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Children as Sculptures


To each of you fathers and mothers, I speak: Just as we see artists fashioning their paintings and statues with great precision, so we must care for these wondrous statues of ours. . . . Like the creators of statues, give all your leisure time to fashioning these wondrous statues of God. As you remove what is unhelpful and add what is lacking, inspect them day by day, to see with which good qualities nature has supplied them so that you can increase these qualities, and to see which faults so that you can eradicate them.

J. Chrysostom, De Inani Gloria, ed. A. M. Malingrey (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1972), § 22.

A Theology of Family Ministry, Chapter 9, Logos

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Going Brain Dead

Change is difficult. When dealing with our children, we often experience different levels of anxiety, frustration, fear, anger, and other emotions that interfere with our good parenting intentions. Anxiety, for example, plays a big role when we afraid of allowing our children to experience the normal consequences of their actions and stop valuable lessons in their lives. Frustration can make us react with anger and accumulate quilt. Guilt can cause us to break the limits we have established, creating uncertainty in our kids' minds. 

A simple strategy to neutralize those feeling is “going brain dead.” What that means is that we have to learn to respond quickly to whatever situation triggers those feelings in us. As soon as we realize our buttons are being pushed, we just need to stop thinking and maintain our calmness

This strategy is not new. A long time ago, Christians in the first century used it effectively. They thought of their baptism as a point after which they were dead to all emotions or desires which would lead them to act in ways that would interfere with the goals of their new commitment.  (Romans 6:11). When faced with all sorts of challenges, their faith inspired frame of thought was: “I am dead to anything that causes me to miss the target. I am only alive for God.”

We as modern day parents can learn a lot from this. For us, going brain dead may look something like this:

  1. Realize that arguing with an emotional kid is like trying to reason with a drunk person. There is absolutely no benefit in it.
  2. Become aware that there is a strong connection between the thinking part of our brain and the reacting part of it.
  3. Take a few deep breaths to oxygenate our brains completely.
  4. Feel relaxed. You might need to practice some relaxation beforehand in order to know how it feels. If you are a believer you can do as you pray and rest in the presence of God.
  5. Stop thinking. If we think, we would immediately engage the reacting part of our brain, and most likely we would not respond appropriately.
  6. If you are a believer, you can picture yourself at peace in the presence of God.
  7. Calmly say a single sentence, which you have had prepared beforehand, to address the triggering situation effectively.

 Thanks for reading these lines. Feel free to comment or ask questions!

You can watch the YouTube video, “Going Brain Dead,” by Kerry Stutzman, MSW.

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How do children learn to make decisions?


Learning how to make decisions is difficult. Regularly we spend many years learning. As a matter of fact, even as adults sometimes we make foolish decisions. So how can our children acquire this important skill? For a child learning to make decisión is somewhat similar to learning to ride a bike. Riding a bike is much simpler, of course! But in both cases the child has to develop important skills in order to get results. Parents can provide a bike, many opportunities to learn, and good training; but the child himself has to practice in order to learn. On the other hand, when we try to teach our kids to make decisions, we often encounter a major problem. When your daughter is learning to ride a bike you can see if she is pedaling or not, or if she is paying attention to the obstacles in front of her, or if she is loosing balance and is about to fall. Therefore, it is much easier to guide her and encourage her. However, when you teach her to make sound decisions, you cannot see what goes on in her little head. You can easily assume that she is just a stubborn girl, a knucklehead, rebellious kid who just does not want to cooperate. But the truth is that making decisions involves various skills.

What does making a decision involve?

Making a decision is just choosing one action among two or more possibilities. Shall I play or shall I eat?. Shall I respect my family in the playroom or shall I go to my room alone? Shall I walk to the car or shall I be carried by my father? These decisions seem too simple, of course! But you have to remember that your little one is just learning. Furthermore, even these simple decisions demand complex mental skills.

What skills are necessary? 

1. The child needs to understand the options

First of all the kid needs to clearly understand his options. But in order to do that he needs to be able to pause whatever he is doing and focus on what mom is telling him. What happens if the child does not know how to stop and continues centered in his game while you are talking to him? You can assume that he is stubborn, get frustrated and angry, and feel the need to impose your control over the situation. However, you can also think that the child is still not able to switch the focus of his thinking from one situation to the next. Then you can turn his little face towards you and looking at him in his eyes you can tell him, “Little John, look at me. What are you going to choose? Are you going to continue playing with your tablet or are you coming to the table to eat with us?” By doing this, you will be helping him to stop what he is thinking and to focus on his options. This will help him to make a decision.

2. The child needs to understand his responsibility 

Little John also needs to know who is responsible for the decision. Making a decision on his own might be difficult for him. After all he is used to the adults directing his life and making the household decisions. From his point of view, he might think that what his mother is doing is just giving him and ultimatum to stop playing. Then you need to tell him, “Little John, this is your decision. You need to choose what you think is best. You can continue playing with your tablet, or you can come to the table and eat with us.” Otherwise he might think that his mother is going to make the decision and that what he needs to do is continue playing until mom forcefully takes the tablet from him.

3. The child needs to know what is going on

Little John needs to know important facts about what is going on. Will dinner be served in a few minutes or is it already served? Is his game almost over or not? Can he pause his game and continue afterwards? Can he finish his game and then still joint the family at the table? He might not even think about these things, and if he thinks about them, he might not know how to ask the appropriate questions. You can help him think though these issues and get the information he needs to make his decision. For example, you can ask him, “Little John, How long is it until the game is over?

4. The child needs to understand the consequences 

He needs to know clearly what will happen one way or the other. If he does not come to table, he will be left without supper and will not be able to eat until breakfast the following morning. Remember that he is learning and might not be able to quickly assess the consequences. You can help by asking him, “Little John, Do you understand that if you do not come and eat with us there will be no food until tomorrow morning? What do you think will happen to you?”

5. The child need to think about what is right

The fifth step in this process is thinking about what is important and right. Most likely, little John is not ready to think about this on his own. He is having fun with the game and is just exited about it. Mom then can tell him, “Little John, We like to eat together. We are your family and we would love for you to eat with us. Do you think is good for us to show how much we love each other by enjoying our company when we eat?” 

6. The child need to evaluate the pros and the cons of his decision

Little John can continue enjoying his game, but he will not be able to eat until the following morning. Besides he will disappoint his family by not eating with them. He needs to evaluate the pros and the cons of his actions and make his decision. If he decides to continue playing, you do not have to worry or get upset. He made a decision and will have to deal with the consequences. You can say, “Little John, I am a little disappointed that you chose no to eat with us, but I hope you will like what we will have for breakfast tomorrow.”

Three basic recommendations

As you see, even for a five-year-old making a decision can be tough. On top of the skills mentioned above, he will also have to deal with his frustration, feelings, impulses and the habitual reactions which he have learned so far. For this reason it is important to keep in mind the following suggestions.

1. Start as early as possible.

Training should start as the baby is born. It needs to continue during his first months and during his first years. As the child grows older the process becomes more complex, there will be more options, and the kid will acquire more habitual responses. Therefore start early and be consistent and persistent. 

2. Limit the options

With the little ones you need to give only two options, making it clear that if the kid does not decide the parents will decide for him. Ask him questions like, “Do you want to wear the blue or the back trousers?” “Do you want to put your coat on or would you rather carry it?” “Are you going to brush you teeth before or after putting your pajamas on?”

3. Limit the importance of the decision allowed according to the age of the child

Some decisions are very important. You have to limit the control of the kids according to their age. You cannot tell a five-six-old, for example, “Do you want to watch TV or do you homework?” Homework is important and you have to limit the power of the little child over the decision. You can say instead, “Do you want to sit here at the table doing nothing, or do you want to do your homework and watch TV afterwards?” On the other hand, DO NOT EVER tell your teenage girl, “Linda, do you want to wear the pink or the yellow blouse?” That might be the last time you see her in your house.

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The Pygmalion Effect

What makes us what we are? How do people become accomplished individuals? Obviously, several factors contribute to our growth, but key people around us are certainly crucial. Their influence is powerful. It has been scientifically demonstrated that their expectations have a strong, compelling force. They can direct our behavior, mold our self-concept, and even determine the limits of our success. Thoughts like the following prevail as we try to define who we are. "I am what I think you think I am." "I can do what I think you think I can do." "I should be able to do what I think you think I should be able to do. If I am not, I must be a failure.” 

This phenomenon leads to what is called "The Pygmalion Effect" or "The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.” It means that very often people become what others expect them to be. If others expect us to succeed, we are successful. But if they expect us to fail, we often do. Of course, this is much more evident during our formative years as children or youth. As a matter of fact, our greatest Pygmalions are our parents, the most important people in our lives.

