Love and Logic

When Kids Argue with Each Other

Recently a distraught parent called about her three kids who are between 10 and 15 years old. Arguing and fighting inevitably erupts every time she gets in the car with them and fills the car with very loud, very distracting shouting. Have you noticed that kids have the uncanny ability to pick the worst times to start their bickering? Few things can be as annoying or draining for parents.

What statements can we make in these situations to help keep the problem of arguing on the kids’ shoulders where that problem belongs? Some parents try this:

“It sounds like you guys are having a problem. I expect you to solve it—somewhere else. It will be interesting to see how you solve it.”

If kids can’t seem to solve the problem for themselves, then parents can solve the problem for them, perhaps by charging something to put back the energy that was drained while listening to the fighting. Some parents charge $1 per minute to listen to high-volume arguments in the car (or at other times when the parent can’t avoid a ruckus). Other parents charge chores by offering some of their own chores for the children to do so that the parents can restore the drained energy.

Instead of reacting with anger and frustration in the moment, many parents use Love and Logic techniques successfully to empower their kids to solve problems and resolve conflicts on their own. If Love and Logic techniques are used consistently, kids will gradually learn to take responsibility for the situation more readily. When arguing starts, and they are reminded that they must solve the problem away from the parents, they will naturally work together—elsewhere. If the kids don’t resolve things wisely, it costs them something.

Sibling rivalry is very common and is a normal part of growing up in a family. 

Charles Fay, Ph.D.

Power Struggles End Learning

There are few things more disheartening and perplexing than seeing our children not taking responsibility for their schoolwork and even failing to earn the sorts of grades they’re capable of making. For many parents, the natural reaction is to jump into lecture, threat, and punishment mode and try to prompt them into action by saying things like:

  • What sort of college do you think you’re going to get into with those grades?
  • If you don’t start applying yourself, you can forget about going out for soccer.
  • That’s it! You’re grounded until you bring up those grades!

Sometimes this works, but only in the short term. If your child continues to neglect schoolwork, and these types of traditional techniques have not been successful, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a power struggle on your hands.

For many children, their favorite way of gaining the sense of control, or the freedom they desire, is to resist learning and achievement. The more that adults in their lives try to force them into learning, the less they will make the effort to learn. One reason for this is that subconsciously kids think the only way they can gain control, and win the power struggle, is to fail.

No matter how badly we want to, we can’t force kids to learn. We believe parents can overcome this power struggle by focusing on character, not homework and grades. Parents need to let go of what they can’t control and focus on what they can control—building a healthy relationship with their kids and allowing them to make mistakes so that they can learn.

The first step in reaching underachieving kids involves ending the control battle. This starts by saying, “I can’t make you learn...but I can help you learn. You’re the one who needs to decide. I will love you regardless of how easy or how hard you make your own life.”

Dr. Charles Fay

Positive Relationships are Essential

What is the most important ingredient for motivating children to develop personal responsibility and the skills/characteristics to reach their full potential?

Every year, as kids return to school, people ask this question. Some believe the answer lies in developing improved teaching methods and more advanced curricula. Others contend that the solution involves improving the types of tests administered to students.

At Love and Logic, we believe that the single most important factor affecting children involves the quality of relationships they experience with important adults in their lives. We believe that there will never be enough rewards, consequences, or techniques to get kids to behave and learn responsibility if we are not first developing positive relationships. In fact, rules, consequences, and rewards can backfire without healthy relationships.

  • Rules provided without relationship result in rebellion.
  • Consequences given without relationship lead to resentment.
  • Rewards without relationship feel like bribes.

When most of us recall the adults from our youth who had the biggest positive impact on us, we think of those who:

  • had high expectations and communicated them to us through loving limits,
  • focused mostly on our strengths, not our weaknesses,
  • spent a lot of time with us,
  • listened to us,
  • guided us rather than told us what to do,
  • empathized when things went wrong,
  • modeled healthy, assertive behavior, and
  • held us accountable, yet loved us, even when our behavior wasn’t lovable.

