Schools teach parents to use love and logic

Classes show ways for disciplinarians to nudge, not shout

March 06, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Fiume Ruiz wants to chuck her chopper blades and turn in her stripes and combat boots.

When dealing with her 7-year-old son, Ruiz is tired of being a struggling cross between Helicopter Mom and Drill Sergeant Mom. So Howard County is teaching her to be a "Love and Logic" mom.

For at least two years, counselors in Howard County elementary schools have been helping parents deal with contrary kids and difficult situations through a training program called "Love and Logic."

Drill Sergeant Mom says: "Do your homework, or else." Love and Logic Mom says: "Feel free to go outside to play as soon as your homework is finished."

The program is catching on all over, school officials say -- among parents with six-figure incomes and those who are less affluent. What started in two schools has expanded to more than 10.

The counselors believe that by training parents to train their kids, they see better behavior in school.

These days, Ruiz says, parents need the help.

"I'm learning the hard way," Ruiz told a group of about 10 Howard County parents at one recent session.

The group had gathered around brownies and lemonade in the media center of Pointers Run Elementary School for the last session in a four-week Love and Logic workshop.

Ruiz's 7-year-old, she said, had learned that privileges and treats were his for the taking if he waited until Mommy returned home from job No. 2, exhausted and desperately in need of peace.

"He would just push my buttons and push my buttons until I would just lose it," Ruiz said. "And then I would just give in. Whatever it was [he wanted] -- fine. When you're tired, you give in."

The amen chorus, in sweat shirts and sweaters and jean shirts, nods and, "Ummm-hmmm," agreeing. Ruiz is not alone.

Up front, by the overhead projector, school counselor Brenda Barisse and school psychologist Mary Nalepa smile knowingly.

As usual, even after four evenings of training, it's clear they still have a roomful of helicopter moms (who hover over their children, doing things for them or giving in to their demands) and drill sergeant moms (who bark commands at their children, yell, or constantly tell them what to do).

"It doesn't mean you can't change," Nalepa says, smiling at Ruiz. "It's just going to take time."

She uses Ruiz's frustration to launch into a discussion about being a consultant parent, a Love and Logic parent.

Such lessons have been under way in elementary schools in Howard County since 1998, when a group of county counselors discovered a program called "Becoming a Love and Logic Parent" by Jim Fay and Dr. Foster W. Cline.

Though Howard County parents are among the most educated in Maryland, the counselors recognized that kids will be kids -- defiant, testy and smart-mouthed -- and smart parents sometimes need help handling difficult situations.

The basic theories of the program are: A child who feels he has some control over his life will spend little time and energy trying to manipulate and control the parent. Children who experience logical consequences automatically learn to solve problems and make their own decisions. Children who experience threats and punishments only learn about the imposition of power.

Most parents, when dealing with a child who refuses to clean his room, might say, "Clean your room or forget about watching television this weekend."

The threat puts the child on the defensive and makes way for conflict.

Instead, the program advises, the parent to think of two choices to give the child -- choices the parent can live with -- and let the child make a logical decision.

"Would you rather clean your room Saturday or Sunday?" is one way to handle it. Or "clean it before Saturday or, if you'd like, stay home Saturday and clean it while the rest of the family goes to the skating rink."

District resource counselor Lisa Boarman said although it's difficult to measure the program's results in terms of student achievement, teachers say anecdotally that it helps.

"I think what they see is teaching parents communication skills which translate into helping students get their homework done," Boarman said. "It also helps kids develop into responsible students.

"It definitely has an impact on the students when they come to school," she added.

"Parenting with Love and Logic helps parents learn to give children control -- on the parents' terms," the program workbook says.

"If you listen to this group [of parents], you'll see they're all wonderful," said Barisse, a counselor at Pointers Run and West Friendship elementary schools. "But every parent has struggles. A lot of parents are just overwhelmed by a lot of things. A lot of parents are looking for some strategies to effectively deal with the problems when they do arise."

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