The name "Pygmalion Effect" comes from an old Greek myth. Pygmalion, the mythological character, created a statue of a woman so perfect that he fell in love with her. Because of his great love and desire, the gods granted that she would turn into a real woman. The ivory became flesh. However, there is no magic in the “Pygmalion Effect” as sociologists and psychologists define it today. There are no mysterious vibrations in love or in positive thinking. The “Self Fulfilling Prophecy” actually involves a simple five-step process. (1) Expectations are set. (2) They are communicated verbally and non-verbally. (3) Information and training, if necessary, are provided. (4) Opportunities are offered. (5) Feedback is given. Watch “The Pygmalion Effect and the Power of Positive Expectations” on YouTube. What lessons can you learn from this video?

Here are some important facts about the “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” phenomenon. Parents who are positive Pygmalions have the following characteristics.

  1. They have confidence in themselves and in their ability to positively influence their children.
  2. They motivate their children to be successful.
  3. They have high but realistic expectations, and they communicate them in a warm and positive way. If your expectations or goals are unreachable, the child will most likely give up and develop a poor self-concept.
  4. They encourage their children to make decisions and take personal initiative.
  5. They give their children opportunities to work on their tasks and help them acquire the tools and skills they need.
  6. They encourage the motivation which comes from the inner satisfaction resulting from reaching our own goals and reflecting about our own efforts and abilities. 
  7. They provide useful and positive feedback. They do not criticize, ignore, or falsely praise their kids.
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Choose the option that fits your opinion (Escoge la opción que refleje tu opinión)

  1. Which one of the following is not a mentioned in the «Prezi» presentation? (¿Cuál de los siguientes no está incluido en la presentación «Prezi»?)

(     ) Responsible kids feel good about themselves (Los chicos responsables se sienten bien consigo mismos

(     ) The mirror of the soul (Espejos del alma)

(     ) The power of passive reinforcement (El poder de los refuerzos positivos)

(     ) The three-legged table (La mesa de tres patas)

(     )  Watch out for pitfalls (¡Ojo con las trampas!)

  1. In your opinion which of the following is least associated by the parents with a poor self-esteem? (En su opinión ¿cuál de los siguientes rasgos es el que menos asocial los padres con la estima baja de los niños?)

(     ) Forget their homework (Olvidan sus tareas)

(     ) Bully others (Participa en matoneo)

(     ) Argues with teachers and parents (Es respondón)

(     ) Steal (Roba)

(     ) Withdraws (Se aparta)

(     ) Makes irresponsible decisions (Toma decisiones irresponsables)

  1. In your opinion which of the following is least associated by the parents with a good self-esteem? (En su opinión ¿cuál de los siguientes rasgos es el que menos asocial los padres con la estima baja de los niños?)

(     ) Have lots of friends (Tienen muchos amigos)

(     ) Do their chores well (Hacen bien sus tareas y rutinas)

(     ) Don’t get in much trouble (No se meten en muchos problemas)

(     ) Take responsibility for their lives (Asumen responsabilidad por su vida)

  1. In your opinion which of the following is the truest statement? (En su opinion ¿cuál afirmación es más verdadera?)

(     ) The kid knows who he is by reflecting on his achievements (El chico sabe quién es reflexionando en sus logros) 

(     ) The kid thinks he knows who she is by the way others treat her (La niña cree que sane quien es ella por la forma en que otros la tratan)

(     ) The kid becomes what he is by focusing on what he thinks his significant others think he is (El chico llega a ser lo que es enfocándose en lo que él cree que las personas significativas en su vida creen que él es)

(     ) The kid becomes what her significant others think she is (La chica llega a ser lo que las personas significativas en su vida creen que ella es.

  1. Which one of the following comes to your mind as an attitude which describes your growing up the best? (¿Cuál de las actitudes siguientes se le vienen a la mente como la que mejor describe sus primeros años de crecimiento?)

(     ) I am dumb. I cannot figure things out myself (No soy muy listo. No puedo idear las cosas por mí mismo).

(     ) I am smart. I can easily figure things out. (Soy listo. Puedo resolver mis situaciones por mí mismo).

(     ) I do not like to make decisions on my own. I rather others to tell me what to do (No me gusta tomar decisiones por mí mismo. Prefiero que otros me digan qué hacer).

(     ) The kid becomes what her significant others think she is (La chica llega a ser lo que las personas significativas en su vida creen que ella es.

(     ) None of the above.

  1. In your opinion which one of the following is the best way to build your kids self-esteem? (En su opinion ¿cual de las siguientes es la mejor manera de construir la estima propia de sus hijos?)

(     ) Make sure they are successful in every thing they do. (Asegúrese que tienen éxito en todo lo que emprendan).

(     ) Let them take calculated risks (Déjelos que tomen riesgos calculados).

(     ) Do not let them do anything which may lead them to failure (No deje que hagan nada que pueda llevarlos a fracasas).

(     ) Praise them even if they are not that good (Dígales que son buenos aunque no lo sean tanto).

(     ) Train them to be obedient (Entrénelos para que obedezcan).

  1. Which one of the following do you think parents neglect the most? (¿Cuál de las siguientes recomendaciones cree que los padres descuidan con más frecuencia?)

(     ) Showing their kids consistently that they love them (Mostrarle a los hijos consistentemente que los aman).

(     ) Making sure that they have the necessary skills before expecting them to perform (Asegurarse que tienen las destrezas necesarias antes de esperar que hagan una u otra cosa.

(     ) Giving them the opportunity to manage on their own (Darles la oportunidad de que alcancen logros por sí mismos).

(     ) Yelling to them every time they do not follow instructions (Gritarles cada vez que no sigan instrucciones).

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Resining Responsible Children - Poll

You can fill this poll in Facebook.

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Poll: Lesson 1 Poll.pdf

Proverbs 22:6 is: (Proverbios 22:6 es:)

  1. Always true (Siempre cierto)
  2. Never true (Nunca cierto)
  3. Some times true (Algunas veces cierto)
  4. Most of the time true (Cierto las más de las veces)
  5. A old-fashion religious belief  (Una creencia religiosa pasada de moda)

In your opinion which one of the following goals is least pursued by parents of young children? (En su opinión cuál de las siguientes metas es la que menos procuran los padres de niños chicos?)

  1. To get kids out of the house in 18 years (Que los chicos sean independientes a los 18 años)
  2. Have children who make good decisions most of the time (Tener hijos que puedan tomar buenas decisiones las más de las veces)
  3. Equip children to make it in the world (Preparar a los muchachos para que tengan éxito en la vida)
  4. Help children from total dependence to independence. (Ayudar a los chicos a pasar de la dependencia total a la independencia)

Which one of the following scares you the most? (¿Cuál de las siguientes frases le producen más temor?)

  1. My children might have a difficult time dealing with peer pressure. (Mis hijos pueden tener dificultades para resistir la presión de malos amigos)
  2. My children might not be able to handle life difficult situations. (Mis hijos tal vez no puedan enfrentarse a las dificultades de la vida)
  3. My children might not make right choices. (Mis hijos tal vez no puedan hacer buenas elecciones) 
  4. I will not be able to supervise my children all the time (No podré supervisar a mis hijos todo el tiempo y en todas partes)
  5. I am not sure my children know how make decisions without a lot of guidance and a lot of pushing. (No estoy seguro de que mis hijos puedan tomar decisiones sin que los oriente y los empuje a cada paso)

It is not enough to tell your kids to be responsible. Which one of the following do you think is the strongest reason? (No es suficiente decirle a los chicos que sean responsables. ¿Cuál de las siguientes el la razón de mayor peso?)

  1. Responsibility is an abstract concept. Small children will not understand it. («Responsabilidad» es un concepto abstracto y los chichos no pueden entenderlo.
  2. People need guidance and encouragement to get things done (La gente necesita que le den orientación y ánimo para hacer las cosas)
  3. Learning responsibility requires training (Aprender responsabilidad requiere entrenamiento)
  4. Kids do not understand unless you threaten them (Los chicos no entiendes a menos que los amenacen)

What kind of parenting did you experience as you grew up? (¿Con cuál los siguientes estilos de padres se crió usted?)

  1. Helicopter Parenting. (Papá helicóptero)
  2. Turbo Attack Helicopter Parenting. (Papá helicóptero de de ataque)
  3. Drill Sergent Parenting. (Papá sargento)
  4. Permissive Parenting. (Papá permisivo)
  5. Soccer Player Parenting (Papá futbolista)
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Empathy with Consequences


Prepared by Dr. Bert Alexander

Translation and Prezi by Henry Roncancio

Prezi Presentation: Clic here

What would you do in the following situation? Suppose you have a child or children who simply refuse to go to bed at a reasonable time. You fuss and you threaten, but the more you push, the slower they seem to be about getting ready and going to bed. You know that they need sleep; you know that if they do not get adequate sleep, they will not function well the next day. Yet, even with all your fretting and worrying, your spanking, your taking away of privileges, they do not seem motivated to comply with your wishes. 

