Sunday, October 28, 2012

Parenting with Love & Logic: Review

I just finished the book Parenting with Love & Logic by Foster Cline & Jim Fay. 

I ... loved ... it.

Here is what I loved. They presented what JB and I have attempted to do with our children from the moment they were born. But we didn't know exactly why we were doing it or how  to do it ... exactly. It solidified the approach to parenthood that I have been striving for and sort of tied my parenting skills up with a neat little bow.

(Not implying that my parenting is that perfect, of course.)

So, I wanted to summarize, more for me then for anyone else, what I learned from Foster and Cline. I can't re-read the book weekly (although I honestly might be tempted to at least try for monthly.) But I can flash back to this review on my blog and remind myself what I learned during this very easy and enlightening read. (Please note that many of my summary sentences are word-for-word. I am avoiding quotation marks to make it an easier read.)

By the way, I actually finished this book about a month ago and have been working on implementing the techniques. While my husband has not read it, he's listened to me read excerpts galore, and he has easily slid into the techniques as well. We are in love with this book!



Parenting with Love & Logic is more of an attitude that will allow our children to grow in maturity as they grow in years. It will teach them to think, to decide, and to live with their decisions. In short, it will teach them responsibility, and that’s what parenting it all about. If we can teach our kids responsibility, we’ve accomplished a great portion of our parental task.

Parenting with Love and Logic is all about raising responsible kids. It’s a win-win philosophy. Parents win because they love in a healthy way and establish control over their kids without resorting to the anger and threats that encourage rebellious teenage behavior. Kids win because they learn responsibility and the logic of life by solving their own problems. Thus, they acquire the tools for coping with the real world.


All loving parents essentially face the same challenge: raising children who have their heads on straight and will have a good chance ofmaking it in the big world. Contrary to popular opinion, many of the worst kids -- the most disrespectful and rebellious -- often come from homes where they are shown love, but it's just the wrong kind of love. These parents include:

A. Helicopter Parents: Some parents think that love means revolving their lives around their chidlren. They are helicopter parents. They hover over and then rescue their children whenever trouble arises. The worst of these are the: Jet-powered Turbo-attack mode of Helicopter Parents. They go beyond bailing children out and trying to prevent pain and move into swooping down like jet-powered AH-64 Apache attack helicopters on any person or agency they see as a threat to their child's impeccable credentials. The company who hires a helicopter kid won't be intimidated by parental pressure in the face of substandard performance. A perfect image and spotless school transcript are poort subsitutes for character and the attitude that achievement comes through struggle and perserverance. Such aggressive protection of their children will simply accomplish the exact opposite of what helicopter parents are trying to achieve.

B. Drill Sergeant Parents: These parents, too, love their children. They feel that the more they bark and the more they control, the better their kids will bein the long run. The kids are constantly told what to do. These parents are into power. When given the chance to think for themselves, kids of Drill Sergeant Parents often make horrendous decisions. When they become teens they are more susceptible to peer pressure than other teens becasue when the costs of mistakes were low, as children, they were never allowed to make their own decisions. They were instead trained to listen to a voice outside of their head -- that of their parents.

C. Laissez-Faire Parent: These parents allow kids to raise themsleves. Some hvae bought into the theory that children are innately born witht he ability to govern themselves. Other's believe they should be the child's best friend. Others feel guilty for working and lavish gifts ont he child.

So what parenting style IS best?

D. The Consultant Parent: They ask their children questions and offer choices. Instead of telling their children what to do, they put the burden of decision making on their kids’ shoulders.


