Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I could seriously make a Love and Logic video with what I just witnessed...

I just watched a 9-year-old exert complete and utter control over his parents...AND WIN!!! And, this was one of many similar instances. So, as a Love and Logic person, I just have to share this story.

For those not familiar with Love and Logic (www.loveandlogic.com) I will quote their website.

"Love and Logic is a philosophy of raising and teaching children which allows adults to be happier, empowered, and more skilled in the interactions with children. Love allows children to grow through their mistakes. Logic allows children to live with the consequences of their choices. Love and Logic is a way of working with children that puts parents and teachers back in control, teaches children to be responsible, and prepares young people to live in the real world, with its many choices and consequences."

It is a theory where parents create choices (or teachers) in which they would be equally happy with either option while the kid feels like they have some control. So, a non-example would be, "Do you want to eat peas or a piece of cake?" Duh. What option is the kid going to choose? A better option would be "Do you want peas or carrots?" or "Do you want your peas on the side or on top of the other food?" Two choices that are equally likable to the parent. The example that Love and Logic always gives is this, "Would you rather carry your jacket or wear your jacket?" The command, "PUT ON YOUR JACKET!" often just results in a power struggle.

In a classroom this can look like this, "Do you want to write with pen or pencil?" "Do you want me to choose your partners or do you want to choose?" "Would you rather do this on lined or unlined paper?" Simple, easy things like this where whichever option the kids choose, the teacher is happy with the outcome.

Love and Logic allows parents and teachers to avoid power struggles. And, it is about logical consequences. "Don't like what's being served? Bummer. I guess you'll be hungry this afternoon." You're never going to let the kid actually go hungry long term, but a logical consequence of not liking what's on the menu is that you're stomach might growl a bit. Sad day. Maybe I am cold and unfeeling and if I had kids I would think differently, but it is hard to sit and watch a 9 year old have complete control over the family. The rest of the family often only eats what he likes most of the time too just so they can avoid scenes like today.

Now, I know I'm not a parent and I know that when you are a parent, you think that people without kids don't know anything about parenting. While this is likely true, however, teachers without kids, have an advantage, in my opinion. And, as a Love and Logic devotee, I can recognize when someone needs Love and Logic...and badly!

That brings me back to my story...

Every day the youngest child in the family comes home for lunch. This is fairly typical in France, and, his school doesn't have a cafeteria at the moment because it is under construction. As I've said before, he is an extremely picky eater, but today really took the cake.

We had Turkey Cordon Bleu today for lunch which is a turkey breast stuffed with ham and cheese, battered, and baked in the oven. As soon as he walked in the door and made a dissatisfied face at what we were having, I knew it was going to be a rough lunch. He wouldn't eat it, which is not very surprising. So then the yelling begins. I just sit there while both of the parents first try to convince him that he likes it, then cut it up for him, then straight out yell and threaten while he just sits there pushing the food around his plate. Some version of this happens pretty much every single day at least once...sometimes with dinner too!

After several agonizing minutes of this, he just sits in front of his plate. The mom gets mad and storms out. The dad gets mad and storms out, and I was clearing the dishes while he just sat there. Well, here's why he does it: if he holds out long enough, they ALWAYS give in. As soon as the dad had stormed outside, the mom let him have his giant daily bowl of plain yogurt with about a whole cup (and this is not an exaggeration at all) of sugar on it. OF COURSE he isn't going to eat the healthy option when he knows that if he just throws a fit and holds out until everyone is angry, they are totally going to just let him have what he wants. As an outsider, I can totally see this happening every single day. I think today he even had a little secret smile as soon as the give-in occurred because he knew he'd won.

I know that really, I don't own this problem (as my mom would say!) but it is hard to sit through this several times a day since the yelling and screaming is really unpleasant for everyone involved. This is a really sweet, loving family until mealtimes come around. And, the youngest kid is a sweet, loving boy until he takes control and sidelines every meal with his pickiness. Love and Logic would just say to buy them a book or CD but they don't speak English and that's not an option. Plus, I think the mom might just always give in as she has a hard time putting on her big girl pants when it comes to things like this. She is convinced he is going to starve to death at school during the afternoon. Ironically, if he had just held out until after school, the kids are allowed free reign on a giant basket full of sugary snacks and they literally stuff their faces around 5 pm every day with about 5-6 cookies, several pieces each of toast with nutella, and lots of chocolate. Is it any wonder that mealtimes are a major issue on a daily basis?

I know I am being super judgmental since I am not a parent, but the teacher in me wants to TEACH but I just can't...and voilà...a blog entry. I ordered her the cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld that hides vegetables in foods kids like so hopefully that will help. I've been told by others with picky eaters that it is really helpful!

So, I will just sit here and say nothing because I am not sure I can explain Love and Logic in another language, and it is not my problem. But, I think I am enough of a fixer, and I've been living with this family for about 6 weeks now that I want to help them since they all seem so miserable about this. Oh, Love and Logic, you need to start making materials in every language- there are people around the world who need you!!

So, that's that. Just going to keep all these experiences in my back pocket should I ever have a super picky eater, or a kid in a classroom who adamantly refuses to do anything. (I should say in case I have a kid like that...again...because I've had many!)


AS said...

LOVE AND LOGIC.....loved it and used it at home with B and in the classroom, too! Any way you can slip in the story of someone close to you (real or fictional!) that was a picky eater and this technique helped. Or begin with the words, "I know I'm not picky eater's (inserting real name, of course!)parent, but this dialogue may help meals be less stressful for all." Oh, Liz....not a pleasant situation at all...especially when someone appreciates good food and good times eating it! xo

Anonymous said...

It is a great book, saw her on Op !

Does he have a neg food experience, or is it a control thang?


Anonymous said...

In my days of parenting, they called it Parent Effective Training, PET. I read it and reread it. I used it. I saw each of my children choose the waiting until morning to eat just once. They never did again. I think you should just try to explain it to the momma. Maybe should could just give up her fear a bit. MOM