Here is a great truth, so get ready to be amazed: you cannot make a child go to sleep. What if you simply told you child that you are sorry for all the interference and in the future they will be in charge of when they go to bed. Establish that there are rules, and the first is that after say eight o’clock, they cannot bother you and your spouse. You don’t won’t to see them or hear them, but they can be awake in their room. The second is that everyone gets up at the appointed time and there will be no exceptions. If they are still up at 10:30, tell them “good-night” and go to bed yourself. 

The next morning, go in and wake them up. You will discover that it is easier to wake up a child than put them to sleep! Turning up the radio to front-row-rock-concert setting takes no effort at all! Flip on the lights and be a “human alarm clock!” You will more than likely hear your child telling you that they are sick; their head/stomach/etc. hurts. Ignore it! Tell your kids, “You know, I feel this way as well when I don’t get enough rest, but I bet that it is going to be a long day at school today. Have a good day, and we will see you when you get home.” You see, it is much better for the child to deal with the consequences of their actions than for you to punish them or to threaten them. 

Hurting From the Inside Out

It has been said that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” With that in mind, we need to remember that as we give control to our kids, that control can corrupt and that absolute control corrupts absolutely. As children misuse their power and control, unwise parents show frustration, anger, and often plead. Wise parents allow natural and imposed consequences to do the teaching, and they are empathetic. Control and power are handled like money: we rejoice when the child handles them correctly, and we show empathy without rescue when unwise choices result in consternation, pain, and regret. 

As adults we don’t get grounded when we mess up in life; nobody washes our mouths out with soap when we use bad language. Punishments don’t happen in the real world unless crimes are committed. When people are punished for something, they seldom pause for self-examination; generally, resentment is the more common reaction. The same holds for kids as well. When we send kids to bed early because they sassed us, we are doling out punishment. If they bring home bad grades and we rescind television privileges, we are not allowing the consequences of mistakes to do the teaching. 

The real world operates on consequences. [When was the last time you talked a cop out of a ticket for speeding?] If we do a consistently lousy job at work, the boss doesn’t take away our I-phone, he fires us! Punishing a child offers a great escape valve for a child to escape the consequences of his actions. They don’t have to change their behavior; they simply have to do their time with the punishment. Their anger is directed toward us rather than themselves for making a bad decision. We want our children to hurt from the inside out:

  • We allow the consequences to do the teaching. 
  • Consequences leave kids thinking very hard about their behavior and their responsibilities. 
  • Consequences lead to self-examination and thought. 

Naturally Occurring Consequences

The best consequences are those that fall naturally. Naturally falling consequences allow the cause and effect of our children’s actions to register in their brains. When they ask themselves, “Who is making me hurt like this?” Their only answer is “Me.” For example, if a child goofs off during a meal and doesn’t eat, they will be hungry later. If a child goofs off in school, makes bad grades, then staying back a grade makes sense. 

These are the things that cause lots of heartburn for parents, but if we want the consequences to do their work effectively, we cannot afford to take the luxury of reminding a child of previous bad choices. If your child is extremely slow at getting out of bed, let them suffer the consequences of not going to school one day. Now this cannot be a fun day, the child must stay in his room, and cannot be entertained by any electronics, games, etc. You as a parent cannot write a note for his absence as it was his fault and he must suffer the consequences. Without the company of others and without the attention of a parent who nags them, they become very unhappy!

Imposing Consequences

While naturally occurring consequences are best, occasionally our children’s actions don’t lend themselves to such consequences. In those cases, we must impose the consequences ourselves. This is a parental art: parents sometimes choose to impose consequences that are irrelevant or, if relevant, the consequences are either too harsh or too lenient. When consequences occur naturally, the imposed consequences must:

  • Be enforceable
  • Fit the “crime”
  • Be laid down firmly in love. 

When imposed consequences are imposed without anger and threats, and when presented to our children in a way that the connection between their misbehavior and the consequences is made plain, they are quite effective. To drive the lesson home with our children without making them feel as though we are not on their side, we must use empathy. Here are some examples:

  • “Of course you are hungry! I bet you won’t do that again!” Try, “I know now that feels, I get hungry when I miss a meal, but we will have a big breakfast tomorrow.”
  • “I told you that you would be tired if you didn’t go to bed on time. Now you are going to suffer all day at school.” Try, “I feel the same way at work when I don’t get my sleep, but have the best day you can, under the circumstances.”
  • “You don’t do your homework, and now you come home with lousy grades. That ought to teach you a lesson.” Try, “You know, when I was in school, I got some poor grades when I didn’t apply myself, but there is always next semester or summer school.” 

Consequences Don’t Have to Be Immediate

Consequences do not have to be doled out on the spot to be effective. Sometimes, they are most effective after a child thinks they have gotten away with inappropriate behavior. Suppose your small children bicker and fight on the way to the store and instead of confronting them, you wait until the next time and say something like: “You know the way you acted the last time we went out, well, this time you are staying home and you can pay for your sitter by weekend, or I can deduct the cost from your allowance, your choice.” They are now thinking, “How are we going to pay for this? How are we going to get Mom to take us with her the next time? How am I going to get along with my sibling?” This imposed consequence is enforceable. If you child returns home late from a play-date, the next time simply say, “Remember when you were late the last time? I am not up to worrying about that today, so you can watch television or play by yourself. We will talk about it again the next time you want to go over there.” The consequence is tied in the child’s mind to returning on time from the neighbor’s house. 

Good consequences don’t always pop right into our brains! This is another reason why delaying consequences is often the best thing to do. It allows us time to consider the best actions as well as get ideas from others. If nothing comes to mind immediately, it is much better to take our time and think of an appropriate consequence than to blurt something out in haste or anger. Much-needed time for thinking can be bought with the following words:

  • “I am not sure what to do about this right now, but I will let you know.”
  • “You know, I have never been the parent of a _____-year old_____ before, so I’ll have to give this some thought, and get back to you on it.”
  • “I’m not sure how to react to that. I’ll have to give it some thought.” 
  • “Try not to worry about it.”

Giving yourself time to consider consequences helps our kids too. They have time to agonize over the possible consequences, and that is quality thinking time!

It’s the Empathy That Counts

The thing that drives the lesson into our children’s hearts after they make a mistake is our empathy and sadness. Our love for them reigns supreme and we put the relationship between us and our children foremost in our minds. When our children make a mistake, we really ache for them, we know what it is like, and we tell them this in all seriousness. When our kids blow it and suffer consequences, it is crucial that we express our sadness to them. Use some of the following phrases:

  • “I know you, and I am sure you will come up with something.”
  • “That’s terrible, how are you going to handle it?”
  • “Oh, no, I’m glad that is not my________. You must feel awful, what can you do?”
  • “How’s that working out for you?”
  • “Wow, what a mess! Let me know what you come up with?”

By using this sort of language, we do not put ourselves up against our kids, but rather squarely on their side. They need to know we will be with them through it all but that we will not take away any of their responsibility in the process. Remember, when you run out of things to say, transfer the problem to the youngster by asking a question, such as “What are you going to do?”

Allowing consequences while showing empathy is one of the toughest parts of Love and Logic parenting. Anger is such an appealing emotion, especially when we use it on our children. Punishment makes us feel powerful: makes us think we are in control. Anger and punishment, put in concert with each other, provide a deadly duo of counter-productive parenting. 

We are constantly giving messages to our kids, but the overriding message of all must be one telling them they are okay. They may have a hard time, make a mistake and have to live with the consequences, but we are in their corner and love them just the same. Empathy about the consequences shows our kids that kind of love. It allows the logic of the consequences to do the teaching. 

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Christmastime as a Parent - By Dr. Alexander

As a big kid, myself, I enjoy all things Christmas! Our house resembles the Griswold’s from the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation! We have the entire house decorated including miniature villages, and an electric train. We even have six inflatables in the front yard!

As a parent, it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy and possibly doing things that are not in the best interests of your child or family. For example, we have a tendency to want to give our children more at Christmas than we received when we were children. This is fine to an extent, but when we reach the point where we are living vicariously through our children, we have gone too far. 

It may be a little late for this Christmas, but I suggest that the family have a budget for Christmas presents. That budget should be divided up evenly among all family members, or at least among the children. It is not fair for one child to receive an expensive gift and not do this for the other children. I am not advocating expensive gifts; I am just saying that the gifts need to be equitable. [Even today, with our children grown, married and with children of their own, my wife agonizes that each person receive the same number of presents of the same value.]

