The book that most helped to make parenting fun again (part 2 of 2)

Written by on June 17, 2013 in Cool Stuff and Reviews - 2 Comments

Last month I whet your appetite for the book that’s helped me to make parenting fun again. So this month, I’ll actually tell you a bit more about the book, called Love and Logic for Early Childhood and about the Love and Logic methodology.

Love and Logic is a perfect name for this fantastic method to help parents encourage kids to behave, but without the usual emotional battles. In other words, to encourage them to be good people and well-behaved, understanding, compassionate, and well-adapted children who are capable of understanding the rules of life and the consequences of their actions. The idea behind Love and Logic is pretty simple really: every action that a person commits in life has some kind of consequence, whether positive or negative. As parents, our duty is to help our children understand this natural order of events. It is not, therefore, to act as judge and jury. It is also not to be an autocratic monster. And it is clearly also not to be the parent that believes that the only way to truly demonstrate that we love our children dearly is to allow them to step all over us and to do whatever they want and to get whatever they want. Either of these extreme ways of parenting do not work.

What does work, however, is showing our child the natural love that we feel for them, while also demonstrating to them that actions have consequences that are logical. Hence, we react to their actions without allowing ourselves to lose our cool or to become overly reactive to their misconduct. Rather, we react with logical consequences to actions in a logical and calm way, while always demonstrating love and empathy. Believe me, this is all much harder to actually do than it sounds.

Here is one example to paint a picture: our children make a terrible mess playing in the bathroom. Everything is everywhere and it will take them at least a half hour to clean it up. We had promised to take them to a film they’ve been dying to see in the cinema that will be starting in a half hour. How do we react?

  1. The autocratic parent would react by shouting at his children and punishing them for making such a mess.
  2. The permissive parent who believes that love is giving her children everything would react by quickly helping her children clean up the mess, or allowing them to leave it with a promise that they’ll clean up later and rushing them to the movie.
  3. The Love and Logic parent does not overreact. Instead her point is to teach her children that actions have logical consequences. “Oh how sad,” she says. “I was so excited about taking you guys to the film today. But now it looks like we won’t make it on time as it will take you guys at least a half hour to clean up this mess and the film starts in a half hour. That’s too bad. Maybe we can try to make it tomorrow. I’m sure you know where everything should go, but if you need my advice on where to put things, feel free to come get me.”

Interesting difference, no? And the reaction of the children, short and long-term?

  1. The children of the autocratic parent will be used to his overreactions by now and to the shouting. They will be punished, and maybe they will even be forced to clean up the mess, but they will do it grudgingly and will end up learning very little for the next time around. They will also be angry at whatever punishment has been doled out, meaning that the punishment may indeed work in the short term but that it is unlikely to teach the children a long-term lesson.
  2. The children of the permissive parent will get away with doing whatever they wanted yet again and will respect their parent even less for letting them get away with it. Perhaps in the short term, they will be very happy with the result (after all they get what they want) and will even show that they are happy with the parent by demonstrating excitement or love in some way, so that the parent (if just looking at the short term) will think that they did the right thing. However, these children will likely keep acting in this way permanently becoming more and more spoiled with every bit they get away with. With this parent, the children’s long-term learning will be that this person has no backbone and hence can be walked all over, and that perhaps other people in this world are also like this. They will learn to try to “get away with it” as much as they can in life.
  3. The children of the Love and Logic parent will also definitely not be happy with the consequence doled out by their parent. If this parent is new to the Love and Logic method especially, the children may be quite shocked with receiving this kind of calm, yet very serious, consequence to their actions. The children new to this method will certainly try out the methods they’d use before to try to get their own way (after all, it worked so well all those other times). However, when faced with this method again, if the parent manages to stay consistent, the child will learn over time that this is how the parent is working these days and that they’re better off paying attention and doing their best to behave appropriately.

Another main facet of this type of parenting is allowing the child to make as many choices as possible in the course of a day. Children, like all individuals, wish to exert their independence and to feel that they have as much freedom of choice as possible. Hence, allowing them limited choices is key to showing them this independence. Limited choices means that you give two choices for every option. For example: “Would you like eggs for breakfast today or cereal? Would you like to wear your pink sweater or your white one? Would you like to brush your teeth before you get dressed or after?” and so on. The thinking is that children who are allowed to make more of their own decisions feel more in control of their world and are thereby better adapted and better ready for what the world throws at them. They are also happier children and they will feel less need to strike out and to find that independence somewhere else or in some other, more destructive way. It is also like a deposit into a piggy bank. The more we put in, the more we can later take out. So that when we come to a situation where giving choices wouldn’t work, we can then make a decision for our kids without being dealt too many repercussions.

