Parenting with Love and Logic™

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

There are many effective parenting styles. Training children to develop responsibility while putting the fun back into parenting are the goals of a parenting method known as Love and Logic™ parenting. The Love and Logic™ system has been described and advanced by Jim Fay, a former school principal and renowned educational consultant, Charles Fay, PhD, a child psychologist, and child psychiatrist Foster Cline, MD.

The idea behind the Love and Logic™ theory is this: Parents should provide an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and empathy while allowing the natural consequences of a child's behavior and actions to do the teaching. This should happen in the early years, when the consequences of the inevitable less-than-perfect choices are not too severe or damaging. By the time the child reaches adulthood, he or she is equipped with the decision-making skills needed for adult life. The method also teaches insight into parenting styles and how our own parenting styles can, inadvertently, sometimes rob a child of the ability to grow up making good decisions for him- or herself. It's applicable to all children from toddlers to teens.

The Love and Logic™ method advocates offering choices that are acceptable to the parent, so it isn't about letting 3-year-olds choose whether they want to play in the street or the fenced yard and letting them suffer the dire consequences of a poor decision. Instead, the parent is encouraged to offer children a range of age-appropriate and acceptable choices in order to experience the teaching value of their decisions.

An example of the Love and Logic™ theory might be allowing a second-grader to decide how much he prepares for a spelling test. If he says he doesn't need to study and ends up with a poor grade, that's a teaching consequence. When he is upset about the grade, the parent then steps in as a source of empathy ("gosh, I'm so sorry that happened") without any sarcasm or proclaiming "I told you so." This way, parents are providing unconditional love and support, and hopefully the child learns the importance of preparing for tests before he is away at college when there's no mom or dad to goad him into studying. One could argue that the bad grade on one test in second grade is an affordable consequence, while a failed course at college is not. Using Love and Logic™ to help children learn decision-making lets them learn from consequences of their actions before the consequences become too big and far-reaching.

Another aspect of Love and Logic™ parenting is the focus on "enforceable" versus "non-enforceable" statements. As an example, assume that a 13-year-old is refusing to clean her room. If the parent dictates, "Clean your room now!" (a non-enforceable statement, since no one can physically force a child to complete a task) and she refuses, the child is in control of the situation. In this situation, the parent can maintain control by focusing on his or her own actions and using enforceable statements like "I'll be happy to drive you to basketball practice when your room is clean."

Other examples of enforceable statements might include: "I listen to people when their voice is quiet," "I loan the car when I don't have to be concerned about drinking and driving," and "I wash all the clothes that are put in the hamper."

Many schools offer Love and Logic™ parenting courses, but you can also learn the method from books, tapes, and DVDs.

For more, please visit the Healthy Relationships Center.


Last Editorial Review: 3/18/2008




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