Financial planners would tell you to not exceed your budget and not to be snookered into buying gifts you cannot afford because you don’t want to be considered cheap. Give practical gifts. Give things that last. Give of yourself. Teach your children giving, by volunteering to help others during the holidays. Instill the concept of sharing with others in your children. Help them to understand that not everyone is as blessed as they are and that blessing does not translate into entitlement. Do things as a family and create positive and lasting memories. 

The greatest gift you can give your child this Christmas is the understanding that giving of one’s self is our most noble sacrifice. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Bert Alexander and Henry Rocancio

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Raising a Child to Independence

Totally Dependent

Your newborn child is in your arms. What feelings come to your heart? What thoughts come through your mind? You are a parent! What are you supposed to do? You have to raise her! But what does that mean?

Raising a child is much more that providing food and shelter so that nature can run its course and the little body magically blossoms in front of your eyes. As you realize you have an amazing human being in our hands, a huge responsibility unloads on your shoulders. Raising him up means educating, cultivating, guiding, instructing, disciplining him, and much more. That is an awesome task, and it requires all your concentration, dedication, and perseverance.

You need to assess where your little one is and where you want him to be. Let us talk about your first goal. You want him to be independent, but his level of independence is zero! He is totally dependent on you. You might feel good when you think that you have a little girl who needs you. The idea you have total control over your baby boy might make you feel superb. But your goal is to prepare him or her to live without you.

Raisin Independent Children Is A Must

This is the natural course of life. Very soon you will not be able to be around them twenty-four hours a day. Soon, they would want to be independent. Promptly, they will move out! You will definitely have to leave them one day. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that you educate them to be one hundred percent independent of you.

Wanting to be independent is one thing; having the skills to be independent is another. You do not have to develop the desire for independence in your child. That will come spontaneously. The skills, however, have to be learned. Learning to be independent is a long process, and you have to start coaching as early as possible.

Skills They Must Have

In order to be independent, your little ones have to learn how to make responsible decisions on their own, fix their own mistakes, deal with their own tough circumstances, solve their problems, set their goals, and face their obstacles. Remember they are human beings, so they will rather have no blocks in their path. They will run to you to solve their problems. They will be negligent with their goals, and they will be reluctant to make difficult decisions.

What To Do And What Not To Do

Do not overprotect them. Do not make all their decisions for them. Do not solve all their problems. Do not open all their doors. Do not shield them for making mistakes. Do not make up for their unattained goals. Even if it is painful, they have to learn to be independent. Make them choose. Be firm about their facing the consequences of their mistakes. If they come to you with a problem, ask them “how can you solve that?” Talk to them. Help them find the information they need. Be with them when they struggle, but insist that they fight their own battles and win their own victories. This will give them confidence and boost their self-esteem.

Do not make excuses for yourself. Forget about giving him all things you did not have. Satisfying all his wishes does not make him an independent man.  Be aware of the temptation to become a protectionist. Make sure your children are not in any danger, but be willing to allow minor “falls and bruises,” which can teach valuable lessons. Do not think your precious one will learn when she is older. Let her learn as soon as the opportunity arises. Learning independence takes a lot of practice.

Your children need to feed themselves as soon as they can. They need to dress themselves up and clean themselves. They need to be responsible with their chores, their  belongings, and their time or consistently face appropriate consequences. Permissive parenting does not promote independence, but immaturity and self-indulgence.

Read more…

Gaining Control Through Choices

How do you feel when your child blatantly ignores you? It all boils down to control and as parents we want to control our children. We want them to do what we want them to do and when we want them to do it. Sometimes our children fight us with a passion and before we know it, we are locked into a major control struggle. 

What would you do if you called your child to dinner multiple times and you get nothing? How do you think if your child would react to simply going to where they are and whispering in their ear, “We will be serving dinner for the next twenty minutes and we would love to have you join us because we love eating with you. We hope you make it, but if not, just catch us at breakfast.” 

Control is a curious thing: the more we give away, the more we gain. Parents who attempt to take all the control from their children [drill sergeant] end up losing the control they sought to begin with. We need to set the limits, but then we must give our children control of how they operate within those limits. We have to give our children some control in their lives in order to instill responsibility and independence. However, we can give kids too much control, and they are not pleasant to be around: they are brats. Control is power and these little guys want more and more. 

What is the right amount of control to give children? Psychologists say that people compare the amount of control they have in a relationship to only the amount of control they used to have, not the amount they feel they should have. When more control is allotted with time, people are satisfied; when control is cut back, people are angry. Therefore, children who are reared by parents who dole out control in increasing amounts are usually satisfied with the level of control, because it is always more than it used to be. 

Start giving out control in limited ways when they are young. For example, when the little one is taking a bath you might ask, “Do you want to get out of the tub now, or do you want to stay for five more minutes?” We don’t need that control and the kids need to feel that they have some control. We are doing our kids no favor by giving them too much power early because they become tyrants and control their parents with pouts and tantrums. Tragically, they eventually lead unhappy lives as they grow older. 

Waging a Winnable War with Choices

We cannot force our children to talk on demand, to eat what we put in front of them, or even when we want them to use the bathroom facilities. We influence our children in these areas only by modeling how we eat or talk, but every time we issue demands, we invite a fight and eventually we lose. 

The secret to establishing control is to concentrate on fighting battles that we know we can win. This means we must choose our issues very carefully. We must pick areas where we do have control over our kids and offer choices in those areas.  We cannot control to make our child eat at the table, but we can control whether they are at the table or not. We may not be able to control when a chore is done, but we can control that its completion is dependent upon the timing of the next meal. We may not control what disrespectful words come out of our child’s mouth, but we can make sure that they are not done in our presence or she will be sent to her room to cool off. 

There are three rules for control battles:

  • Avoid a control battle at all costs.
  • If you are going to get into one, win at all costs. 
  • Pick the issue carefully. Whenever a control battle is lost, it is because the issue was not chosen carefully. 

Winnable war is waged through choices, not demands. Choices change the entire complexion of the control struggle. They allow us to give away the control we don’t need and gain the control we do. With choices, kids have no demands to react against, and the control we need is established. 

One of the reasons choices work is that they create situations in which children are forced to think. They must decide. Choices provide opportunities for children to make mistakes and learn from the consequences. With every wrong choice the child makes, the punishment comes not from us but from the world around them. Then children don’t get angry with us; they get angry at themselves. Choices work because they help us avoid getting into control battles with our children. Finally, choices provide our children with opportunities to hear that we trust their thinking abilities, thus building their self-confidence and the relationship between us and them. Parents should only offer choices when they are willing to ensure that their children are forced to live with the consequences. 

Some children are born with temperaments that are less cooperative and some kids, as a result of how they are raised, become more and more defiant and stubborn as they grow older. Regardless of the child, we can make a small change in the way we talk can result in much better cooperation, fewer fights, fewer temper tantrums, less need for disciplinary action, less hate, and more loving relationships. 

Don’t set yourself up to lose. What happens when a child in a classroom moves her chair to be next to a classmate and the teacher tells her to move it back? An argument that will not be won by the teacher. It escalates and the child runs out of the room and other professionals get involved. The teacher might have chosen to use the word “consider” when addressing the child. For example, “Would you consider moving your chair back for me?” If the child does not move now, the teacher could say, “Thanks for considering it. Do you think it is a good decision to refuse when you were asked in a nice way? We will talk about this later.” Nobody loses in this battle at this point: the teacher’s authority is not challenged in front of the group and if discipline is needed, it can be done in private. 

This principle applies to parenting as well. Children who recognize that they can defy their parents become increasingly insecure and prone to test limits. Each time a request is denied, the authority of the parent is reduced in the eyes of the children. Children who live under Love and Logic guidelines have learned through experience that everybody wins when they are cooperative. 

Thinking Word Requests look like:

  • “I would appreciate your taking out the trash before bedtime, thanks.”
  • “Would you mind taking those words to your room? Thank you.”
  • “Hey, would you mind coming here, thanks.”
  • “Would you mind helping your sister now? I would appreciate it.”

Think about it, do children learn best from hearing about consequences or do they learn best from experiencing them?

A Case Study on Winning a Control Battle

What would you do in the following scenario? Aiden, a six-year old is at the local burger joint with mom and dad. The parental plan is for them to eat and then shop before the mall closes in an hour. Mom and Dad are wolfing down their dinner while Aiden is dive-bombing his burger with an airplane French fry, and blowing bubbles in his Coke. Mom says, “Hurry up with that thing! We’ve got shopping to do.” Aiden is unconcerned. Dad jumps into the fray with, “Can’t you do something with that kid?” Aiden does not fall for the “open the hangar wide for the plane” bit. Now Dad ups the ante with “You better hurry up with that thing or you know what is going to happen? We are going without you and leave you here for the police to take you to jail! Do you want that to happen?” 

