Parenting with Love & Logic – Post 2 (by Ashley Stevens)

One of the ways “Parenting with Love & Logic” proposes we move our kids from total dependence on us to independence is by giving them choices.

Foster Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay open the sixth chapter of their book, “Love & Logic” by stating that giving our kids a certain amount of freedom and control instills them with responsibility and the more control we give to them, the more control we gain.

“In the battle for control, we should never take any more than we absolutely must have, and we must always cut our kids in on the action. When we do that, we put them in control on our terms.”

While we don’t want to give too much control to our children and turn them into brats, the book proposes allotting them more and more control as they get older. We should offer choices only when we’re willing to live with the consequences and our child is not in danger. When our kids are little, for instance, we can ask them, “Do you want to wear gloves today?” When they’re seventeen, they can make decisions in just about every area of their lives (Figure 1 top: “V” of Love).

While we don’t want to give too much control to our children and turn them into brats, the book proposes allotting them more and more control as they get older. We should offer choices only when we’re willing to live with the consequences and our child is not in danger. When our kids are little, for instance, we can ask them, “Do you want to wear gloves today?” When they’re seventeen, they can make decisions in just about every area of their lives (Figure 1 top: “V” of Love).

Most parents take the opposite approach, they argue, and treat their children like little adults from the beginning with all of the

While we don’t want to give too much control to our children and turn them into brats, the book proposes allotting them more and more control as they get older. We should offer choices only when we’re willing to live with the consequences and our child is not in danger. When our kids are little, for instance, we can ask them, “Do you want to wear gloves today?” When they’re seventeen, they can make decisions in just about every area of their lives (Figure 1 top: “V” of Love).

Figure 1. “Parenting with Love & Logic” (Page 82)

Figure 1. “Parenting with Love & Logic” (Page 82)

Figure 1. “Parenting with Love & Logic” (Page 82)

Most parents take the opposite approach, they argue, and treat their children like little adults from the beginning with all of the privileges of adulthood given immediately after they’re born (Figure 1: Inverted “V”). When this happens, children control their parents through tantrums and pouts and end up being the type of adults that cry, “That’s not fair! You’re treating me like a child!”

privileges of adulthood given immediately after they’re born (Figure 1: Inverted “V”). When this happens, children control their parents through tantrums and pouts and end up being the type of adults that cry, “That’s not fair! You’re treating me like a child!”

There are some areas of our children’s lives that are beyond our control – what children learn, think, and eat; when they go to bed or the bathroom, etc – and are best avoided. The secret to establishing control as a parent is fighting battles we know we can win and offering choices in areas we do control.

“Winnable wars are waged through choices, not demands,” as Cline and Fay put it. Choices change the control battle, as the kids have no demands to lash out against. If we’re in a control battle with our kids, they recommend changing our words from fighting words to thinking words. Using this approach means we still get what we want without the battle. They use these examples in the sixth chapter to demonstrate the difference between fighting and thinking words:

FIGHTING WORD DEMAND: “Don’t talk to me that way! You go to your room!”

THINKING WORD REQUEST: “Would you mind taking those words to your room? Thank you.”

FIGHTING WORD DEMAND: “Take out the trash, and do it now!”

THINKING WORD REQUEST: ”I’d appreciate your taking out the trash before bedtime. Thanks.”

FIGHTING WORD DEMAND: “You come here right now!”

THINKING WORD REQUEST: “Hey, would you mind coming here? Thank you.”

Being honest, my first thought when I read this is that these parents seem like pushovers. Diving into one of these examples, the book goes on to show that kids can learn that it’s best to listen when we ask in a kind way.

MOM: “Would you mind taking those words to your room? Thank you.”

SON: “No, I don’t have to.”

MOM: “Did I ask in a nice way?”

SON: “Yeah, so what? I’m not leaving!”

MOM: “Not wise, son. I am learning a lot from this.”

The mom walks off and the son temporarily thinks he won the battle, but the next day when he asks his mom to take him across town to his soccer game, he discovers the consequence for being uncooperative.

SON: “Will you take me to my game? Mrs. Hogwarth can’t drive today.”

MOM: I don’t know. Did you ask in a nice way?”

SON: “Sure. What’s this all about?”

MOM: “Yesterday I learned from you that asking in a nice way doesn’t get the job done. Remember that little episode when I asked, in a nice way, for you to go to your room? What did you teach me that time?”

SON: “I don’t know.”

MOM: “You taught me that asking in a nice way doesn’t mean all that much. I’d appreciate your giving that some thought. And some day when I feel better about your level of cooperation, I’ll be glad to help out.”

Mom laying the boom! While it initially seemed like she was being a pushover, using thinking words rather than fighting words sets her up to later teach this lesson and show her son the importance of kindness and respect.

One of my daughters is not very good at finishing her plate. At any meal. Ever. Usually this leads to battles when we’re out to eat – “I paid for this!” – or stress when we’re at home – “You need to eat your breakfast before we leave for school!” Cline and Fay recommend a better way to respond to her “I’m not hungry” game would be to calmly say with a smile, “No problem, Rachel. We’ll be leaving for school in five minutes. There are two ways to leave with me: hungry is one way; not hungry is the other.”

That gives me as much control as I need, they argue. I don’t need to control whether the eggs go down her throat – I actually can’t control that. But I can control when we leave for school. After a week of feeling like a chicken with my head cut off getting all three kids fed, dressed, and out the door while my husband travels and showing up late two days, this is an important reminder: I AM IN CONTROL.

Clip-on earrings don’t need to be perfectly placed, shirts don’t need to fluffed and completely unwrinkled per request, and bowls don’t need to be entirely finished before I head to the car. I look forward to using this approach next time he travels, but thank you, Jesus, it’s Friday. 😂

According to “Love & Logic,” giving children choices works because it forces them to think. It provides opportunities to make mistakes and learn from the consequences. Giving age-appropriate choices also helps minimize control battles with our kids and shows them that we trust their thinking abilities. “Dealing with choices and being held responsible for their own decisions prepare youngsters for the lifetime of decision making that awaits them in adulthood,” as Cline and Fay put it.

As we give our kids more choices, showing empathy without rescue when unwise choices result in consequences is what “Love & Logic” proposes as a recipe for success. Stay tuned for my last post in this book series to see how.

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