Love and Logic is a very useful approach to parenting in many respects because it represents a move away from what I call an Old School parenting style, which was too punitive (based on punishments), and toward what I call a New School parenting style, which is based on empathy and dialogue.
Below I present twelve things I like and twelve things I don’t like about Love and Logic. (These comments are not intended to be paired up with each other, 1-1, 2-2, etc.) I present the things I don’t like in a spirit of suggesting enhancements to the Love and Logic parent, and as enhancements that, if they were written into the program, could increase the program’s already strong capacity to teach participants a strength-based approach to parenting.
1. Control is identified as the basic parenting issue. This is a conclusion that I arrived at long ago (in the 1970s), working with children and parents as a family therapist.
2. Children need to feel some control over decisions that affect them.
3. Parents need to identify ownership of the problem and resist the temptation to assume responsibility for the child’s problems, and/or solving them.
4. L&L recognizes the subtlety and importance of wording. An effective technique that illustrates this is presenting choices in ways that are less likely to be construed as threats: “Would you rather ________, or would you rather _________?”
5. Steps offered to guide the child to solve problems (module 4) are good.
6. Let the child suffer the consequences. When they make mistakes in minor matters early, it is far less costly than making similar mistakes in more significant matters later on.
7. L&L encourages parents to use “enforceable statements,” so that the parent is in complete control of a consequence that does not require the child’s agreement or cooperation.
8. L&L moves in the direction of strength-based parenting, and away from the Old School, punitive approach that most of our parents (and eons of parents before them) used. The Old School focused almost exclusively on negative, logical (parent-devised) consequences as punishments for “bad” behavior. L&L moves away from this style of parenting, which was deficit-based in that it focused so strongly on deficits in the child or the child’s behavior. Instead, L&L encourages parents to use “thinking words” in order to nurture children’s strengths like decision-making and problem-solving abilities, letting the consequences of children’s decisions do the teaching.
9. L&L provides a readily understandable bridge between Old and New School parenting styles. Many parents like it and can relate to it–perhaps because it deals with changing child behaviors, and ignores the deeper and more complicated issue of motivation.
10. Many of the exercises in the Parent Handbook are very good, and help demonstrate the principles and techniques being taught.
11. L&L presents practical , easy-to-remember phrases that have the potential to be very effective (e.g., “I love you too much to argue.”)
12. L&L teaches that children learn and adopt the parents’ values and relationship styles because they see their parents living them in action day-by-day.
Things I Don’t Like about Love & Logic
1. L&L deals exclusively with children’s behavior, and teaches parents techniques to try to modify it. In this way, L&L avoids helping parents relate to that which is even more important than the behavior: the child’s motivation (thoughts and feelings).
2. “Parents need to share control on their terms.” The implication here is that parents have the power to control a child’s behavior, and they should share it. This is a delusion. Parents have NO power to control their child’s behavior. Page 62a states that chores are “one of the easiest places for a parent to start taking control of a child’s behavior.”
3. L&L, like many other approaches, presents three styles of parenting. This is too simplistic. Different parent ROLES would be a better way to think about this, and I suggest six roles.
4. “Giving” two choices is actually a delusion. The parent does not “give” a child any choice–s/he already has choice (free will), and can refuse to choose either option or insist on an unacceptable choice.
5. While many comments can be very helpful (e.g., “I love you too much to argue with you”), some recommended comments seem sarcastic and belittling (cf. p 34 & 35, and other places).
6. Phrases like “kid attack” (p. 43) imply that the child is out to get the parent or control the parent’s behavior. It presents a “power & control” or “battlefield” image, consistent with the idea that power struggles are inevitable, and the parent must “win.”
7. Similarly, the “Strategic Training Session is seen as leading the parent to “victory,” which suggests a “battleground” or “power struggle” context for parenting.
8. While it’s true that consequences can do the teaching, L&L falls far short of 1) helping parents learn how parents can teach, and 2) showing parents how to do it.
9. While L&L encourages parental creativity and flexibility, and offers many useful techniques, it is by and large too simplistic. Parenting is more complicated.
10. L&L fails to teach relationship skills essential to parent-child interactions, skills that could be applied equally well in adult relationships (such as listening, dialogue, self-disclosure, and negotiating agreements).
11. L&L is quite impersonal. While encouraging “empathetic statements,” it does not deal adequately with the nature of, or power of, empathy, what constitutes empathy, and how parents can use it.
12.The recommended videotapes leave too much to be desired.