As this list shows, adults who enjoy positive, healthy relationships with children will be viewed as powerful and loving at the very same time. During this school year, let’s make it a goal to be this type of adult for the wonderful children we know and love.

Dr. Charles Fay

Homework and the Love of Learning

The beginning of another school year always brings back memories of my many years as an educator and school principal. My experiences showed me that teachers teach best when their students love to learn. If I were king, I'd insist that we take a different look at the role of homework, especially for elementary-aged children, and how to inspire that love of learning.

There are many different ways to learn. Pencil and paper activities are good ways to learn, but these are only one of many possible ways. If I were king, paper and pencil worksheets would cease at the end of the school day for kids in elementary school. Other forms of learning would take over, except in cases where a child does them on a voluntary basis.

I would encourage parents to ask teachers for ideas about how kids can learn in different and fun ways with their parents. I bet the teachers would suggest all kinds of learning activities that support the work done at school. Homework might include activities such as:

  • Reading to each other

  • Games that require math skills

  • Exploring the neighborhood for examples of nature and science

  • Card games and board games

  • Measuring and weighing while cooking

  • Finding the best bargains in the grocery store

  • Spelling games

  • Calculating gas mileage, win/loss averages for favorite sports, time and distance while traveling, etc.

This list could go on and on. When parents get involved in the learning process in this way, they set a powerful example for their kids and can give parents a fun way to inspire their kids to love to learn. Let's put the joy back into learning.

Jim Fay

End the Homework Battle

Does homework have to be a battle? Absolutely not! In fact, the more we battle with our kids over their homework, the less enthusiastic they'll be about learning.

Listed below are some practical and powerful tips to help keep things positive and productive.

Set a time and place for your child(ren) to learn.

To avoid power struggles, explain to them that, "This is your time to learn. You can learn by either completing your homework or thinking really hard about it. If it were my learning time, I'd probably use it to complete my homework so that I don't have a hassle with my teacher."

Help them only when it’s clear that they aren’t tuning out their teachers.

It is very important for kids to know that they should listen carefully to their teachers.

Ask your child, "How did your teacher describe this?" If your child appears to be ignoring their teacher, say, "I help when I see that you've been trying hard to pay attention at school."

Help them only as long as they are working far harder than you are.

Too many children become far too dependent on their parents to complete their homework. It's far better that they don't complete it than have you do most of it for them

If they don't complete their homework, allow it to be their problem—not yours.

Although it's a tough pill to swallow, we must admit that we cannot learn and achieve for our kids. What we can do is allow them to explain their lack of effort to their teachers, and support their teachers when they assign commensurate grades.

We can also match their level of effort with the number of privileges we provide.

Dr. Charles Fay

Underachievement: The Perfect Underachiever

Parents and teachers alike often confront the mystery of underachievement—kids who are perfectly capable of doing well but just don’t seem to be motivated to learn. Even though the new school year doesn’t start until next month, now is a good time to lay the foundation for helping these kids love to learn.

The common denominator among many underachieving kids is deep-seated perfectionism. That's right! As strange as it sounds, many kids who do poorly in school desire to do perfectly in school. As they grow, they become more and more imprisoned by the belief that it's better to avoid trying than to appear less than perfect in any way.

Sadly, many of these perfect underachievers are misdiagnosed as lazy or uncaring. In fact, it is fear, rather than apathy, that drives their poor performance.

In my book, From Bad Grades to a Great Life!, I teach a variety of strategies for helping perfectionists gain the courage to achieve. Listed below are some quick hints:

Model learning from making mistakes.
Kids need to see us trying new things, making mistakes, learning from these mistakes, and trying again.

Love your children for who they are.
When humans feel loved and accepted for who they are, they're more likely to take healthy risks that are necessary for them to become all they can be.

