I thought parenting would be easy until I had my own children! 2 Timothy 4:2 reminded me to “correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” But too often I was angry and frustrated, exhausted by power struggles with those precious little gifts from God.
Now that I am a grandparent, I have another chance to parent more effectively. A friend recommended Parenting with Love and Logic. Psychologist Foster Cline and educator Jim Fay describe an approach that teaches children to think, decide, and live with consequences, in order to develop a sense of responsibility. Although the book references Christian ideas, it is written for a general audience, focusing on ages 1-10 yet relevant for any child.
The authors present two main concepts. First, children need thoughtful guidance and firm, enforceable limits, while reasonable real-world consequences do the teaching. Parents and caregivers can ask questions and offer choices within safe limits, allowing children to make the decision. For example, a 9-month-old can be given very simple choices: “Would you like pretzels or Goldfish for snack time?” Two choices are given that are acceptable options and can be enforced. If the child declines to choose, then the parent decides.
Second, the authors suggest that genuine empathy and sadness in response to mistakes are what drive lessons into children’s hearts – not anger, lectures, or punishment. In the snack example, if the child chooses pretzels and then wants something else, the parent can say, “It’s hard for me to stick with choices I make, too. You can continue eating your pretzels or resume playing with your toys.” Then enforce their choice.
Like any self-help book, Parenting with Love and Logic will not solve every problem or produce perfect children. But its examples and practical tools are helping me better enjoy my grandchildren and grow in confidence when caring for them. The authors remind us that God gave all humans freedom, including the opportunity to make mistakes. When Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, God allowed them to suffer the consequences. He loved them enough to let them make a decision and live with the results.
Note: When researching the authors, I discovered that Dr. Cline faced some past controversy with his recommendation of Attachment Therapy, or rage reduction therapy, when counseling caregivers of adopted or foster children. This book does not deal with that psychological theory.
Looking for more advice on parenting, especially through difficult seasons? This weekend, November 10th-11th, Stone Hill will be holding a forum on parenting teens. Learn more here.
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