Aiden is thinking something like this: I have totally controlled these two adults for twenty minutes without even opening my mouth. What a power trip! I control their tone of voice, the color of their faces, and whether or not they make fools of themselves in public. The last thing on my mind is worrying about being picked up by cops. 

Aiden’s parents blew it big-time by trying to control what was going into his mouth. Had they offered him choices and taken only as much control as they needed, they would have been able to put him in control on their terms. Try this approach: “No problem, Aiden, my car leaves in five minutes and there are two ways to leave with me, hungry or not hungry.”  Say that and be quiet. They cannot control if the food goes down his throat, but they can control when the car leaves. The struggle is transferred to Aiden’s head: “do I want to be hungry or not hungry?” 

For kids, the most effective method of controlling parents is getting them to be emotional by being frustrated. From a kid’s point of view, frustration is an irresistible mix of wonderful emotions. Adult anger and adult loss of control, no kid could ask for anything more exciting. Most of today’s sitcoms and many comic strips are based on frustrated authority figures. Kids love mock frustration [Peek-a-boo is based on mock frustration]. Whenever adults show real frustration, they give off vibrations of strong emotion, usually anger, and they delightfully declare they have no control in the situation. Frustration almost always indicates a loss of control. The parent turns red, lights up, gets noisy, and hands control to the child. What kid wouldn’t want that!

At the end of the five minutes, Dad can use fighting words, “Now, you get into the car.” Or he can use thinking words, “My car is leaving now.”  When Aiden replies with the inevitable, “Wait, I am not finished yet,” Dad can respond with, “No problem, would you prefer to go under your own power of my power, your choice?” The point is the car is leaving, period. Dad will probably have to pick up Aiden and head to the door with Aiden screaming and kicking. It will be rather embarrassing for them as they head to the car with Aiden acting out, but how many people do you suppose have never seen a child act up in a public place? ?There is a price to pay to be a parent and sometimes the price is dealing with a difficult child in a public place. 

In order to ensure that Aiden has a positive learning experience for this incident, his parents must remember to keep their mouths shut. Save the words for happier times. The only time to reason with a child is when both parties are in a good mood. Parents who enforce the consequences for their child with their mouths moving strip the consequences of their value. Allow the consequences to do the teaching. Dad carries Aiden to the car and places him gently in his seat without any commentary. Later, Aiden will inevitably say, “I’m hungry.” This is not the time for Dad to lecture Aiden, but rather say, “Sure you are hungry, that is what happens to me when I miss my dinner. I will bet you will be anxious for breakfast, won’t you? Don’t worry, I bet it will be a good one!” Sorrow and consequences are more powerful teaching agents than anger and threats. 

Choose your choices carefully. Many parents offer choices to their children make a mistake in their delivery of those choices. Often they offer choices to their children in the form of ones they can live with and ones they cannot live with. Aiden’s dad said, “You either eat that or you stay here.” Aiden knew that the second choice really was not a choice at all.

You must offer real choices and not threats:

  • Would you rather clean your room this morning or this afternoon?
  • Would you rather pick up your toys or hire me to do it?
  • Do you want to spend your allowance on fun things this week or pay someone to do your chores?
  • Do you guys want to settle the problem yourselves or draw straws to see who sits by the car window?

Nonthreatening choices, offered in a calm manner, give children a chance to take some control over their problems. 

Rules for Giving Choices

  • Always be sure to select choices that you as a parent like and can live with. Don’t provide one you like and one you don’t, because the child will usually select the one you don’t like.
  • Never give a choice unless you are willing to allow the child to experience the consequences of that choice.
  • Never give choices when the child is in danger.
  • Always give only two verbal choices, but make sure the child knows there is an implied third choice: If he doesn’t decide, then you will decide for him. 

Your delivery is important. Try to start your sentence with one of the following:

  • You’re welcome to _____or_____.
  • Feel free to _____or_____.
  • Would you rather____ or____?
  • What would be best for you,_____ or______?


There are three rules for control battles:

  • Avoid a control battle at all costs.
  • If you are going to get into one, win it at all costs.
  • Pick the issue carefully. Whenever a control battle is lost, it is because the issue was not chosen carefully. 

When giving “thinking word” requests, they should look like:

  • “I would appreciate your taking out the trash before bedtime, thanks.”
  • Would you mind taking those words to your room? Thank you.”
  • “Hey, would you mind coming here, thanks.”
  • Would you mind helping your sister now? I would appreciate it.”

Practice the story of the boy who refused to eat his food at the fast food restaurant. What parts of the story ring true to you and your child? Are you guilty of issuing orders rather than requests? Are you strong enough not to “cave-in” and allow your child to get what they want? How carefully do you “choose your battles?”

Practice the following “thinking word requests.”

  • “Would you rather clean your room this morning or this afternoon?”
  • “Would you rather pick up your toys or hire me to do it for you?”
  • “Do you want to spend your allowance on fun things this week or pay someone to do your chores [or pay for a sitter for you so I can complete my shopping]?”
  • “Do you guys want to settle the problem yourselves or draw straws [or rock, paper, scissors] to see who sits by the car window?”

Rules for Giving Choices:

  • Always be sure to select choices that you as a parent like and can live with. Don’t provide one you like and one you don’t, because the child will usually select the one you don’t like.
  • Never give a choice unless you are willing to allow the child to experience the consequences of that choice.
  • Never give choices when the child is in danger.
  • Always give only two verbal choices, but make sure the child knows there is an implied third choice: If he doesn’t decide, then you will decide for him. 
  • Your delivery is important. Try to start your sentence with one of the following:
    • You’re welcome to _____or_____.
    • Feel free to _____or_____.
    • Would you rather____ or____?
    • What would be best for you, _____ or______?

Read more…

Setting Limits Through Thinking Words

Prepared by Dr. Bert Alexander

Translation and Prezi by Henry Roncancio

Prezi Presentation: Prezi

Questionnaire: Questions.pdf

Love and Logic parenting is a law-and-order philosophy. Just because we recommend that parents shy away from issuing orders and imposing their solutions on their kid’s problems does not mean we give license to all sorts of misbehavior. The process is to allow our kids to mess up, and not drive home the lesson of their misdeeds with words. Be slow to lecture, and never tell the child what he has just learned. Instead, give guidance, but allow them to think for themselves. Making enforceable statements and giving choices forces that thinking back on them.

Building Walls That Don’t Crumble

How do we set limits on their behavior without telling them what to do? Limits are crucial to what we are trying to do and our kids need the security of boundaries in order to make those decisions. 

From the time our kids are infants, we set limits for them, limits that put boundaries around their behavior. Some parents build walls in the form of firm limits for their children; others leave their kids to feel insecure and afraid by providing few limits, or limits that crumble easily. 

Kids seem most secure around parents who are strong, who don’t allow the limits they place on their kids to crumble. Conversely, children lose respect for adults who cannot set limits and make them stick. Quite simply put, kids who misbehave without having to face the consequences become brats. Children who have limits placedced on them in loving ways become secure enough to not only deal effectively with their own emotions but form satisfying relationships with others as well. These relationships allow children to develop self-confidence. These children are easier to teach, spend less time misbehaving, and they grow up to be responsible adults. Lack of firm limits lead to low self-esteem and the behavior follows accordingly. 

How to Talk to a Child

For many parents, setting limits means issuing commands and backing up those limits with more commands spiced with sternness and anger. They think that every time they say something to their kids, they are setting limits, and the louder their voice gets and the more often they repeat it, the firmer the limits become. This may have immediate results, but the long-term prognosis is not very good. 

Love and Logic parents insist on respect and obedience, just as command-oriented parents do. But when Love and Logic parents talk to their children, they take a different approach. Instead of the fighting words of command-oriented parents, they use thinking words. Thinking words, used in question form and expressed in enforceable statements, are one of the keys to parenting with Love and Logic parents. They place the responsibility for thinking and decision making on the children. 

What is the difference between “fighting words” and “thinking words”? The former is an order and the second is a contemplative statement. “Fighting words” are the ones in which we challenge our kids and offer a negative consequence for them not following through with a positive response. E.g., “Don’t you talk to me in that tone of voice!” “Thinking words” are ways to think of enforceable statements that make kids think for themselves. For example, “You sound upset. I’ll be glad to listen when your voice is as soft as mine is.” 

