Love and Logic
Honesty Deficit Disorder
What do parents do when their children become truthfulness-challenged? If many adults in today's world suffer from Honesty Deficit Disorder, who are we to think that our offspring will always be immune? The good news is that conscientious parents can turn the tide on truth-bending behavior by applying the Three E's of Love and Logic.
The First "E" of Love and Logic: Example
Obviously, parents who act truthfully around their kids are far more likely to have kids who tell the truth. A not-so-obvious application of good modeling involves discussing our moral dilemmas with other adults when our children are within earshot. When our children overhear us talking about temptations… and how we've chosen truthfulness instead of deceit… powerful lessons get locked in.
The Second "E" of Love and Logic: Experience
When children lie, they need to experience logical consequences. One of the most practical involves expecting them to replace any energy they've drained from us as a result of their fibbing. Does lying drain your parental energy?
The Third "E" of Love and Logic: Empathy
Those who understand the Love and Logic approach understand that consequences preceded with empathy are far more effective than consequences delivered with anger, guilt, or sarcasm. An added benefit of responding to our children's mistakes with empathy is that they'll be far more likely to admit making them. Do you want your children to be afraid of you when they blunder? Do you want them to hide their mistakes rather than bringing them to your attention? Of course you don't! That's why it's so important to discipline with love rather than lectures.
Dr. Charles Fay
Discover How Empathy Helps Kids Who've Experienced Trauma
Our hearts ache when we hear about children being hurt. A social worker with over thirty years of experience working for her county’s Child Protective Services agency put it well:
"After all of these years, it still hits me in the gut. I mean the things these kids go through. I still find myself thinking, this sort of stuff just can’t happen… it can’t be real. No child should have to go through these things."
Because we care, we hate the pain they have experienced and yearn to help them heal. This motivation is wonderful. That is, as long as we also recognize that feeling sorry for kids isn’t the same thing as loving them and empowering them to heal.
“Feeling sorry for” someone can lead us toward unintentionally sending the unstated message:
“This is so horrible that you’ll never be able to cope and find joy in your life.”
“Loving” someone means purposefully sending a very different unstated message: “I can’t imagine how much this must hurt. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m here for you. I believe in you.”
Consider these questions:
- Which style, sympathy or empathy, is the most likely to result in the adult eventually feeling burned-out and even resentful toward the child?
- Which style is more likely to result in the child feeling manipulated?
- Which style is about the adult’s feelings? Which is about the child’s needs?
- Do these concepts also apply to kids who haven’t experienced trauma?
Dr. Charles Fay
Homework: When to Step In, When to Step Back
Miriam was at a loss about her son, Michael. For two straight weeks, she attacked his homework folder as soon as he walked in the door, diving into it like it contained all the answers to the universe. To her chagrin, she found Michael was slacking and leaving many assignments undone or sitting in limbo.
She tried lectures but even her best ones seemed to fall upon closed ears. She threatened to remove all the stuff he liked but that strained their relationship. Finally fed up, she turned to her wise friend, Linda, for advice.
“He doesn’t seem to care,” Miriam lamented, “I don’t know what to do. When do I step in and when do I step back?”
Linda shared some general ideas she had learned as a Love and Logic teacher:
- Hug your son before you hug his homework folder. You want him to know his worth has nothing to do with school performance. Tell him you love him and you’re glad to see him. Don’t even bring up schoolwork when he comes in.
If you do help, do so only when you’re both in a relatively good mood. Help when he asks nicely — as long as the pencil stays in his hand. Let him experience some real results of not getting work done. In general, you want him to own his grades. If you step in too much, you rob ownership from him.
Linda noted that there is always some judgment involved in deciding when to step in: Factors might include a child’s age, grade level, developmental level, personality type, and how often these problems occur.
Miriam decided to be more careful about stepping in and to intentionally communicate that she believed in Michael. She stopped asking about homework and allowed Michael to bring up the subject. She decided to be supportive by providing a distraction-free work area and a time in the evening (after chores) for everyone in the family to “study” and/or have a quiet time.
To her surprise, as her observable anxiety over Michael’s assignments lessened, Michael’s concern over his own academic performance seemed to increase. In other words, when the adult is doing all of the worrying regarding homework, the child doesn’t need to be concerned. But when the parent steps back, the responsibility lands on the child, and more times than not, they will take on the responsibility.
One of the most common problems involves kids who eat like birds. I’m not talking about ravenous birds of prey or voracious vultures. I’m talking about little “chickadees,” pecking at “seeds” on their plates and scattering most of them to the floor.
Remember that you’re running a home… not a restaurant.
Don’t say, “Do you think this is Burger King? In this house you don’t get it your way.” Saying this is definitely not loving and logical.
I’m simply suggesting that you provide the same meal for everyone, don’t try too hard to make everyone happy all of the time, and reply to complaining with an empathetic, “I know. This is what’s for dinner.”
Remember that it’s your job to provide food, but it’s not your job to make them eat it.
Have you ever tried to force a child to eat? This is definitely a no-win proposition.
Love and Logic parents inform the kids, “Guys… lunch is served until 12:30. Just get what you need to keep you going.”
Remember that the only essential nutrient at a family meal is love.
When the kids complain, “We don’t like this. We’re not eating it,” reply sweetly, “That’s okay. You don’t have to. The only real reason for meal times is for us to love on each other. The food is extra stuff… optional... you don’t really need it.”
Remember that tummies are the best teachers.
Hope and pray they don’t eat. The road to wisdom is paved with mistakes.
Have a spot in the refrigerator for “Emergency Food.”
Every family Frigidaire, GE, LG, Amana, etcetera, should have an emergency food shelf, containing fruits, vegetables… and perhaps Spam. When the kids complain, “I’m starving,” answer with empathy, “Oh… that’s really sad. Fortunately, there’s plenty of free emergency food in the fridge.”
If they sneak non-emergency food, they can repay you for the cost.
My hope is that you enjoy meals and spend time focusing on love… not on fighting with your kids over what goes into their stomachs.
Dr. Charles Fay
The Best Gift for a Teacher
Centuries ago, I presume, a tradition developed whereby parents felt compelled to provide a tangible expression of their gratitude toward teachers. The original motivations for this tradition are unclear. Some may have been prompted by genuine appreciation; others may have been spurred by guilt and attempts to atone for the unruly classroom conduct of their children; some may have darker motivations where it was hoped a small payoff would “grease the wheels” a bit toward a better grade for their child.
While I’m sure that most educators truly appreciate the gesture, I’m not sure how many apples an average person can eat. I wonder how many of those cute little picture frames, paper weights, plaques, and other cute thingies eventually get regifted.
Of course, all of us dedicated educators want to be appreciated for our hard work, long hours, and willingness to be exposed to every germ known to humankind. It’s nice to be appreciated for the fact that we choose to love kids even when they behave badly and produce noxious fumes. It’s great to be appreciated for the fact that we take classrooms full of kids with different needs, abilities, behaviors, and troubles and turn them into high-powered learning teams.
Great teachers are amazing!
The best gift we can give them involves our own parenting. The most wonderful display of our appreciation is to send them students truly ready to be respectful, responsible, and eager to learn. No doubt this gift also benefits our children, who will rise to the top when equipped with such character attributes.
Listed below are just a few things you can do:
- Make sure that your kids overhear you saying positive things about their school and their teachers.
- Ensure that they are doing chores without reminders at home, so that they know how to do assignments without reminders at school.
- Allow very little time with technology, including video games, texting, surfing the web, watching videos, television, etc. These activities make it more difficult for our children to remain calm and content at school.
- Have family meals together, where you enjoy each other and talk about all of the things you’ve learned during the day.
All Kids Need Positive and Calm Role Models
"Does Love and Logic work with kids who have special needs?"
My answer to this immensely broad and complicated query typically has two parts.
