Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Only Parenting Technique You'll Ever Need: An Introduction to Love and Logic

I feel it is my duty as a preschool teacher and a mother to share about Love and Logic.

This book is a game changer.

As a preschool teacher, this was the training that gave me confident control of my classroom.

The kids knew the rules, they knew the responses they would get from me, and they began to repeat my motto: "Friends who make good choices get to do fun things!!" 
(They would say it so proudly; it always made my day!)

All was good in preschool land.

(Of course, there were still some days I was really, really ready for 6:00!)

So what is this Love and Logic, you ask?

I will gladly summarize it, but the book will do a much better job. It takes some time to get where it just rolls off your tongue and becomes second nature, but once it will be astounded at how much less frustrated you will feel as the adult, and you will be amazed at how much easier it is to hand the control back to your child. And the kids will love it too!

The ultimate goal of Love and Logic is to raise children who are confident, responsible, and are good problem solvers. To do this, you must give the power to your children to make their own choices. This is done through trial and error, so as the adult, you must give your child opportunities to make their own choices...and then to deal with the positive or negative consequence that follows. To help your child understand what making a choice means, you can start by give them 2 choices for each problem, making sure that you can 100% allow the outcome of either option you give them. Don't give them a choice that will create a bigger problem, an unsafe situation, or more than 2 choices; keep it simple. If they don't make a choice in 10 seconds, you choose for them.

Here is a really BASIC example (for very young children):

Child: [is throwing a toy]
Parent: "You can either play nice or I will have to put your toy away."

Child: [chooses to play with toy appropriately]
Parent: "What a great choice! Let's play together!" 
(or some other sort of praise: "You did it!" or "I'm so proud of you!" or "Look at how nicely you are playing!")

Child: [chooses to throw toy again]
Parent: "Uh oh, now we have to put the toy away." 
[Puts toy in closet or somewhere where the child cannot reach it.] 
Keep your statement simple! Too many words can confuse our kids. One short statement is ideal.

There is also another type of consequence that doesn't alway apply to every situation, but sometimes they are the most powerful: the NATURAL CONSEQUENCE. In the above situation, the natural consequence would be throwing the toy and it breaks and it has to be thrown away or it doesn't work right anymore.

Here are some ways to give your child simple choices in everyday life:

 At lunchtime: let them choose the color of the plate they eat off of. 
Running errands: let them choose who gets to push the button to lock the car.
Is bedtime getting rough? Let them choose if they brush their teeth before or after they put pajamas on. 
Offering them choices gives your child freedom and control, which leads to a happier child. As adults, we certainly don't like to be told what to do all day long, so why would a child?

And sometimes, it is appropriate to not give a choice at all. Let's say your child is doing something unsafe, like using scissors improperly. As the adult, it would be perfectly fine to simply take the scissors away without offering choices. And when they whine, you simply say, "this time it is my choice" or "you don't get to choose this time" and leave it at that. Or maybe you are running errands and your child says "but I wanted to go to the toy store!" - simply state, "it is my choice today". This will help them understand that while they have the freedom to make most choices, they still have to respect the decisions that mom and dad make for them. Then you could easily redirect by telling them about a choice they can make regarding the errands: "do you want to ride in the shopping cart, or walk next to it?" or "do you want to hold the list or play with your toy while we shop?"

One of the most stand-out instances of Love and Logic with my classroom came one day at lunchtime. All the kids were seated and eating, and one child in particular was having a hard time using his chair appropriately. He was tipping it back on 2 legs over and over despite being asked to stop. All of the sudden, I thought, okay, what is the Love and Logic approach here?!

Since he had already been asked to stop multiple times at this point by myself and my co-teacher, I knew what needed to be done.

I walked over to him, asked him to stand up, and I took his chair and moved it across the room.

I silently sat down in my chair and engaged in conversations with other children. I watched him out of the corner of my eye, and he was clearly devastated that he had to stand and eat. My actions obviously had spoken louder than any words that had been said to him. I let him stand for about another minute and then I quietly went up to him and privately asked, "Are you ready to use your chair the right way?" He nodded eagerly. I gave him his chair back. He never tipped his chair again!

The child had made his choice, and he dealt with his consequence. I made sure to give him the opportunity to try again - he had clearly realized he made a sad choice. We all make mistakes; it's how we learn and know what to do differently for next time.

Probably my faaaaaavorite choice EVER to give a child is as follows:

"Do you want to clean up your toys now or in 1 minute?" Of course, the child will always choose in 1 minute - they never want to clean up! But once you come back and say, "Okay, it's been 1 minute! Time to clean up!" you are MUCH more likely to have a cooperative kiddo. Why? Because they feel like they are in control. Control is a powerful thing that ALL kids crave! Why not let them have it as much as you can give it to them?

And what do you do when they still refuse to pick up? 

This is where you really have to retrain your brain. I think the natural response is to bark orders at our kids, make demands of them, threaten some sort of punishment, try to reason with them, count to 3...mostly negative attempts and controlling their behavior, when in reality...the kids are controlling you!!

