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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Love and Logic: Raising Responsible Children – An interview with Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW

Slam. Ten-year-old Chaya comes crashing through the front door. “My math teacher hates me!” she declares.

Drill Sergeant Dad snaps back. “I told you that you should have studied harder for your math test! And that’s what happens when you don’t do your homework every night!”

Helicopter Mom gives her child a big hug. “Oh, honey, that’s terrible. I am going to call the principal right now. This is completely unacceptable.”

Consultant parent calmly listens to Chaya’s outburst. She then offers to help Chaya figure out why she thinks the teacher hates her. Becoming a consultant parent is the goal of the Love and Logic program.

 

What is the basic premise of the Love in Logic method?

The basic approach of the Love and Logic method is to love your child enough to allow her to learn from her own decisions… and mistakes.

There are three different approaches to parenting: There is drill sergeant parenting – “my way or the highway.” This parent tells his child what to do, when to do it, and exactly how to do it. Then there is the helicopter parent who hovers over and protects the child to an extreme degree. He will always try to shift the blame and responsibility away from the child.

The third parent is the consultant who listens to the child with attention and empathy. Then she tries to direct her and give her ideas in a non-confrontational and suggestive manner as to how she can solve her own problems.

How does the consultant parent operate?

When a parent is a consultant, she serves as a guide and mentor for the child, but leaves the responsibility of the problem with the child. She will not tell the child what to do nor will she solve the child’s problems for her. The consultant parent may say something like, “What are you going to do about it?” If the child says, “I don’t know,” the parent can then suggest a few ideas that other kids in her situation have tried. (We always suggest the worst idea first because the child will generally reject the first choice.) The parent will then say, “Let me know what you decide to do and how it works out for you.”

What happens if the child makes a poor choice?
The parent allows the child to suffer the consequences. This is a very important component of the program. We have to take responsibility and live with our decisions.

Why is it this aspect so important?

Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that chinuch is not just about compliance, it’s about instilling our values into their neshamas so that it becomes part of them for life. The Drill Sergeant parent may get compliance in the short run; but it’s not because the child agrees, but because the child is afraid of her.
The same thing is with a helicopter parent who is trying to protect her child from the vicissitudes of life.  Life problems are inevitable and when they arrive, the child of the helicopter parent will not be equipped to deal with them.

Both the drill sergeant and helicopter parent are giving their children the same message: “You are incapable of dealing with your own problems, so we have to step in and tell you what to do.”

Consultant parents, on the other hand, are leaving the responsibility of their problems with their children.

Why does the Love and Logic method work for today’s kids?

In today’s society, people don’t take responsibility for their own actions; instead they look for someone else to blame. Many of today’s adults lack self-confidence. Half of America doesn’t know what they’re doing and keeps changing their majors.

By instilling responsibility in a child, we are giving him the message that “not only are you responsible, but you can do it.” The child will then develop problem solving skills and when issues crop up, he will focus inward, instead of pointing fingers at others. He will say, “What can I do to improve the situation?”

What are some of the tools of the Love and Logic program?

Love and Logic parents use the COOL Formula.

Control that is sharedThe more control you give away, the more control you get. Love and Logic parents try to give their children lots of choices about things that don’t make a significant difference to the parents. For little kids, the parent may ask: Do you want orange juice or apple juice? Do you want to go to sleep now or in ten minutes? Do you want to do your homework now or after dinner? For teens the choices will be different:  What time do you think is a fair curfew: 10:30 p.m. or 11:00?

Ownership – Love and Logic parents ensure that the ownership of the problem remains with the child.

Opportunity for thinking and decision making – We always want the child to do more thinking than we are doing. Love and Logic parents always transfer the problem back to the child.

Let empathy and consequences do the teaching – In life, there are consequences to our actions. One of the main goals of Love and Logic is to prepare the child for adulthood: When the child becomes an adult we want him to say, “I recognize this world. I prepared for this at home.”

 

What are some of the biggest mistakes parents make?

There are four classic tools parents use: Lectures, threats, warnings and anger – and each one of them is ineffective! Threats and warnings don’t work because the child often feels that the parents won’t actually carry through. The child knows that the threat or warning was issued in the heat of the moment, and when things calm down, the parent will back down, especially if the threat is overly punitive.

The problem with anger is that when you yell at a child, he is now focusing on your anger and not on what he did wrong. Now he is mad at his parents instead of thinking about his mistake.

Lectures don’t work because the child simply tunes his parent out. He may nod and answer appropriately, but it’s more in the hope that the lecture will end so he can return to what he wants to do.

 

What should parents do instead?

Empathy with consequences!  We lock in the empathy by telling the child how sorry we are for his situation. When the child makes a mistake, we are not angry with him; we are sad for him. But we are very firm. The consequence is not a punishment; we want the child to understand that actions have consequences.

What happens when the consequence does not immediately follow the misdeed?

It is actually more powerful when a parent uses a delayed consequence. Sometimes the parent will say, “I am not sure what we will do about this. Daddy and I have to think about it. I’ll let you know when we decide.” The reason this is effective is because the unknown is powerful and allows the child to think about what he did. More importantly, it also gives the parent a chance to seek advice and discuss it with a spouse or insightful friend.

How quickly can this method be incorporated?

The greatness of this program is that the techniques are easy to implement; it is not an entirely new way of thinking. The tools are practical for parents to use at their discretion and incorporate into everyday situations.

We all have days when we inevitably revert back to our old ineffective parenting approaches.  With Love and Logic, a setback doesn’t mean that we have undermined all of our previous efforts. We contemplate where and why we went wrong, and the next day, we just start again.

Does this method fit with Torah philosophy?

This program helps children develop an understanding that there are boundaries, and that there are consequences to contend with when we breach those boundaries.

“Divrei chachamim b’nachas nishmaim the words of the wise are heard with calmness.” When we get into the habit of yelling at our children and it becomes our lingua franca, our children are no longer intimidated by our yelling, and tune us out. Conversely when we learn to respond calmly and appropriately our children will hear our messages far more profoundly.

Delayed consequences are a powerful and wise chinuch tool. Rav Elyah Lopian once waited for two weeks before he addressed his child’s wrongdoing. We don’t want to be reactive parents; we want to be proactive parents!

Additionally, sifrei mussar talk about the importance of taking personal achrayus, responsibility. This is the essence of being a mensch, and even more so, of being an eved Hashem.

Hashem gives us the zechus to raise our children to follow the path of Torah and mitzvos. As with anything of extreme value, parenting is not easy. But with the right tools and approach it can be a far more enjoyable experience.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is the guidance counselor at ASHAR & Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch in Monsey, NY. A graduate of Fordham University with a specialization in treating children and their families, Rabbi Staum also maintains a private practice. He is the co-author of “Communicating With Our Children” and  “Dealing With Anger: A guide For Parents And Teachers.” He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com

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