Yes! Love and Logic works in a wide variety of situations
with many types of kids… and adults… because the
primary focus is on helping the user remain healthy.
The healthier we remain, the healthier our children and students will become. All kids need positive and calm role models.
The second part of my answer deals with this fact:
Great parents and educators are great scientists.
Successful people use the following steps to determine what will work best with each special child:
1. Make an educated guess (i.e., "develop a hypothesis").
Based on their intuition about what might work best, they begin by experimenting with just one Love and Logic skill. To repeat, they start with implementing JUST ONE SKILL. Perhaps they start with staying calm and repeating, "I love you too much to argue" when their child begins to argue or starts a meltdown.
2. Observe how things go (i.e., "collect data").
As they observe, wise parents and educators remember that things will often look worse when they begin to use an effective skill. Oftentimes, there is a limited period of greater acting out as kids begin to get used to our new style. Please give this observation period at least a week or two to evaluate the effectiveness of this skill.
3. Evaluate the results (i.e., "analyze the data").
Let's say that a parent notices an interesting trend in the data: Her child, who is on the autism spectrum, responds better when she whispers, "I love you too much to argue," than when she says it just slightly louder.
Maybe another parent with a child on the autism spectrum sees that his child responds better when he says no words at all.
Maybe another parent with a child on the same spectrum sees that this technique doesn't work at all.
4. Implement the skill, modify it a bit, or go back to step one.
I humbly submit that no one knows for sure what will work with each unique child with special needs… without running plenty of small and safe experiments.
All in all, Love and Logic has a great track record of working with all kids with special needs. Why?
Because they need lots of loving patience just like the rest of us.
Dr. Charles Fay
Give Your Kids a Break - Let Them Do the Thinking
Have you noticed that more and more kids are having difficulty figuring things out for themselves? Could it be they’re being robbed of the opportunity to do so?
A mom I know has helped with registration at the local high school for the past ten years. This year she saw a whole new breed of parents. Rather than the kids signing themselves up, the parents were making all of the decisions.
When the students were being assigned lockers, one dad who was there to “help” his son insisted that he, the dad, did not like the location of the assigned locker. When the son said he thought it was fine, the dad turned to him and said, “Shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
This was just one of the many things this mom witnessed. She went home exhausted, and very sad: sad for a generation of kids who are being robbed of the opportunity to figure things out for themselves, and sad for our country.
When parents do all the thinking, they rob kids of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and send the message that the kids are not capable of figuring things out for themselves. Give your kids the can-do message: Let them do the thinking. When they learn from their mistakes, they build character, strength, and confidence.
Calming Sibling Rivalry: Four Quick Tips
Is it possible that some degree of sibling rivalry is normal… and can actually provide opportunities for our kids to learn essential lifelong relational skills? Absolutely! But only as long as we have common-sense skills for ensuring that these conflicts don’t grow into chronic resentment, feelings of victimization, and constant family chaos. While the subject can be a complex one, here are four tips that can help keep the family atmosphere healthy:
Nurture each of your children’s unique strengths and gifts.
When children are noticed and appreciated for their unique interests and aptitudes, they are less likely to perceive that their parents have “favourite” children. Of course, favouritism is the kiss of death when it comes to sibling relationships.
Provide strong and loving leadership.
Love and Logic is all about helping parents become… and remain… loving and strong authority figures. Much of this is achieved by providing consistent and enforceable limits. When kids feel a lack of such leadership, they experience anxiety and subconsciously wonder, “Well… if our parents aren’t running this home, I better.” Chaos among siblings ensues as they compete for this leadership position.
Stay out of the middle, while guiding them toward solutions.
Most of us struggle with the temptation to rescue our kids from each other by placing ourselves in the middle of their conflicts. When we succumb to doing so, we send an unhealthy message: “If you want some attention, all you have to do is start a fight with your brother or sister. Then I’ll swoop in to the rescue.”
In my audio, Sibling Rivalry, I describe how parents avoid making this mistake while guiding their children toward learning how to resolve their own conflicts.
Of course, we do rescue when life and limb are in obvious danger.
Use the “Energy Drain” technique to keep it their problem rather than yours.
We’ve received story after story of how parents have informed their children that bickering and arguing drains their parental energy. Of course, when this happens, kids are expected to replace this energy by completing extra chores, staying home from an activity so that their parents can rest instead of drive, etc.
While we can’t ensure that our kids always love and appreciate each other, we can create a home where it’s always in their best interest to work hard at doing so.
Dr. Charles Fay
My Teen Isn’t Ready to Drive
Mike was scared. He had a daughter who was about to turn sixteen. As if that wasn’t scary enough, Mike’s daughter, Angela, was excited to get her driver’s license and go cruising around the city with her friends.
To top it all off, Mike was quite certain his beloved Angela would not be a safe driver. She seemed totally focused on the fun aspect of driving and not on the responsibility. She spent lots of time texting and little time paying attention to the lessons of the road he tried to teach her. Despite his recommendations, she had saved up zero money toward the privilege.
What can parents do when they have teens in the house who are eager to drive but are not demonstrating readiness for this important responsibility?
For these situations, we really like the phrase:
“I’m happy to allow you the privilege of driving when I see you being responsible in other areas of life.”
Families get to decide what being responsible looks like in terms of chores, grades, finances, and other responsibilities kids might handle.
Of course, if we make this statement, we must follow through and delay the privilege until we truly see improvement in the areas of concern (particularly with youth who cannot stay off their phones at important times).
Please don’t fall for the myth that kids should automatically be afforded full driving privileges the day they turn sixteen, whether they have put time into saving and learning or not. We believe lives will be saved if adults refuse to make driving free and expect teens to display responsible behaviour first versus handing over keys and hoping they will be responsible behind the wheel.
Wise parents who are willing to delay the process for kids who aren’t ready will make the roads safer for everyone.
Thanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend.
Is "Consequence" a Dirty Word?
I (Charles) learned an important lesson about fast food, focus, and the finality of many decisions we make. Rushing to my car, I placed the takeout package on the roof, unlocked the car, and pulled into traffic. Perceiving the honking of other drivers as pure road rage, I proceeded upon my way. It was amazing how long that meal clung to the top of my car before it flew under the tires of the F-150 behind me.
Our lives are full of decisions… and their consequences. They aren’t punishments. Nobody took my lunch, attempting to make me pay for my lack of focus. It was just a simple result of my lapse.
A few years ago, a tragic event occurred near our homes in Colorado. Some teens thought it would be fun to race around our mountain roads, taking turns “surfing” on the roof of their car. Is it possible these kids didn’t learn enough about the finality of consequences when they were younger?
Some who see themselves as more enlightened in the arenas of caring and compassion experience semi-aneurisms when they hear someone say, “allow kids to experience the consequences of their actions.” These are often people who care very much about kids who have experienced trauma and equate consequences with punishment. They also believe kids with trauma are capable… but not capable enough to learn from their actions. We’re confused. Do we want kids who’ve been hurt to remain victims, or do we want to empower them toward victory and self-esteem?
We agree that punishment, sarcasm, guilt, anger, and other negative practices do not work.
We disagree that consequences (or “results”) aren’t appropriate for kids who’ve had trauma. Their effectiveness just depends on how closely attached they feel toward the adult.
Positive relationships form the foundation of all effective discipline. The safety and security this provides allows all children to begin seeing the connections between their choices, actions, and resulting consequences. Kids who’ve experienced trauma need to experience the results of their actions… even when it doesn’t appear they are making the connection. As they experience the calmness and trust of loving attachment relationships, this cause-and-effect learning will begin to happen.
When delivered with love and empathy, logical consequences help provide accountability. In many cases, an element of restitution can give a child the chance to feel like he or she “made it right.” Loving accountability can help kids feel the following:
I can solve problems.