A Consultant Parent must:
  • allow for failures and help our kids make the most of them during their elementary school days, when the price tags are still reasonable.
  • remember that the price a child pays today to learn about friendships, school, learning, commitment, decision making, and responsibility is the cheapest it will ever be. Little children can make many mistakes at affordable prices. Usually all they’re out is some temporary pain and a few tears.
  • remind yourself that the older a child gets, the bigger the decisions become and the graver the consequences of those decisions.
  • not think that the cost of teaching our little tykes to make decisions it too high. “I love him. I don’t want little Johnny to learn the hard way," will mean little Johnny will do just that.
  • help teach our kids through natural consequences (significant learning opportunities or SLOs).
  • remember that pain is part of the price we must pay to raise responsible kids.
  • allow their children to fail -- to stand back, however painful it may be, and let SLOs build our children.
  • offer our children opportunities to be responsible. That’s the key. Parents who raise responsible kids spend very little time and energy worrying about their kids’ responsibilities; they worry more about how to let the children encounter SLOs for the irresponsibility
  • be involved with their kids, certainly, lovingly using good judgment as to when their children are ready to learn the next level of life’s lessons.
  • Children's mistakes are their opportunities! Oftentimes we impede our kids’ growth. We put ourselves exactly where we shouldn’t be: in the middle of their problems. Parents who take on their kids’ problems do them a great disservice. They rob their children of the chance to grow in responsibility, and they actually foster further irresponsible behavior.

Children with a poor self-concept often forget to do homework, bully other kids, argue with teachers and parents, steal, and withdraw into themselves whenever things get rocky—irresponsible in all they do. Children with a good self-concept tend to have a lot of friends, do their chores regularly, and don’t get into trouble in school—they take responsibility as a matter of course in their daily lives.

When parenting with Love and Logic, we strive to offer our children a chance to develop that needed positive self-concept.

The building of a person’s self-concept can be compared to building a three-legged table. Such a table will stand only when all three supports are strong. If any one of the legs is weak, the table will wobble and rock.

Our children’s three-legged table of self-concept is built through the implied messages we give. These messages either build them up and allow them to succeed by themselves or add to childhood discouragement and reduced self-esteem.
  • Leg One: I am loved by the “magic people” in my life. Strong, effective parents say in both their covert and overt messages, “There’s a lot of love here for you regardless of the way you act or do your work at school or anyplace else.” When this love is combined with pats on the back, hugs, a smile, and eye contact, a tight bond is created between parent and child.
  • Leg Two: I have the skills I need to make it. Each child must feel he or she can compete with other kids in the classroom, on the ball field, at home—anywhere kids interact. Children must know that within themselves are the necessary ingredients to handle life and that they have the abilities to succeed.
  • Leg Three: I am capable of taking control of my life. Many parents tell their children they expect them to be responsible for themselves, yet these same parents are forever informing their kids when they are hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, or tired, or even when they need to go to the bathroom. We’ve all heard these messages:
    • “Put on your coat. It’s too cold for you to be going out without it.”
    • “You can’t be hungry. We just ate an hour ago.”
    • “Sit down and be quiet. You don’t need another drink.”
    • “Be sure to use the bathroom before we leave.”
Each of these message tells children they are not capable of thinking for themselves, that they cannot take control of their life and make decisions.

Kids get the most out of what they accomplish for themselves. Children will get more out of making their own decision -- even if it is wrong -- than they will out of parents making that decision for them. Sometimes that means standing by as our kids struggle to complete a task we could easily help them with or do for them.

They must know we love them whether they succeed or not, and we can support and encourage them along the way as long as we don’t take their efforts away from them. By letting our kids work their way through age-appropriate tough times when they are younger, we are preparing them to effectively face truly tough times down the road.

Kids who develop an attitude that says, I can probably find my own solutions, become survivors. They have an edge in learning, relating to others, and making their way in the world. That’s because the best solution to any problem lies within the skin of the person who owns the problem.


Over the years, we have used two principles to guide what we wanted Love and Logic to be: the first was that it had to be as effective as possible, and the second was that we wanted to keep it as simple as possible so that parents could remember it even in the midst of highly emotional times. Because of this, we have summarized the Love and Logic method in two simple rules that will help you do all that we have discussed so far:

1. Adults must set firm, loving limits using enforceable statements without showing anger, lecturing, or using threats. This is often best done by giving choices that are within your firm, loving limits. Here are a few examples:
  • “Please feel free to join us for dinner when your room is clean.”
  • “Would you prefer to wear something nice to church or go in your pajamas?”
  • “Feel free to join us in the living room to watch some television once your chores are finished.”
Make sure that you are willing to enforce whatever choices you give. It won’t take too many times of following through on the less desirable choice before your child will understand that either option is truly acceptable to you and that you will carry it out. (This is something, I, personally, am constantly asking myself before I offer a consequence. Is this a consequence I am willing to follow through on? If it isn't, I don't offer it.)

