By Dr. Charles Fay, Love and Logic Parenting, www.loveandlogic.com
Children who’ve spent their first few years of life being entertained by television, exciting toys with batteries, and well-meaning adults lack critical skills for success in school. That’s the bottom line. Children who have spent years playing in the sandbox, coloring with crayons, chasing butterflies, and stomping around in mud puddles have been given a great gift. The skills they develop through these simple yet important activities foster success from preschool through graduate school. That’s the good news.
Unfortunately, too many loving, intelligent, and well-meaning parents have fallen into the trap of believing that “good parents” keep their children entertained and stimulated each and every moment of the day. When they see their children getting “bored,” they quickly intervene with a fun activity or gadget. As a result, their youngsters spend way too much time pushing the buttons on exciting electronic toys, staring at the television, and riding in the car from one activity to another. Sadly, little or no time is left over for running, playing, and being creative.
Children who’ve been constantly entertained grow into adults who are constantly bored.
Love and Logic parents give their kids an advantage in life by understanding that children need plenty of opportunities to find themselves in a rather dull or “boring” situation. Why? Because these situations encourage youngsters to develop and practice creative ways of entertaining themselves… and exploring the vast and exciting frontiers of imagination and creative problem solving.
Where would we be today if Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison had grown up believing that it was another’s responsibility to be creative and keep them entertained?
Because they know the importance of creative play and exploration, Love and Logic parents have plenty of “Boredom Training Sessions.” As I wrote our book, Love and Logic Magic: When Kids Leave You Speechless, the “Boredom Training Session” follows these steps:
Step 1: Plan for providing dull periods in your home.
Step 2: Provide plenty of materials and toys that foster creativity.
Step 3: Pray that your child will come to you and say "I'm bored."
Step 4: Place primary responsibility for solving this "boredom problem" on your child.
Step 5: “Notice and describe” when your child is playing independently.
“You built that by yourself?”
“That book looks really interesting.”
“You turned Teddy into a monster.”
“I noticed that you made three pictures.”
You’ll be amazed at how brightly your child’s eyes will shine when you apply this step!
Several thoughts that kept going through my mind as I listened and read the testimonies surrounding the Supreme Court hearings: “Where were the parents in the midst of all these parties?” “How sad that this is the reality for so many teenagers and young adults!”
Neuroscientists tell us that the rational part of the brain isn’t fully developed until 25 years old. Wise parents begin from a young age to offer choices and share control to give opportunities to practice making decisions and living with the consequences. We support our children in gaining a healthy self-concept when we guide them in developing self-efficacy—the belief that my own actions lead to the desired outcomes. To develop their own sense of self-efficacy, they need to do the thinking, planning, hoping, trial-and-error, dreaming and experiencing themselves.
Another key is our response when our child (no matter what age) messes up and makes mistakes. Keeping the connect with our child is the most important thing--loving them mistakes and all. If we respond calmly to problems and mistakes, we keep that connection and allow our child to learn from the natural consequence of fixing the problem. If we respond with anger, the anger becomes the focus instead of the mistake that was made.
Substance abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is directly related to the parent-child bond of love and good communication. Children, youth and adults use drugs and alcohol to get relief from emptiness and fear. The best insurance against drug and alcohol abuse is a loving and open relationship between parent and child. Our words, our non-verbal cues and our actions need to communicate to our children: You are worthy, you are lovely, you are enough and you have what it takes!
It was a warm summer day and I was getting ready to drive kids to a week-long summer camp. Before loading up the van, we were doing some cleaning—sweeping and mopping the kitchen, loading the dishwasher and vacuuming the living room. After driving the windy road through the Santa Cruz mountains and back, I arrived back home.
Walking through the house to the back deck, my heart sank and I felt sick to my stomach. There was the guinea pig cage which I had moved outside while mopping the floor and had forgotten to move back! In the summer heat, the guinea pigs ran out of water and perished. In disbelief, I cried, yelled and wanted to deny that this was my fault. How could I have been so careless? I wanted to hide my mistake or go back and redo this but of course, this was impossible.
I was reminded about this incident while preparing for one of my webinars on “Real Love in Parenting” by Greg Baer. Mr. Baer says that being inadequately prepared for the job of parenting, we unavoidably make many mistakes. Most of us do not do anything as drastic as my guinea pig example but we often respond in unloving ways. We get angry at other people—including our kids—not because of what they do in any given moment but because of a lack of Real Love we have received and experienced for our whole lives. As parents, we can learn how to give and receive unconditional love and improve the quality of our relationships.
