Love and Logic Parenting: 7 Tips for a Better Parent/Child Relationship
Parents have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. The way we speak, the rules we set, and the freedom we allow will all affect the sort of person our children will become. Every child, even the best-behaved kids, will make mistakes and act up sometimes. The way we handle the situation can be the difference between a lesson learned and a battle forged.
Love and Logic, designed by Foster Cline M.D. and Jim Fay, is one approach to parenting that is not only highly effective, but also simple and relaxed.
Here's what parents are saying about it:
"I stay home with our kids, and we were looking for a blueprint so we could be consistent with my discipline during the day and my husband's in the evenings. We liked the idea of giving kids choices, but only those clearly delineated by the parent. Letting kids make decisions willy-nilly is irresponsible, but letting them choose a,b or c, then letting them deal with the consequence (good or bad, as long as it's not dangerous) is a great way to teach kids decisionmaking but making them live within the rules set by us, the parents."-mrswoogie, Idaho
"It's okay if your child has to go hungry, be cold, or do without a special trip, because he or she has made a wrong choice. These "safe" wrong choices help them make better choices later on in life with those choices which will alter their lives. Don't let society impose their "Oh, this poor child" values on you. My 20 year old son told me recently, "Mom thank you for making me see that every action has a consequence. Now, I have good credit and don't mooch off my friends, like many kids my age, because you made me be responsible. I didn't like it then, BUT YOU WERE RIGHT". That made me feel really great that I did USE IT! I didn't "make him be responsible", I helped him make choices that taught responsibility." - Glenda Bennett, Colorado
"Love and Logic makes it possible to stay calm and loving with a difficult child. I'm almost 50 yrs old and had no experience with children. I started doing foster care and I can't imagine what trouble I'd have been in without all the Love and Logic techniques. They work with defiance, and with tantrums, and with controlling manipulative behavior. They make it possible to enjoy being a mom, and the major benefit is the children can relax, be respectful, accept love, and have fun instead of miring themselves in adversarial control battles with me." - Foster Mom, Colorado
Today, there is entire book devoted to the Love and Logic method plus regular workshops and Love and Logic parenting groups across the country. These serve to cover a full range of unexpected or difficult situations parents might deal with. At the root of all Love and Logic based decisions however, are just 7 simple tenants that apply to any circumstance.
No parent/child relationship is perfect, but follow these, and you're well on your way a healthier, happier family dynamic:
1. Be a Consultant.
The Love and Logic parenting approach starts by identifying your current parenting tendencies. Mr. Fay has broken it down into three basic styles: "The Helicopter Parent", "The Drill Sergeant", and finally, the style Love and Logic parents strive towards, "The Consultant". Think back. Oftentimes, our style is influenced by our own parent's style, though the extent to which we tend toward a style may certainly vary. No parent or person is perfect. These are meant to point out common unproductive parenting behaviors - not to judge - so you can notice, identify, and change your conduct, which will allow you to do the same for your children. Even the best parents have tendencies they must resist.
Which do you struggle with most - helicoptering or drill sergeanting?
The Helicopter Parent (too soft)
Otherwise known as "the rescue parent", this parent has a difficult time allowing their children to experience the consequences of their mistakes.
- Example: When the child of a helicopter parent has a school project, the helicopter parent is constantly there to assist. When a child runs in to difficulties with it, the helicopter may do it for them, and if they forget it at home, the helicopter parent will rush from work back home to deliver the project at school.
- The Message The Child Gets:"I'm not responsible for my actions. When things get hard, others just need to help me more."
The Drill Sargeant (too hard)
It's their way or the highway. They value tight structure and run their homes like clockwork. This parent has a hard time allowing their child to make their own choices, so they do it for them.
- Example: When the child of a drill sergeant has a school project, the drill sergeant is right there telling them what to do and how to do it. When a child makes a mistake, the drill sergeant insists it be corrected. The child has no chance to forget the project at home - the drill sergeant has their child's life organized and scheduled to a tee.
- The Message The Child Gets: "Mistakes are not acceptable. I'm responsible for everything, but my efforts aren't good enough."
The Consultant (just right)
Otherwise known as "the love and logic parent", they understand that lessons are best learned by giving the child choices, and allowing them to make mistakes (so long as they aren't life threatening).
- Example: When the child of a consultant has a school project, the consultant lets the child take the lead. If the child has difficulties or makes a mistake, the consultant will first try and help the child find their own solution and then, if the child is still stumped, the consultant will ask to offer some advice which the child can follow - or not. When the child leaves the project at home, the consultant will offer sincere sympathy, but nothing beyond that. They know that the consequences of this mistake will teach their child responsibility.
- The Message The Child Gets: "I am smart and capable. I can handle things on my own, even if I make mistakes, but there's no shame in asking for help when I'm struggling."
2. Let them be responsible.
It's easy to see which child from the above scenarios has the best chance of becoming a confident adult. So how can parents adjust their helicopter or drill sargeant tendencies?
RULE #1: "Take Care of Yourself By Setting Limits in a Loving Way."
