Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Offering choices

About a month ago, I saw a book, “Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility” by Foster Cline and Jim Fay, on display atop a library shelf and grabbed it impulsively. I think of myself as a love and logic parent, but I’ve never actually read a “love and logic” book on the subject.
And it proved useful to me to pick up some specific strategies for working with Will and Owen, and even with my preschool students. There are many scripted scenarios in the book in which the parents’ actual words strike me as rather corny and contrived and there are plenty of scenarios where I wouldn't choose to impose the same "logical consequences" the book suggests, but many of the book's basic principles make good sense.

I’ve always known that it’s wise to offer young kids, who love to have some power, choices. But I hadn’t really recognized how easy it is to almost always offer children at least two choices you can live with even if the choices you present make the best path pretty obvious for them. Lately instead of barking orders or voicing my frustration when problems or conflicts arise with the boys, I’ve been asking them these kinds of questions:

“Do you think you can play together nicely and gently or do you think you should go to separate rooms?” (They almost always opt to stop hitting, pushing or whatever. I also avoid going into a room and asking this question until things get so heated that I’ve been called to the scene. Even then, I often start with the question: “Do you think you can work this one out for yourselves?” )

“Would you like to walk to the potty or the changing table or do you want me to carry you there?”

“Do you want to wash your hands by yourself or do you want me to help you?”

“Would you like to calm down now and speak nicely or go to your room until you’re feeling calmer and ready to be with us?” (If they don’t answer and keep fussing, they’ve made a choice to settle down in their room. But I give them a choice about leaving the door open or closed and tell them they can come out as soon as they’re feeling calm.)

“Should we clean up now or in 10 minutes?” (The choice is always 10 minutes, so I ask this in advance of the real clean-up time) And then…. “Do you want to clean up the blocks or the Legos first?”

None of these are direct from the book; they’re just my attempts to stay even-keeled and calm as a mom and offer my children choices that get them thinking instead of fighting as we get through everything from their stormiest moments to simply completing mundane chores.

Here a couple quotes on the subject from the book:

“Love and Logic parents avoid the helicopter and drill sergeant mentalities by using a consultant style of parenting as early as possible in the child’s life. 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. They establish options within limits. Thus by the time the children become teens, they are used to making good decisions.”

“…When we issue such commands we are calling our kids to battle, and in many cases these are battles we cannot win. Why not bypass these hassles and make our words ones that cannot be fought? Why not steer away from commands? Limits can be set much more effectively when we’re not fighting with our kids. It has been clinically proven that kids who are thinking cannot fight us at the same time.”

Love and Logic parents make statements with enforceable thinking words telling their kids what we will allow, what we will do. what we will provide (I’ll be glad to read you a story as soon as you finish your bath.) Our kids have little chance to fight these statements. They’re too busy thinking about the choices they have been given and the consequences that may result from their choice.”
For further reading, here’s the Love and Logic website.

What strategies do you use for helping your children through the inevitable little conflicts and power struggles that arise as you navigate family life together? Or what resources have you found useful?


Grace said...

That book sounds interesting. I reserved it at my library (I am #6 in line!).

I also like this one:

Annie Addington said...

I remember coming across that title (How to Talk...) and making a note to myself to check it out. Then I lost the note. So I'm making another note to self again. Maybe I'll read it after the holiday madness.