• are in the beginning stages of family life with young children and feeling overwhelmed
• have a relatively happy family and want to find ways to improve what you are doing
• are in the middle of painful challenges with a son or daughter
• want to support your adult children raise your grandchildren
you can find principles and tools to help you raise responsible, loving and happy children as well as find more Real Love for yourself. Check out my next webinar Webinars or the parent coaching tab on my website Parent Coaching.
What if there was a study dedicated to unearthing the secrets to a happy and purposeful life? In fact, just such a study has been carried for the past seven decades with students at the Harvard Medical School. Starting in 1939, the study examined the childhood events and circumstances that impacted the quality of relationships and happiness in life as the students aged. Connecting with them every two years, one of the clear messages from this study was that professional success in life comes from having done chores, rolling up one’s sleeves and pitching in to do even the unpleasant things. Having the attitude of “contributing to the whole” goes a long way in the work place.
The word chores often has a negative connotation for children. But really, chores are contribution to the family. When we approach it from the point that chores help make the family run, children can feel more important while contributing to the wellbeing of the family. Children need to be needed and learning responsibility through chores builds self-esteem.
Start small with young ones. Preschoolers can help set the table and it provides a good math lesson. Ask, “How many forks or plates do we need?” Three and four year old children can carry their own plate and cup over to the sink after a meal. Kindergartners can help with laundry, folding small towels and match up the socks. It is important to do the tasks together with them and give lots of praise, appreciating their effort. Don’t tell them what they did wrong. Model the best way to do it and praise even it is less than perfect.
With older kids, you can make a list of the chores that need to be done and let them have a choice, let them rotating them each week. One way to help children elementary age and above understand what it takes to make a family run smoothly is to post a large piece of paper on the wall. Ask everyone to contribute by writing down all of the things that keeps the family running. Leave it there for a few days and make sure to include items like jobs to make the money, shopping for groceries, planning meals, taking the car to the garage, etc. Then, hold a family meeting and talk about the items on the list. Discuss who does various jobs and how it is too much for mom and dad. Everyone is needed to contribute and ideally, discuss how each of the children/youth can help the family
As kids get older, they can handle more responsibility. This is an excellent time for them to learn life skills that they will need when they are on their own like doing laundry, cooking meals, helping with meal planning and grocery shopping, making a budget and planned activities for a family vacation and so much more. Make sure that they know how important their contributions are and that you couldn’t do it without them.
Regular chores are not paid. They are contributions to help the family run smoothly. Being paid for chores robs them of the dignity of holding up their fair share of the family work load. However, you can have a list of extra chores that they can get paid for--you can even ask them to put in a bid for various task.
Give kids a time period to complete the chores; for instance, have them finished before the soccer game on Saturday morning or before dinner time. With younger children, ask them would you like to do this before or after dinner. Giving an allowance is important so that they get the real world experience of learning to budget.
As kids get older, they can have more responsibility & accountability. If they forget to do their chores, maybe they have to pay you for doing their chores. This is one reason for them to get an allowance. Or if they are younger, they can pay with toys or with a chore of your choice before they can do something that they enjoy like watching a show.
What kind of a parent are you? Love and Logic Parenting identifies three main types: a helicopter, drill sergeant or consultant. Each parenting style sends a powerful message to your child about what he or she is, or is not, capable of.
The Helicopter Parents revolve their entire lives around their kids. Like a helicopter, they hover and then rescue their kids anytime trouble is near. They protect them from everything, including experiences their kids need to develop resilience, competence and being responsible. These parents give the message to their child, “You cannot make it on your own, you are fragile and you need me to protect you.” There is a good chance that the child will become a young adult who isn’t empowered to tackle problems and is afraid to try or make mistakes.
The Drill Sergeant Parent acts like a power-hungry sergeant. They feel the more they bark and control things, the better off their kids will be. They want disciplined kids. The way they try to achieve this is constantly telling them what to do or what not to do. This style of parenting communicates to the child, “You cannot think for yourself. I have to do it for you, boss you around and tell you want to do.” When they become teens, they may be susceptible to peer pressure because they are used to someone else making decisions for them. Drill sergeant kids can become followers and have difficulties making wise choices.
The Consultant Parent asks guiding questions, offers suggestions and gives choices. They place the burden of decision making on their child. While doing so, they establish options within limits, and support them to learn from mistakes. Consultant parents give the message, “You’d better think about your choices--the quality of your life has a lot to do with your decisions.” This style of parenting empowers children to feel competent and develop self-efficacy.