All kids thrive when they embrace these beliefs.
So, we’ll charge ahead, continuing to upset those who view themselves as superior to most folks in the areas of compassion and intellect. We’ll keep holding kids accountable with plenty of empathy and grace, and we will treat them as if they are capable of learning from life’s results. We’ll just keep helping more families raise kids who feel good about themselves and their ability to thrive in this challenging world.
Dr. Charles Fay & Jedd Hafer
True Identity or Digital Identity?
How many young people live with constant feelings of inferiority and discontent because their self-perceptions don’t match the ideals presented in various forms of digital media? How many reach young adulthood extremely anxious about their ability to cope?
“I’m a loser in real life! The only time I’m not is when I’m online.”
As they grapple with the already challenging task of understanding themselves in relation to the world, this dangerous theme pervades the lives of far too many children, teens, and young adults. When true and digital identities battle each other for emotional territory, kids can suffer painful conflict and develop understandable escape behaviors.
Many dive deep into the murky waters of the Internet and video game overuse where they feel calmer, stronger, and more accepted in the cyberworld than in their true relational one. The seeds of addiction are sown. Full-blown dependency looms just around the corner.
Taking away their devices addresses only the tip of the iceberg. While it’s sometimes necessary, taking away their devices addresses only the tip of the iceberg. Helping them feel confident within their own skin gets at the much larger portion below the water line.
Denial in epic proportions
One might argue that most parents in America are in denial over the impact of technology overuse on their children’s identities. Teaching me to drive, both of my parents gave great advice: “Always assume someone is in your blind spot.” Applying this to parenting, it’s probably wise to assume that most us have a “blind spot” when it comes to technology and our kids.
Helicopters and Drill Sergeants develop dependency
Chronic helicopter parenting creates insecure kids who doubt their ability to make good decisions and to succeed in the real world. So does clinging to the drill sergeant model. Both styles are the enemy of healthy identity development, creating damaging anxiety and despair.
Consultants empower strength
Consultant parents empower their kids to make decisions, live with the consequences, and see that they are capable of coping. This style also preserves healthy parent-child relationships. Coping skills plus relationships serve as antidotes for depression and dependency.
We can’t control others
At the heart of consultant parenting is the awareness that we can only up the odds of healthy identity development. We cannot ensure it. Sometimes highly ineffective parents end up with strong kids… and highly competent parents experience ones with big problems. What Love and Logic does guarantee is that we can face life knowing we’ve done our best.
Dr. Charles Fay
Talking to Kids About Important Matters
Some refer to it as the ‘Lecture Lobe.” Most of us have one… 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. For most folks, this part of the brain remains dormant… asleep… until we become parents or teachers. Then it activates! Have you ever been amazed at how easily and automatically a good lecture rolls off the tongue?
As they say in physics, every action has a reaction. When our lecture lobes swell, kids’ learning and listening lobes shrink. Indelibly etched into my memory is the little first-grader I lectured about his chronic hall-running. “You could slip and get brain damage", was the theme of my speech.
We’ve learned a lot from our own mistakes… and those made by others. We’ve learned even more by watching extremely effective parents and educators. Over the past thirty years, we’ve noticed that really successful ones understand the following concept:
The more words we use when kids are misbehaving or acting irresponsibly, the less effective we become.
Kids test us to see if we will love and accept them regardless of what they may do.
Questions do two powerful, important things. First, they show others that we can and want to understand their viewpoint. Secondly, they force people to do plenty of thinking. Questions create a lack of closure deep in the psyche. Humans yearn for closure and sort of go nuts when they don’t have it. Even when our kids don’t answer our questions verbally, their subconscious minds can’t resist the urge to give them plenty of thought. Some examples include:
|•||What do you think about how you’re doing in school right now?|
|•||What are your ideas on whether bikes like your new one ever get stolen?|
|•||What are your thoughts on kids experimenting with drugs?|
|•||How do you think some kids put themselves in danger while chatting on the internet?|
Listening to our youngsters’ opinions… even when they’re silly, strange, or downright scary… dramatically increase 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! Do stubborn kids know this? Yep! Whenever we pretend to have control over things we clearly do not, it erodes their respect for us… and creates a battle they cannot resist.
Here are a few tips to experiment with when talking with your kids about important matters:
|•||Have plenty of short discussion rather than a few long ones.|
|•||Ask thoughtful and sincere open-ended questions.|
|•||Ask permission to share your thoughts.|
|•||Describe potential consequences using the “Some kids worry…” routine.|
|•||Provide a positive expectation.|
|•||If they refuse to talk, don’t fall into the trap of trying to make them.|
We all know at least one child… or adult… who just has to learn life’s lessons the hard way. Despite all of our gallant attempts to endow them with our wisdom, they choose to take the rocky road to maturity by making plenty of mistakes and experiencing their consequences. Isn’t it interesting that the hardest lessons learned are usually the ones that teach us the very most!
Dr. Charles Fay
Helping Kids Learn Serendipitous Joy
The act of chasing joy is like chasing a frightened cat. The more we run after it, the more elusive it becomes. In contrast, the happiest times often pop up at the least expected times, often when we aren’t pursuing them.
According to most definitions, the term “serendipitous” refers to something positive discovered or experienced by chance.
How important is it that our children learn that true happiness and contentment are not found in the accumulation of material goods or exciting activities, but are often found in seemingly chance experiences when they struggle with boredom and experience fulfilling relationships?
I wasn’t thinking this through too deeply when I thought about how nice it would be to have some quiet time with my son, Cody. “This will be great. Let’s have a technology-free weekend!”
He was less than impressed. “Aw, Dad. No… this is going to be the worst.”
At first his forecast seemed spot on. Clouds and high winds swirled around as he moped about the house. “Oh, man… this is so boring.”
Searching for something to fill the time, I sat at the table reenacting an activity I’d learned from my grandmother: making a cabin out of wooden matchsticks, toothpicks, and school glue.
Bored stiff and still huffing and puffing, Cody sat by my side and began his construction project. Using a hot glue gun instead of my slow-drying variety, he created an entire village, complete with livestock, before I’d finished the fourth wall of my first cabin.
His upset turned to elation as he shared his creation with his mother and then posed for a photo.
While joy does seem serendipitous, we can up the odds of it by creating more times where we relate to each other without the distractions of technology or highly stimulating activities. What’s the tough part? It’s weathering the boredom storms so we can experience the rainbows.
Dr. Charles Fay
Do I Look Weak?
Teachers and parents sometimes express the following worry: “When I calmly delay a conversation or a consequence instead of squashing defiance (or other frustrating misbehaviors), do I look weak? If I don’t bring the wrath in that moment, will kids or adults who are watching think I’m a pushover?”
No. No, they won’t.
Imagine this: You’re in a restaurant enjoying a lovely meal. But some lady at the table off to your right is having the opposite of a lovely meal. And she’s bringing the wrath. She’s getting louder. She wants to see the manager. Somebody is going to pay for this! She gets more and more red faced and threatening.
As you watch her, what is going through your mind? She’s so powerful? She’s so impressive? You wish you could rant and rave like that?
Probably not. You’re probably thinking she ought to control herself and calm down. You’re probably the opposite of impressed.
Self-control is actually a form of strength. There is much more power in the ability to keep our cool than there is in yelling, threatening, and lecturing.
Some people even repeat this phrase to themselves in moments when they need to remember to remain calm: “Anger and frustration feed misbehavior. Anger and frustration feed misbehavior…”
Put your mind at ease. You don’t lose an ounce of power when you choose not to yell or “drop the hammer” in the heat of the moment — you gain power. By staying calm and creating a more thoughtful response, you are enhancing your authority as an adult/leader. You can do this!
My Tween is Dating… And I Don’t Approve!
