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I like the theory, NOT their execution
on March 4, 2008
I borrowed this book from the library and have just finished reading part one. I will admit first that I am the product of what the authors call "helicopters," so some of the ideas in the book are unusual to me.
In general, I like the idea of natural consequences, enforcable choices, and encouraging children to think through their problems. I can see myself using these principles with my own daughter, but not always the way the authors do it. Some of the sample dialogues in the book are reasonable but many do not sound as genuine and empathetic as the authors imply.
Some of the examples in the book and in the "pearls" are making me very upset. In one case, a child has been neglecting her dog by not feeding it, so the mom just gives it away with no warning and without confronting the girl about it. The authors admit this is a really tough approach but that's how kids learn that unless you take care of your health and your animals serious illness or death can result. Now this sounds crazy to me. In our home, we think of pets as a family responsibility, so that might be one difference. Still, wouldn't it teach the girl more about empathy to sit her down and say "you can either come up with a schedule and feed the dog or we are giving it away, you have one week to improve." Why do these authors feel that giving someone a second chance is a bad thing? It seems this might teach her "if I don't fulfill my responsiblity, someone else will take care of it for me."
Another example is a mom who asked her son to do something and he mouths off and refuses. So the next day when he asks for a ride she says, yesterday you showed me that asking nicely can be ignored, so I'm not going to drive you to your activity, even though you asked nicely. Isn't that just being petty and/or spiteful? That's a great lesson for your kid.
A third example is a kid who blows his lunch money and allowance on a carnival and has no money for lunch at school. So he asks his dad if he can make a lunch from food in the fridge. The dad says, yes, but you have to pay for it because I already gave you money for lunch once. Really? Your kid offers to take responsibility to make his own lunch all week and you are going to charge him for it? I'd think remembering to make lunch everyday would teach him the lesson. I agree to not giving him more money, but charging for the food in the fridge sounds stingy - won't he learn that as part of the lesson too?
I think it is possible for kids to learn self-reliance with this method but some of the examples just sound like the kids would end up feeling like their parents are not willing to help them out without significant groveling. It sounds as though a Love and Logic parent is not supposed to give advice or help a kid work on the solution, or not until the child has time to ponder it and slink back to ask for help. I'm not advocating parents do the solving, just help, like talking it out with them or brainstorming. I thought helping others is an important value to teach our kids (not being doormats, being a sounding board to say "what do you think would happen if you used that solution?"). This seems to teach "I'm genuinely sorry you have a problem but it's still yours." Nice.
I just wonder if some of these examples I've listed would make the kid feel like their parents view them as impositions or that the parents really begrudge them something. I realize that how you do it depends on the age of the child, but some of this still seems pretty harsh the way the authors do it. In some cases I don't think that helping them is equal to bailing them out. The examples sound like the parent says "I know you will come up with a solution" and then they just walk away.
I greatly prefer How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk. It also emphasizes consequences and letting kids make choices and solve problems themselves but it shows you how to do this and keep talking with them at the same time. If Love and Logic is a turn-off for you, consider reading this other book before throwing out the consiquences/choices method entirely.