2. 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. This reinforces that the parent will not take ownership of the problems or consequences caused by their children’s bad choices but will gladly love them through solving those problems for themselves and dealing with those consequences.

To repeat: The best solution to any problem lies within the skin of the person who rightfully owns the problem.

Setting Limits Through Thinking Words

Just because we recommend that parents shy away from issuing orders and imposing their solutions on their kids’ problems does not mean we give license to all sorts of misbehavior. Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither of us is in any way soft on misbehavior.

True, we allow our kids to mess up, and we don’t drive home the lesson of their misdeeds with our words. We are slow to lecture; we never actually tell our kids what they have just learned. We believe telling our kids what to think is counterproductive.

So if we don’t order our kids around, how do we talk to them? How do we set limits on their behavior without telling them what to do?

Love and Logic parents insist on respect and obedience, just as command-oriented parents do. But when Love and Logic parents talk to their children, they take a different approach. Instead of the fighting words of command-oriented parents, they use thinking words.

Thinking words -- used in question form and expressed in enforceable statements—are one of the keys to parenting with Love and Logic. They place the responsibility for thinking and decision making on the children.

That’s why, from early childhood on, parents must always be asking thinking questions:
  • “Would you rather carry your coat or wear it?”
  • “Would you rather play nicely in front of the television or be noisy in your room?”
We don’t use fighting words:
  • You put that coat on now!”
  • “I’m trying to watch this football game, so be quiet!”
Fighting words invite disobedience. When we use them, we draw a line in the sand and dare our kids to cross it. They will fight the limits we impose when we use fighting words.

By using thinking words we are able to set limits on our children’s behavior without telling them what to do. For instance, if we want the lawn mowed before they eat their next meal, we set that limit by offering them a choice: of mowing the lawn and eating, or of not doing the lawn and not eating.
Using enforceable thinking words, giving choices, displaying no anger—these are the ingredients for establishing firm limits with our kids.

Gaining Control Through Choices

Giving even the smallest children a certain amount of freedom and control over their lives instills in them the sense of responsibility and maturity we want them to have. Independence helps children learn about the real world as their wisdom grows from the results of their decisions.

However, there is a downside: We can give our kids too much control, and kids with too much control are not pleasant to be around. They’re brats.

What, then, is the right amount of control to give children?

The secret to establishing control is to concentrate on fighting battles that we know we can win. That means we must select the issues very carefully. We must pick areas where we do have control over our kids. Then we must offer choices in those areas.

We may not be able to make Emma eat when she’s at the table -- that’s an unwinnable battle -- but we can control whether she’s at the table or not. We may not be able to control when Justin does his chores, but we can make sure he does them before he eats his next meal. We may not be able to control the disrespectful words that pop out of Alyssa’s mouth, but we can make sure she doesn’t use them in our presence -- we send her away until she can speak reasonably with us.

We cannot afford to demand blind obedience to our every wish. When faced with such demands, kids dig in their heels and hold out for their own values -- and that’s a control battle we’ll lose every time.

One reason choices work is that:
  • they create situations in which children are forced to think. Kids are given options to ponder, courses of action to choose. They must decide.
  • choices provide opportunities for children to make mistakes and learn from the consequences. With every wrong choice the children make, the punishment comes not from us but from the world around them.
  • they hep us avoid getting into control battles with our children. Finally choices provide our children with opportunities to hear that we trust their thinking abilities, thus building their self-confidence and the relationship between us and them.
In summary, as we offer choices to our kids, we should remember five basic points:
  1. Always be sure to select choices that you as a parent like and can live with. Don’t provide one you like and one you don’t, because the child will usually select the one you don’t like.
  2. Never give a choice unless you are willing to allow the child to experience the consequences of that choice.
  3. Never give choices when the child is in danger.
  4. Always give only two verbal choices, but make sure the child knows there is an implied third choice: If he doesn’t decide then you’ll decide for him.
  5. Your delivery is important. Try to start your sentence with one of the following:
  • “You’re welcome to _____ or _____.”
  • “Feel free to _____ or _____.”
  • “Would you rather _____ or _____?”
  • “What would be best for you— _____ or _____?”
The Recipe for Success: Empathy with Consequences

As children misuse their power and control, unwise parents show frustration, anger, and often plead. Wise parents allow natural and imposed consequences to do the teaching. And they are empathetic.
When we send kids to bed early because they sassed us, we are doling out punishment. When children tote home all Ds and Fs on a report card and we rescind television privileges for two months, we are not allowing the consequences of mistakes to do the teaching.

