It was late after dinner, almost bedtime, when my son, a first-grader, informed me in a distressed tone of voice that he had not done his school homework, which was due the next morning. Instinctively, I asked him “what are you going to do about it?” Since he looked a bit perplexed, I helped him explore various options. Little did I know at the time, however, that I was following the Love and Logic techniques promulgated by Jim Fay, an internationally recognized educator, speaker, and consultant. The Love and Logic approach can be summarized succinctly in the following way: “Love allows children to grow through their mistakes. Logic allows them to live with the consequences of their choices.”
Guiding Children To Solve Their Own Problems
What do we really want for our children? Isn’t it that they become self-confident, self-actualized contributors to our society? Don’t we want them to identify their unique gifts and develop them to their full potential, allowing them to create, innovate, and transform themselves and, ultimately, the planet? In this first segment of a future multi-part series, we will explore techniques, ideas, tips, and suggestions that add awareness, perspective, and a certain richness to the child rearing experience. There are no rights and wrongs here and this is certainly not “the truth.” So I encourage you to come to this series with an open mind, from a place of what can be possible within the context of your own child rearing philosophy.
Who doesn’t have problems? Problems or – as my son now calls them – “challenges,” are a fact of life. We value those individuals who can navigate through their work and their lives while effectively addressing the problems that inevitably pop up. Being an effective problem solver is an important skill on the road to self-confidence and self-actualization. In guiding our children to become effective problem solvers early on in their youth, we provide them with an invaluable gift that they can draw upon throughout the rest of their lives.
In Love and Logic, Jim Fay outlines a five-step process for guiding children through effective problem solving. Throughout the process, children learn about empathy, choices, responsibility, and consequences. This five-step process can be summarized as follows:
1. Be empathetic. Show that you understand and care. Use language such as “how sad” or “I know that you don’t like that.”
2. Empower. Allow them to take on responsibility for their problem. My favorite phrase is “what are you going to do?”
3. Offer choices. Here, Fay suggests asking the child “Would you like to hear what other kids have tried?” Then, offer a variety of choices that range from bad to good, starting with the bad ones first. After suggesting each choice, proceed to step 4 to force the child to state the consequences of their choice in their own words. You will iterate between steps 3 and 4 until the child arrives at a choice with a consequence that they can live with.
4. Have the child state the consequences. “How will that work?”
5. Give permission for the child to either solve the problem or not solve the problem. Say something like “Good luck. I hope it works out.” Of course, not solving the problem carries its own consequence. And if the child is fortunate enough to make a poor choice, he/she may have double the learning opportunity.
My son’s first-grade homework dilemma had a happy ending. He was too tired to work on the homework that evening, so he asked to borrow my alarm clock and set it to wake him up a half hour earlier than usual. I was pleasantly surprised on awakening the next morning to find him sitting at the kitchen table of our small apartment, completing his homework. Unaware as I was at that time of Jim Fay’s work – I was merely acting on the values that I had been raised with – I nevertheless understood that my son had learned an important lesson in responsibility and problem solving.
If you’re unfamiliar with Jim Fay and his Love and Logic approach, I highly encourage you to check out his books and audiotapes at your local library, or to log on to his website at www.loveandlogic.com. I also urge you to review the above five-step process for guiding children through effective problem solving. Then, make these steps your own, and begin working miracles in your household!
Eddie Marmol is a LifeCoach.com™ affiliated coach and co-founder of MasterCoaches, Integral Architects, and Corporación Coaches En Español – all executive coaching and leadership development organizations. Eddie is a graduate of Coach University, The Newfield Network, and The Coach Training Alliance. He lives in Melbourne, Florida, with his wife and two daughters.