We love it when fans of Love and Logic send us their questions. This one… the whole “too young for dating thing” has been entering our inboxes more often. While there are a variety of plausible explanations for this uptick, including the almost unrelenting “grow-up-too-fast” messages bombarding kids via television, social media, and other avenues, explanations for why it might be happening don’t give us much guidance regarding how to respond.
Discussed below are four tips for reacting in ways that help avoid power struggles that can lead to severe rebellion:
- Resist the Urge to Forbid the Relationship or to Ground Your Child for Life.
While it’s tempting to go this route, most people understand that doing so will likely have the undesirable effect of creating serious rebellion.
The key to success involves remembering the difference between the concepts of control and influence:
Trying too hard to control can cause us
to lose them.
Providing unconditional love can help us remain
a positive influence.
- Send Positive Expectations About Your Child’s Ability to Make Wise Decisions.
Too frequently parents create a negative self-fulfilling prophecy by lecturing, “Don’t spend time with ________. They will rub off on you.”
Kids almost always live up to… or down to… our expectations of them.
A wiser approach involves sharing, “________ is so fortunate to have someone like you in their life.”
- Plant Seeds of Cause and Effect.
Remember: Avoiding discussions over tough topics deprives our kids of the guidance they need, and it sends the message they can’t handle the truth.
Also remember: Statements create resistance and rebellion, whereas sincere questions create thinking.
“Do you think some kids rush too quickly into having sex and really regret that they didn’t save this special thing for marriage?”
“Do you think some kids make some serious mistakes about dating that can have life-long consequences? What do you think those mistakes might be?“
Hint: Talking about “some kids” is almost always more effective than talking about “you.”
- Set Limits Over What You Can Control.
All children need loving limits, particularly when they’re feeling pressure to engage in risky dating behaviors. Love and Logic parents set healthy ones like:
“Feel free to go to _______ as long as an adult I trust is supervising.”
“I will take you and ___________ to __________ as long as I can come with you. I promise to do my best not to embarrass you.”
“You may use the car when I don’t have to worry about where you are or when you’ll be home.”
The biggest factor involves the relationship: Not their “dating” relationship but our parent-child relationship. The stronger the connection, the less likely our kids will find a need to rebel or search for affection in inappropriate ways. The more peaceful and positive we can make our homes, the less our kids will need to find other places… or people… to meet the needs for fun and inclusion.
Dr. Charles Fay
My Child Doesn't Have Friends
Tim’s mom used to worry that he had very few friends. She told us he didn’t socialize much with the other kids. He didn’t have friends over like other kids did and he seemed mostly content to just sit at home by himself.
She had already realized that when she tried to force the issue, it often made things worse. If she tried to get her friends to make their kids come over, invite him to things and spend time together without some mutual interest, it mostly backfired.
The story got happier. While the problem didn’t magically get better right away, she did share some factors that helped improve things over time.
She got him off screens – the more time he spent on screens, the worse his issues with peers seemed to get.
They played a lot of board games versus watching videos. Even quiet kids have to look up, respond, and interact when playing board games. Plus, games have some structure and a beginning and end.
She kept up his chores and contributions to the family. There is a powerful sense of belonging that is forged as we work and contribute together.
And the number one thing that helped?
He got a part-time job at a local shop (money is a pretty strong motivator for some teens and tweens – especially if we’re not buying them everything they want).
The results were amazing. Every day Tim was “forced” to greet customers and smile, he grew more comfortable. The necessity of doing this well, caused him to improve and he became much more adept in other social situations.
Mom reports he’s still more of a loner than some kids but he is able to get along in a variety of situations without feeling the discomfort he used to feel. And best of all, a few nice kids have really been drawn to him “because they can tell he’s just a good guy.”
Toby Skips Class
Toby was admitting to his mom that he had skipped one of his classes six times.
“Oh, no,” responded Mom. “You’re going to fail that class.”
“No, Mom. I’m not going to fail. You worry about everything. It’s no big deal.”
“Wait a minute,” she answered. “The school rule says that five unexcused absences earn a failing grade.”
“Don’t worry, Mom. I’m covered.”
“Wait a minute. You didn’t commit forgery, did you?”
“Yeah, Mom. But it’s no big deal. Everybody does it.”
Believe it or not, Mom called a national talk show asking for advice about how to handle the problem without letting Toby fail the class.
If I were to ask you about this, you’d probably tell me that Toby needs to face the music. He needs to confess and learn from the situation. And you would be right.
Toby’s mother can either stand between his bad decision and the consequences, or she can stand beside him, supporting him as he learns from it. She can’t do both.
I’d suggest that she say to Toby, “What a sad situation, Toby. How do you want to confess? Do you want to do it in person, in writing, or would you rather have me help you by going with you to the principal’s office? I bet you might like a hug right now. I know that I do.”
Is the Road to Communication Really Open?
Is it true that some people are easier to talk to than others? When I was a teenager… perhaps centuries ago… we had a clear way of responding to obvious questions like this: “Duh!”
Certain people have a way about them that leaves us feeling we can share our deepest thoughts and concerns. We feel safe, knowing they will never reject us or freak out in any way.
How important is it that we remain this type of person to our kids? Does this increase the likelihood they’ll make good decisions about drugs, alcohol, dating, driving, their education, and the variety of nursing home they eventually select for us?
Our kids observe us with keen eyes and ears, subconsciously evaluating whether we are someone with whom they can share their lives. The more 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 freak out?
A dad described how his son started early: “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 you are capable of evaluating the potential consequences of the choices you face. I’m not sure 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:
“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 and perfectly pass each of these tests to raise great kids. The key is demonstrating the desire and the drive to improve each and every day.
Dr. Charles Fay
Gaining the Respect You Desire
I was tempted to title this article, “Gaining the Respect you Deserve.” My reluctance involves the common psychological result of believing that we’re owed something. When I believe that my kids must respect me because I inherently deserve it as their elder and their provider, I set the stage for resentment and damaged relationships.
Something better… purer… more noble… happens when we view respect as something we want for both parties. This implies that this important commodity is something that’s learned and earned through experience.
Respect is Learned and Earned
Sooner or later most kids develop sewage detectors. This sophisticated network of neurons allows them to sniff out the slightest hint of hypocrisy. When we believe we deserve, and therefore must demand respect, we are likely to behave in ways that trigger this alarm. Demanding respect due to our perceived entitlement to it usually leads us toward failing to walk the talk.
Let’s consider how a Love and Logic parent or educator might discuss the concept of respect:
- “I believe the best way to gain respect is to show people what it looks like.
- Because of this, I promise to do my best to treat you like I hope to be treated.
- I’m not perfect. There will be times when I mess up.
- If you ever feel I’ve been disrespectful, please let me know by whispering, “I’m not sure that’s respectful.” When both of us are calm, I’ll listen to your opinion.
- Respect doesn’t mean I will always do what makes you happy in the short term. Instead, it means I will do what will help you enjoy a responsible life.
- Respect means seeking the good of others… even when doing so isn’t popular.
Why Gaining Respect Requires Limits
Many parents and educators struggle with feeling disrespected by their kids or students. Does this resonate with you? Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Why does this kid think it’s okay to treat me like this?” or “I go out of my way to treat these kids well. Why do they act like I’m stupid?”
Disrespectful behavior (eye-rolling, arguing, defiance, lying, etc.) is often a form of limit testing, which is a young person’s way of asking this important question: “Do you love me enough to provide the caring boundaries required to keep me safe from myself?” When limits over respect are inconsistent or weak, disrespectful behavior increases. The child’s self-concept suffers, and they lack the modeling required to learn how to set limits with their peers.
The ability to say “no” to peers starts with experiencing
“no” from one’s parents.
Those familiar with Love and Logic know limits are most effectively provided when we describe what we are willing to do or allow, rather than trying to tell others how they should behave. Describing our own actions provides an enforceable limit. Dictating the actions of another does not.
