Foster Cline & Jim Fay - Parenting Without the Power Struggles

A mother and a father stand outside of a restaurant in the rain asking their 3 year old, Chloe, to get in the car so the family can go home. Chloe refuses. Her parents spend the next fifteen minutes begging and pleading with her to do it on her own. At one point, the father gets down on his knees in the puddles, trying to reason her into the car. She finally complies, but only after her parents agree to buy her a soda on the way home. If they have to use a soda to buy her off at three, what will they be facing when she reaches sixteen?


Jim sits in the airport awaiting a flight, watching as a mother gives at least eighty different demand to her 3 year old boy over the course of an hour without even enforcing one of them. “Come back here, Logan!” “You better listen to me, Logan, or else!” “I mean it, Logan!” “Don’t run, Logan!” Logan eventually finds his way to where Jim is seated. The toddler smiles at him while ignoring his mother. The mother yells, “Logan, you get away from that man! You get over here this instant!” Jim smiles down at Logan and asks, “Hey, Logan, what is your mom going to do if you don’t get over there?” He looks up and grins. “She not goin’ to do nothin’.” And then his eyes twinkle and his grin becomes wider. It turns out he is right. She finally comes apologizing. “I’m sorry he’s bothering you, but you know how three year olds are. They just won’t listen to anything you tell them.”


We become parents with optimism oozing from every pore. During late night feedings and sickening diaper changes, we know we are laying the groundwork for a lifelong relationship that will bless us when our hair turns grey or disappears. We look forward to times of tenderness and times of love, shared joys and shared disappointments, hugs and encouragement, words of comfort and soul-filled conversations. But the joys of parenting were far from the minds of the parents in the previous stories. This was parenting the nightmare. Scenes like these happen to the best of us.

We have eighteen years at most to ready our kids for a world that can be cruel and heartless. That child’s success in the real world hinges in large part on the job we do as parents. If I can’t handle a 5 year old in a grocery store, what am I going to do with a 15 year old who seems to have an enormous understanding of sex and is counting the days until he gets a driver’s license.

The approach we’ve found to have proven success is what we call “Parenting with love and logic”. It’s a win win philosophy that is all about raising responsible kids. Parents win because they love in a healthy way and establish control over their kids without resorting to the anger and threats that encourage rebellious teenage behavior. Kids win because they learn responsibility and logic of life by solving their own problems. Thus, they acquire the tools for coping with the real life. Parents and kids can establish a rewarding relationship built on love and trust in the process. We must equip our darling offspring to make the move from total dependence on us to independence. From being controlled by us to controlling themselves.

Only responsible kids will be able to handle the real world that awaits them. Life – and – death decisions confront teenagers – and even younger children – at every turn. Many of the temptations of adult life – drugs, internet, pornography, premarital sex, alcohol – are thrown at kids every day. What choices will they make when forces with these life – and – death decisions?

Why do young people sometimes seem so stupidly self-destructive? The tragic truth is that many of these foolish choices are the first real decisions they have ever made. We have to understand that making good choices is like any other activity: it has to be learned. Our noble intentions can be our worst enemy when it comes to raising irresponsible kids. Many of the most disrespectful, rebellious kids come from homes where they are shown love, it’s just the wrong kind of love.

Ineffective Parenting Styles:

Helicopter parents: they live their lives revolving around their children. They hover over their children and rescue them when trouble arises.

The irony is that people often view helicopter parents as model parents. When they see their children hurting they hurt too, so they bail them out. But the real world does not run on the bailout principle. Traffic tickets, overdue bills, irresponsible people, crippling diseases, taxes - these and normal events of adult life usually do not disappear because a loving benefactor bails us out. Helicopter parents fail to prepare their kids to meet that kind of world. They send their kids a message, "You are fragile and can't make it without me"

Drill Sergeant Parents: They too love their children, but feel that the more they bark and the more they control, the better will their kids be in the long run. Those kids are constantly told what to do. When they talk to their children their words are often filled with put downs and I-told-you-sos.

Kids of drill sergeant parents, when given the chance to think for themselves, often make horrendous decisions. Those kids are rookies in the world of decision making, they have been ordered around all their lives. They are as dependent on their parents as the kids of helicopter parents. In addition, when they reach their teen years, they are more susceptible to peer pressure, because as children, when the cost of mistakes was low, they were never allowed to make their own decisions but were trained to listen to a voice outside of their heads. Drill sergeant parents send their kids a message, "You can't think for yourself, so I'll do it for you"

While both of these parental types may successfully control their children in the early years, they will have done their kids a disservice once puberty is reached.

The Effective Parenting Style of Love and Logic:

The Consultant Parent: While especially effective with teenagers, this style also reflects the attitudes parents should have from the time their children are toddlers.

