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Dennis McDonald Explains How Staley Parents, Teachers Can Use Love and Logic (January, 2006)

Dennis McDonaldStaley Principal Dennis McDonald addressed parents Tuesday night with a presentation on the Love and Logic parenting process – explaining that he and fellow teachers and administrators at Staley Middle School use some of these “parenting techniques” when dealing with students at school, as well.

McDonald explained that the first step to successfully dealing with children, particularly young teens, is understanding how you as an adult tend to parent – are you a parent who rushes in to save your child from mistakes like a helicopter or are you more of a drill sergeant who barks out orders and expects to be obeyed. McDonald confessed his own tendency is to be a drill sergeant though he is trying to use the Love and Logic techniques both in his home and work.

Love and Logic works under the premise of allowing children to learn decision-making skills through experience. A mistake is a chance for growth and development. McDonald urged parents to learn to overcome their anger when a teen disobeys or makes a bad choice. He led the group in a chorus of the teen mantra of, “That’s not fair” and then urged parents to stay calm and show empathy when their teen is upset. Parents who respond to an angry or upset teen with a calm, “That is so sad,” or, “That’s tough, I don’t know what you are going to do about that,” can then lead a teen into talking through their own solutions or consequences.

McDonald also urged parents to wait before handing out a consequence to a teen who makes a mistake. He said he often tells students caught in wrongdoing that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do but for them to go on to class and “don’t worry about it.” Most students do go off and worry and then when he talks to them later in the day, often the actual consequence of their actions seems less severe than what they imagined.

School personnel often find that the “anticipatory” consequence works well, particularly with repeat offenders. It allows the principal or teacher to think about how the child will react, to put together the support needed to carry out the consequence and to allow the child time to “anticipate” what will happen to him or her.

Making decisions is an important adult life skill. Parents who, instead of ultimatums, give their children two realistic choices such as cleaning up the bedroom today or having it done by dinner time tomorrow may discover the child responds better and follows through with the request.

“We have some teachers here who are great at this. When talking to a child who doesn’t like to write a paper, the teacher will say, “You may write your paper with a pen or a pencil.” McDonald said, noting that the child will then focus on the choice of pen or pencil instead of arguing that he doesn’t want to do it at all.

McDonald also urged parents to learn to use “enforceable statements” when dealing with teens. He explained that an “enforceable statement” works better than a threat. Instead of telling a child to do something “or you are grounded,” McDonald explained that it is more effective to calmly say “I’ll be happy to let you go with your friends as soon as your chores are finished.” But a parent has to enforce that by not weakening and letting the child leave without finishing his or her task.

Love and Logic is a parenting philosophy founded by Jim Fay and Foster M. Cline, M.D. There will be another Love and Logic workshop on February 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Staley Middle School. Additionally, the Region 10 Education Service Center for professional development of educators will offer a session in April.