Some of my favorite parenting books are a series called “Parenting with Love and Logic.” I teach parenting seminars around the area, using many of the books’ principles and so I thought it would be helpful to start sharing concepts from my seminar.
As parents, we sometimes forget the truth in one of my Markisms: “He who pays the mortgage makes the deals.” What this means is that the parents should have a lot of sway in what kind of environment their home has. As parents, it is YOUR turn to be in charge of your household. When you were kids, you had to follow your parents’ rules. When your kids get homes of their own it will be THEIR turn to be in charge of their household. But that time is not now! YOU are in charge. They are beholden to you–don’t forget that.
In a loving, honoring way, you can set the standards by which your home operates. Use your parental prerogative as leverage in making your home one that you can live in! But don’t be a dictator or “drill sergeant”. Be a compassionate, empathetic deal-maker. Here are some examples of three actual situations and the advice I gave parents.
CASE 1. “Billy” was taking 30 minute showers and running up the family gas and water bills. Mom and Dad frequently got on Billy’s case and resorted to nagging, scolding, and outright yelling sometimes. I suggested that they use their parental prerogative and give “Billy” four choices–always choices the parents can live with. “Billy we love you, but this extended shower usage of yours is frustrating us and we’ve decided something needs to change. You know that frustrated parents are no fun to live with so we’ve come up with a few options to avoid that. You may 1. take 15 minute showers or less. 2. If you decide to take a shower longer than 15 minutes you’re welcome to pay 50 cents a minute to cover the cost of the extra gas and wateror 3. You may shower elsewhere or 4. not at all. Your choice.”
By approaching it this way “Billy” may learn several things. A. Utilities actually cost money. B. Money spent on utilities can’t be used for other things. C. Mom and Dad aren’t willing to let showers spoil a positive relationship with their kids. D. People don’t like being around stinky people who don’t take showers!
CASE 2. “Billy” blares the stereo so loud that it shakes the chandeliers. Mom, Dad and the siblings keep yelling at “Billy” to turn it down. It’s a constant source of tension in the home and it’s keeping it from being the peaceful refuge the parents always dreamed of. I suggested that they use their parental prerogative and give “Billy” three choices–always choices the parents can live with. “Billy we love you, but this loud music of yours is ruining our domestic tranquility and it’s no longer acceptible. Quite frankly we’re offended that the electricity we pay to your room is being used against us in this way. So we’ve decide that whenever other family members are home you may either 1. wear headphones, 2. pay for insulating your room to the extent that the sound coming out does not exceed 75 decibels or 3. simply keep the volume in your room turned down below 75 decibels (we’ll buy a decibel meter at Radio Shack.) If you can’t operate within these perimeters, then we’ll need to disconnect the electricity to your room and charge you for the electrician bill.”
What “Billy” learns from this is that A. it’s never acceptable to have fun at other’s expense, B. the parent’s have a right to an atmosphere that pleases them, and C. people living in community need to compromise to accommodate the needs of others.
(By the way, if some of your “deals” involve them paying you money and your kid has no money, you can do an audit of their possessions — bike, stereo, X-box — and offer to take them as collateral.)
CASE 3. “Billy,” the high schooler gets a ride from his mom to soccer practice every afternoon, but he’s developed this habit of griping, complaining, whining, and “trash-talking” all the way there to the extent that it’s starting to deplete Mom’s energy and making her very angry. When asked, Mom told me that she pays for the soccer tuition, his uniforms, shoes, league expenses and the gas and time it takes to cart him back and forth to practices and games. I suggested that she use their parental prerogative and give “Billy” some choices–always choices parents can live with. I suggested the next time they were in the car and “Billy” started grumbling, Mom should pull the car over and say, “Billy, Get out!” Billy will be shocked of course and think she’s joking, and then she should say, “Billy, I’m done carting you around while you fill the air in the car with verbal air pollution. I’ve decided that air pollution in my car is no longer acceptable–it’s not healthy for me emotionally. Therefore, from this moment on I’m happy to give you a ride to practice as long as you can be pleasant, but the second you start to grumble, I’m pulling over and you’re getting out. Your options then will be to walk, or find your own rides there. I’m sure you’ll figure out what will work best for you.”
What “Billy” learns from this is A. Moms are real people with needs too, B. it’s unreasonable to be obnoxious to someone who is giving you free transportation (gas, insurance, accessibility) and C. special privileges come with responsibilities–no entitlement mindset is allowed.
One final note: make “positive deals” not “negative threats” otherwise you risk becoming a tyrant. Always word your “deals” in words of love and high expectation.
Let me know other parenting situations you might like me to apply Love and Logic to.
And many of you may want to check out the books in the church library.