A few weeks ago, I posted on Facebook that I was having trouble with my kids minding me. This was my status:
"How do I walk softly and carry a big stick with my kids? They don't take me seriously until I get mad..."In fact, often my youngest would just laugh. It was really frustrating. I don't enjoying being angry, really.
The overwhelming response to my post was that I should read Love and Logic. I requested it at the library, but I had to wait in line, and this week I finally got it!
The book opens with several examples of controlling children and their sad parents. It was like watching Supernanny... you think to yourself, "Well, at least I'm not THAT bad!"
The second chapter defines several ineffective parenting styles, ranging from helicopters (hoverers), and attack helicopters (defensive helicopters-attacking anyone who tries to show their kid the real world; reminds me of that story of the teacher who gave failing grades to cheaters, whose parents then came in and made her give their kids passing grades instead, for no good reason), to drill sergeants (the yellers-which only gets short-term results). There is a passing reference made to parents who don't parent at all, the laissez-faire parent. Of course the ideal is called the Consultant Parent. The focus of this parent is asking questions, and relinquishing any control that is not absolutely necessary. We'll explain more later.
It also goes on to explain that it's better to let children fail and then learn while they are young, than when they go out into the world, because the stakes are more affordable. Protecting them is not showing true love of them, because it leaves them ill-prepared to live on their own and make responsible choices.
The subsequent chapters describe different aspects of this style. Chapter 3 explains how responsible children feel good about themselves, and how our treatment of them affects their self-concept. Chapter 4 emphasizes the need to separate their problems (and learning opportunities) from ours. It also lays down the two rules of Love and Logic:
1) Adults must set firm, loving limits using enforceable statements without showing anger, lecturing, or using threats.
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.
Chapter 5 details how to use "thinking words," words that promote thought, with children. Also, it shows how kids need limits, and without those limits, they don't feel secure enough to take risks.
Chapter 6 shows how to let children gain control through making choices. There is a diagram (page 81) that shows how we should give infants very few, if any choices, and give more and more choices as children grow until by high school, they decide just about everything for themselves. This diagram also shows the opposite: that sometimes we give little ones to much choice, and then as they make poor choices, we have to take more and more choices from them as they get older. This is obviously undesirable. One quote I liked:
"Psychologist Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD, says people of all ages compare the amount of control they have in a relationship to only the amount of control they used to have-- not to the amount they feel they should have. When more control is allotted, people are satisfied; when control is cut back, people are angry."
I liked chapter 7. Its title is very expressive: The Recipe for Success: Empathy with Consequences. It explains how we need to show real empathy for our children when they're suffering the consequences of their choices, as opposed to sarcastic or feigned empathy. Another bit I liked was that consequences don't have to be immediate! I've been told the opposite for a long time by various experts, and I had a lot of trouble with that because a parent can never anticipate EVERY infraction, and I was terrible about coming up with something in the heat of the moment, so I always defaulted to the same things: mostly time outs, and occasionally doing nothing. But the authors do a fabulous job of showing how waiting can actually be more effective! It goes like this: Kid makes poor choice. I say, "I think that was a poor choice. I'm going to have to do something about it, but not right now. I'll get back to you. Try not to worry about it." Zing!
Chapter 8 admonishes patience and practice. I needed this chapter. I was stressed: where do I start? The authors tell you to pick one behavior you would like to change in your child, and come up with a game plan on how you will respond. The situation comes up, you do your best with your plan, then do it again. Eventually, they promise, it will become second nature. And one last comfort, it's never too late to start.
The second part of the book goes through specific situations, and shows how to use Love and Logic to solve them. Arranged in alphabetical order, it acts like an index that a parent can reference whenever they're having trouble. Some that promise salvation for me: Allowances/Money, Bossiness, Discipline in Public, The Room: Keeping it Clean, and Sassing and Disrespect.
All in all, I like this book, and I think I will start applying its principles. It will not be easy, and I will most likely feel utterly ridiculous at first, but the results promised are worth the work, and I know they will come.
I will be mentioning various experiences with Love and Logic in other blog posts in the future.