Respond to their mistakes with empathy, rather than anger.
Obviously, it's best to avoid flying off the handle when they blow it. Remember: Empathy opens the heart and the mind to learning.

Focus on effort rather than IQ.
Parents who constantly praise their kids by saying, "You are so smart," often raise kids who avoid trying anything that they can't complete perfectly.

Don’t miss our upcoming event with Dr. Amen. The topic is “Reaching the Underachieving Child.” Join us for this FREE event on August 3. Reserve your spot today!

Thanks for reading!

Charles Fay, Ph.D.

Alleviate power stuggles by asking questions

Even though they might not realize it, many parents who call us are locked in power struggles with their kids. Whenever they order their kids to do something, or command them not to do something, their kids completely ignore them or resist by arguing.

Most families will experience power struggles between parents and kids, and these struggles create tension and stress for everyone in the family. One technique for defusing power struggles, as well as alleviating stress, is the simple act of asking questions.

Which is more powerful, a question, or a statement? Here are some examples of differences between statements or orders, and questions.

Saying, “Stop behaving that way,” is more likely to create resistance than saying, “Can you save that behavior for later?”

“That’s too expensive. I’m not buying it,” will probably create more of a battle than, “How are you planning to pay for that?”

“Take out the trash. I’m not taking you to your friend’s house until you do,” stands a better chance of starting a protracted argument than, “When do you suppose I’ll be willing to take you to your friend’s house?”

Many times, a thoughtful inquiry has a far greater impact on a child’s thinking and behavior than a statement. Why is this?

Statements tend to create resistance.
Questions are more likely to create thinking.

Why are commands or orders from parents so often met with resistance from kids? One reason is that the message tends to be accompanied by a tone of voice that is much more likely to trigger an emotional response rather than a thinking response.

Why are questions so powerful? Do they cause our minds to search for closure in the form of answers? Does the brain have less energy to fight when it’s busy pondering a question? Questions, when asked with an empathetic tone, tend to result in a thinking reaction instead of an emotional reaction.

Here are some examples of strategic questions:

  • When do I allow kids to enjoy treats?
  • When do I listen to kids?
  • What do you think might happen if you don’t let me know where you are? If you ran into a serious problem, would I know where to find you to help?
  • When I pick up your toys for you, who gets to keep them?
  • How can you prove that you are ready to drive the car?

When children get older, will they need even better decision-making skills than we needed at their age? Are the consequences of their decisions more serious than they were a decade ago? Sometimes it’s smart to tell our kids what to do, but will we enjoy fewer power struggles if we keep this to a minimum?

What’s another benefit of asking questions? When we ask questions, we communicate a very powerful and loving message:

I know that you can think! I believe in you!

Power struggles in families can also arise between parents. Over the years, we have learned that Love and Logic not only works between adults and kids, but between adults as well.

One of our primary jobs as parents is to help our children become so full of healthy habits, coping skills, and positive relationships that there is no room for the negative. Although this is undoubtedly easier said than done, demonstrating love while empowering our kids to own and solve their own problems is a huge step.

Join me and Dr. Daniel G. Amen on July 13 for our next FREE Online Event, When Parents Have Different Styles. Register today and learn how to alleviate power struggles with your spouse when you have different points of view on parenting.

Thanks for reading!

If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend. Our goal is to help as many families as possible.

Dr. Charles Fay

Healthy Dads Raise Strong Kids

Love and Logic believes that good parents and teachers take really good care of themselves, and this is the basis of the First Rule of Love and Logic. When dads take good care of themselves, they develop a positive and healthy relationship with their kids and provide a healthy role model for them.

What can dads do to take good care of themselves and help their kids? The secret is in the Second Rule of Love and Logic—when a child causes a problem, the adult hands it back in loving ways. Dads can avoid the trap of addressing the problem with anger, threats, and lectures by simply providing the opportunity for the child to solve the problem.

