Saturday, October 20, 2007

Parenting with Love and Logic

Parenting with Love and Logic, by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, presents many of the same parenting concepts recommended by Charlotte Mason 100 years ago.  The first half of the book covers the philosophy while the second half provides specific examples of the philosophy in action.  The relatively simple philosophy centers on natural consequences, allowing children to learn from their own mistakes.  The book clearly lays out principles to follow and provides guidelines for knowing how to use natural consequences (or logical consequences if natural consequences are not appropriate).  I found a great deal of resonance between this book and Charlotte Mason’s principles for child training.  If you have read Charlotte Mason but need to see her principles in action or if you needed more explanation of her principles from a modern perspective, this book can help.  The book does not really deal with habit training, which is a key component of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, but right at the very end of the first half of the book it gives a brief explanation of how to apply their principles that hints at the habit training aspects of CM.  Of all the many parenting books I’ve read, this one seems the most compatible with CM’s philosophy and also the most practically helpful.  However, the advice, if taken to an extreme, could lead to callous parenting.  I don’t think that’s the authors’ intent, but it’s certainly possible.  Also, some of the example consequences were not ones which I was comfortable allowing in my own home, and some just wouldn’t work with homeschooling.


I’ve been thinking about this, and I think maybe I should amend my review to add a little clarification.  I really did get a CM-comfortable vibe while reading the first half of this book, the philosophy half.  Many of her principles were there, such as not pestering the children with endless demands and commands, setting a good example yourself, using natural (or logical) consequences, not manipulating the children but allowing them to make their own choices, and others.

However, when I mentioned that habit training was missing, I should have emphasized that more.  CM wanted us to use even natural consequences only when absolutely necessary.  If we are consistently training the children via habit training, consequences of any kind should be rarely necessary.  Also, the training process should ideally be almost invisible to the children, happening below their radar so to speak.  This book does not acknowledge any of that, so it relies very much on the consequences to do the work.

Depending on where you and your children are in this process, you might need to really use consequences for awhile to get the kids on track before you can focus on more gentle habit training.  But long term, you wouldn’t want to stay primarily in the consequences mode if you were following CM’s recommendations.

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