Parenting doesn't come naturally to me. I have never been super maternal, patient or consistent, which are basically three of the most important traits of a mother.
But luckily, I have two things in my life: my husband and "Love and Logic."
My husband introduced me to the Love and Logic parenting method when our first daughter was just an infant. I read the book, and my husband, who had studied the method as a teacher, helped me hone my skills. He is some sort of parenting ninja, and that is probably how he is able to run a school of 1,000 kids while I feel overwhelmed even volunteering in a classroom.
I shudder to think were I'd be without this method as my guide, so every few months or so, I revisit my well-worn copy of "Love and Logic" to remind me how to respond to my kids and deliver discipline in a loving, logical way that will help them make good choices even when I'm not around to nag them. Just recently, after an incident I wrote about in this column wherein I outright growled at my child out of frustration, I knew it was time for a refresher.
So it was good timing that my neighbor was hosting a Love and Logic class, where I could get a parenting tuneup. And since I believe this method is directly responsible for the fact that I haven't lost my mind, I'm planning to go over some of the top skills we learn each week over the span of a few columns for anyone who might also be looking for some revamped parenting skills.
It's fitting that the course starts with love because Love and Logic can't work without first having a relationship of love and trust with your child. Hopefully, you already have some little relationship-building moments with your child throughout the day like bedtime or after-school chats where he or she all your attention. Here are some ideas to strengthen your foundation:
Make every "hello" and "goodbye" a special event.
Remove hurtful sarcasm from your interactions
Love them when they're not acting so lovable
Notice your children.
I have been working on this "noticing" skill this week based on the experience of several friends who swear it works like magic on stubborn children. They report that after a few weeks of "noticing" their children, even their most defiant child will quickly jump into action when mom or dad then says, "Could you do this, for me?"
The gist is, for two weeks you "notice" your child multiple times throughout the day. This isn't a compliment or a scolding, but rather a neutral acknowledgment that you are aware of your child. So it could be something like "I noticed you like drawing pictures of flowers. I noticed that" or "I noticed you always sleep with this sheep at night. I noticed that." These kinds of phrases seem incredibly awkward at first because we are conditioned to expect a compliment at the end of such a comment, and we have trained our kids to expect the same. But fight the urge to place a value or a compliment to the statement, and simply leave it at "I noticed that." If you're like me and simply can't stand the awkward silence, follow up with a question instead like "I noticed you have quite a collection of stuffed animals. Which one is your favorite?"
Noticing our children throughout the day tells them we care about them, and they are important to us.
Since argument are usually where parenting goes off the rails, the second foundational skill is learning how to neutralize arguments.
First, don't engage. The second you start trying to argue with your children, you've lost. They will twist your words so they can be mad at you instead of the situation. Love and Logic calls suggest that instead of fighting back, you "go brain dead."
Take a deep breath. Go somewhere else in your head and rise above the moment. Then, say your go-to one-liner instead of yelling, arguing or explaining to your children how incredibly wrong they are. Some options include:
I love you too much to argue about this.
Thanks for sharing. (Not in a sarcastic way)
What did I already say?
My two catchphrases are "I know" and "Nice try." So the conversation goes something like this:
But Mom, everyone else has a cellphone.
It's totally unfair!
You are doing this just to make me mad!
This, of course, will infuriate your children at first and they will dig deep for ways to make you respond the way they want. My daughter hated this the first time I did it, but now only a week later, when she hears my brain-dead "I know," she just walks away because she knows she's not going to win.
Stay tuned for the next installment, where we learn about empathy and delivering natural consequences.