webb chapel church of christ (3)

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. 

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.”


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