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Logic Challenged Parenting: Natural Consequences ZagZig as Kids Get Older

My husband and I have been long-time fans of Parenting with Love and Logic, founded by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline. It just makes sense, rather than yell, to enforce a consequence for every action – a child loses a pair of shoes and she replaces them when she raises the funds; forget a piece of equipment at home and he figures out how to practice without it. As the kids get older, the logic gets a little more challenging and my husband and I don’t always agree.

MIKE: Admittedly, when we first started on this parenting journey, I did not want to be the bad guy. I enabled the kids. After all, I was home, so if the kids forgot homework or did not pick up their rooms, I was there. AND, I was the first one of us to attend the Parenting with Love and Logic Class when I realized this was not working out for me.

All the kids have “benefitted” from the Love and Logic Way; with short-term pain for parents in exchange for what we hope is a longer-term gain when the kids are well prepared for life. Just to clarify what I mean by pain (yes, it is a high class problem to have), it is kids whining or watching them figure something out when at the snap of a finger you could solve the challenge for them. After all, we all make mistakes. It is the accountability for those mistakes that are, on occasion, the hurdle for the family.

MIKE: When the kids were younger, no problem to figure out the logic. Number 2 decides she wants a toy now that Number 3 has and she pulls his hair; not only does Number 2 not get the toy immediately, but she has to wait for an hour and do something nice for her brother before it is even a possibility. In the past few years, though, as the teens and young adults have developed more language and logic skills, it gets harder to discern the natural consequence. Car privileges and phone time can be some of the only pain points that prompt a visual reaction, even when the child may say, "that is fine" (because of course a teen or young adult will not let you know that anything you say has gotten under his skin.)

All of our kids have tested our parenting skills and helped us build the ZagZig parenting resilience that with constant testing builds character and strength, right? At this phase of life, however, with Number 1 and Number 2 living outside the house, Number 3 seems to be a really good teacher lately. Again, high-class problem here; he is healthy and for the most part makes good life decisions. He is however, either extremely forgetful or deliberately ignores some instructions just to test our limits.

At our house, laptop computers don’t stay in bedrooms. They have a place on the computer room charger. A child can take a computer to his or her room to do homework, but at the end of the night it goes back to the computer room and sits on a charger. Number 3 went through a series of consequences on this rule – first a warning, then no laptop in the room, then limited phone access, restricted game time and then no driving privileges.

MIKE: At this point you may be asking the logic of computer to car. There is not a direct line there. Yes, my emotions got the best of me after the umpteenth time reminding this kid of the rule and each consequence got more severe. In current times, he does need the computer to do and turn in his homework. Sure, with the benefit of hindsight, I could have made him go to the library. Between high school activities and a job, homework time did not always fit during library hours; however, on the logic side I should not have gone easy on him.

I have ZagZigged on my logic, looking for any consequence that would have a stick-to-it-ness. At this point, my wife needs to talk me off the ledge of withholding meals, laundry services and other basic needs – all admittedly visceral, emotional reactions to the trigger of asking for cooperation multiple times.

You see, there is a point in time when car privileges are a natural consequence. He did not put the computer back in the agreed to spot, therefore his car will not available at the most convenient times for him. After three days, however, of me serving as his new mode of transportation to school or after school activities across town, I question the decision. It is now a major inconvenience to me! At this point in our parent-child relationship, I can’t back down because he needs a consequence, and he will sniff out and build on my lack of follow through. I am feeling the brunt of the punishment I assigned to him.

MIKE: So, at this point we have the parenting and the love down, but the logic needs a little adjustment. Now a days, we know what he does not like to do, and our logic is more about, we don’t like that you disobeyed a request, therefore you will have to do something you don’t like. Forget the computer in your room, walk the dogs for at least one hour. Forget the computer in your room; drive your brother to an activity across town. Yea, the logic is gone.

Walking the dogs is a positive, healthy bonding time for him. Driving his brother is doing something nice for the privilege of the parents buying his gas. After all these years, I think we need to re-enroll in the Parenting with Love and Logic curriculum. Some things, we just do because we are part of the family, not a bribe or a penalty. Now, what is the antecedent for our son’s natural consequence to do all the dishes after dinner? Hmm, maybe I need to rethink this entire process?

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