This is where the name Love & Logic comes from. The Consultant Parent gives a balance of love/empathy and logic/consequences. As children grow, they move from concrete thinkers to abstract thinkers. Children need thoughtful guidelines and firm enforceable limits. We set the limits for the children based on what they need for their own safety and their behavior. Encouraging children to think about their behavior and choices as they grow can help them to connect them to the results of their decisions. Giving them choices within appropriate boundaries supports their ability to make good decisions and reflect on poor ones.
This is increasingly important as children move into adolescent and beyond. Teens often resist rules and test authority. As consultant parents, we need to step back and let reasonable, real-world consequences do the teaching while the results are affordable, not life-threatening. Consultant parents of teenagers and even young adults, become the advisors and counselors allowing them to make more decisions for themselves, asking questions to help them think through the process and guiding them to successfully navigate the consequences of those decisions.
God gave all of us free will and that includes the opportunity to mess up. Failure and Success are two sides of the same coin. Drill sergeant and helicopter parents take away the opportunity for children to make choices and to learn from their mistakes. We increase the odds of raising resilient individuals by guiding our children with lots of empathy and natural consequences. To gain more tools and support on your journey in parenting, consider joining the next "Real Love in Parenting" webinar series beginning Monday, October 8th at 9 pm EST. For more information and to signup, click here Webinars
When I was a child, my family participated in a program that hosted international university students over holidays. We celebrated Christmas with Mr. Ogot from Kenya and another holiday with Mr. Irie Hiroshi from Japan. My dad recently reminded me how we had prepared for one of the student visitors from Nigeria, Mr. Azum Agbim.
In preparation for his visit, we looked up Nigeria in our World Book to learn about his country and culture. My parents helped me to think of questions that I could ask him to know more about him. It must have been Easter because I have a photo of my sisters and I dying eggs together with him. Although I don’t remember many details of Mr. Agbim’s visit, my dad says that at one point, I asked him quietly, “How come he's so. . . tall?” As I was asking the question, my father said that he was wondering how the sentence would end.
He said, “Never once in our preparations did we discuss the fact that his skin would be darker than ours. When we went with me to the university campus in Corvallis, we picked him up at his dorm, and realized that he was a very tall young man - well over six feet. I guess we hadn’t picked up from World Book that the native persons of Nigeria are often quite tall. He was a delightful visitor for our family.”
Empathy is the thread that connects us to other humans. When empathy is used in everyday life, it makes us feel more connected to one another. And when we feel that connection, we are better, more compassionate people. I am grateful that my parents were intentional in giving us experiences that fostered that connection. It is my desire to each day strive to nourish empathy in myself and others.
How many times do parents hear one of their kids screaming, “Dad! Michael won’t stop picking on me!” And then Michael whines, “I am not! Lisa started it! Why do I always get blamed for everything around here?” What are we to do when our kids are bickering, at each other’s throats and try to make us referees?
The first step toward success is understanding why siblings bicker and fight. Sibling conflicts are a pretty typical and normal part of family life. In fact, one might argue that these conflicts are good training for life. Another reason siblings fight is because it gets them attention and control. In fact, one might argue that these conflicts are good training for life. That is, by negotiating childhood conflicts with their brothers or sisters, our kids learn valuable skills for getting along with others in the real world if we as parents model working out our own disagreements in a cooperative manner and guide our children to take responsibility to resolving conflicts in a healthy manner.
Some of the benefits of joining the Real Love in Parenting Webinar Series are:
How many times have you heard, “I don’t care what my child does in his life, I just want him to be happy”? Do you want your kids to have happiness for the short term, or for the long term? Here are some questions that will help you discover if you are preparing your kids for a lifetime of happiness or a lifetime of frustration:
If you answered yes to the even-numbered questions, you have a good chance of raising children who are better prepared for a happier adult life.
If you answered yes to the uneven-numbered questions, the odds are very high that you are raising a child who believes that it is the parent’s job to treat them like royalty.
These are children who are positive in the beliefs that their parents can, and should, solve the problems that the child creates. Their birthright entitles them to have what they want, when they want it, without having to work for it. A lifetime of chronic unhappiness awaits these children. It is very difficult for these kids to look to their own behaviors, decisions, or lack of effort as the source of their problems. Once they see themselves as a victim, chronic unhappiness sets in. These feelings can continue for life, because their expectations of how others should treat them or provide for them are seldom met. They have been given a prescription for unhappiness. In their eyes, everything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault or just the result of bad luck.
For guidance and support in raising your children to be happy, healthy and responsible, sign up for the next webinar series, “Real Love in Parenting” starting Monday, September 10th here Webinars
Last week, I arrived at my Tuesday yoga class only to discover that it wasn’t the regular instructor, Carla. As we settled into the practice, I felt myself getting stressed and annoyed thinking, “This isn’t how Carla does it…the instructor is moving too quickly from position to position…and so on.” I caught myself and did some extra cleansing breaths to calm down. After the class, I was thinking about my reaction and realized that the situation wasn’t what I expected. As I contemplated why it bothered me, I realized the bigger picture of wanting to control things that I cannot at times and the need to be flexible.