Show your child how to make mistakes and solve them.
Great dads (and moms) allow their children to witness their small mistakes and model what it looks like to be a good problem-solver.

Give your child plenty of opportunities to make “affordable” mistakes.
Love and Logic parents allow their youngsters plenty of opportunities to make small, “affordable” mistakes when they are young, so that they can learn from their mistakes when the “price tag” is small.

If a mistake is made, provide a strong “dose” of empathy, and hold your child accountable.
Empathy is the cornerstone of all Love and Logic techniques. The most loved and respected dads (and moms) provide a strong message of empathy and caring before they deliver consequences.

Give your child the same task again.
When parents give their children the opportunity and responsibility for the same task again, without reminding them of their previous mistakes, they send the powerful message that they can learn from their mistakes.

To all the dads who are oftentimes too hard on themselves, remember to show yourself the same kindness and forgiveness that a loving father shows his children.

Dr. Charles Fay

Love and Logic

In our experience, it is never too early to start with Love and Logic techniques. Some parents believe that very young children are too young to learn and benefit from parenting techniques. These beliefs are based on myths about the abilities of very young children. One myth is that discipline and learning require language. In our view, wise parents start using Love and Logic in the early months by using loving yet firm actions instead of verbal commands.

Another myth is that little children cannot remember and learn. Never underestimate what young children can remember—parents who have promised a favorite food or activity to a young child, and forgotten to deliver, will attest to the amazing ability of very young kids to remember!

One of the important principles of Love and Logic is the need to guide young children toward developing a healthy sense of self. We believe that parents cannot give their kids this sense, they can only provide support to their children so that they develop a sense of self for themselves, from within. Parents aid the development of a healthy sense of self by providing the following:

  • Unconditional love rather than constant praise, attention, or rewards.
  • Opportunities for kids to make their own choices and then experience the consequences, both positive and negative.
  • The gift of occasionally experiencing disappointments and struggles.
  • Just enough guidance so that their children can see themselves overcoming disappointments and struggles—but not so much involvement that parents are simply doing everything for them.
  • Plenty of experiences where the kids see that they have what it takes to cope and solve problems if they work hard and persevere.

The importance of chores cannot be overemphasized, and an entire chapter in the book is devoted to the power of family contributions and how doing them can help kids become responsible and develop a healthy sense of self. Family contributions show kids that they are valued and needed, help them build the healthy confidence and strength they will need to overcome obstacles in their lives.

Dr. Charles Fay

Helping Kids Resist Technology Addiction

When anyone develops an unhealthy dependence on a substance, activity, person, or anything else, the underlying issues are usually not resolved merely by removing access to the target of their addiction. It’s wise to remember this when it appears that our kids may be getting pulled into excessive use and dependence upon their digital devices.

Even though limiting access is essential, doing so doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Imagine this very simple experiment:

  • Find an empty bottle. The space inside represents a void (or vacuum) present in a person’s life. This doesn’t mean that the person is hopeless. It means that they need someone to help them fill these voids with healthy habits, skills, and relationships.

  • Hold the bottle in a sink completely under dirty dishwater. The nasty water represents the subject of a person’s addiction. Because there is a void inside of the person, the water rushes in, completely filling the person. “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Look up what this means.

  • Take the bottle out of the water and pour out the contents. Rinse it out with fresh water. This represents what happens when we remove access to what the person is addicted to, and they appear to be clean.

  • Once again, hold the bottle completely under the dirty dishwater. Because there’s still a void, the contaminated water rushes in immediately. The bottle is in the same condition it was before it was first emptied and rinsed.

If we don’t help others fill the voids inside them with healthy habits, coping skills, and positive relationships, they will always be at risk of filling themselves with unhealthy things.

One of our primary jobs as parents is to help our children become so full of healthy habits, coping skills, and positive relationships that there is no room for the negative. Although this is undoubtedly easier said than done, demonstrating love while empowering our kids to own and solve their own problems is a huge step.

