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Parenting Teens with Love and Logic

By Foster Cline, M.D., and Jim FayPiñon Press; $21.00.

Buy this book

Love and Logic Magic When Kids Leave You Speechless By Jim Fay and Charles Fay, Ph.D.
Love and Logic Press; $16.95.

When I was a student, I loved theory—the more abstract, the better. But as a parent, what I crave are practical, adaptable strategies that I can try at home this very evening. I want a variety of tools in my parenting kit because I know that the ones I used last week might not work on this week's challenges. Above all, I want something to make my job as a parent easier, even when my child is stressed to the max.

Like thousands of adoptive parents and adoption professionals, I love the Love and Logic approach, pioneered by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Dr. Cline's experience as a parent by birth, adoption, and fostering makes this series of books, tapes, and other resources (see suitable to adoptive families.

The rules of Love and Logic are wonderfully simple. We need to empower our kids to make responsible choices by holding them accountable for the natural and logical consequences of those choices. By empathizing with our kids' feelings while demonstrating self-control, we can let go of anger, anxiety, overprotectiveness, and reactive defensiveness. In short, if our kids have a problem, we make sure—in a supportive and loving way—that they work harder at solving it than we do.

So how does this work in the real world? Love and Logic Magic When Kids Leave You Speechless provides scores of sample conversations with children of all ages to show how a parent can connect with a child's feelings while disconnecting from power struggles, arguments, button-pushing, and whining. Here's one sample conversation that keeps the child from controlling the parent through food:

Child: I don't want to eat that. You know I don't like turkey.
Parent: (In a gentle, sincere tone) That's what's available. Maybe you'll like what we serve at the next meal better....
Child: But that's not fair!
Parent: I know, sweetie. Maybe the next meal will be better.

The parent doesn't lecture or shout. While the child ratchets up his emotion, the parent stays calm and focused. If the child tries to fight about it, the all-purpose response is a gentle "I love you too much to argue." Repeat as needed until attempts to draw you into an argument cease.

An example for stepparents adapts easily to adoption and shows how we can stay calm even when our child goes for the gut:

Child: You're not my real mom. You can't boss me around.
Parent: (In a soft tone of voice) It's sad that you feel like I'm bossing you.
Child: My real mom wouldn't make me do this.
Parent: I'll be happy to listen to you when your voice sounds calm like mine.
Child: You're just using that psychology stuff on me!
Parent: (Still in a soft tone and beginning to walk away from the child) I'll be happy to listen when your voice is calm.

Go "brain dead" to goading remarks. Empathize with the underlying feeling without trying to fix or judge it. Demonstrate impulse control. Insist on respectful speech. Keep your statements short and sweet.

While the first book in the series, Parenting with Love and Logic, is a terrific way to get started with the Cline and Fay approach to raising responsible children, I recommend Parenting Teens with Love and Logic to those whose children are still in elementary school. One of the assets of adulthood is the ability to think ahead. The Teens book will help you get ready, like a highway sign alerting drivers to potential hazards down the road.

In the Cline and Fay way, I'll end on a note of encouragement: "Let us know how this works out. Good luck!"

Reviewed by Amy Klatzkin, a contributing editor to Adoptive Families magazine.

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