The best consequences are those that fall naturally. If Aubrey is a nuisance at the dinner table and chooses to play on the floor rather than eat nicely at the table, then it only makes sense that she’ll be hungry at bedtime. If Seth continually neglects his schoolwork and brings home failing grades, then staying back a grade makes sense. Naturally falling consequences allow the cause and effect of our children’s actions to register in their brains. When they ask themselves, Who is making me hurt like this? their only answer is, Me.

But these consequences put a painful, sinking feeling into our stomachs as parents. They’re exactly the things we don’t want to happen to our children. Dylan gets cold when he doesn’t wear his jacket. Samantha gets hungry when she goes to bed without eating. We are tempted to remind them of the pain of cold and the misery of hunger. But if we want the consequences to do their work effectively, we cannot afford to take that luxury.

While naturally occurring consequences are best, occasionally our children’s actions don’t lend themselves to such consequences. In those cases, we must impose consequences ourselves.
When no consequences occur naturally, the imposed consequences must:
  • be enforceable,
  • fit the “crime,” and
  • be laid down firmly in love.
Sometimes these imposed consequences look conspicuously like punishments. But when imposed without anger and threats, and when presented to our children in a way that the connection between their misbehavior and the consequences is made plain, they are quite effective.

We don’t get angry, we don’t say, “I told you so,” and we don’t sit our kids down and lecture them about their errors. If we did those things, we would be impeding the logic of the consequences from doing their thing. The child’s anger would be directed toward us and not toward the lesson the consequences teach.

The thing that drives the lesson into our children’s hearts after they make a mistake is our empathy and sadness. Our love for them reigns supreme. And a foul-up, regardless of how serious on their part, doesn’t change anything. They must be told that message continually.

They may be having a hard time with their lives, they may have made a mistake and will have to live with the consequences, but we’re in their corner and love them just the same. Empathy about the consequences shows our kids that kind of love. It allows the logic of the consequences to do the teaching.


Ineffective Technique (IT): "Please sit down. We are going to eat."
Love and Logic Technique (LLT): "We will eat as soon as you are seated."

IT: "Don't shout at me."
LLT: "I listen to people who do not yell at me."

IT: "Pay attention."
LLT: "I'll start again as soon as I know you are with me."

IT: "I'm not loaning you anymore money."
LLT: "I lend money to those who have collateral."

IT: "You're not going out without your coat."
LLT: "You may go out as soon as you have your coat."

IT: "Get this room cleaned up right now."
LLT: "You may join us for ice cream as soon as your rooom is clean."


Love and Logic ideas may seem overwhelming. There’s much to remember: thinking words, separation of problems, choices, empathy with the consequences. It’s enough to exasperate anyone unschooled in the Love and Logic style -- that is, were they to try to apply it all at once.

So if Love and Logic is brand-new to you, implement it a little at a time. Pick one thing that bothers you about your child’s behavior -- one thing that you think you would have good success of correcting with Love and Logic principles -- and then work on it with one principle you have learned from this book.

Even if our kids are in their teens and have never been exposed to Love and Logic discipline, they -- and we -- can benefit from our putting it to use. The important thing is to build a relationship with our kids that will last a lifetime -- long past the end of their adolescent years. And it is never too late to work on that.

Our children are our most precious resource. They come to us with one request: “During our short eighteen years with you, please teach us the truth about life and prepare us to be responsible adults when we leave home and enter the real world.”

Let’s grant our kids’ request. Let’s love them enough to allow them to learn the necessary and crucial skills of responsible thinking and living.


Carrie said...

I am so glad you liked it and "got it"! This method has been a life-saver for me and I am constantly getting compliments on my 3-year-old's behavior because of it!

alex amarxon said...

but our primary goal is to provide our readers with a local angle that is pertinent to them." Payment: Writers are paid based on the assigned word count for articles. read full review