With Love and Logic, you instead deliver an enforceable statement that makes them think about what choice they should make:

"I bake cookies with kids who pick up their toys"
"You are welcome to watch cartoons once your toys are put away"
"Feel free to join us at the dinner table after you put your toys away"

See?! Don't those sound so much nicer than the nasty "If you don't put up your toys, I'm gonna..."?

The worst mistake you can make in any situation is to go back on your word. That will undo ANY lesson you are trying to teach. Even if they are throwing the loudest, most obnoxious meltdown in the history of meltdowns...they will eventually calm down once they realize you are not giving in. Remember, you are striving for the bigger goal of a confident, responsible, problem-solving child. 

You can also handle the above situation differently with a simple, empathetic response. Here are a few examples:

"Bummer" (my go-to word)
"This makes me sad" (I used this one most often in the classroom)
"What a sad choice" (this one usually came out when I was feeling my anger rise)

Saying one of these responses quickly lets your child know that they have made a sad choice (note that the word "bad" is never used - "bad" has many negative connotations with it and "sad" implies how your child's behavior is making you feel). You immediately follow up with the negative consequence to "seal the deal" without having to say anything. The consequence itself will ALWAYS speak louder than the words you say (remember the chair?). You can continue without saying another word to them, and they will know "man, when I throw a toy mom says 'bummer' and then I lose my toy". Then they start to think about what they can do to keep the toy, and before you know it, you have a little problem-solver! It is your child's job to learn to figure out what to do, not you.

One of the toughest parts of Love and Logic, for me, was to speak with empathy. All of the statements are just that - statements. You state them to your child. There is no anger allowed. There is no giggling, either (because sometimes you want to laugh when they have a face covered in marker), and there can be no sarcasm! 

Sometimes it is necessary to take a moment to talk with your child and say "I know this is hard" or "I can see that you are upset" or "you are really mad". This one came up a lot with my preschoolers and the "S" word....sharing. Sharing is so, SO hard for little ones! I would have 2 kids come to me, red in the face and crying, because they couldn't figure out how to take turns with a toy. It is 1000% okay and IMPORTANT to validate their feelings! "Wow, you guys are really upset! I see all of your tears!" LET them be emotional! That's normal for humans to process events with feelings! Sometimes it's best to give them a few minutes to be upset and then to calm down before you try to deliver a consequence (positive or negative) or redirect or whatever is needed. Give hugs once the crying is done! Sometimes our kiddos need help accessing their "reset" buttons, and hugs are a great way to help. They can really benefit from that physical representation of empathy.

Sometimes a DELAYED CONSEQUENCE can be a powerful tool for some situations. A delayed consequence is exactly what you are thinking...a consequence that happens later. This can come up in a variety of ways:

1. Parent is exhausted and needs time to think about what the consequence should be. In a lot of situations there is nothing that you can "take away" so it can be tricky to come up with what to do. 
(Like throwing fits in public.)

In this situation, it is perfectly fine to say: "We will talk about this later when you are calm". Just remember to talk about it later! For younger children, you should probably make "later" come rather quickly or else they will forget about it entirely. For older children, maybe that is when you get home or after school or whatever applies. This allows the child to reflect on their actions and realize that maybe they didn't make the best choice.

2. The natural consequence will not come until later. 
(Like a child choosing to break all of their crayons and then only having broken crayons to color with next time.)

...And yes, I do use Love and Logic with my baby (she's 11 months). Here are a few ways that I use it:

Ava likes to throw her food. She is appropriately learning, but I want to curb the throwing and teach her mealtime behavior. So I tell her, "Ava, you can eat your broccoli or keep it on your tray." She makes her choice, and either the meal continues or I remove her tray and the meal is over. Any other way and it becomes a game which then rewards her throwing, which is the opposite of what I'm teaching her. Then, when we play, I make sure to give her something she can throw and say, "here - throw your ball!". And no, my child will not go hungry because she had already eaten other food at her meal, and guess what...she eats again in a few hours. With infants, this will take more time for her to learn, but older kids will learn quickly that if they throw food that they don't get to eat anymore until the next mealtime.

Ava has learned how to hit (its more like repeated bopping) and she will occasionally hit my face (or the dog's face). I tell her "that's not nice, be gentle" and take her hand and model what gentle looks like. If she continues to do it, I move her away from me (or the dog) and give her something else to do. So that is mostly redirection. Sometimes I tell her, "be gentle or you will be all done". It's a lot of words because she obviously doesn't fully understand what gentle means, but babies understand a lot more than we realize.

Ava is still learning so much about her world, so as she gets older and builds her language skills, I will continue to tweak our interactions until I can give her choices and she can actually choose. Right now, I make her choices for her and continue to repeat phrases so she will learn how to make good choices.

The lessons our children need to learn are simple: I make a poor choice, then there is a poor outcome. I make a good choice, then there is a good outcome. This translates directly into the adult years. Life isn't fair, but we do have control over our actions and the situations we find ourselves in.

