Love and Logic

Chores and Success in the Next School Year

School is just around the corner and, in a little over a month, kids will be returning to their classrooms. Now is a good time to lay the foundation for a successful school year. Our view at Love and Logic is that chores are critical for success in school and beyond. By modeling chores, parents can help instill the sense of satisfaction when completing tasks, which can lead to the love of learning in school.

Anyone who knows kids knows that they want to be “big” like their parents. Great parents take advantage of this by making a big deal out of modeling the things they want their kids to do. When parents model something like chores, give their kids choices, and make a task fun, learning happens quickly.

Getting started now with modeling chores will give your kids a head start with the transition into the next school year. Here are some steps for modeling chores:

  • Make sure that your kids see you doing your chores and that you are working hard and even struggling to get them done.

  • Make sure that they see you feel a sense of completion and accomplishment as well as how good you feel after the chores are done.

  • Think out loud while you are working. Say things like, “This is hard but I’ve got to do it, so I’m going to do it right now.” After it’s done, you can say, “It’s done! I feel great now that it’s done.”

It’s very important that your kids realize that you sometimes must work hard at something you don’t necessarily like. Covering up your struggle or saying that chores are fun, when they’re not, creates frustration and resentment within kids when they must struggle with their own chores. Be positive about doing your chores—but be honest about your struggles.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Love Your Kids and Students by Taking Care of Yourself

Before we know it, the next school year will be here! Before the frenzy of preparing for the first day, we want to remind parents and educators that they must take good care of themselves. Loving our children and our students requires that we first take care of ourselves in loving, unselfish ways. That’s the First Rule of Love and Logic!

Too frequently, we are led to believe that “good parents” and “good educators” should sacrifice their own needs to serve their children. While this sounds sweet and exactly how good parents and teachers should act, trying to accomplish it depletes our love reserves:

When our bucket is empty, we have nothing to give.

Love and Logic is not about being narcissistic or selfish, it’s about giving kids the gift of patient, encouraging, relaxed, and enthusiastic role models. Listed below are a few quick reminders:

Focus on what you can control.

A sure recipe for disaster involves trying to make kids happy, attempting to make them be good students, trying to make them get enough sleep, ensuring that they pick the right friends, etc. What we do have control over is what we model, they the types of limits we set, and how we respond when these limits are tested.

Set limits to avoid becoming a doormat.

Effective people set limits by describing how they will take care of themselves, not by telling others what they should do. For example:

  • I do the extra things I do around here when I feel respected.

  • I listen to students when their voices sound calm like mine.

  • I __________when I don’t have to hear complaining or arguing.

Provide discipline when it’s convenient for you, not for the kids.

Avoid falling into the trap of trying to solve problems or provide immediate consequences. Take care of yourself by taking time and handling the problem when you have the time, energy, and support you need.

The Two Principles of Love and Logic can guide you toward fulfilling your role as an effective parent or educator. The first rule is that adults must set firm, loving limits using enforceable statements without showing anger, lecturing, or using threats. The second rule is that when a child causes a problem, the adult shows empathy through sadness and sorrow and then lovingly hands the problem and its consequences back to the child.

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

The Fence

Love and Logic has helped millions of people raise wonderful, respectful, responsible kids. Along the way, we learned that the principles of Love and Logic can also be helpful with adult relationships. We believe that some Love and Logic techniques can improve adult relationships. Here is an example of what I have in mind.

Eric was furious. “Look out the window, Sara. Our neighbor is building a fence. I’d swear that it’s on our property. I’m going out there to stop that nonsense right now. He has no right to do that!”

Sara paused briefly, then said, “Hold on Eric, let’s think about this. I’m concerned too, but what did we learn last night in the Love and Logic class? Didn’t our facilitator teach us to delay consequences?”

“Well, I’m not going over there to consequence him. That’s what you do to kids.”

“Consequences or reactions? Both are things that you might be sorry about later. Our facilitator said the reason for delaying is to calm down and think it through before we act.”

“Yeah, she also said to preface the consequence with empathy, and I can tell you I don’t feel empathetic right now. So, okay, I’ll wait until I calm down. But I don’t like it!”

The next day a calmer Eric went to his neighbor. Instead of leading with empathy, he chose to begin with a positive relationship message. “Dan, I was pretty upset when I saw the fence. But then I got to thinking that I value your friendship too much to ruin it over a fence. I realized that you have every right to build it. I just hope you got a survey so it’s on your property, not mine.”

“Eric, I didn’t want a fence either, but my mother just passed away and I promised to take care of her dog. I really didn’t want the dog and I didn’t want it to become a problem for you. I’m glad you understand. Do you really think the fence is in the wrong place?”