Dr. Charles Fay

The Enduring Simplicity of Love and Logic

Since Love and Logic began 45 years ago, there have been many profound changes in our world. Some are wonderful, but others have presented challenges for parents and their kids.

Despite these changes and challenges, the simple principles and techniques of Love and Logic have stood the test of time. Love and Logic worked wonders with thousands of families during the last decades of the 20th century, and they continue to do so in the 21st century. The philosophy and essential elements of Love and Logic were explained in our 2004 book, How to Discipline Kids without Losing Their Love and Respect, which was based on a PBS presentation.

The book describes the Two Simple Rules of Love and Logic, which are the foundation for all Love and Logic techniques. 

Rule 1: Adults take good care of themselves by setting limits without anger, lectures, threats, or repeated warnings.

Rule 2: When a child causes a problem, the adult hands it back in loving ways.

Keys to the success of implementing these rules include the use of enforceable limits, the value of letting consequences do the teaching, and, most important of all, the use of empathy with all techniques of Love and Logic.

Empathy is the hallmark of our approach, and the thousands of parents who used Love and Logic successfully learned how to maintain an empathetic response in every interaction with their kids. The benefits of delivering consequences with empathy include:

  • The child is not distracted or overwhelmed by the adult’s anger.
  • The child learns to “own” their pain rather than blame it on the adult.
  • The adult is seen as being able to handle problems without breaking a sweat.
  • The adult-child relationship is maintained on a mutually respectful basis.
  • The child learns through modeling to use empathy with others.

The book describes some of the day-to-day benefits of using Love and Logic. For example, arguing and backtalk often stop very early as the techniques are introduced. Typical battles disappear, such as conflicts over homework and academic performance. Children eventually develop an improved self-concept because they learn how to handle their own problems—this also helps kids to become “teaseproof.”

One common problem that parents face is getting kids to do their chores. Love and Logic turns this problem into an asset by using chores as the foundation for developing a child’s sense of responsibility and self-esteem. This has consequences far beyond just getting chores done—it helps kids in other areas of life, for example with homework and academic performance.

Jim Fay

The Importance and Power of Chores

When parents new to Love and Logic call us for help, they often mention that they are struggling with their kids’ neglect of chores. They complain that chores never get done, no matter how many reminders are offered, or how loud those reminders are! Usually, parents view chores as a means of getting things done around the house. Even though getting bedrooms cleaned up and the trash emptied are important goals, at Love and Logic we believe that the importance and power of chores lies in what they teach kids, how they meet the psychological needs of kids, and how they teach valuable life lessons for kids.

For example, when kids are expected to contribute to their family, they learn self-control as well as how to persevere and delay self-gratification. Kids need to be needed, and doing their chores gives them a sense of belonging and contributing to the family.

Kids also need structure and limits as their minds develop. With the Love and Logic approach, chores provide the opportunity for kids to experience enforceable limits delivered with empathy—a powerful combination that enables learning. As they master their chores, their self-esteem is enhanced, which will naturally carry over into other areas of their lives, including their homework and ultimately their academic success.

Here are a few Love and Logic tips to help parents take advantage of the power of chores.

Commit yourself to the importance of chores
In our view, chores are more important than homework, music lessons, sports, or anything else. They are also more important than video games and social media. It is helpful to keep in mind that when kids master their chores, they will be better equipped to manage other activities in their lives.

No reminders or warnings
Kids will always need the number of reminders to do their chores as the number of reminders that parents give them. The Love and Logic approach is to avoid reminders and warnings, and let kids make affordable mistakes with their chores. Remind yourself to avoid giving reminders and give your kids the opportunity learn how to become responsible instead.

No pay
Not paying kids for doing their chores teaches them that true happiness comes from helping and sharing. It is important for kids to see that everyone in the family has chores and that everyone does them for the sake of the family, not for pay.

