Book Review: Parenting with Love and Logic

My little girl is growing up fast.  How fast things were moving didn't really hit me until she started walking, then I realized that there is no pause button, I have to start being the best parent I know how to be, now.  Unfortunately, I only know one way of being a parent, and that's the way my mom and dad were parents.  So, I turned to the advice of other parents and I found this book.

Jim Fay and Foster Cline set out to teach parents how to raise children who become responsible teens and adult.  The basic idea is that children need to have opportunities to make their own choices.  This does two things:
  1. It teaches the child that they are capable of making their own choices.  When they make the right choice they feel empowered and have a positive self-concept.  When they make the wrong choice the parent is there with empathy (never anger!) guiding the child so that his/her next choice will be the right one.
  2. It helps develop responsibility within the child.  The child's choices are always their choice and they always (unless the consequences are too severe) have to deal with their own problems.  Children then quickly develop responsibility as they know that the parent will not either fly in to the rescue or command their every step.
The book focuses on and is most insightful in the area of control.  The parent, claims the authors, can give up a lot of their attempted control since much of what a kid does can not be controlled anyways.  For example:  A parent can not force a child to eat his/her dinner so there is no use in attempting control in that area.  But when the same child later complains of being hungry the parent can show empathy ("I know how you feel, I get hungry when I miss a meal too!") and reassure the child that breakfast will be available at the usual time.  This means that parents set up boundaries within which the children can make choices and suffer/enjoy the consequences of those choices.

Another major area of focus is on the child's problems.  Children (for the most part) can take care of their own problems and do not need parent intervention but need to learn from the consequences of not effectively dealing with their problems.  Parents are always their to coach and listen, but they are rarely to take on a child's problem as their own.  For example:  If a child forgets a permission slip to go on a field trip, then they don't go, simple.  Love and Logic parents do not rescue kids from their problems but they are always empathetic ("Oh no, I'm sorry you forgot your slip, it must feel terrible that you missed out.  How will you remember to get your slip signed next time?").

Lastly, the book talks about "fighting word vs. thinking words".  Emotion is only expressed in positive situations, when there are negative situations, "thinking words" are used rather than "fighting words".  What's the difference?  Fighting words are controlling words while thinking words set boundaries.  Rather than saying, "Clean your room, now!" using thinking words would say, "You can watch tv when your room is clean".  Or, if kids are fighting, fighting words would be "Stop that fighting and be nice!" while thinking words would be, "Please take that somewhere where I can't hear it, and come back when you have sorted it out".  Of course, parents would talk to the kids about the fighting (with empathy, not anger), but there is no attempt to control/stop the fighting.

I have very few gripes with the theory behind the book, although some of the examples seemed a bit extreme and while the authors say that the parent has to ultimately decide how far the consequences go, the book occasionally comes off a little too harshly.  Sometimes it seems that there is no or very little give and that consequences should always be left for the child to deal with - even in situations where children come up with decent compromises.  As well, it seems to me that a little (controlled) anger/annoyance now and again might be an adequate consequence for some situations, rather than dismissing it outright (although I agree with the authors that it should be rare in parenting).

It's obvious from the first reading and without even trying to parent in this method that attempting to parent by the Love and Logic method that it will not be for the faint of heart.  There are no short-cuts, both parents have to be willing and on their toes, and (probably worst of all) they have to be willing to let their children suffer consequences.  Additionally, they have to learn a new vocabulary that they likely didn't grow up with and is not commonly demonstrated.  That said, this book deserves every parents attention and consideration, it's lessons are sorely lacking in todays over-protective and over-controlling parents.

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