“I’m very sorry to hear about your mother, Dan. I’ll help you figure out the property line, and if you need help installing the fence, I can help with that as well.”

Eric went back home thinking, “Man alive, I’m sure glad I didn’t deal with this last night. And as much as I hate it, Sara was right. Calm down first, then begin with empathy or a positive relationship message. I can’t imagine what a mess this could have been if I hadn’t delayed my reaction.”

Love and Logic recognizes that we are all subject to natural human reactions in the heat of an exchange. Using a technique like the one described above not only avoids unpleasant outcomes, but it helps build better relationships. With Love and Logic, Robert Frost’s famous line, “Good fences make good neighbors,” could be turned around to read, “Good neighbors make good fences.”

Thanks for reading!

Jim Fay

Some Problems with Intentional Praise

Last week’s newsletter described spontaneous and intentional praise, and we presented an alternative to intentional praise that can encourage kids and help avoid having praise backfire and cause more behavioral problems. This week we will look at some of the problems with intentional praise and how the messages that Love and Logic sends to kids can help them develop a healthy self-concept.

Self-Concept Conflict
Children who feel poorly about themselves usually become extremely uncomfortable when praised. On a subconscious level they react by thinking, “This doesn’t match up. I’m not that great, and I don’t do great things. In fact, I can probably think of a million examples of why this person is wrong about me.”

For many children, praise actually triggers a myriad of negative self-images, all intended to confirm the child’s negative view of self. While no positive, rational person would compel a child to construct a laundry list of all their perceived failures, this often occurs when a hurting child hears something like, “That’s awesome!” The resulting conflict and anxiety contribute to the difficult behaviors following our attempts to be positive.

Zero- Sum Orientation
Many kids who are highly controlling have a real problem with other people being happy about their behavior. One psychological characteristic of these kids (and adults) is a zero-sum orientation. In their head, only one person can win: “If my parent or teacher is happy about my behavior, I must be unhappy about it.”

These are also the kids who are wondering, “What do you want from me?” When they experience praise, they feel a strong need to prove that any efforts to manipulate (even if this is not intended by the adult) will not work.

The Pedestal is Slippery
I suffer from this one. When praised, I often find myself feeling a bit panicked. My mind begins to race, “What if I can’t maintain this? What if I fail? What if I disappoint these people who think I’m so great?”

As a child, I learned how to avoid these feelings and told myself, “Don’t try so hard. Be mediocre. Be a bit resistant. Don’t give adults much to be excited about. When they try to be positive, be a little more negative.” These internal messages do not contribute to developing a healthy self-concept.

Fortunately, the development of Love and Logic helped my parents realize that all their loving attempts at praise were making things worse. Things began to change when they began to consistently send two messages through their words and actions:

We love you unconditionally.
You don’t have to earn our love, and you can’t lose it.

You get to decide how you feel about your accomplishments.
We’ll just be happy for you.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Should Kids be Immune from a Bad Economy?

Should we do our best to shelter our kids from economic woes? Despite experiencing major financial problems from the current economic environment, many parents continue to scrape together enough cash to finance their children’s expensive extracurricular activities, sports, and hobbies. In fact, one parent commented that he wasn’t quite sure how he’d afford having his car repaired due to his son’s need for new hockey equipment.

At first glance, this behavior seems heroic. Taking a closer look, sacrificing our own wants and needs to maintain a high standard of living for our children 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 those of others.

  • Even when money is tight, you don’t need to adjust your expectations or lifestyle.

  • The real world works the same for everybody except for you.

Please don’t misunderstand me! I want kids to enjoy healthy extracurricular activities and hobbies. In fact, research tells us that these activities help kids do better in school and stay off drugs.

However, here’s the problem. When our children’s standard of living grossly exceeds our own, we run the risk of them becoming extremely spoiled. Parents need to establish a home where kids learn how the real-world works, so they’ll be ready for it when they get there!

Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is tell the truth in a matter-of-fact way: “I want you to participate in that activity, but we just don’t have the money right now.” It’s truly amazing how well kids handle the truth when we aren’t afraid to tell it!

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Three Basic Rules for Setting Limits Inbox

The happiest and most secure kids have something in common—they have adults in their lives who provide and enforce loving limits. Kids tend to test the very limits they want the most because limits mean love, and limits mean feelings of safety. Unfortunately, many parents set limits that are unenforceable.

We must recognize that we can’t control the actions of others, including our kids. When it comes to setting limits, it’s important to keep this in mind so that we don’t fall into the trap of issuing threats instead of setting real limits. Enforceable limits are based on what we know we can do—threats involve what we wish we could do or control.

