This may not be the first time you’ve heard about the “Love and Logic” method of parenting. As a parent of a one-year-old son who read to be prepared for having a child, I decided to begin the next step by reading ways of being the parent of a child who will eventually be capable of listening to the reasoning of parents.
Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay is an introduction to a style of parenting that is is meant to reflect the balance of—you guessed it—love and logic, its foundation being the teachings of Christianity, most notably the proverbs of Solomon. Like many things I admire, their philosophy relies on a concept of balance.
Cline and Fay contrast two bad styles of parenting, helicopters and drill sergeants. Helicopter parents hover over their children all the time about everything and try to solve all their problems for them, sending them the message that they can’t do anything on their own. Drill sergeants rely only on strict commands and punishments to force their children to obey, sending them the message that they’re never good enough. In the middle are laissez faire parents, who just let the children run amuk and do whatever. But rising above all three of these is a balance of the “soft” hoverers and the “hard” sergeants (and the calm laissez faire). Meet the Love and Logic parent, aka the Consultant parent.
The Consultant style is based on three “legs”:
1. Your child is loved.
2. Your child is able to do.
3. Your child is capable of deciding.
Because we love our children, say CnF, we want to teach them responsibility from an early age and guide them to adulthood with the values we give them. We don’t exercise the values for them, nor hammer the values on them. We guide them through example, counsel, and consequence. We allow them to experience the consequences of not following through wisely in their decisions, and affirm the wise decisions they make. “Let reasonable, real-world consequences do the teaching,” they say. Some of these consequences are natural, and some you may have to implement yourself. Make sure they are learning something from their behavior other than the fact that Mom and Dad said no and if you don’t do it they will punish you. If that alone is your style, what will your child do when they are no longer under your roof?
Instead of using fighting words (what the child must do, what we won’t allow, what we won’t do), CnF suggest using thinking words (what they can do, what we will allow, what we will do). We do not say “sit down at the table and eat with us this very minute or you don’t get dessert!” for example. Instead, we say, “Father and I are going to sit together and have this yummy meal. We would love for you to join us because we love to eat and talk with our son, but if you insist on not eating with us you can choose not to eat until breakfast with us in the morning.” Then if the child refuses to eat, they’ll know what it’s like to be hungry. If you catch them raiding the fridge later, you charge them from their allowance for however much they ate. That’s one scenario.
Oh, and about allowance: You don’t give them an allowance for doing their chores, say CnF. After all, chores are part of being a family, of being a household. Instead, they can earn money for doing our chores. You can give your child an allowance each week as a gift from a loving parent, perhaps, but we want to train them that you get no monetary reward as an adult for keeping up the house.
Say your child is having a fit. Send them to their room? Spank them? Ground them? CnF suggest that you tell your child, “you can have a fit if you want to, but it really hurts Daddy’s ears for you to do that. You can choose where to have your fit, or Daddy can choose for you.” Let the child learn that you will not bend to their fit, and you will ignore it if you have to, but that it is better for them to go to a quiet place to do it. Don’t send your child to their room; let them choose to go to their room.
It’s these kinds of solutions which CnF suggest you begin practicing early on (making appropriate adjustments for age, etc.). The idea is you communicate to your child that you love them enough to guide them through the decisions and their consequences, giving them more and more control as they grow older based on what they demonstrate they can make wise decisions about. CnF mention the “V” of Love. See, bad parenting involves giving your child all kinds of freedom from the time they are babies, letting do what they want, get what they want, go where they want, only to take away freedoms as they get older, setting curfews, censoring activities, making demands. Instead, we should begin early with boundaries, gradually expanding their privileges (like a letter “V” going up and out) as they grow older. We should reward them for making responsible decisions. If they are faithful with a little, we will give them much.
But this style also comes with it’s own rules:
1. We must allow any consequence we set before our child.
2. We must be able to live with the choices we set before our children.
3. We obviously do not give them choices that would put them in danger.
4. Always imply that there are at least three choices of what they can do.
5. Make sure our delivery is in a loving tone.
CnF include in their book a long list of “Pearls” that deal with particular scenarios. They are in no particular order, and you might not agree with every treatment, but the strategies are adaptable do your style and your beliefs about how you want to raise your child.
What I like most about this philosophy is that it stresses the importance of preparing your child for responsibility while also showing love and compassion. We are to be the parent who does not want to see them fail when they leave the home, and this means allowing them do fail in the home and learn from it, yet being there lovingly when they do and guiding them through the learning process. I look forward to using this style as a parent. I welcome input from anyone who has tried it before, even if it’s criticism of the method.