A book review: Parenting with Love and LogicPosted: August 29, 2012
There are an overwhelming number of parenting books that are in print today. Each of them has value that speaks to some parents. While it is one of my ongoing, ever-changing goal to be a great parent, I rarely read parenting books. Does that seem strange to you? When I was pregnant with my first son, I read What to Expect When You Are Expecting. Aside from the few unnecessary worries that it gave me (preeclampsia, premature labor, etc.), it was very helpful to me as a first-time expectant mother. However, with the emergence on an internet-driven world where you can Google just about any parenting issue and find a number of helpful articles, I tend to lean on that as my parenting support. I am geared more towards going on my own instincts, following my heart, and as any bumps pop up in our road of parenthood, I smooth them out with the advice of other moms, or an article or two, usually based in the psychology or biology of children. To me, having information from the experts that have put research behind their work is worth having, but I don’t emerge myself into a hundred different parenting books.
And still, I heard about a book called Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay, I read an excerpt or two, and I was sold on it. I had to read it. My sister-in-law happened to have a copy of the book, and she was gracious enough to let my husband and me borrow it. Since it’s such a rare occasion that I read an entire book on parenting, I wanted to share my initial thoughts on its concept and advice, and let you know how it has helped us.
Here is one excerpt that caught my attention, so that you will know why I chose to read this book:
“If you want to raise kids who are self-confident, motivated, and ready for the real world, take advantage of the win-win approach to parenting. Your kids will win because they’ll learn responsibility and the logic of life by solving their own problems. And you’ll win because you’ll establish healthy control–without resorting to anger, threats, nagging, or exhausting power struggles.”
Well, who doesn’t want that for their kids? No anger? “Stop getting right in your brother’s face!” No threats? “If you don’t finish you supper, you won’t get a snack later!” No nagging? “Son, can you please come and put these toys away?” No power struggles? “Son, it’s time to go to bed.” “No.” “Excuse me? I don’t think that’s a nice answer. It’s time for bed.” “I don’t want to go to bed! I’m not tired yet.” “Well, it’s 8:00, and that’s bedtime.” “But I’m not tired!” Sigh. You get the picture. And even parents with the best intentions go through some of these issues with their children from time to time. I have a wonderful son, don’t get me wrong. And I’m a firm believer that most of the problems that we have as parents, are mostly the results of things that we have done to encourage the exact behavior that we don’t want. With my son about to start Kindergarten where he would in deed be on his own, I knew we needed a better foundation for encouraging him to embrace responsibility. Here is how this book has helped us do that:
- We model good behavior. This is something we have always tried to do, but now we have renewed purpose. I’ve always known that children are little sponges, soaking up every behavior you do, every word you say, and in some way, applying that to themselves. We teach them more with our unintentional actions and words than we do when we are intentionally trying to teach them something. It’s impossible for a child to learn how to talk to people nicely, if we are not careful with our own tone of voice when speaking to them. It doesn’t make sense to say, “Don’t talk to me like that!” when we are clearly being just as disrespectful in our own response. A better way of getting the same point across is by saying, “I will listen to you when your voice sounds calm like mine.” By modeling calm, cool, and collected, it’s inevitable that he will eventually respond in the same way.
- We give more choices. It makes sense for a young child, whose every aspect life is typically governed by parents, teachers, and other figures of authority, to want to have control. And they will fight hard to get that control, if they have to. For example, if we tell our children to pick up their rooms right now, they will likely argue, dawdle, or find any excuse to avoid the chore. But if we give them an option instead, “You may watch TV with us, as soon as the toys are put away.” He isn’t being told to put away the toys. He can choose to continue playing with his toys and opt out of TV watching. And that decision would be okay with me. The key that the Love and Logic technique would stress is to make sure that the choices you give them are 1) not a hidden threat or punishment, such as “If you don’t pick up your toys, you’ll have to go to bed early.” and 2) that you are okay with whatever choice your child decides. As they say throughout the book, “it’s a win-win situation.”
- We try to let our son’s problems be his problems. With Love and Logic, it’s all about keeping the problems of our children on their own shoulders, not ours. It’s so tempting for me to step in and try to give solutions to my son’s problems, whether with friends, or with school, or not doing as well as he would like at a task. I want so much for him to succeed that it’s hard not to give my input. The book gives an example of a child who does not want to wear a coat when it’s cold outside. Before Love and Logic, I would have been that parent that insists that they put on a coat after arguing the point that it’s too cold to go without one, only to have him eventually say, “Fine, I’ll wear a coat,” but only because I made him. No lesson was learned there other than when mom says to do something, there is no other option and that he is incapable of making his own decisions. No thinking required on his part. A Love and Logic inspired technique would be to say, “It’s pretty cold outside. I’m going to wear my coat today.” He may choose a coat. He may not choose a coat. He will either be thinking, “Man, it’s cold. I’m glad I decided to wear my coat!” or “Man, it’s cold. I wish I had worn my coat.” Either way, his brain is turning, and learning a lesson without any more input on my part, other than modeling how to take care of myself.
- When my son suffers a consequence from a choice he made, we show empathy. It is sometimes tempting to say to my son, “See, if you would have eaten more of your supper, then you wouldn’t be hungry at bedtime.” But that statement shows no empathy. It’s putting us on one side and our child on the other. It’s so much better to be on our child’s side and to show them unconditional love. A better way to address my son’s consequence would be to say with whole-hearted sincerity, “I can imagine what you feel like. I feel hungry when I don’t eat a good meal too. We will make a great breakfast in the morning.” He is smart enough to make the connection on his own: “If I don’t eat my supper, then I’m going to feel hungry later. I better eat a good supper next time.” There’s no need to spell out what he’s learning for him.
There are a few parts of the book that I do not agree with. They provide an example on learning responsibility for punctuality, where a twelve year old boy is given the option of being picked up at 7pm, and if he isn’t there by 7:05pm, then the parent will return at 10pm to pick him up, etc. Although this technique worked for the parent and child in this scenario, and the child did indeed improve on being punctual, I just can’t imagine leaving a twelve year old alone in public for that long, with no supervision.
Most days, I would say that we have a pretty good thing going over here, and Parenting with Love and Logic has showed us a better way to go about getting the principles and values of respect and responsibility to hit home with our five-year-old. When we use the Love and Logic techniques, our house seems a little more peaceful. He still doesn’t always like going up to bed at 8:00 every night, but having the option to stay awake (as long as he stays in his room and quiet) has kept him from coming up with half a dozen excuses to come back downstairs. And 9 times out of 10, I peek in on him at 8:30, and he’s sound asleep. There are many more interesting points that they make throughout this book that are beneficial to parenting, but these are the techniques that we are trying to focus on for now. If you feel like your children could use a little Love and Logic, I say it’s absolutely worth the effort.
Do you have a favorite parenting book? I would love to hear about it!
*Please note that I wrote this review on my own terms, and I do not receive any sort of compensation or acknowledgment from the founders of Love and Logic from doing so. These are purely my thoughts that I wanted to share with you, from one parent to another, that are based on what I took to be the important messages of this book. Thanks for reading!*