Love and Logic teaches us the following principles about setting effective, enforceable limits:

Never tell a stubborn child what to do.
Describe what you are willing to do or allow instead.

Enforceable limits are an essential part of the Love and Logic approach. Here are the three basic rules for setting limits with Love and Logic:

1. Treat them with great respect so that they can see how to treat you.
2. Describe what you are willing to do or allow without telling kids what to do.
3. Follow through with empathy and actions, rather than anger, lectures, threats, or repeated warnings.

Here are some examples of enforceable versus unenforceable limits:

Unenforceable: Don’t shout at me!
Enforceable: I listen to people who don’t yell.

Unenforceable: Pick up your toys!
Enforceable: Feel free to keep the toys that you pick up.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Lessons from a Strong and Loving Dad

I can never pass up an opportunity to brag about my dad, Jim Fay. He has always been, and still is, the strongest and most loving man in my life.

As we were growing up, my sisters and I quickly learned that his word was always gold. Strong and loving dads help their children grow to become strong and loving adults. My dad taught us four important parenting lessons that I cherish and will never forget.

My love for you is permanent and impervious.
While I spent many hours making restitution for my blunders, I never found myself wondering how I stood in my dad’s eyes. This has held constant over my lifetime, even when my mistakes were very serious and would severely test any parent’s patience and understanding.

I love you enough to keep my promises.
A loving father never promises anything to his kids unless he is absolutely certain he can provide it. Neither would he set a limit without being one hundred percent sure he could enforce it. Keeping promises and enforcing limits builds trust and gives kids a sense of safety.

By mastering my anger, I will show you how to be a strong person.
I sometimes find myself too quickly riled by small things done by others. The first step in mastering any problem is to admit that you have it. When we are challenged by our own anger, it’s very healthy to say to a child, “I’m really angry about this. I’m going to have to do something about it. We’ll talk later. I make better decisions when I’m calm.”

Search for humility.
The messages that are being sent to youth about themselves versus others are possibly the greatest challenge facing our society. Too many young people are being convinced that showing off is more important than showing consideration and respect. Because of the trap of feeling superior about being humble, great people never consider themselves to have found humility. They just keep searching, and thus show their children what it truly looks like.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Talking with Our Kids During Difficult Times: Listening is the Key

During difficult times, like what our country is experiencing right now, kids need the reassurance that they can speak with their parents about their feelings and opinions—this goes a long way toward helping our kids cope. It also decreases the odds that they will feel compelled to hide their feelings or possibly act out to gain our attention.

There are many important topics that we need to discuss with our kids. However, have you noticed that very soon after you start talking about something important with your kid, you end up in lecture mode and are the only one talking? This tendency can be attributed to our “Lecture Lobe.” Most of us have one. It’s a part of our brain devoted exclusively to lecturing kids about being more responsible, eating green stuff, getting a good education, staying away from all things that might “put your eye out,” etc.

Listening to our youngsters’ opinions, even when they’re silly, strange, or downright scary, dramatically increases the odds that they’ll listen when it’s our turn to speak. Let’s think about this. Do children have control over whether they listen to us, even when we don’t give them this control? You bet! Whenever we pretend to have control over things that we clearly do not, then we erode their respect for us and create a battle they cannot resist.

Here are a few tips to experiment with when talking to your kids about important matters:

  • Have plenty of short discussions rather than a few long ones.
  • Listen with empathy and compassion.
  • Ask open-ended questions that are thoughtful and sincere.
  • Ask permission to share your thoughts.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of trying to force them into a conversation if they refuse to talk.

As with all Love and Logic techniques, we must remember that listening with empathy is crucial. When I ask people to describe the parents and teachers who they respected the most as kids, they almost always mention something like, “They were always there to listen.”

Listening means love.
It means that we sincerely care about others’ opinions and emotions.

Building a resilient family establishes a foundation for weathering stressful events in the world around us. 

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

When Your Kid Says, “I’m Stupid!”

There are few things that tear at our hearts more than when a child says, “I’m stupid.” At first glance, the following response by a parent seems to be right on track:

“No, you are not stupid. Honey, think of all the things you are good at. How about reading? You’re good at that! And remember how much you improved in baseball last summer? Stupid kids don’t learn how to hit curve balls like you did. And your artwork is wonderful. If you were dumb, would you have been able to learn how to create those drawings with such wonderful, three-dimensional perspectives? I don’t think so.”

Even though this is a well-meaning parent, the approach can inadvertently lend credibility to the child’s “I’m stupid” remark by spending so much time and energy addressing it. If we always do whatever we can to make children feel comfortable and praised, then they will begin to feel like they can’t make it in life without somebody praising them and making them feel comfortable all the time.

