Saturday, July 30, 2011

More Thoughts on Love & Logic: Principle #3

This is the fourth post in a series about the book Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years For other posts in this series, click here.

Principle #3 of Love & Logic is to provide a strong dose of empathy before delivering consequences. 

The "fight or flight" response exists in all human beings and is part of the "primitive" brain -- that part of the brain governing basic survival instincts. When we feel threatened or in danger, our brain tells us, "This is unsafe! Get ready to fight, or get ready to run away!" When we deliver consequences with anger, children's brains go into "survival" mode rather than "learning" mode. They think about escaping, or possibly getting revenge, than about how to make smarter choices in the future. In the survival mode, we cannot learn. Our focus is on getting away, fighting to be free, surviving. --page 18

Love & Logic parents need to be both strict and loving at the same time. Children should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. When parents get angry with their child, the fight or flight response turns on and shifts the focus in a child's head. But when a parent shows empathy, speaks softly, and exhibits genuine love and concern, the child is more likely to see the mistake as the "bad guy" and the parent as the "good guy." Empathy allows the child to think more about their mistake and less about being angry with you.

Whenever possible, parents should try to guide their child to solving their own problem, or coming up with their own consequences. By asking "What do you think you should do about this?" the parent offers the child some control (remember principle #2?), and helps them take responsibility for their actions. Be ready with a few ideas of your own though, in case the child is too sad or flustered to think of one on their own.

For children younger than three (that would be Abby!), the authors suggest following 3 steps: 1) Respond to the misbehavior with empathy: "uh-oh..." "how sad!" "bummer!" 2) Change the child's location, remove the "offending" object, or both. 3) Allow the consequence to do the teaching -- don't warn, lecture, or remind -- let actions speak louder than words. (page 96)

Show your children you can handle them without breaking a sweat.

It definitely takes practice. And some parents are more mild-mannered than others, so this principle may come super-easy for some and be really difficult for others. Just remember:

Consequences + Anger = More Anger
Consequences + Empathy = Learning

(page 92)

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