No one can fully reach their potential when they are overstressed and angry. That's why the first rule of Love and Logic is to take care of yourself. It's not just a nice thought. It's not selfish, either. Help yourself first, and it will help your whole family. To achieve this calm, loving and effective parent persona, be firm in your rules, but avoid lecturing, threatening, or spanking. There are much more effective and much less stressful methods of discipline, which brings us to rule number two...
RULE #2: "Let Them Solve Their Own Problems"
Or, when a child causes a problem, the adult hands it back in loving ways. Kids who have the chance to solve their own problems now will be better prepared for the future when they are left to their own devices. If the consequences of a bad decision aren't dangerous or excessively costly in the long term, let them make it. They'll be better off if you do. To help illustrate why this works, let's pretend your child has lost their school book using Love and Logic's assisted problem solving method.
3. Teach problem-solving skills.
There are five Love and Logic steps to use while helping your child do their own problem solving.
- Use Empathy. It shows the first and foremost, you love and care about your child. "Oh no! You lost your school book? That stinks!"
- Send a Message. Let them understand that they have the power to fix it. "What do you think you will do?"
- Offer Choices. If they don't have a good idea of what they can do, offer some advice. "Would you like to hear about some things that other kids might do when they lose their books?"
- Start with the Worst Choices and Work to the Best. "Some kids would just forget about the book and try to do without, some kids would ask the teacher for a new book, and some kids would try and retrace their steps" etc. After each choice you offer, refer to step five.
- Ask the Child About the Consequences. "What do you think would happen if...you tried to go without your book...you asked the teacher for a new one...if you retraced your steps?"
- Allow Them to Choose. They may even make the wrong choice, but as long as the cost of their mistake is not to high, it's better to let them. "Okay! I hope that it works for you."
4. Offer choices.
Do this whenever you can! You'll find that the more choices kids are given normally, the less resistance you'll get when you truly need to put your foot down. However, there are some things to keep in mind when offering choices:
- Offer only the choices that you, as a parent, are okay with.
- Keep choices limited. Children may become overwhelmed when given unlimited options. For example, instead of asking "What would you like for dinner?" Try asking: "Would you like to have pizza or hot dogs for dinner?" Giving lots of choices is good, but offer just two or three options per choice.
- Give them 10 seconds, and then decide for them.
- Shape choices based on the results you are looking for. "Would you like to clean your mess now or after your show is done?" Either way, the mess gets cleaned!
5. Let "punishments" fit the "crime."
If you hadn't already noticed, a big part of Love and Logic parenting has to do with consequences. Consequences can be either positive or negative, and when either type is removed, so is an opportunity for learning. Consequences teach a child all sorts of lessons, but ultimately they teach a child that they have the power to shape their lives through the actions they make.
- Positive Consequences: When you notice your child doing something you like, create a positive consequence of your own. Give them compliments, but also give them the ownership they deserve. Example: "I'll bet you're feeling pretty proud right now!"
- Natural Negative Consequences: As much as it might hurt, it's important that parents not remove the source of their child's pain. This is not a means of punishment, but as discussed, a useful learning tool. The best negative consequences are natural and come without parent intervention. Example: They left their homework at home, they received a zero.
- Parent-Created Consequences: Though natural consequences are best, sometimes a parent must create a negative consequence. In this case, the parent should try and make consequences as natural as possible - giving ownership to the child, while remaining sincerely sympathetic (sarcastic sympathy helps no one). Example: They didn't pick up their toys; you picked them up, so the toys automatically become yours for the day. Give your child another chance to pick them up tomorrow, or earn them back some other way.
- Delayed Consequence: If you are feeling too upset or angry, or if you can't think of a natural consequence, it's okay to delay. Calmly tell your child that you need time to think of an appropriate consequence, but also that they should try not to worry too much about it.
- Generic Consequences - If you are having trouble thinking of a natural consequence to their behavior, an old standby is household chores. Example: Janie, you lied to me and that was wrong. Our house rules require honesty. I'm sorry, but even though I've been thinking about your consequence for several hours, I couldn't come up with anything. That really stinks, because I was going to use that time to do sweep and mop, do the laundry, and clean the surfaces around the house. So, I've decided once you finish those for me, we'll forget about this problem. You don't need to work on them right now, just have them done by Saturday. I know you'll make the right decision next time. Thank you.
6. Don't say anything you can't back up.
As much as you want to give your children choices, parents can't always do that. When an issue comes up that you can't compromise on, use enforceable statements. Put things in terms of what you are going to do, not in terms of what you are asking for. Here are some examples:
- "Dessert is for children who keep their teeth healthy by brushing."
- "Breakfast time is at 8:00 AM."
- "The car will be leaving in ten minutes. If you're not ready by then, you're staying home with dad instead of going to the park with me."
- "I will keep the toys I pick up, and you may keep the toys that you pick up."
- "I will listen when your voice is calm like mine."
7. Be empathetic (even if you disagree).
Empathy is important because it shows the child that even if you are upset or dislike their behavior at the time, you are still their parent and you love them. Consequences delivered with empathy are more effective because the child is not distracted by their parent's anger. They are dealing with their own pain of the consequence, instead of redirecting blame on an angry (misbehaving) adult, and they are less likely to act out in revenge. Don't argue with your children, it's unproductive. Refuse with the mantra " I love you too much to argue with you."