Children learn better from what they tell themselves than from what we tell them. Kids are more prone to believe something that comes from inside their own heads: they choose an option, they do the thinking, they make the choice, and the lesson sticks. 

Would you rather carry your coat or wear it?

Would you rather put on your boots now or in the car?

Would you rather play nicely in front of the television or be noisy outside?

Kids fight against commands and the difference between the thinking words and fighting words are subtle. More control by the parent is perceived as less control by the child. They exert themselves to regain the control they see slipping away. 

The Threat Cycle

The temptation to use threats is great because we desperately want to assail our kids with commands and threats to limit their behavior. Simply put, using threats doesn’t make us feel like the wimp we feel like if we whimper, cry, beg, or plead with our kids, and threats sometimes work. 

Some kids respond to threats, and others do not. They may do as they are told, but they are angry with the person who gave the order. Or they may perform the task in a way that is unsatisfactory simply to regain some of the control they had taken from them. Either way, they are breaking the limit we are trying to set. Our goal is to use thinking words and enforceable statements. 

Passive-Aggressive Behavior

When children are commanded to do something they don’t like, they often respond with passive-aggressive behavior. Kids know they must comply with the order or else reap punishment. They channel their anger in a way that will hurt their parents, so subtly that the parents don’t know they are being hurt. They will make it sting sharply enough so that those parents will think twice before giving that order again. 

The book uses the example of the girl who was responsible for doing the dishes, but she would procrastinate until it was too late at night and was in a rush the next morning. When mom gave the ultimatum, the daughter did the dishes, but broke a glass “accidentally” in order to get back at mom. The daughter’s subtle message was “You better think twice before you force me to do the dishes again.”

Passive-Resistive Behavior

When kids react to parental demands with passive-resistive behavior, they resist without telling the parent they are resisting. The resistance is in their actions, not their words. For example, when a parent tells a child to do something, the child responds by claiming he forgot the request or with less than instantaneous obedience. The attitude is “I’ll comply, but I’ll do it on my own terms.” A sure sign of passive-resistant behavior in children is parental frustration. Parents may be frustrated without having passive-resistant children, but all passive-resistant children have frustrated parents. 

We Would Rather Think Than Fight

Fighting words invite disobedience; they actually challenge the child to be disobedient. When they are used, we are drawing a line in the sand and daring the kids to cross it, and they will fight the limits we impose by using the fighting words. Fighting words include three types of commands:

Telling the kids what to do, “You get to work on the lawn right now.”

Telling our kids what we will not allow, “You are not going to talk to me that way!”

Telling our kids what we won’t do for them, “I’m not letting you out of this house until you clean your room.” 

When we issue commands we are calling our kids to battle and in many cases these are battles we cannot win. Why not simply steer away from words that cannot be challenged or fought? Limits can be set much more effectively when we are not fighting with our kids. It has been clinically proven that kids who are thinking cannot fight us at the same time. 

Love and logic parents make statements with enforceable thinking words, telling their kids:

What we will allow: “Feel free to join us for your next meal as soon as the lawn is mowed.”

What we will do: “I’ll be glad to read you a story as soon as you have finished your bath.”

What we will provide: “You may eat what is served, or you may wait and see if the next meal appeals to you more.” 

The word “no” is the biggest fighting word in the parental arsenal of commands. For two-year olds, parents us the word “No” over three-fourths of the time. Children tire of hearing it. The rule of “no” is to use it as little as possible, but when we do use, we mean business. At other times use a “yes” to something else. For example, “Yes, you may watch television as soon as your chores are done.” 

By using thinking words, we are able to set limits on our children’s behavior without telling them what to do. For example, if we want the lawn mowed before the next meal, we set that limit by offering them the choice: of mowing the lawn and eating, or not doing the lawn and not eating.  In the real world, we get our job done, get paid and then we eat. When we give our children the right to make decisions, there is no anger for them to rebel against. Nobody is doing their thinking for them and the limit is established. 

“Yes” is always more fun to say than “no” if we are healthy and do not get a kick out of controlling others. Loving parents who encourage responsibility early are less likely to get into these hassles:

“Can I have _______?” 

“Honey, if anyone deserves that________, it is you. Buy it!”

“I don’t have the money.”

Sorry about that. It is like that a lot for me too. I guess then you will not buy it.”

Mean What You Say, and Say What You Mean

Just as quickly as kids learn the limits, they will test them. They actually need to test them to make sure that the limits are firm enough to provide the needed security. They need to find out if we mean what we say and if we are going to stand firm on our word or not. 

Some will test the limits with anger or guilt, some are sneaky, and others will fake forgetfulness as a means of testing parental resolve. They will pout, complain, stomp around, run to their rooms, whine, or talk back. Using guilt is one of their most effective tools. 

The kids will not like the Love and Logic methods; they would prefer the old ways and will revert to them at every opportunity. The limit is the choice of the child: of course, they are hungry if they chose to put off the next meal because they did not mow the lawn. The hunger is a natural consequence to their action. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. 

If we relent, we demolish the meaning of those consequences. We set up a crumbling limit for our children. If we get angry at them for the choice they made or if we rail into them with an “I told you so”, we also present a crumbling limit. They then have ample reason to direct their anger toward their parents instead of themselves. 

Using enforceable thinking words, giving choices, displaying no anger, these are the ingredients for establishing firm limits with our kids.


  • How have you uses principles of love and logic in your parenting this past week? Are you giving them choices that are positive or are you simply forcing them to do your will?
  • How do you set limits on their behavior without simply “telling” them what to do? 
  • Limits are good for children. Psychologists have found that a child will play more confident and freely in a playground that has a fence than one that is open. How do you tell your child to not run out into the street? How do you tell your children not to waste food? How do you tell your children to clean up their room?
  • When we don’t provide firm limits, our kids suffer from low self-esteem. 
  • The excusing of irresponsible and destructive behavior because children have somehow been wronged can be carried to ridiculous extremes. Love and Logic parents use opportunities to build self-esteem in children who have had to cope with difficulties. Phrases like, “If anyone can cope with this tough situation, I bet you can do so,” tells the child that you have confidence in their resilience. 

Fighting words and thinking words: 

  • Child says something loud and unkind to the parents.
    • F/W—“Don’t you talk to me in that tone of voice!”
    • T/W—“You sound upset. I’ll be glad to listen when your voice is as soft as mine is.”
  • Two kids are fighting.
    • F/W-- “Be nice to each other. Quit fighting.”
    • T/W---“You guys are welcome to come back as soon as you work that out.”
  • Child will not pick and clean up his room.
    • F/W—“Get in there and clean up your room or else!
    • T/W---“______________________________________”
  • Child is wasting time at fast-food restaurant.
    • F/W—“Hurry up and finish your Happy Meal!”
    • T/W—“____________________________”
  • Child always forgets his coat.
    • F/W—“Put your coat on else!”
    • T/W ==“Would you rather carry your coat or wear it”
  • Child needs to mow the yard and is putting it off.
    • F/W—“You get to work on that yard, right now!”
    • T/W---“Feel free to join us for your next meal as soon as the lawn is mowed.”
  • Child wants to go out to play.
    • F/W—“No, you can’t go out to play until you practice your lessons.”
    • T/W---“Yes, you may go out to play as soon as you practice your lessons. 
  • Child wants to watch television instead of doing chores.
    • F/W---“No, you can’t watch television until your chores are done.” 
    • T/W---“Yes, you can watch television as soon as your chores are done.”


Read more…

Prepared by Dr. Bert Alexander

Translation and Prezi by Henry Roncancio

Prezi Presentation: Click Here

Poll: Click here

There are two types of children in this world. One wakes up and looks in the mirror and says, “Hey look at that dude. I like that guy, and I bet other people will like him too.” The other wakes up and looks in the mirror and says, “Oh, no, look at that loser, I don’t like what I see and I bet others will not like him as well.”

Children with poor self-concept often:

  • Forget to do their homework
  • Bully other kids
  • Argue with teachers and parents
  • Steal
  • Withdraw into themselves when things get rocky
  • Are irresponsible in making good decisions.

Children with good self-concept often:

  • Have lots of friends
  • Do their chores regularly and on time
  • Don’t get into much trouble in school
  • Take responsibility for the course of their lives. 

THERE IS A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN SELF-CONCEPT AND PERFORMANCE IN SCHOOL, AT HOME, OR ON THE PLAYGROUND. We want to offer our children a chance to develop a positive self-concept: with love enough to allow the child to fail; with love enough to allow the consequences of their actions to teach them responsibility, and with love enough to help them celebrate the triumphs, our kid’s self-concept will grow each time they survive on their own. 

“I am what I think you think I am.”