Reinforcing a child’s sense of self-esteem is a healthier way to help our kids avoid feeling that they are inadequate or “stupid.” Consider employing a response that avoids unintentionally reinforcing your youngster’s self-deprecating remarks—such as the following:

“Honey, aren’t you glad I don’t believe that!”

When kids make self-deprecating comments, it might be a clue that they are struggling with their sense of self-esteem. At Love and Logic, we have found that chores can be a very effective means of shoring up self-esteem. When kids do their chores as part of their family responsibility, and get them done properly and on time, they will develop a strong sense of self-esteem and accomplishment from contributing to the family.

As we approach the summer holidays, this is a great time to help kids own their chores, which can greatly improve their sense of self-esteem. Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Find Out How Can Praise Can Create Pain

Many parents tell us that praise often backfires, and their children’s behavior actually can get worse after receiving praise. When using Love and Logic, there are times when we want to encourage our kids and recognize them whenever they do a good job. However, this must be done carefully so that it achieves the goal of encouragement without creating more behavioral problems.

What is “Praise”?
Before we pursue this puzzle, perhaps wisdom dictates that we define what we’re really talking about when we use the term “praise.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Praise” is defined in two ways, “1: to express a favorable judgment of 2: to glorify by the attribution of perfections.” Examples from daily life include:

  • Super job!
  • You are so bright!
  • Way to go!
  • I’m so proud of you!
  • Awesome!

Two Types of Praise
Spontaneous praise comes from sincere excitement over something a child has done. There’s no ulterior motive. It happens naturally. Most of the time, I encourage people to relax and allow this type of praise to happen. If it’s clear that it makes a child uncomfortable, we can always curb it a bit. Otherwise, don’t worry and be happy.

Intentional praise is done by good-hearted people for the express purpose of shaping or influencing behavior. The goal is to “catch the child doing something good and rewarding their action with praise.” Because many children have finely tuned intentionality detectors, this type is the most likely to backfire.

An Alternative: Notice and Describe
We have found an alternative to the typical way parents deliver intentional praise that is far more effective with most children. With this approach, the parent simply notices and describes the child’s behavior without judging it one way or the other. Here are some examples:

  • I noticed that you finished your assignment even though it was really challenging.
  • You did all your chores without being reminded. How does that feel?
  • I noticed that you kept your cool when those kids were teasing you. What was that like for you?
  • I noticed that you spent a lot of time today helping your little brother.
  • You completed nine out of ten correctly. I imagine that feels good.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Supporting Our Teachers

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week (in the USA) and we want to express a very special thanks to teachers for their continued dedication to teaching our kids through this school year. At Love and Logic, we appreciate teachers year-round and provide support in as many ways as possible. This year we will look at some ways that parents can also show their appreciation for teachers throughout each school year.

Acknowledging Teachers
A very important way to support your kids’ teachers is to do everything you can to uphold teachers in the eyes of your kids. This is an investment you can’t afford to pass up. One way you can do this is by making sure that your kids overhear you saying positive things about their school and their teachers.

I know too many kids who go to school believing, “I’ll be lucky if I learn anything in this lousy school.” These are the kids who frequently hear critical remarks about education, schools, and teachers. Unfortunately, kids take on the beliefs of their parents.

Don’t voice your concerns in front of your kids. Deal directly with the school or with the teacher. You’ll be glad you did.

When Kids Complain About Their Teachers
Even if you always say positive things about schools and teachers in front of their kids, they might still come home with complaints about their teachers. How do wise parents respond when their youngster says, “My teacher is mean!”? Because we care deeply for our kids, there are two traps that are far too easy to slip into. Here are two examples of these traps.

Trap #1: When Mary complains about her teacher being unreasonable, her well-meaning mom says, “Don’t worry, honey, I’ll give her a call and get this straightened out.” Is Mary learning how to solve her own problems? No!

Trap #2: When Freddy complains that his teacher keeps asking him about his homework, his well-meaning dad says, “Well, if you would just work a little harder on your homework, I’m sure that she would get off of your case.” Uh, oh! What are the chances that Freddy’s dad might end up in a run-down nursing home some day?

Parents who use Love and Logic can avoid these traps. These parents know that empathy is the most important skill. They also know that kids need to learn how to succeed with nice teacher as well as demanding ones. These parents respond, “That’s got to be rough. Would you like to hear how some kids get along with tough teachers?” Kids can learn to solve their own problems and be responsible when we resist the urge to rescue or lecture.

Instilling the love of learning in our kids is another way to support teachers. Every teacher loves to teach kids who love to learn.

Jim and Charles Fay