Let the consequences, delivered with empathy, do the teaching
This is a fundamental principle of Love and Logic—kids learn the lessons of life best when they experience the consequences of their mistakes. When they experience the consequences of not doing their chores, they quickly learn the importance of getting the chores done properly. Delivering consequences must always be done with a healthy dose of empathy. Remember, nothing works without empathy!

Based on decades of experience with parents using Love and Logic, we have observed that children who learn to complete real and meaningful chores, without reminders and pay, become far better students. 

Dr. Charles Fay

Creating a Perfect World for Kids in an Imperfect World

Do you know people who are trying to create a perfect environment for their children? Are they more concerned about getting the world to adjust to their kids than they are about helping their kids learn to cope with, and deal with the world, as it exists today?

Despite the efforts of many to create a perfect world where no one will ever experience hardship, where bad decisions will have limited consequences, where good outcomes are guaranteed regardless of effort and sacrifice, and where kids never have less than other kids, our kids still live in a world that requires effort and resilience.

Our love for our kids tempts us to do all we can to make their childhood better than ours. It tempts us to try to eliminate disappointment, struggle, and inconvenience from their lives. Each day we need to ask ourselves: “Whose needs are being met when we attempt to guarantee that our kids are never disappointed, never get less than an A grade, never have to struggle, never take risks, never fail, and never have less than the neighbor kid?”

Is it our job to make the world adjust to our kids, or is our job to help our kids develop resilience so that they can fit into a world they’re going to face? For example, should we do our best to shelter our kids from the current economic woes the world is facing?

Our current economic environment poses a challenge for most families, requiring parents to be careful with the family budget. However, many parents continue to scrape together enough cash to finance their children’s expensive extracurricular activities, sports, and hobbies.

At first glance, this behavior seems heroic. In fact, we view this as an attribute of helicopter parents, who are always rescuing their kids and protecting them from the real world. They sacrifice their own wants and needs to maintain a high standard of living for their children, which might not be such a good idea. Let’s consider some messages this sends to kids:

  • You are more important than other people.
  • Your wants and needs should come before the wants and needs of others.
  • When money is tight, there’s no need to adjust one’s expectations or lifestyle.
  • The real world works the same for everybody except for you.

Trying to create perfect environments for our children is about as successful as creating perfect children. In our eyes, these are impossible goals. Turning the current economic adversity to advantage, we can teach our kids how to respond to challenging times instead of sheltering them from the world as it exists.

It takes great courage to be a parent and let kids learn through their mistakes and adversity.

Charles and Jim Fay

Don’t Interrupt Mom When She’s on a Call

Love and Logic has several techniques that can help parents handle those situations when they are baffled and just don’t know how to respond to kids who are testing the limits. Two of the techniques are the Strategic Training Session, which allows parents to develop a plan so that they can easily handle problems created by kids, and the Love and Logic Energy Drain. Let's see how these can be used in the example below.

Anna’s children had discovered that they were no longer the center of attention when she talked on the phone. So, they would hang on to her, complain, bicker, or beg. She decided to do something about this by using a Love and Logic Training Session.

Anna called one of her friends and explained the problem. “Paula,” Anna said, “my kids need some special training. They are driving me nuts when I get on the phone. Would you be willing to call me several times during the next few days? When they start going through their acts, I’ll put you on hold for a few minutes. I’ll pretend like it’s no big deal that we stop the conversation while I straighten out the kids. That way they are going to find out that inconveniencing me while I’m on the phone is a bad decision. Please call me tomorrow morning and we can have our first training session.”

“Oh, this sounds great!” answered Paula. “Maybe you can do the same thing for me.” Anna started telling Paula about the Love and Logic Energy Drain technique: “When we are inconvenienced, the time and energy we lose must be paid back by the kids. This is usually paid back by them doing some of the parent’s work, like scrubbing toilets, washing windows, or pulling weeds.”