In parenting, being flexible and sharing the control are valuable tools. Control is a basic human need for all of us and we can learn to give away some of it to empower our children. Control is like love—the more we give away, the more we get back. Love and Logic Parenting uses the concept of sharing the control through choices.
The parent gives lots of choices. Every choice you give becomes a “deposit” into your child’s sense of healthy control. Even when the choices seem small/a bit silly, they can be very powerful. The more choices parents give, the more chance of having cooperative kids. And when necessary, the parent can say, “Didn’t I give you a lot of choices today? This time, it’s my turn to decide. Thanks for understanding.”
Below are the guidelines for sharing the control through choices. Think of it as an experiment and try it out with your children this week. To learn more about raising happy, responsible kids, sign up to attend the Real Love in Parenting free intro on Tuesday, August 28 here Webinars
Love and Logic Rules for Choices
• Never give a choice on an issue that might cause a problem for you or for anyone else.
• For each choice, give only two options, each of which will be OK with you.
• If the child doesn’t decide in ten seconds, decide for him or her.
• Only give choices that fit with your value system.
Some Love and Logic Examples of Little Choices
• Would you like to wear your coat or carry it?
• Are you going to clean the garage or mow the lawn this week?
• Will you have these chores done tomorrow? Or do you need an extra day to get them finished?
• Are you having peas or carrots as your vegetable tonight?
• Are you going to bed now? Or would you like to wait 15 minutes?
• Can you stay with us and stop that, or do you need to leave for a while and come back when you are sweet?
• Are you going to put your pajamas on first or brush your teeth first?
• Will you be home at 10:00? Or do you need an extra half hour with your friends?
• Are you guys going to stop bickering? Or would you rather pay me for having to hear it?
For centuries, sailors suffered from scurvy. The affected sailors behaved as though they had been physically injured, but there was no history of identifiable trauma. So the physicians of the day were baffled. They used all their skills to treat the symptoms and signs of the problem—they cleaned and bandaged the wounds, cleaned the gums and teeth, and prescribed rest and increased food rations—but nothing they did was effective. They even named the disorder scurvy—also known as the “great sea plague”—but choosing a name brought them no closer to an understanding of the cause nor to an effective treatment.
As early as 1601 at least one ship captain learned that eating citrus fruits eliminated scurvy, although it wasn’t until 1795 that the British Admiralty ordered lemon juice to be carried on their ships. During that period alone, nearly one million sailors died of an easily preventable disease. Finally, in 1933 Vitamin C was isolated, and the lack of it was identified as the cause of scurvy.
For hundreds of years people died all around the world because it was not recognized that the lack of a single molecule was causing significant trauma to the body at the molecular and cellular levels, which in turned caused wounds that could be seen with the eye. Without Vitamin C, people were starving to death, even though their bellies were filled with bread and beef.
Greg Baer, author of many books on Real Love, applies this example to our lives as individuals and as parents by asking, “What is this missing Vitamin C of the soul? What is it that we all need in to be happy?” His answer is, of course, we need Real Love, Unconditional Love. Intuitively, we already sense what we need to feel emotionally fulfilled, or happy. We see evidences of it in the unifying theme of most of our literature, movies, magazines, and even our commercial advertisements. More than anything else, what we all need is love.
When we unconditionally care about our children’s happiness, they feel a powerful connection to us. They feel included in our lives and they feel whole, safe and not alone. Each moment of unconditional acceptance creates a living thread between us and our children, and these threads weave a powerful bond that fills them with a genuine and lasting happiness.
But it isn’t easy to do this. It is easy to love them when they are good and cooperative. But it is difficult, when they fight, get bad grades, or make messes. In “Real Love in Parenting,” Greg Baer says that we condition our children, just like we were conditioned, to learn that I am loved when I am good and convenient, but I am a disappointment and loved less when I cause problems. Although it is not intentional on our part, with our disappointment and irritation, we have clearly and powerfully taught our child this message: “When you’re good, I love you but when you’re not, I don’t.”
Whatever the age of your child, it is never too late to learn how love more unconditionally. For support in this, join the “Real Love in Parenting” webinar series starting on Monday, September 10th here Webinars. To learn more about Real Love, sign up to attend the free webinar on Tuesday, August 28 at the same link. Learning to love unconditionally works with spouses, co-workers, friends, and parents as well as our own children.