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Parenting the Love & Logic Way

February 09, 2018
By Dr. Sandi Jolly

As parents, we all want to raise self-confident, responsible children who are ready to leave our homes and enter the real world.


Dr. Sandi Jolly
Guest writer, Dr. Sandi Jolly

From an early age, we have the ability to shape who our children will become by the way we speak, the rules we set, and the decisions we allow them to make. Don't you sometimes wish there was an instructional manual?

You may have heard the phrase “Love and Logic” over the past several years at WCCS as administrators and teachers have studied and implemented principles from the approach. Love and Logic has given our teachers a toolbox of positive techniques for maintaining calm and effective classrooms. In this week’s blog, we thought we would share some of the basic principles of the program, some real-life examples from WCCS classrooms, and some practical tips for parents to implement in the home.

What is Love and Logic?

In the mid 1970’s, Foster W. Cline, M.D., a child psychiatrist, and Jim Fay, an experienced educator, were concerned about the number of parents and educators struggling with challenging children and teens.  Their research and real-life experience resulted in the Love and Logic approach to help parents and educators raise happy and responsible kids.  The goal was to provide parents with positive, loving tools for raising happy and well-behaved children.  It was built around the science of maintaining caring, respectful relationships and is a balance of love, mutual respect, limits, and accountability; all designed to help children become happy, self-controlled adults.

The “love” in Love and Logic means that we love our children so much that we are willing to consistently set and enforce limits with sincere compassion and empathy.  The “logic” in Love and Logic happens when we allow children to make decisions and affordable mistakes and then experience the natural or logical consequences of those choices.  When this ‘logic” is balanced with sincere empathy, children develop the logical thinking that “the quality of my life depends on the quality of my choices.” 

Charles Fay, Ph.D., school and clinical psychologist and CEO of the Love and Logic Institute, often refers to the two important rules of Love and Logic. 

Rule #1: “Adults should set limits without anger, lectures, threats, or repeated warnings.” 

As adults, we set limits by telling children what we will do or allow in a calm and loving manner. Be firm, but resist lecturing, threatening or making empty promises. Remember, it’s hard to make a sensible decision or a good choice when you are stressed or angry. This is true for both you and your child!

Rule #2: “Let children solve their own problems.” 

When children cause problems, adults should hand those problems back in loving ways. This is achieved by replacing anger and lectures with a strong dose of empathy followed by the logical consequence. 

Parents are the most important influence and source of information in a child’s life to help them develop wisdom, values, and discernment.  The Love and Logic approach provides four basic principles or ingredients to help parents build their children’s self-esteem, personal responsibility, and ability to make smart choices.  These principles assist parents and educators in making daily deposits in the lives of children:

  • Mrs. Browder's Class
    Mrs. Browder's 4K Class

    Use Empathy. Whenever possible, build self-concept by maintaining the dignity of both the adult and child.  Parents and educators are the examples as we provide the model for mutual respect and dignity.  We must offer children empathy, understanding, and unconditional love; allow them to struggle and solve their own problems; and encourage them to learn to succeed through personal thinking and learning. 

Example: “One of the most commonly used Love and Logic principles in my classroom is the 'Uh, Oh' song. This is accompanied by an empathetic statement like, "I see you are having a problem." I might follow up with a thinking statement like "Children who are listening get to stay in group." For many students, this simple exchange is enough to get them thinking and back on task." – Alice Browder, 4K Teacher

  • Whenever possible, share the control.  Parents and educators offer healthy control and allow children to make choices frequently, when they don’t negatively affect the welfare of others.

Try offering choices and sharing control.