“Treat me with respect!” is unenforceable.
“I’m happy to do the extra things I do for you when I feel respected” is enforceable.
Is it okay for a parent or educator to calmly and consistently provide perks only when they feel respected? Absolutely! In fact, it’s essential. While our children certainly won’t thank us in the short term, we can be assured that doing so provides the type of limits and security they need.
A Love and Logic mom recently described how she began the process of gaining her thirteen-year-old son’s respect:
Son: “It’s time for you to take me to practice. Why are you just sitting there?”
Mom: “Oh, this is so sad. It’s just really hard for me to want to do the extra things I do for you when I keep hearing how dumb you think I am.”
Son: “I was just kidding! Why do you make such a big deal out of everything? It’s time to go.”
Mom: “Maybe by next week at this time, I’ll feel better about taking you. I sure hope so.”
She held firm and experienced the predictable onslaught of arguing, pouting, and guilt-trips.
“Over the past few months,” she reflected, “I see him becoming a lot calmer and more respectful. I think he’s realizing that I care enough about myself to expect respect. It’s really improved our relationship!”
Dr. Charles Fay
Teach Your Kids How to Wait
The life of an author/public speaker usually revolves around trying to turn some seemingly unrelated life experience into a metaphor for use in a book chapter, article, or speech. Right now… right at this moment… I’m waiting in line at our local Motor Vehicle Department. It’s often the small things in life that bring us the most joy.
Is waiting part of life? Is learning patience something that will benefit our kids immensely as they travel the winding, and often traffic-jammed road of life? If they don’t, will their road end up being far rougher?
You’ve probably noticed that kids are not born with this skill, and many are not shy about demonstrating their lack of appreciation for anything that delays the immediate delivery of their desires. While this is normal for young children, a danger lies in how it can train us to jump through hoops trying to keep them calm. The faster we give them what they want, the less whining, begging, hassling, and chaos we experience in the short term.
Yes, in the short term all seems well.
Brave parents understand they can pay now or pay bigger. As such, they embrace the short-term commotion, wisely allowing their kids to experience the healthy struggle of wait time. These parents may provide some brief suggestions to their kids, such as:
“Some kids decide to concentrate about something they really like. Sometimes that makes the time go faster.”
“Some kids decide to repeat to themselves, ‘I can do this. I can do this. I’m big. I can do this.’”
“Some kids decide to bring a book to read.”
Wise parents also demonstrate this skill in front of their kids. Of course, this can be the most challenging part for many of us. While in traffic, while waiting in line at the store, they allow their kids to hear their thoughts. They think out loud:
“Waiting is hard. Sometimes it’s not very fun. But… it’s such good practice. Good things come to those who wait!”
Finally, Love and Logic parents notice when their young ones do a good job of waiting, and they demonstrate that good things come to those who wait. While we don’t believe in going overboard with rewards, it is fun and effective to occasionally provide a small one.
“I noticed that you waited the entire time I was on the phone without interrupting. What do you think about going for ice cream?”
Keeping the Holidays Sane for Your Kids
Little ones thrive on routine and structure, the two things that tend to go by the wayside when the holidays arrive and families are running to and fro, gathering gifts, visiting relatives, and connecting with friends. Listed below are some tips for keeping things sane during this busy time of the year:
Set limits with family and friends.
Some people fear setting limits with their parents, in-laws, other family members, and friends because they worry about upsetting them. The only people who get upset by loving limits are people who really need them!
Don't be afraid to say things like, “We can’t wait to see you. We will need to leave by six so that we can get the kids in bed by a reasonable hour.”
Continue to set limits with your kids.
Sometimes we avoid setting limits with our children at family get-togethers because we want to keep the peace or avoid meltdowns. Ironically, this leads to far more fits and far less harmony.
Plan ahead and provide a quiet spot for recovery.
Particularly with small children, ask family and friends, “Is there a quiet place where my little one can go for some recovery time if they start to test limits or get overstimulated?”
I vividly remember being sent to my grandparents’ bedroom as a result of being unruly during a Christmas meal. I also remember lying on their bed, screaming, punching their pillows, and falling fast asleep. I was worn out!
Don’t feel guilty about placing yourself in recovery.
I love my family… but I still find it helpful to give myself some brief “bathroom time” so that I can regain the ability to exercise self-control.
Remember that this too shall pass.
Despite the best laid plans, sometimes the wheels come off and things get ugly. At these times, it’s often comforting to remember that every situation… bad and even good… is merely temporary.
Dr. Charles Fay
Quiet Times: The Greatest Holiday Gift
What memories do you treasure from the holidays of your youth?
Here I sit trying to remember the cool gifts I received and the spectacularly entertaining things we did as a family. I don’t remember much about the stuff… or the entertainment. I do remember the people.
I vividly remember Christmas when I was four. Grandma Marie was there. By the following year, cancer had taken her away. How thankful I am that we had time… sweet time where we were quiet and still and just enjoyed being together. Isn’t it sad that it sometimes requires a great illness for us to still ourselves and truly connect with the people we love?
Be with the people you love… not just under the same roof.
The greatest holiday gifts we can give our kids are limits… mostly limits on ourselves and the other adults in our lives.
The limits we set with ourselves mostly involve curbing the natural inclination to do the impossible… make the holidays a perfect experience for everyone. We all know what happens when we attempt to make everyone happy.
The limits we set with the other adults in our lives involve taking good care of ourselves and our kids. Caution! Some of these may cause severe shock:
We can’t wait to see you guys. We’ll need to leave by six so we can spend some quiet time with the kids before bedtime.
We love you and want to spend time with you. We are trying to help the kids be more relaxed and rested, so we’ll need to do this on another day.
We want to spend relaxed time with everyone, so we’ll be ordering pizza.
My Kid Has a Learning Disability
Vickie was a distraught mom who reached out to us and shared: “My son is dyslexic and has other learning disabilities. He feels so inept in school. I can tell he just dreads showing me his work.”
Jim Fay shares his wisdom on how to talk with kids who have learning barriers or disabilities — and how we can help ease some of the shame they may feel.
Everybody has unique gifts and abilities. We serve kids well when we focus on their talents and areas of strength.
If kids tell us about a weakness, we can answer, “Yeah, that’s tough. And what are you good at?”
We want to get them to say it out loud. Their brain hears the sound of their own voice and their subconscious mind accepts that information without questioning it.
For the same reason, we might ask to see only their successful papers; only the problems they got correct or the assignments they feel good about. We don’t even want to see the ones they did poorly. We want to get them talking about their correct answers and successes. Ask the question, “How did you do that?” Once again, their brains are going to hear attributions — positive ones that center around effort such as, “I got number three correct” because “I worked hard” or “I kept trying.”
A great way to help these kids is to have a positive impact on their overall self-concept. Most of us don’t like talking about weaknesses and things we don’t do well. Focusing on strengths instead will have a major impact on their self-concept.
Many of the most successful people “fly on their strengths.” They spend the majority of their time and efforts on doing things they are good at and don’t spend too much time on what they don’t do well.
We know this can be tough when schools have certain academic requirements, but that shouldn’t stop us from helping our kids to zero in on and emphasize their strengths.
After sharing these thoughts, Vickie informed us, “He’s a wonderful artist! He’s truly amazing! I’m going to spend more time talking about that and asking him about the things he loves creating. His teacher is great and I know she will do this, too.”
This young man is fortunate. We are betting he is on his way to happier times.
You can hear more about these techniques in Jim Fay’s wonderful audio, Shaping Self-Concept.
Thanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend.
The Best Consequence
Have you ever been at a complete loss for an effective consequence? One of the most common requests we get is:
“Can you give us a list of consequences?”