The last main bit of advice has to do with teaching our kids the small life lessons that they’ll need to learn for their future, but without getting angry or giving into our own emotions (this one’s really tough for me). As mentioned above, the idea is that every action has a consequence and that consequences are not mean or nasty, but just a part of life. They also are an opportunity for the child to learn. So if the child has a tantrum, the natural consequence can be something called “the energy drain”. The writer suggests it is something akin to the following story: Imagine that your child is whiny all morning and in an obvious bad mood and making everyone on the verge of going down with them. By acting like this, they are, in effect “draining your energy” and you should tell them. Once they’re a bit more reasonable or calm or ready to listen, you can say something like: “well, that tantrum just drained all of mommy’s energy away. How do your propose to put it back? How about if you help me with a chore? Would you like to help me with laundry or with cleaning the table?” This teaches the child that his whiny behaviour actually has the consequence of making everyone else tired too and that he somehow needs to then contribute to rebuilding the energy that he took away.

But there are lessons in other things too. For instance, if a child is asking for you to buy a million things in a store, you can make her understand the value of money by asking “so how do you plan to pay for this?” and explaining really what the item would cost. If the child gets a regular allowance, you can tell them how much of what’s in their piggy bank this will cost them. They may choose to use the money anyway and we may have to let them, well aware that there will be a lesson later when the money in the piggy bank has run out and they cannot buy anything else. Depending on how expensive the item, we can also suggest “lending the child the money” by having them “buy on credit” in effect. In other words, they can buy the toy and win it by working for it by doing extra chores around the house before they can get it. This will allow them to see, over time, how we have to work for everything that we have. By the way, the book also mentions the value of having kids do chores and help around the house at an early age. Kids should be made to feel as a part of the family, and how better than to get them involved in the daily chores that you have to do, like cooking dinner, doing laundry, or cleaning up. Otherwise they may come to expect that there will always be someone around to do these things for them, and we all know that that’s usually not the case in real life.

To finish off, don’t ignore the easy lessons in life that kids learn almost by themselves. Kids are like curious little sponges: they absorb an incredible amount of information on a regular basis – more than we adults probably would be able to at this point. Not only do they learn a great deal at school almost every day, but they have the incredible capacity to also put what they’ve learned together with other things they learn and then to use the information to infer things that they haven’t even learned yet. It’s truly amazing. On top of that, they look at things with completely open eyes and a natural curiosity that many adults have already lost, and ask questions about things and issues that we wouldn’t even think about. They are fascinating and they are exceptional, but they also have as part of their nature the necessity to test limits. This is how they learn about the world around them and what they can do with it. So they have to test us, and they probably have to do that more often than we’d like them to. Knowing this helps us to see that it isn’t aimed against us (so that it’s not a battle) and it isn’t personal (so we shouldn’t take it personally). Children also like to understand and be familiar with the patterns in their world. Hence, they respond very well to routine. I’ve come to a point with my daughters where there are certain things that they just do all the time without being told, simply because it’s become a part of their routine. The idea is that Love and Logic begins with Love, even in the moments when it is the most difficult for us to love them. We continue with Logic: logical consequences to actions, where we teach our kids by showing them in a calm way and without overreacting or becoming too emotional (without taking it personally basically). Most of us go wrong here because it is very, very difficult to keep calm in certain situations. I am the first person to admit this. But, the incredible success one can witness when things work makes it so worthwhile to keep working at it.

Empathy with our kids is key and is a huge part of love. Every situation may call for a slightly different adaptation of what we’ve learned. Sometimes a tantrum may require a natural consequence or the use of the “energy drain”, but sometimes what our child may be looking for and needing is just a hug and some affection, and that might work to correct the problem. The idea is that we always make use of both Love and of Logic in our everyday efforts to help our children develop in a way that will lead them to be happy, well-adapted, and fulfilled individuals in the future.

 

Stay tuned for next month’s entry with a special treat: a story that was written by my younger daughter’s Junior One class when I came in and spoke to them a bit about creative writing.

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2 Comments on "The book that most helped to make parenting fun again (part 2 of 2)"

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