recognize my internal reactions and control them better.

What drew me to this was recalling incidents I have had with students and their family members that were hostile.  I was not always pleased with my reaction to them and wished I could have done a better job handling it.

In one instance, a parent came in to my office and instantly began yelling at me.  We did not exchange names; she did not state why she was there or even ask if she could talk to me.  The immediate hostility put me on edge and we ended up having a yelling match.  If I had the techniques listed here, I could have taken control of the situation by inviting her to sit, by introducing myself and asking her for her name, and then by asking her to please explain her purpose and her concerns.  Perhaps that would have defused the situation, at least somewhat, and pressured her to be more civil in her communications.

Then, using the balcony techniques, I might have been able to help her realize that what she was asking for was unreasonable and unfair to other students in the class.

Other instances come to mind, and I think all of them would have benefitted from my using Mr. Ury’s techniques.