The reason you won’t find this in any of our materials is that effective discipline involves far more than simply picking the right consequence. It involves building and maintaining loving relationships so that: (a) kids are less likely to rebel; and (b) they experience genuine remorse when they blow it. It also involves setting effective limits, sharing control within these limits, and teaching skills so children are prepared for life’s tough challenges.
With this said, there are a variety of consequences that often outperform the others. It’s called “restitution.” We at Love and Logic call it the “Energy Drain” approach. Performing restitution means to restore. It means to make things right by performing any action that repairs the inconvenience or damage inflicted on another.
It’s the preferred type of consequence because it:
|•||Leaves kids seeing they can solve the problems they create.|
|•||Requires real thought, action, and learning.|
|•||Builds healthy self-esteem and efficacy.|
|•||Meets the need to reconnect when relationships have been damaged.|
While it’s not always possible to repair a concrete object, it’s almost always possible to replace energy drained from another person. Having kids replace voltage they sap is the approach of choice, particularly with youth who feel poorly about themselves and need to see they are capable of doing good.
The next time your child drains somebody’s energy you may want to experiment with saying:
“This is so sad. What an energy drain. How are you going to replace that energy?”
Then provide some options, such as:
|•||“Some kids decide to do extra chores.”|
|•||“Others decide to wash the person’s car inside and out.”|
|•||“Some decide to stay home instead of being driven to practice.”|
Be positive and thankful about their energy replacement efforts. Don’t try to make them feel bad, and don’t be surprised if they appear to enjoy replacing your energy.
Kids don’t have to feel horrible to learn from restitution. In fact, many will feel good about it. When this happens, it often translates into fewer battles for everyone involved.
Dr. Charles Fay
I Use Love and Logic and People Think I’m Too Nice
Sometimes, teachers delay consequences, conversations, and outcomes so that they can respond to their students with more wisdom and compassion.
Sometimes, parents let kids know that their “energy has been drained” and they will have to do something about their kids’ misbehavior later.
Sometimes, adults exercise self-control and remember to respond with patience and kindness instead of anger and wrath.
And sadly, onlookers sometimes interpret these skills and actions as weakness. These onlookers conclude that the Love and Logic adults are “just being too nice.”
So, what do we do when people think we’re being too nice/weak?
- Remember our goal is to raise wonderful human beings – not impress the “judges” who may be holding up 2s, 3s, and 3.5s at our “performance.”
- Remember kids learn best when their brains are feeling safe and calm. Anything we do to be scary to kids is creating the opposite of a good learning situation for that young brain.
- Remember self-control is a strength and the failure to control our emotions can be a dangerous weakness – one that can cause us to harm others and say and do things we don’t mean.
When criticisms fly, some adults use “one-liners” similar to those we teach to kids for occasions when their peers make obnoxious observations:
- "Thanks for noticing.”
- “I always appreciate hearing different viewpoints.”
- “Appreciate the feedback.”
Or, some adults decide to say nothing at all to the critics and just focus on doing their best to raise thoughtful, kind, responsible young people.
There are a lot worse things than kids learning to be really nice by watching us.
Balancing Busy Families
Many parents ask, “Is it really possible to raise well-adjusted kids while at the same time trying to manage an incredibly hectic and stressful work and family life?” One mom described their situation:
We try to live a simple, frugal lifestyle. Even with keeping our spending as low as possible, both of us still have to work full schedules just to provide for the basics. With three young children things get crazy. The house almost always feels like a mess, and we have very little time and energy left over to spend with the kids. Both of us feel horribly guilty about this much of the time.
Some parents spend almost no time with their kids because they are addicted to work, addicted to buying extra stuff, addicted to selfish activities or all three. Many others, however, find themselves having to work their fingers to the bone because they simply don’t have a choice. Here are some words of encouragement… and some tips… for this second type:
- Many well-adjusted adults grew up with exceptionally busy parents.
The key seems to be this: As children, they were not shielded from their family’s economic struggles. Their parents were honest about the challenges and consistently modelled hopeful, positive attitudes. As such, they internalized the truth that they were deeply loved even though their parents weren’t able to spend as much time with them as they wanted.
- Remember that guilt often interferes with good parenting.
When we allow guilt to interfere with our ability to set and enforce loving limits and expectations, our kids suffer.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help with supervision.
Kids of all ages need good supervision. Without it, even very good kids often get involved in drugs, alcohol, early sex, and other high-risk behaviours.
- You are doing a good and noble thing by taking care of the needs of your family.
This is wonderful modelling, and it sends a powerful message of love to your kids.
Dr. Charles Fay
Have you ever seen a kid just crumble at the first hint of difficulty? More teachers are noticing this and are pointing out the tremendous need for their students to develop resiliency and determination.
I recently watched a mom at a park, hovering near her toddler who was attempting to climb a short flight of steps to a slide. As soon as the little guy paused and struggled to get his foot up to the bottom step (which was designed for toddlers), Mom swooped over and lifted him to the top of the steps. Then she waited at the bottom, reassuring him all the while. Fortunately, Mom was soon distracted by one of her other kids “needing help” and before she realized it, the boy was ascending the steps and sliding down like a pro. Good news for that little boy’s resilience development.
We know kids are going to go through some struggle in life and that is a good thing. We also know there won’t always be someone there to solve all their problems or verbally coddle them.
The abilities to 1) manage unfavorable events and to 2) continue with challenging tasks are top predictors of success in many areas (including academics and relationships). We must not rob kids of the gift of struggle – a crucial ingredient in the resiliency formula.
One of the easiest ways to begin developing resiliency with children is simply asking them how they are going to handle problems. Resisting our urge to quickly solve the problem for them or tell them what to do, we can make a soft, empathetic sound and ask, “Hmm, what do you think you’re going to do?”
Just the act of thinking about solutions begins the powerful process of owning and solving problems. We want kids to believe solutions don’t have to come from an outside source, but can come from inside. Whether they come up with great solutions or not, just the act of wrestling with the problem will begin to strengthen their “resiliency muscles.”
We encourage you to run this simple experiment any time you see your child encounter a minor problem or struggle. See if you notice a difference in their willingness to solve problems and attack challenges. We would love to hear your results.
Kids and High Achievement
Does it ever seem like we live in a world of extremes? Sometimes educators comment, “The parents of some of our students spend absolutely no time involved in their children’s educations. The end result is predictable: Their kids rarely achieve up to their potential.”
Other times teachers say, “Some of our parents are so overinvolved in their children’s homework, school assignments, and grades that their kids can’t seem to function without someone doing most of the work for them.”
Considering these extremes, perhaps it makes sense to compare and contrast healthy versus unhealthy parental involvement, understanding that the healthy variety is essential for high achievement.
Healthy parental involvement means being aware of your kids’ assignments, asking questions about these assignments, and offering assistance if they ask. It means giving ideas and allowing them to do the lion’s share of the work.
Unhealthy parental involvement means constantly reminding and rescuing, essentially taking more responsibility for their work than they do.
Healthy parental involvement means consistently allowing your kids to evaluate how they feel about their performance. This might sound like, “You have a sixty-nine in music so far. How do you feel about that?” or asking, “You earned a ninety-eight on that test. How does that leave you feeling?” Kids allowed to own the good and not-so-good feelings associated with their performance are more likely to understand and care about the connection between their personal effort and outcomes.
Unhealthy parental involvement means making it all about our feelings. This might go like, “That sixty-nine in music is just not acceptable. You need to bring that grade up” or it may sound like, “You earned a ninety-eight on that test. That makes me so happy. That’s great.” When we make their grades about our feelings, we run the risk of stealing opportunities for them to think about how these grades personally affect them.
Healthy parental involvement means putting most of our energy into providing a healthy home where kids are loved, respected, and expected to complete chores. It’s about creating a place where they get to experience an authentic relationship between cause and effect. In other words, they experience the gift of loving discipline.
