Parenting With Love and Logic

I’ve been raising kids for just about five years now. At one point, I had three kids ages three and under. I think I can consider myself a wise and learned veteran.

HA.

Actually, I’m still often terrified that I’m inadvertently doing something that is going to permanently damage my kids’ psyches, or intellectual development, or emotional well-being, or spiritual growth, or, I can hardly say it… their self-esteem.

Parenting is simply one of those careers that requires continued education, and if you don’t seek it out yourself, your kids are going to hand it to you at inopportune moments. It’s better to be prepared.

And the simple fact is that these kids deserve the best I can do for them.

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Since I have not in the last five years subscribed to one specific parenting philosophy, I’ve been feeling lately like I could use a few fresh tools to help me deal successfully with the toddler tantrums, the middle-child meltdowns, and the smarty-pants preschooler.

So on the recommendation of a friend I read Parenting With Love and Logic and Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood.

First, let me start with what I like about this system:

No Anger or Frustration: Nothing reinforces “bad” behavior like an adult temper tantrum. Love and logic helps you practice calm, calm, calm responses to many things that usually make us parents turn red and jump up and down.

It’s the Child’s Problem: Love and Logic focuses on teaching your kids to come up with solutions to their own problems (particularly the ones they create for themselves). When we just react and discipline, our kids have no opportunity to learn the natural consequences of the decision they made; they only learn that it made us make them do something they weren’t particularly fond of, which allows them to get angry at us for their problem, instead of admitting that it was their own doing, learning from it, and moving on.

It’s About Choices: As parents, we love to be in control of our kids (after all, that’s the easiest way to keep them out of trouble, right?). However, Love and Logic says that if we start offering our kids choices when they are very young, and allow them to experience both the control they gain from making their own choices and the consequences of those choices, then they have the opportunity to learn the decision-making process when the stakes are still very low. This is done within reasonable and safe limits for the child’s age, of course — we’re not talking about letting a 2-year-old decide whether they want to play with the knobs on the oven or not — but if we don’t let our kids learn how to make choices throughout their childhood, how are we supposed to expect them to make good choices when it really matters? Teenagers (young teenagers) are making life-and-death choices on a regular basis now. Let’s let them get in some good practice before they get there.

So I really like the idea of letting natural consequences instead of parent-imposed consequences (that might not be able to connect to the actual behavior) do the teaching. It makes sense to help your kids get in as much practice making decisions as possible when they’re young so they can be really good at it when it matters. I think kids raised with the Love and Logic philosophy will be people of common sense, who know that choices have consequences and are able to take responsibility for their actions. This is a far cry from the entitled attitude often seen in the up-and-coming generations, so for this, I think this system has some great ideas and tools.

However…

If you intend to raise your children with any sort of a moral standard, I think Love and Logic is missing something. There are a thousand and one ways for the kids to learn that poor decisions usually have undesirable consequences, and therefore it makes good sense to make good decisions. So Love and Logic kids learn that you don’t hit your friend because he might not want to be your friend anymore after that or he might hit you back and that would hurt. But there’s no element of “don’t hit your friend because it’s not the right thing to do and there are often better ways to communicate.”

What kids learn from Parenting with Love and Logic is extremely important and useful, but I don’t think it’s a complete system. I want my kids to know that sometimes you make the right decision because it’s the right thing to do, even though that “right” decision just might have undesirable consequences for you. Love and Logic teaches about immediate consequences, but there’s nothing about the longer term benefits of generosity and sacrifice, actions that often look like poor decisions because the immediate consequences are really not in your favor.

So I don’t think I can follow Love and Logic to the letter and be done with it. But I really enjoyed reading both books and it definitely gave me some new ideas on dealing with everyday situations that can easily become hassles. It also gave me a reminder that most parents need pretty much constantly:

Your Kids Do What You Do.

It’s going to be pretty tricky to teach your kids to use restraint with TV time when you yell at them to turn it off from in front of the other TV. If I want them to learn to enjoy keeping their rooms tidy, I might just want to deal with the massive pile of papers/toys-to-fix/bills/crafts/cards/junk dominating my kitchen counter. They learn to talk how we talk. They learn to react how we react. And if it really bothers me when my five-year-old breaks out some dripping sarcasm, well, you know, the apple and the tree and all that.

If you have school-age children or older, Parenting With Love and Logic is where I would start. However I found very little in there that I could apply to toddlerdom (after all, “logic” is not really a toddler’s forte), so I was glad to go on and read Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood. If you only have younger kids, I would start with that one.

In the end, my goal for raising my children is to give them love: love through boundaries and love through exploration, love through discipline and love through freedom, loving them for who they are and providing them with the tools and environment to be better every day. Love and Logic has given me a few more cards to hold in my back pocket as this end goal is broken down into the day-to-day. My parenting education clearly doesn’t end here, but I thought it was a worthwhile course.

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