Example: “Sometimes during the day, I will give the students a list of three of four tasks that we need to accomplish and let them choose the order we complete them in. They oftentimes have good reasons for wanting to get one finished in a specific order. Giving them a little bit of ownership over our day leads to less complaining and more time to do the things they enjoy.” – Christiana Holz, 4th Grade Teacher

Example: "One of the things that I like about Love and Logic is the opportunity to give choices to the children when it is appropriate.  I think it makes them feel empowered and they can see the benefits of making good choices. Just yesterday, a little boy was playing a little too rough in a center after he had a warning.  Instead of putting him directly in time out or telling him to go somewhere else, I said he could "choose" a different center that he would like to play in instead.  Though sad to leave his center, he was able to calmly choose somewhere else and play very well there.  No tantrums or fussiness and he could see that he could control his body and with choice have another chance to play more calmly in another center!" - Nikki Cales, 3K Teacher

  • Whenever possible, share the thinking.  We give our children a lifelong gift when we allow them to think more about the solution to a problem or mistake.  Questions are a powerful way to encourage children to think for themselves. 

Example: “When students are struggling to share or in the middle of some other social problem […] first, I listen to each child’s description of the problem. Again, my goal is to get them thinking…so I may say this...’Would you like to hear what some other kids would do?’ And they always want to hear! (Let’s say the problem is who will get to be the Dad in the home center)….I would say, “Some kids decide two dads from different families can be in the center. Or, some kids decide to stomp their feet and yell at their friends. Or, some kids decide to get a timer to help them take turns. Which sounds like the better choice to you?” – Alice Browder, 4K Teacher

Example: “I even use love and logic with my husband. ‘Would you like to take out the trash before you come to bed or when you get up in the morning? LOL’” – Kara Winn, 3rd Grade Teacher

  • Use the empathy/consequence formula. Offer empathy first and then the consequences.  Empathy allows children to learn from their mistakes instead of learning to resent adults.  Consequences teach children all sorts of lifelong lessons, including the knowledge that they have the power to shape their own lives by taking ownership of the actions they take. Avoid the temptation to remove the source of your child’s pain by allowing natural negative consequences to occur when they make a wrong decision.

Example: “This might be used with a child who doesn’t want to clean up which is just prior to lunch in our class schedule. I might say, ‘Aww. I see you’re not helping your friends clean up. Don’t worry, you can finish cleaning the center while we eat our lunch!’ The tone of voice is key here, as it is said with a soft voice and no anger or frustration at all…In fact, I give the impression that I just thought of a great idea! This squarely puts the problem back in the child’s hands. I have had to follow through on this one enough times that they know I am not kidding.” – Alice Browder, 4K Teacher

Example: “Throughout the year I reinforce that the students are capable or making their own choices on a daily basis and the consequence is based on their decision making. Over the past three years, I have seen incredible progress in students' problem solving skills and in the maturity of their decision making. In the past, I have had students come up to me in the morning and say, "Mrs. Holz, here is a note from my mom that says I forgot my homework at school yesterday, so I couldn't do it" - which leads to the child completing their homework at recess, losing points on the assignment, and a gloomy attitude for the rest of the day. Just a few days before Christmas break, a student walked up to me in the morning and said, "Mrs. Holz, do you mind that my homework is on a lined sheet of paper? I left my assignment here and called my friend, who emailed me a picture of the assignment." You can bet that I don't mind the homework being completed on a lined sheet of paper when the child takes ownership of their own situation.” – Christiana Holz, 4th Grade Teacher

Example: “When we are moving on to something exciting where self-control may be an issue - like doing an explore lab - I give directions and say "Students who follow directions get to participate while students who aren't listening get to watch."   Because they WANT to get their hands into experiments, they listen to directions and usually follow them so that they get to participate.  Then if they get off task or disruptive, they can take a break a watch to refocus.” – Kara Winn, 3rd Grade Teacher

Want to know more? If you are interested in learning more about this approach and its strategies, WCCS is holding a class on Friday, February 23 at 8:15 a.m. in Westminster Hall using the Parenting the Love and Logic Way series by Charles Fay, Ph,D. and Jim Fay.  

Love and logic: Helping parents and educators raise happy & responsible kids.  (n.d.).  Love and Logic   Catalog. 
Fay, J. (2011).  Creating a love and logic school culture.  Golden, CO:  Love and Logic Institute, Inc. 
Fay, J. & Fay, C.  (2000).  Love and logic magic for early childhood:  Practical parenting from birth to six years.  Golden, CO:  Love and Logic Institute, Inc.

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Tags: parenting