Unhealthy parental involvement means spending so much time criticizing the school and rescuing our kids from their teachers that we have little time or energy left over to create a rock solid home environment.
Healthy parental involvement means allowing our kids to hear us talking with excitement about our own learning. It also means letting them hear us saying positive things about their teachers and their school.
Unhealthy parental involvement involves providing plenty of lectures about how important education is while allowing our kids to hear us gripe and complain about our own learning responsibilities and how subpar the school and teachers are.
Overall, healthy parental involvement means being good models. It means allowing kids to make mistakes. It means providing plenty of empathy. It definitely means remembering that raising kids who can think and learn for themselves is not for the faint of heart.
Dr. Charles Fay
If you’ve ever resorted to nagging, begging, or threatening your kids off to daycare or school, you are not alone! Sadly, when this happens, frequently our relationships suffer and our kids fail to learn important lessons about responsibility and self-sufficiency.
Provided below are some quick tips for placing the lion’s share of responsibility on your kids:
Remember that even children as young as three or four can learn this skill.
Small children can follow a visual list of tasks they have to complete each morning. Some parents print pictures representing getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating, etc.
Practice when you’re not stressed.
Wise parents teach their kids how to get ready and practice on a weekend morning. Older children with special needs can also benefit from this practice, as well as having a list like the one mentioned above.
Rise a bit early and get yourself ready first.
Children learn almost all important skills by watching the “big” people around them. Experiment with saying, “We will help you get ready when we are completely ready ourselves.” Help them only when you are completely ready to go. In addition to providing a good example, this allows us to be far more relaxed as we are assisting our kids.
Set a small number of limits and resist the urge to nag or remind.
Breakfast is served until the timer goes “ding.”
My car is leaving at seven o’clock. Will you be going to school with your clothes on your body or in a bag?
I charge ten dollars to drive kids when they’ve missed the bus.
The key is resisting the urge to remind. The more we remind, the more we have to remind.
Allow your kids to blow it.
Too often we nag and remind so that our kids will eat breakfast… or do their hair… or brush their teeth… or remember their homework. Wise parents understand that children will never take responsibility for doing such things when they aren’t allowed to make mistakes and experience the logical and natural consequences… blanketed in SINCERE EMPATHY.
Kids who learn to take responsibility for their exit each morning are far more likely to enter their workplace on time each morning as adults.
Dr. Charles Fay
Take the Stress Out of Parent-Teacher Conferences
Do you ever dread those conferences (from either side of the desk)? Do you ever fear being blindsided with bad news? Do you find yourself feeling defensive before you even settle into that folding chair?
Many parents AND teachers tell us they look forward to conferences the way they look forward to complicated dental procedures. However, if we can remember a few principles of human communication, parent-teacher conferences don’t have to be so unpleasant. These principles will help adults on either side of a difficult conversation.
- Empathy is even more powerful than you think. Leading potentially difficult news with empathy will make a world of difference. We can end up using a lot of technology to communicate but we must remember that people can’t hear empathy in a text or email. Sincere empathy comes across largely in our tone of voice and our facial expressions. It can take more time and effort to communicate regularly via phone or in person, but it is worth it.
- Often, the anger we are hearing is a result of pain that occurred at some other time and place. If we remember that fear and pain are often the primary emotions and we are rarely the true cause of those feelings, it can help us avoid taking the emotional venting personally.
- Let the meeting be about what is best for the child in the big picture. If we set our egos and insecurities aside, we will find that more often than not, our goals are more common than we realized. It’s not about a win for us, but a win for the student.
Help! Love and Logic Skills and Consequences Aren’t Working
Have you ever been in a spot with your kids when you felt like Love and Logic just wasn’t working? I have! In fact, there have been times when my wife and I have joked that Love and Logic only works on other peoples’ kids.
Listed below are six questions to ask ourselves when this begins to happen:
- Am I using too many words as I implement the technique?
The more words we use when a child is upset or acting out, the less effective we become.
- Am I displaying anger or frustration?
Anger and frustration feed misbehavior.
- Am I giving too many warnings before consequences ... or lecturing too much afterward?
The more we warn kids about consequences, the less they seem to care about them when they finally come. Also, after the children experience consequences, resist the urge to rub salt in the wound by lecturing them about what they should have learned.
- Has our relationship gone downhill?
If consequences don’t seem to be working, it might be due to a lack of positive connection between you and the child. Experiment with using the One-Sentence Intervention, found in many of our materials.
- Does this child – or do we, as parents – need professional help?
If there are deeper problems driving the misbehavior, it’s likely that few things will really work until these issues are dealt with.
- Is this a temporary phase?
Yep! Sometimes kids act out because they are kids, and their little neurons are still developing. Hang in there and see if a little time does the trick.
I know a loving mom who does just about everything to make sure her kids are happy every second of the day. If there isn’t the type of food they like in the fridge, she runs to the store to buy it. Whenever the newest electronic device comes out, she makes sure they’re the first to own it.
Of course, she refrains from requiring any chores out of them, because she knows they work hard at school. Besides, it upsets them when she asks them to help.
Unfortunately, and unintentionally, Mom is stealing from her children. They are two of the most miserable human beings on earth. They walk around (actually they sit around) most of the time with scowls on their faces. Because Mom has stolen their self-esteem and gotten them hooked on stuff, nothing seems to bring happiness or contentment. Everything is “stupid” or “boring.”
When we train our kids to believe that getting stuff is the key to happiness, might we be stealing their lifelong joy and sense of fulfillment? In our audio, Parents are Not ATMs, we teach that true contentment comes from earning things rather than being showered with them.
To protect your children from this type of insidious theft, experiment with the following:
- The next time your child wants something, ask, “How do you think you might earn that?”
- Instead of taking on the problem of affording the item, say, “You may have that as soon as you can afford it.”
- Give them some ideas about how they might earn the required cash, and give yourself a pat on the back for not giving in.
- Give them some ideas about how they might earn the required cash, and give yourself a pat on the back for not giving in.
Are Chores Punishment?
One of our social media followers recently raised an excellent question:
“We want to model completing chores with joyful enthusiasm, right? But then, sometimes when kids ‘put back our energy,’ they do so by doing chores for us. Are we not sending conflicting messages? Are chores fun – or are they a punishment?”
This is a great question and it gets right to the heart of Love and Logic. The answer is YES – we want kids to feel great about completing tasks and contributing to the home. Does that mean that chores are always pleasant? Of course not. Chores still require time and energy and human beings (especially grown-up ones) only have a limited supply of each.
We can almost think of “energy” like money. Spending money can be fun. But, if I am careless and break a window, I don’t enjoy spending that money because I would rather spend it on something more fun. Spending time or energy (or money) to fix a mistake might feel good – but I could probably have found something else I would have preferred to spend them on.
An important thing to remember here is that the Energy Drain is about a restorative way to solve a problem (a problem the kid caused). We are not trying to punish kids or make them feel bad. For this reason, we don’t panic when they end up enjoying the work they do to replace our energy. The goal wasn’t to make them suffer, so we can feel good when they enjoy the process.
In the end, we want kids to feel good about working – whether their work is contribution or restitution. And if they don’t feel so great about working to restore, the problem still got solved and we can move on.
Shopping and Young Children: A Powerful Learning Opportunity
What can little kids learn when they are shopping with their parents in the grocery store? A huge amount!
They can learn about how to find the items and about what’s the best value. They can learn about quantity. They can learn about quality. They can learn about how much you love hanging out with them in the store and how helpful they are to you. They can also learn about boredom. They can learn about not getting what they want. They can learn delayed gratification and self-control.
They can learn a lot. That is as long as they aren’t watching a video on a phone or a tablet.