Many parents don’t give their children a chance to build a positive self-concept because they concentrate on the child’s weaknesses. The conversation is about how the child is doing poorly or what the child cannot do at all. The parent rides the child constantly about these issues and erodes their self-concept. Parents who concentrate on child’s strengths find them growing in responsibility regularly. Instead of the child becoming what they could be or even think they could be, they become what they think we think they are. In our words and through our actions, in how we encourage and how we model, the messages we give our kids shape the way they feel about themselves. When we say something like, “if I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times…” we are giving the message, “you are pretty dumb.” 

Try to never use the phrase, “What are you doing that for?” It packs a double meaning: the first is simply a question, and the second can be misunderstood as “You are not very competent.” When we say, “If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times,” the implication is, “You are pretty dumb, and your neurons work sluggishly.”

When we give our children orders, like “Shut-up!” or “Stop arguing!” we send out messages that slash self-concept, because these messages say:

  • “You don’t take suggestions.”
  • “You can’t figure out the answer for yourself.”
  • “You have to be told what to do by a voice outside your head.”

Kids say to themselves, I don’t become what you think I can, and I don’t become what I think I can. I become what I think you think I can!

The Three-Legged Table of Self-Concept

Our children’s self-concept could be compared to a three-legged table. If any one of the legs is weak, the table will rock or wobble. This table is build through the implied messages we give which either build up or tear them down. 

Leg One: I am loved by the “Magical People” in my life.

We all want to be loved unconditionally. Genuine love must be shown regardless of accomplishments, but not necessarily actions. Some parents actually withhold their love as a way of motivating or manipulating their children. Other times, parents have so much zeal that they give the unintended message that real love has to wait until the child improves. The interaction between parents and children is far more important than the kid’s successes or failures. Kids cannot get better until we prove to them, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are good enough the way they are. 

Leg Two: I have the Skills I Need to Make It.

Parents must send messages that tell their children they have the skills people their age need to be successful.  Children need to know that they possess the traits and abilities they need to succeed. These skills are learned through good parent modeling. Parents who focus on end results rather than on the learning taking place wind up with kids who have a negative self-concept about their skills. 

Leg Three: I Am Capable of Taking Control of My Life

Children who have that little voice in their heads telling them they are capable are much more successful. Although kids are born with great courage to take control of their own lives and make decisions, they have little experience on which to base their decisions, they have little experience on which to base their decisions, so they often make poor choices. 

What is the difference between praise and encouragement?

Every parent wants their child to develop a positive self-image, and every parent knows that a positive self-image is related to feeling good about accomplishments. However, false praise almost always leads to disrespect. Ironically, when children have a poor self-image, praise almost always causes the child to act out. Praise is not bad, but it tends to emphasize the external evaluation, the joy of another, and has no real thinking is encouraged. 

Children will get more out of making a decision for themselves, even if it is the wrong decision, than they will out of parents making the decision for them. Kids get the most out of what they accomplish for themselves. If we never let our kids struggle to get something they want or work through a problem for themselves, then when things get difficult later in life, they won’t suddenly turn tough and get going; instead, they will gust quit. We learn more through struggling through difficult things than when those things are done for us. The pattern for building self-esteem and self-confidence looks something like this in almost every case:

  • Kids take a risk and try to do something they think they cannot do.
  • They struggle in the process of trying to do it.
  • After a time, they accomplish what they first set out to do. 
  • They get the opportunity to reflect back on their accomplishment and can say, “Look at what I did!”

By allowing our kids work their way through age-appropriate tough times when they are younger, we are preparing them to effectively face truly tough times down the road. 

If We are Happy, They are Happy!

Do you realize that children learn nearly every interpersonal activity by modeling? We are their primary models as parents! The way we handle fights, frustration, solving problems, getting along with other people, language, posture; everything is learned by watching the big people in their lives. The key to parental modeling is to always model responsible, healthy adult behavior by taking good care of myself, personally. We want to feel good, we want our children to feel good, and so we model taking care of ourselves in a nice, healthy way. 

We still do things for our children, but it is a two-way street. We join in their activities because we want to be with them, we want them to excel in something for which they have a passion and this reflects back on us in a positive way. When it is a one-way street, we do for them, but the child feels no need to repay the parent or make the trips pleasant for the parent. The child takes and the parent gives. A Love and Logic parent might say, “I know you want me to be involved in this particular activity, but my participation lately has not been beneficial for me personally, therefore I am going to pass this time.” This parent will raise respectful, thoughtful children who grow to take good care of themselves too.


  • Think back on the last week as you have dealt with your children. Have you bolstered a good self-concept in your child or a poor self-concept? Have you fussed at them for not doing their homework or encouraged them for doing it? 
  • Realizing that there is a direct correlation between self-concept and performance in school, at home and on the playground, what are you doing to help your child feel positive and capable? 
  • “I am what I think you think I am.” What image does your child have of you? Do you encourage or do you concentrate on weaknesses? If you ask them to do a task, do you praise their efforts or do you criticize their shortcomings? 
  • What messages are you sending your child that is shaping who he is and will become? 
  • Kids cannot get better until we prove to them, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are good enough the way they are. Do you ever give your child the feeling that you would love them more if they were smarter, more obedient, neater, etc.? They need to be loved by the “magical people” in their life who accept them as family and love them unconditionally. 
  • Do you instill in your children that they have the skills they need to make it in life? Parents who focus on end results rather than on the learning taking place wind up with kids who have a negative self-concept about their skills. Do you ever take something from your child and do it yourself because they did not do it correctly? 
  • Children who have never been given the opportunity to learn from trial and error grow up with the inability to make decisions on their own, and often make poor choices as adolescents and adults. 
  • What is the difference between “praise” and “encouragement?” Praise creates good feelings from the outside and encouragement builds good feelings from the inside. Praise makes statements; encouragement asks questions [“you did a great job,” versus “what do you think of your performance?]. Praise is judgmental, encouragement is nonjudgmental. Examples: Praise---“What a great job!” “You did so well!” “I bet you feel proud of yourself!” Encouragement--- “How do you think you did?” “Why is that?” “How did you figure that out?” “How do you think you will handle it next time?”
  • Remember that a child will get more out of making a decision for themselves, even if it is the wrong one, than they will out of parents making the decision for them. 
  • The pattern for building self-esteem and self-confidence looks something like this:
    • Kids take risk to try to do something they think they cannot do.
    • They struggle in the process of trying to do it.
    • They accomplish what they first set out to do, after a time.
    • They get the opportunity to reflect back on their accomplishment and can say, “Look at what I did!”
  • Allow your child to struggle through age-appropriate tough times when they are younger in order to prepare them to effectively face truly tough times when older. 
  • Since children learn almost every interpersonal activity by modeling, and we are their primary models, what are they observing? As an adult and parent, how do you handle fights, frustration, solving problems, getting along with others, language, posture, etc.?
  • What negative words or phrases have you heard your children use that came directly from you? Do you use profanity around your children? Do you use words like “stupid” in their presence, regardless of the context? Do they see you respecting people in authority? Do you belittle others who have an influence over your children, such as teachers, aides, day-care workers, etc.? 
  • During the next week, we want to encourage you to look for small things in your child’s life with which you might make them feel good. Instead of praising them for something, try encouraging them with comments like, “How does that make you feel?” or “How do you think you did on that project?”
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Summary of Chapter 2 of the Book Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay

Prepared by Dr. Bert Alexander

Translation and Prezi by Henry Roncancio

Prezi Presentation: Clic here

Poll Clic Here

Raising Responsible Children Video

Henry, Hai and I are both ministers and we have heard this particular passage quoted all our lives: sometimes to encourage, but more often chastening and making a parent feel guilty. What is your take on this famous proverb?

What is your goal in parenting?

  • To get the kids out of the house in eighteen years!
  • To have children who make good decisions most of the time.
  • To equip our children to be able to make it in the world.
  • To help our children move from total dependence to independence. 

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How will our children handle the pressures of life?
  • What choices will they make when faced with these decisions?
  • How will they function when we are not around them most of the time?
  • Will telling them to be responsible actually get the job done?

Let us first look at some ineffective parenting styles and then look at ones that work much better.

