How did we find out about Love and Logic?

When you sign up for foster care, they give you a long list of forbidden disciplines. They never say what you CAN do when children misbehave. They would hate to endorse a technique and then have some Child Called It kind of maniac take it too far. If you push them, they will hint at some practices that are benign enough to never be considered abuse.

If you’re sick of walking on eggshells between abusively stern punishments and codependently enabling your out-of-control child dictator by letting them get away with everything (also forbidden), they will let you in on a secret: Love and Logic. They don’t officially endorse it (more liability-dodging) but a good social worker will mention it to an exasperated parent.

The idea is to bypass a disciplinary model of negative reinforcement for misdeeds. Instead, logical consequences follow every action, good and bad. Loving attention attends every moment of the childhood, even the sad times.

It is easy to find consequences for delightful behavior (throw a party! clap and cheer! extra dessert or snack or treat! balloons? kazoos?). It is easy to love your children when they are angels. It is hard to come up with a creative but appropriate logical consequence for bad behavior. It is nearly impossible to love your miserable brats when they are hurting each other, themselves and the furniture (or eating the checkbook or hiding the car keys or pulling jagged tin can lids out of the trash and feeding them to the baby).

Nothing is more powerful than genuine love expressed constantly without pretending it comes in response to a perfect child. “I love you so much because you never do anything wrong,” is the worst thing you could say to a child. How about, “I love you all the time. I’m sad when you break the rules but I’m glad you can always come to me about it.” ¬†Expressing love because it’s the right thing to do, not because you always feel it warm and fuzzy — that’s a miracle. ¬†That’s what you have to do.

Nothing is better at setting boundaries to a child’s behavior than the logical consequences that live on those borders. “Whoa! That was too loud. I think you can spend some time in the quiet chair to remember your inside voice.” (The quiet chair is nearby the parent and may be a little boring but nothing uncomfortable.) “Wow. You hit your sister very hard. I think you need to give her a hug and kiss. Can you get her a treat to make her feel better.” (Maybe the offending child’s favorite treat is what they have to give the injured child — give and forfeit.)

Not a clever veil for abuse:

Like anything, it can be taken too far. It would be pretty horrible to combine the language of logical consequences to abusive punishments. (“Uh-oh, you looked up from your porridge. Now you get to spend another day locked in a briefcase.”) Even worse, combine superficial expressions of love with an abusive nightmare. (“Oh, there there, sweetheart. I know the welts hurt a lot. I bet they wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t make Mommy so angry, honey. I love you so much, especially when you remember never to talk.”)

It’s important to avoid the forbidden punishments if only to avoid betraying the spirit of LOVE and Logic. Abuse is never loving or logical. Actively working on creative reinforcements for good behavior and against bad behavior, expressed with consistent love, is a good way to raise healthy, confident kids (and satisfy the social workers too).