Paula called the next morning, and, true to form, the kids started in on Anna. She very politely said, “Oh, Paula, I’m so sorry. Would you please hold? We are going to have a Love and Logic moment at our house.”

Anna put the phone down, calmly walked over to the kids and said in a calm voice, “I told you that bothering me while I’m on the phone is an Energy Drain. I’m going to have to do something about this. You can wait in your room until I finish.”

Anna’s kids paid her back for her Energy Drain by pulling weeds that afternoon. Now, if the kids forget and annoy her while she is on the phone, she turns to the kids and asks, “Are you sure you want to inconvenience me while I’m on the phone?” This is usually followed by a quick retreat by the kids.

Jim Fay

Heart-felt Listening

A well-known quote about communication sums up the situation we often see between parents and their kids. William H. Whyte, in a Fortune magazine article from 1950, said, “The great enemy of communication is the illusion of it.” Parents who call us are frequently stuck in fruitless arguments with their kids—both sides believing they are communicating their position, often with increasing decibel levels. However, this is clearly not real, open communication.

Is it true that some people are easier to talk to than others? When I was a teenager, perhaps centuries ago (at least in the last century!), we had a very clear way of responding to obvious questions like this: “Duh!” Some people have a way about them that leaves us feeling that we can share our deepest thoughts and concerns. We feel safe, knowing that they will never reject us or freakout in any way.

How important is it that we remain this type of person to our kids? Does this increase the likelihood that they’ll make good decisions about drugs, alcohol, dating, driving, their educations, and the variety of nursing home they eventually select for us?

Our kids observe us with keen eyes and ears, subconsciously testing whether we are someone with which they can share their lives. The more of their tests we pass, the more likely they’ll come to us when they are hurting or facing temptation. Discussed below are three common tests.

Test: Are you going to get freaked out?
A dad described how his son started at an early age: “At age seven, he nonchalantly approached me and said, ‘I don’t think telling the truth is so important. Lying isn’t a big deal.’” This father continued, “I was so thankful for Love and Logic, because it taught me to avoid losing it in these situations. I just replied, ‘Thanks for sharing your opinion,’ and I walked away. Over the years, I’ve noticed that this is his way of seeing if I’ll get upset.”

Test: Do you really care?
It can also be harmful to remain silent over important values. As parents, we have an obligation to guide our kids. One strategy for doing so involves listening to their opinion, and then asking questions about possible consequences. For example, “I appreciate you sharing that with me. Do you think that __________________ might happen if a person did that?”

Test: Do you really believe in me?
Lectures poison relationships. They do so because they communicate a lack of belief in others. Some of the messages they send are, “I don’t believe that you can evaluate the potential consequences of the choices you face. I’m not sure that you are bright enough to learn from the mistakes you make. I don’t trust that you can learn without being told multiple times.” When we use fewer words, and more thoughtful questions, we send a far more empowering message such as, “If any kid could figure out how to make healthy decisions about this, you’d be that kid!”

Test anxiety can be debilitating. That’s why it’s best to remember that you don’t have to always pass each of these tests perfectly to raise great kids. The key is demonstrating the desire and the drive to improve every day.

One final thought about communication comes from the next point that William H. Whyte made in his article about communication: “We have talked enough; but we have not listened.” This is at the heart of Love and Logic’s emphasis on empathy. Heart-felt listening, listening with genuine empathy, is the key to real, open communication with our kids.

Dr. Charles Fay

It’s Never Too Early to Start with Love and Logic

How early in a child’s life can we start using Love and Logic? This is a question we hear from callers who have very young kids. From a Love and Logic perspective, we believe that you can start as soon as they can spit their pureed food or crawl away from you when you are changing their diaper.

There are some myths about working with young kids that sometimes cause adults to wait before working with their little ones. Let’s take a quick look at four common myths.

Myth #1. Discipline and Learning Require Language
Some think that kids cannot learn or benefit from positive parenting discipline until they are able to converse. Kids begin learning from a very early age, before they can communicate verbally. We believe that wise parents begin Love and Logic early, with simple loving actions—not words.