  1. Helicopter Parents: these are the parents who think that love means revolving their lives around their children: they hover and then go in and rescue their children when trouble arises. They are constantly protecting little junior from what he needs and deserves; an opportunity for a growing experience. As soon as their children send up an SOS flare, helicopter parents, who are ready hovering nearby, swoop in and shield the children from teachers, playmates, and other elements that appear hostile. These kids are unequipped for the challenges of life, because many of their significant learning opportunities were stolen from them in the name of love.  Helicopter Parents are often viewed as model parents: when their children hurt, so do they and that is when they swoop in and bail the kids out of imposing consequences. They bring forgotten lunches, assignments, etc. to their child instead of allowing him to be responsible for his actions and decisions. In the real world, traffic tickets, overdue bills, taxes and other responsibilities do not disappear because some benefactor bails us out. 
  2. The Turbo-Attack Helicopter Parent: like the one above, but these guys fly in with guns blazing because they are obsessed with the desire to create a perfect world for their kids. This world is free from struggle, inconvenience, discomfort, and disappointment. The child is being groomed to be launched into adulthood with the best credentials:  high grades, extracurricular activities, awards, and special honors. The attitude is that we live in a competitive world and they want their children to have every advantage and any mistakes they make when they are young should not hold them back later. These kids lead a life where their mistakes are swept under the carpet. Declaring their child a victim is a favorite maneuver, designed to send school personnel and social workers diving into the trenches for protection. The children learn to blame others for their lack of success instead of becoming people who reach goals through effort and determination. The college who enrolls a helicopter kid or the company who employs him will not be intimidated by parental pressure in the face of substandard performance. A perfect image and spotless school transcript are poor substitutes for character and achievement that comes from struggle and perseverance. 
  3. Drill Sergeant Parents: although these parents love their children, they bark orders like a DI, and the more they control, the better they believe their kids will be in the long run. Drill Sergeant Parent’s words are filled with put-downs and I-told-you-so’s. If the children do not accomplish a task, the DI makes them finish it. Given a chance to think for themselves, often these kids make horrendous decisions to the disappointment of their parents. They have never had to think for themselves, because the parent did the thinking for them. By the time these kids become teenagers, they are more susceptible to peer pressure than most. Because, when they were children and the costs of the mistakes were low, they were never allowed to make their own decisions but were told what to do. As teens they continue the pattern, but now the voice they listen to are peers and not parents. These kids are usually followers because they have never had an opportunity to lead. 
  4. Laissez-faire parent: Another lesser parenting type is the laissez-faire parent. These parents decide to let the child raise himself. Some believe that children have the ability to govern themselves, and others simply want to be the child’s best friend and preserving that relationship is more important than teaching the child self-discipline or character. There is a tendency to believe that “quality” time will counteract “quantity” time, when the parent is actually lacking in real quality time with their children. There is a final group that does not know what to do with their child anymore, so they do nothing.  We should emphasize that this is really not a parenting type at all, but a cop-out or misunderstanding of parenting responsibilities. Parents send messages to their children about what they think their kids are capable. The helicopter parent sends the following message: “You are fragile and can’t make it without me.” The drill sergeant’s message is, “You can’t think for yourself, so I will do it for you.” Even if there is some success with these styles early on, by the teen years helicopter children become adolescents unable to cope with outside forces, think for themselves, or handle their own problems. Drill sergeant kids do a lot of saluting when they are young, but as they get older, it is generally a raised fist or a middle finger! Okay, enough with the ineffective parenting styles let us look at a more effective model:
  5. The Consultant Parent: as children grow, they move from being concrete thinkers to being abstract thinkers when they are teens. Children need thoughtful guidance and firm, enforceable limits. These limits are based on the safety of the child and how the child’s behavior affects others. Then we must maintain those limits to help children understand that they are responsible for their actions and will suffer reasonable consequences for actions that are inappropriate. In order to help the children feel more in control, choices are given with the limits for them to make. Consultant parents ask their children questions and offer choices, instead of telling them what to do, they put the burden of decision making on their children’s shoulders. They establish options within limits. 

Effective parenting nugget number one: nothing in parenting is sure. We can do all the right things and still not be as successful as a parent as we might like. However, these principals, like the passage in Proverbs are truisms: they work most of the time. We increase our odds or rearing responsible kids when we take thoughtful risks. We do this when we allow our children to fail! Children must be allowed to fail in order for them to choose success. Parents who try to ensure their children’s successes, often raise unsuccessful kids. However the loving and concerned parent who allow for failure wind up with kids who tend to choose success. 

The cost of learning how to live in our world is going up daily. Little children can make many mistakes at affordable prices. They can pick themselves up and try again if things don’t work out. E.g. to a toddler, “would you like to go to the car with your feet on the ground or in the air?” “You can do your chores or see some of your toys to pay for someone else to do them.” These prices are affordable, yet some parents are not willing to buy into the program. The cost of allowing human nature take care of a smart-aleck kid at five is not nearly as high as at fifteen. 

True, it is painful to watch kids learn through natural consequences or significant learning opportunities [SLO]. However, that pain is part of the price we must pay to raise responsible kids. “Pay me now or pay me later.” We can hurt a little as they learn life’s lessons early or we can hurt a lot as they learn them later when they become individuals who cannot care for themselves. Protection is not the same as caring, but both are part of love. God loves you enough to care if you were to throw yourself from a cliff, but his love is not overly protective. 

Effective parenting nugget number two: caring for our children does not equate to protecting them from every possible misstep they could make in growing up. Protection is not synonymous with caring, but both are a part of love. For example, we would all agree that God cares a lot about us, but He would not keep us from jumping off a cliff tonight. Therefore, God loves without being overly protective. 

 As children grow, parents must make a gentle, gradual to transition to allowing their children the privilege of solving their own problems. E.g. a group of kids are learning to ice skate. The first child falls and mom asks, “Are you hurt?” “Come to think of it, I think I am hurt!” Instead, when the mom says “Kaboom” when the child falls, it minimizes the effect on the child. 

Children who have been shown love primarily by protection may be irreparably damaged by the time they reach high school. Parents of adolescents who must concern themselves with clothing, television habits, homework, teeth brushing, haircuts, and so on have “at-risk” children on their hands. The challenge of parenting is to love kids enough to allow them to fail. To stand back, however painful it may be and let SLOs build our children.

Effective parenting nugget number three: Responsibility cannot be taught, it must be caught. In order for children to gain responsibility, we must offer them opportunities to be responsible. The message you are trying to convey is, “I’m sure you will remember on your own, but if you don’t, you will surely learn something from the experience.” These parents help their children understand they can solve their own problems. These parents are sympathetic but don’t solve their kids’ problems.

Children who grow in responsibility also grow in self-esteem, a prerequisite for achievement in the real world. As their self-esteem and self-confidence grow, children are better able to make it once the parental ties are cut.


  1. Take time to self-examine your parenting style. Are you a “helicopter parent,” a “super-helicopter parent,” or even a “drill sergeant?” Do you jump in and attempt to handle conflict situations which are brought on by your children? Do you bring items to your children that they have “forgotten” Do you “hover” over your child and are actually responsible for them doing their assignments? Do you think that your children are incapable of making decisions on their own?
  2. Do you allow your children to do whatever they please? Do you have a tendency for confusing “quality time” for “quantity time?” 
  3. Do you ask your children questions and offer viable choices or do you simply tell them what to do (which places the burden of the decision on you instead of your child)?
  4. Are you willing to allow your child to fail in small things in order that they might learn to succeed in greater things?
  5. Nothing in parenting is sure. Children must be allowed to fail in order to show success. 
  6. Caring for children does not equate to protecting them from every possible misstep they could make in growing up. 
  7. A “Significant Learning Opportunity [SLO]” is when we have the chance to teach our children by allowing them to suffer the consequences for their improper decisions. If you are unwilling to allow your child “pay for a bad decision”, he will not learn this as a child and sadly, he will have to learn it as an adult. 
  8. This week, you need to work on the following practices with your child:
  • When your child is defiant, will you give him two choices [both of which you may live with] to correct that behavior and be willing to follow through on the choices? For example, “Tommy, would you rather take out the trash before dinner or after dinner?”
  • If you ask your child more than twice to complete a chore, are your willing to withhold a privilege to help the learning process? For example, “I am sorry that you cannot go to soccer practice today. You were supposed to take out the trash before/after dinner and chose not to do so, but I am sure that you will be able practice in the future.”
  • “We are eating dinner in ten minutes. We would love for you to join us at that time, or we will see you at breakfast tomorrow morning, your choice.”
  • “I am so sorry that you forgot to bring home that textbook you need for your project that is due tomorrow, I hope it works out for you.”
  • “We are having roast and green beans for dinner. I do not plan to prepare you a frozen pizza, because this is a healthy, nutritious meal. We will miss you tonight, but I bet you will like what we will have for breakfast!”
  • “You must be really cold since you forgot to bring your coat; I have been cold before myself. Maybe we won’t be outside too long.” 
  • “We are leaving McDonalds in ten minutes, I hope you enjoy your Happy Meal, because we will not eat again until [next meal; breakfast, lunch, or dinner].”
  • “It is time for bed. Do you want to brush your teeth first or put on your pajamas first?”

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