In their teens, children move from being concrete thinkers to being abstract thinkers. They need thoughtful guidance and firm, enforceable limits. We set those limits based on the safety of the child and how the child's behavior affects others. Then we maintain those limits to help children understand they are responsible for their actions and will suffer reasonable consequences for inappropriate actions. However while parents are setting and holding these limits, it is important of them to continue encouraging their children to think about their behaviour and to help them feel in control of their actions by giving choices within the limits.

During adolescent years, when teens resent guidance, consultant parents step back a bit from being enforcers of limits and let reasonable, real world consequences do the teaching. They become advisors and counsellors more than police officers.

Instead of telling their children what to do, consultant parents put the burden of decision making on their kids' shoulders. they establish options within limits. They allow their kids to face life and fail and learn from their failures. Thus by the time the children become teens, they are used to making good decisions.

Responsibility cannot be taught; it is acquired through significant learning opportunities. To help our children gain responsibility, we must offer them opportunities to be responsible. Children who grow in responsibility also grow in self-esteem, a prerequisite for achievement in the real world.

Certainly, consultant parents are involved with their kids, lovingly using good judgement as to when their children are ready to learn, But they don't spend their time reminding them or worrying for them In a subtle way they are saying "I'm sure you'll remember on you own, but if you don't you'll learn something from the experience." These parents are sympathetic but don't solve their kids' problems; they help their children understand they can solve their own problems.

There are two types of kids in this world. Kids who like themselves and have a good self-concept and kids who dislike themselves and have a bad self-concept. Children with a poor self-concept often forget to do homework, bully other kids, argue with teachers and parents, steal, and withdraw into themselves when things go rocky - they are irresponsible in all they do.

Children with a good self-concept tend to have a lot of friends do their chores regularly and don't get into trouble in school - they take responsibility in their daily lives as a matter of course. Generally, kids learn best and are responsible when they feel good about themselves.

We love our children, we let them face failures and help them celebrate triumphs so their self-concept will grow each time they survive on their own. many parents concentrate on their children's weaknesses so they don't give children a chance to build a positive self-concept. But parents who build on their children's strengths find their children growing in responsibility almost daily.

As parents, we play an integral part in the building of a positive self-concept in our children. The messages we give our kids through our words and actions, in how we encourage and how we model, shape the way they feel about themselves.

Tip#1: What We Say is Not Always What Kids Hear

Kids are quick to understand the underlying message we give, whether they come through words or actions.

Positive self-esteem comes from accomplishment. Beyond our encouraging words, the pattern of building self-esteem and self-confidence looks something like this in almost every case:

1. Kids take a risk and try to do something they think they can't 
2. They struggle in their process of trying to do it 
3. After a time, they accomplish what they first set out to do 
4. They get the opportunity to reflect back on their accomplishment and can say, "look at what i did"

This is something inner in the child. No amount of stuff or praise can build a resilient self-image for a child. oddly enough, kids don't feel Good about themselves when we do everything we can to keep them happy or give them everything they want. They have to sweat a little and earn things for themselves. By letting our kids work their way through age appropriate tough times when they are younger, we are preparing them to effectively face truly tough times down the road. Again, this must be done with common sense. If We are Happy, They are Happy You might find this an extremely distressing thought, but kids learn nearly every interpersonal activity by modelling. The way they handle fighting, frustration, problem solving, getting along with others, language, posture, movements - is learned by watching you.

Tip#2: What They See is What They Learn

Children's Mistakes Are Their Opportunities

We oftentimes impede our kids' growth by putting ourselves in the middle of their problems. The greatest gift we can give our children is the knowledge that with God's help, they can always look first to themselves for answers to their problems. Those kids become survivors.

You Have Your Troubles I Have Mine

Tip#3: When to Step in/ When to Stay Out of Kids Problems

We only step in when children are in definite danger or when they know they are in definite danger or when they know they are in a situation they can't handle by themselves. And remember: everything we fix for them, they will be unable to fix for themselves.

The Two Rules of Love and Logic

1. Adults must set firm, loving limits using enforceable statements without showing anger, lecturing, or using threats. The statements are enforceable because they deal with how we will respond.

2. When a child causes a problem, the adult shows empathy through sadness and sorrow and then lovingly hands the problem and its consequences back to the child.


If a toddler is acting inappropriately, the parent can give him choice "Would you like to go to your room walking or would you like me to carry you?" The limit in this case is that the child can't act as he just did in the parent's presence and the best place for the child to be then, is in his room.

Notice that the parent is not telling the child hoe to act, such as "Stop that right now!" Nor does the parent silly say "Go to your room", because that also gives the child the option of disobedience. Let's say the child continues to misbehave. the parent can again say, "So it looks like you chose to be carried" and when the parent puts him in the room, he is showing he is in control of the situation. Of course, few kids will stop here. Another choice can then be given, "Do you want the door open or shut?" if the child continues with the tantrum "Do you want to door just shut or locked?". It is not uncommon after few interactions like this that the more drastic actions don't have to happen.

The younger the child is when you start using enforceable statements, the easier it is later in life Make sure you are willing to enforce whatever choices you give.

And finally, it is never too late to start