Many parents of young children allow that. It’s understandable. It makes it easier in the short term. Nevertheless, Love and Logic is really big on what happens later in the kid’s life; what happens later on with your relationship with the child.
We are really big on paying now… rather than paying much bigger later on.
So… the next time you’re in the store, would it be healthier for the child to be helping you shop? How can you make that happen?
- Before you go, the child can help you draw pictures of the items you need to find. Another option is to print images of these items off the web. Now the child has something to hold in their hand as they help you on your mission.
- When they find something you need they can feel great about themselves. If they spot something that’s not right you can say, “Oh, that’s really close! That’s almost what we want. Let’s look over here. Oh, look at that. It looks just like our picture. Look, it says ‘Beans.’ The letter ‘B’ stands for beans.”
- You can ask questions: “Are we going to get the small one for this price or the bigger one? I think we should get the bigger one. It’s a better value. That means the price is just a little bigger, but the quantity is a lot bigger. ‘Quantity’ is just a fancy word for how much you get.”
These things make shopping so much more fun, and think about the lessons learned with respect to vocabulary, math, and other essential skills.
Of course, they are not always going to be happy about this approach, particularly if they have become accustomed to watching videos or playing games while you are shopping. This is okay, because it is most important to give our children small opportunities to become unhappy or bored.
Do these feelings still come our way as adults? The healthiest people are those who learned early in life that these feelings are temporary… and that they can cope and get through them.
Dr. Charles Fay
Want Your Child's Teacher to Listen to You?
There was a problem on the playground during recess today. Even though it involved only some of the classmates, the entire class was punished with loss of recess for two days. Patty and Wanda were incensed.
“Most of us were being good! It’s just not fair for all of us to miss recess,” they told their mothers. “You need to call the teacher and make her change her mind,” they insisted.
Wanda’s mother went to the phone, and when the teacher answered said, “Punishing all the kids for what a few of them did just doesn’t make sense. You just need to handle this in a better way. Both Wanda and I think that this is totally unfair!”
Patty’s mother called the teacher and said, “I’d like to share what the girls have told me about the recess problem and get your thoughts on it.”
I bet you know which mother’s concerns the teacher was more receptive to hearing and accepting.
I visited with this teacher. She told me that Wanda’s mother called first and that she immediately found herself being defensive about the situation. The call didn’t go well. The conversation she had with Patty’s mom went better.
She went on to say, “I didn’t feel defensive at all when Patty’s mom called. I liked her opening statement so well that I’m going to be using it in the future when I have to call parents about a problem.”
What was that opening statement? “I’d like to share what I’ve been hearing and get your thoughts.” It’s a surefire way to keep the other person from feeling attacked.
Born to Learn
It was a typical trip. There I sat at gate B 29… waiting for yet another airplane… trying not to think about the fact that my connecting flight was still 2 hours way.
Like a cool summer breeze, Andrew arrived on the scene. “What that?” he asked his mother, pointing at one of the planes taxiing down the runway.
“That’s an airplane, Andrew” she replied with a smile.
“What that?” he inquired, pointing at something else.
“That’s what they pull planes with,” she gently replied.
“What that?” he asked as his bright eyes gazed the other way.
With loving patience, she answered, “I don’t know, Andrew. I’m not sure.”
Never losing his enthusiasm and his six million dollar smile, Andrew proceeded to ask “What that?” approximately 15 more times over the next thirty minutes.
What a joy it was to watch this small child’s wonder and excitement! What a pleasure to see his kind mother do her best to sweetly address his multiple inquiries!
In my seminars I’m often asked, “What do we have to do to make kids want to learn?”
My response is always the same:
All children are born with a strong drive to explore, learn
and master their environment.
The key to helping underachieving kids is not punishment! It doesn’t involve finding bigger and better consequences… or better rewards.
Lack of academic motivation is usually the result of unmet needs related to control, competence, emotional safety, belonging, etc.
Demonstrating a sincere desire to help… and not to punish… is the first step along the road to recovery. The next steps involve rebuilding the foundation of emotional needs that free kids to learn.
Dr. Charles Fay
Don't Lose Your Status As A Role Model
Question: What is one of the primary ways that kids learn?
Answer: Modeling (subconscious imitation of adult behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes).
Question: Who becomes a model for kids?
Answer: A person they see as both strong and loving at the same time.
Question: Once a child accepts a person as a model, how does the child see his/her own position or role?
Answer: As a child, student, and a follower who should listen to the adult.
Question: What happens to the adult’s role if the child can hook him/her into debates or arguments about limits and boundaries?
Answer: Their roles change to that of equals. It is no longer an adult/child relationship. It is now an adult/adult relationship.
Question: If that happens, what happens to the adult’s role as a model?
Answer: It loses effectiveness.
Question: Does the child now feel a strong need to listen to that adult?
Question: If this is true, then why is it so important that we not engage in arguments with kids about the limits we set?
Answer: If we do, we lose our status as models. Then we find ourselves demanding that sports heroes become the role models for our kids.
Question: Who should be the real role models for kids?
Answer: Parents and teachers.
This is the reason that Love and Logic places such a strong emphasis upon the use of the Neutralizing Arguments technique for those times when kids try to hook you into arguments. Master the art of responding to arguments with, “Could be,” and “What did I say?” Then smile and walk away.
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Do you want your children to be the ones who easily give up when assignments get difficult… or do you hope they’ll have the confidence and grit required to keep going when the going gets tough?
What’s going to best prepare them for tomorrow’s extremely competitive workforce? Will it be high grades because they only took the easier classes… or will it be somewhat lower grades earned by finishing a more challenging course of study?
What’s most important: stellar grades or solid perseverance and skills?
As this school year begins, let’s give our kids the gift of seeing that satisfaction and growth come from facing challenges.
• Focus on the strains rather than the brains
Instead of praising, “You are so bright,” notice their successes and ask, “How did you do that?”
• Help them blame their success on effort and perseverance.
Most kids will respond to “How did you do that?” with “I don’t know.” When this happens, ask a question: “Did you work hard or did you keep trying?”
Both of the options embedded in this question point directly to strains… not brains.
• Avoid placing them on a pedestal.
Capable kids often get so much positive feedback about their successes they begin to fear taking risks. It’s as if they think, “If I try something challenging, I might not live up to what everybody thinks about me. I’d better take the easier route.”
• Show them that failure is not final… it’s informative.
Many children develop a perfectionistic orientation by watching their rather perfectionistic parents. I’ve been guilty of this. Sadly, doing so leaves many kids fearful of taking healthy academic risks.
Give your kids… and yourself… a gift. Do your best to laugh about your blunders, while allowing your children to hear you say, “I sure learned a lot from that!”
• Love them unconditionally.
When our kids know that we love them… not what they do… they feel safe to make the mistakes required to become truly exceptional people.
Dr. Charles Fay
Helping Kids Learn from Mistakes
Have you ever ruined a really good lesson with an “I told you so”? I know I have. Human nature just makes it difficult to resist “sharing our wisdom” at the wrong times.
Here are some thoughts on helping kids learn better from their own mistakes as well as learning from our mistakes.
The short version is: Save the “I told you so!” for when you mess up (lecture yourself out loud about what you learned) and pour on the empathy (mostly silent empathy) when kids make mistakes. This is not always easy to pull off, but kids tend to learn best from their own mistakes when we resist the urge to do a lot of explaining about what they should be learning.
It’s amazing how human beings, once told what they should be learning, resist the lesson. The focus can shift to the power struggle over whether or not they are going to learn what we want them to learn (or not).
Again, the experiment is simple:
- When you mess up, talk out loud (within range of their ears) about what you learned and how you aspire to do better next time.
- When they mess up, resist the urge to say “I told you so” and let empathy and the results do most of the teaching.
You can learn more about these ideas in Dr. Charles Fay’s incredibly helpful book Parenting for Success.