The book continues to delve into more techniques. I could seriously talk about Love and Logic all day long; I love it so much because it WORKS!! I remember being at the first training session and thinking, wow, this makes so much sense to me! It really clicked with me and I was so excited to learn more and start implementing it in my classroom. I saw such great success with my 3 and 4 year-olds, and now I'm using it with my own child.

Here is the website:

For a quick link on how to begin to inspire you to speak Love and Logic, check this out. It is a list of examples designed for educators, but you'll get the idea.

The book is kind of pricey, but it will help restore (or create) control and boundaries in your household (or your classroom)! My best advice is to focus on one aspect of Love and Logic until it comes easily, and then add in other techniques as you go. I reread sections in the book, over and over, until I understood it enough to where I didn't need to consult my cheat sheets. It also helped that I attended several training sessions on Love and Logic while I was a preschool teacher! The website does have a quite a few PDFs that are helpful to get you started!

We all have our own ways of parenting (and teaching), but I strongly encourage everyone to consider using Love and Logic! You will wonder how you ever survived without it.

I was in no way asked or compensated for my review of Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years by Jim Fay & Charles Fay, Ph.D.
This post is strictly about my own personal experience with Love and Logic. I do not claim to be an expert.

Friday, June 5, 2015

11 Months: One Month Left

Well, here we are, 11 months of Ava!

It's been kind of a tough month as Ava has been sickly for most of it. She's been congested most of the time so she's a constant mouth breather and has a cough, a runny nose, and yucky sneezes that make us run for a wipe. Whatever it is, it needs to leave her alone! We are all tired of it! Her symptoms are gradually going away, it is just taking forrrevvvverrrr. She seems to be a lot better over this last week. 

She is still our smiley, giggly girl, but with major attitude! She has many preferences now and has learned how to communicate what she wants more and more! She gets upset when something doesn't work out the way she wants it to. Yelling, throwing herself back, and even biting her hand sometimes. Something tells me that we are going to have to help this child deal with frustration in the future!

There are times when Chris and I will stop and look at each other because it sounds like she is saying phrases to us! Like "thank you" or "chicken" what counts as a first word?! If it is making a similar sound while looking at the object, then she said her first word a loooong time ago...and that word was "due" for "Duke". She says "mama" and "dah-dee"! She finally signed "all done" at lunch last week! She was so proud, as was I!! She now says "ahh dune" when she is finished nursing or eating. She says "hi due" all the time when she sees Duke! I think she's also trying to say "the end" after we are done reading a book together.

She loves to get into things and explore!

She likes to toss things out of her way and knock down towers and take toys out of buckets and take apart duplos.

She likes to sit and "read". She will turn the pages and look at everything for awhile.

She LOVES to play with Duke's face. We often find her sitting with him on his bed!

She is learning what "eat" means, and that if she crawls to the baby gate by the kitchen and yells that she gets food!

We love that she can now crawl into our laps and sit with us when she wants to. She reaches out for us to pick her up. She knows that she's being sneaky when she crawls into the kitchen when we've forgotten to put the gate up. I scoop her up and she laughs and laughs! All this new communication is so fun for us all! It's opened up a whole new world!

And Ava took her first steps a few days ago!! She's been able to take one step for awhile, and we've just been waiting for the day she would realize she could take more. She walked to her daddy after he got home from work! We kept her up a past her bedtime so she could practice some more because we were all having so much fun!

Currently Ava nurses 4 times a day: upon waking, after her 2 naps, and then once before bed. She has breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I've recently added in snacks after her naps, too. All this girl does is eat!! I am so so so thankful that she sleeps through the night! She falls asleep around 7:30 and wakes at 5:30, so she sleeps 10 hours at night. I wish that could be longer, but at least there are no more night wakings!!

Ava has definitely been much more selective with what foods she'll eat. A few weeks ago I couldn't get her to eat bananas, and then 2 weeks later she was in love with them again. Currently if she doesn't want something, she will throw it on the floor. Sad face! I'm hoping we will round the corner and she will be happy with everything I give her again soon. It could be due to her sinuses or teething. Or just experimenting with life! She will never turn down fruit or cheese, though! It must be so fun for her now that she's realized that she can control things; the toddler stage will be fun with this kid!

(I'm being serious...and I'm also being sarcastic!)

I am so excited for all these "big girl" changes coming our way soon! I've already added a lovey to her crib when she sleeps. She's going to get milk from a cup. I get to gradually stop nursing (I can't WAIT to wear regular bras!!). I plan to adjust her bedtime routine so nursing is at the very beginning in hopes that she won't miss it as much when we wean. When she was tiny, the routine was jammies-book-nursing, now its jammies-nursing-book, and I will change it to nursing-jammies-book starting today.

I used to think that your baby turning one really wasn't a huge deal. But I can already feel tears welling up behind my eyes just thinking about it, and we are still a month out! I feel proud to see her hitting all these milestones. I feel happy that she is so happy and in love with life. I feel in love with the little person she is turning into! I feel a little sad that we will soon be done with infancy (even though I'm glad some of those tough months are behind us). I feel a little bit scared for what is to come; the toddler stage will be such an adventure!