Myth #2. A Little Child Cannot Remember and Learn
Parents soon learn never to underestimate what children can remember. For example, kids will never let you forget that you promised them their favorite snacks!

Myth #3. Setting Limits Will Break a Young Child’s Spirit
Some parents avoid setting limits because they worry about making their toddlers angry. However, children whose parents make them happy all the time will often experience a major shock when they grow up and face undesired consequences.

Myth #4. Limits and Consequences Interfere with Attachment
Healthy bonding and attachment are essential for children. Some people believe that parents should never use limits or consequences with kids because it will interfere with parent-child attachment. We agree that consequences delivered with anger, threats, and lectures can damage the relationship between adults and children. However, limits and consequences delivered with genuine empathy in a calm and caring tone of voice will build healthy relationships and strengthen bonds.

Fortunately, the basic process for starting with very young children is very simple:

Step One: Pray for misbehavior.

Mistakes made early in life have far more affordable consequences than those made later.

Step Two: Sing an empathetic, “Uh oh.”

The fewer words we use when our kids are acting up, the more successful we will be.

Step Three: Provide a loving consequence.

There exist only three basic consequences for small children:

  • Change your location by walking away and paying no attention to them.
  • Change the location of the problem object by taking it away.
  • Change the child’s location by carrying them to their room, buckling them into their stroller, etc.

Step Four: Repeat as needed.

When parents repeat this basic process with great consistency, they find that they only get to the second step most of the time. Quite quickly, their tots learn that “Uh oh” means that it’s wise to start acting sweet!

Charles and Jim Fay

Use Thinking Words, Not Fighting Words

Parents often call us just after they have had an intense argument with their child. They are usually very upset and feel guilty about getting angry and shouting, but don’t know how to turn things around with their kids.

These arguments follow a similar pattern. The child has done something inappropriate or not done something that should have been done, such as a chore. This causes frustration for the parent and their frustration bursts out in commands delivered in an angry tone of voice. This triggers a defensive response from the child, and the argument escalates into a power struggle between the adult and the child.

Love and Logic parents understand that the key to avoiding this pattern is to avoid commands, lectures, threats, and an angry tone of voice. Instead, they try to neutralize the arguing by using thinking words delivered with genuine empathy. What are thinking words? Here are some examples of situations with fighting words and their corresponding thinking words.

A child has said something unkind and in an inappropriate tone of voice to the parent:
Fighting Words: “Don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!"
Thinking Words: “You sound upset. I’ll be glad to listen when your voice is as calm and respectful as mine.”

A child didn’t do a chore on time:
Fighting Words: “I want that car washed now!”
Thinking Words: “I’ll take you to your soccer practice as soon as the car is washed.”

A child is procrastinating about homework:
Fighting Words: “Go do your homework now!”
Thinking Words: “Feel free to go play with your friend when your homework is done.”

Two kids are arguing and fighting:
Fighting Words: “Stop that fighting! Be nice to each other!”
Thinking Words: “You guys are welcome to come back as soon as you work that out together.”

There are two key elements to effective thinking words. First, they must be based on enforceable limits. If the parent uses unenforceable limits, the child still has control and can refuse to cooperate. With enforceable limits, the adult has the control, which opens the door for the child to learn from the consequences of not cooperating.

The second element is empathy. Without empathy, even the right thinking words can result in an argument. Empathy helps the child remain calm so that thinking about the situation is possible, rather than responding defensively.

Using thinking words with genuine empathy helps parents avoid ending up in another argument that goes nowhere, and allows kids the chance to think and solve their own problems. This is the ultimate goal of Love and Logic, to help kids learn how to make responsible decisions on their own, so that they can grow up into responsible adults who make good decisions throughout their lives.

Thanks for reading!

If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend. Our goal is to help as many families as possible.

Dr. Charles Fay