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The City Journals

Parenting leaving you at a loss? Try some love and logic

Oct 14, 2019 03:44PM ● By Alison Brimley

A father and his daughter. “Parenting the Love and Logic Way,” a class offered through the Utah State University extension, teaches research-based parenting skills at no cost. (Caroline Hernandez/Unsplash.com)

By Alison Brimley | [email protected]

In her classroom on the top floor of the West Jordan library, Heather McCall asks her class of seven adults about their successes and failures implementing what they learned in last week’s class. 

One shares a victory: A normally uncooperative 6-year-old took a bath without protest when offered a choice between upstairs or downstairs bathroom. 

Another shares how he helped a child take responsibility for fixing his bike. 

Another, though, reports that the child she tried her new skills on “totally outsmarted” her. When she tried offering two choices, the 11-year-old snapped back, “Did you learn that in your parenting class?”

Indeed she did. The class McCall teaches, titled “Parenting the Love and Logic Way,” is based on the research of Jim Fay, Charles Fay and Foster Cline. It’s been around since the 1970s and has even been used by Bill and Melinda Gates. 

“The reason we chose Love and Logic is because it’s evidence-based,” McCall said. “It has research behind it, so we know that it works for most kids, most of the time.”

The aim of the program is to help parents help children take responsibility for their own problems, thereby easing some of the stresses of parenthood and raising successful kids. When class begins, a slide at the front of the room reads, “When we solve all of our children’s problems, they become insecure and resentful.” The next slide proclaims the inverse of this rule: “When we guide them toward solving their own problems, they become secure and respectful.” 

A five-step process for helping children handle problems includes tactics like these: First, respond with empathy instead of discounting the problem. Then, “hand the problem back” by saying something like, “How do you think you are going to handle this?” If they have some ideas, parents will talk about those solutions. If they don’t have ideas, parents are encouraged to always ask permission before offering solutions to a problem. Most important, though, is to let the child make choices and let them live with the consequences of their choices. 

McCall, a Certified Family Life Educator with Utah State University, has been teaching classes like this since 2012. They are offered at no charge at the Viridian and dozens of other locations across the state. Besides parenting classes, other classes offered include “Couple LINKS” and “How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk or Jerkette.” The classes are held one night per week for two hours, and each session lasts four weeks. Then, a new session begins.

Students get workbooks to guide them, and as they enter the classroom, they snack on chips and salsa laid out on a table at the entrance. Some parents come with partners, and others come alone. The small class size creates an intimate feeling and allows students plenty of time to talk to their instructor about specific problems.  

McCall teaches both daylong and evening sessions, and altogether she instructs hundreds of people each month. She enjoys the evening sessions like the ones held at the library because they give her students a chance to go home, practice what they’ve learned in class and come back with stories of how they applied what they learned and more questions. A good portion of class time is devoted to letting parents ask questions about some of their children’s most frustrating behaviors. 

In responding to them, McCall implements some of the strategies Love and Logic encourages parents to use when their own children need help. Before suggesting any solutions, she takes time to validate their concerns with empathy. “That is really hard,” she said sincerely when one parent airs a frustration. 

The parents in August’s session had kids ranging from 3 months old to 17 years. McCall said the lessons learned here can help with kids of any age.

“I would recommend people with younger kids come, because you’re going to have better success long-term, but I have lots of people who come with older kids or adolescents, and it can still be effective,” McCall said. “But the earlier you come, the better.”

Mary and Nick Anzer heard about the class on the library’s website. Since their child is 2, they have yet to encounter some of the more perplexing problems parents of older kids and adolescents deal with. But, Mary Anzer said what they’ve learned has helped them “to be laying a foundation now, so that as he’s getting older, we already have some of the stuff buzzing around in our heads.” And Nick Anzer was quick to add, “Heather is awesome.”