Thursday, October 13, 2011

Love and Logic Magic: Share Control

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Principle two in Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood is to share control with your child.

The authors Fay and Fay point out that all people need to feel some sense of control in life. Since our children are people, too, they will also want some control.

There is, however, an art to giving control to a child. While a child might want some (or lots) of control, your child lacks the life experience to be able to handle full control. For example, your 20 month old probably doesn't remember what kind of clothing is best for winter. So you don't want to say, "Hey, you can wear whatever you want to today."

So the first tip on the art of control is to give away control when you don't need it. You don't need to make every decision for your child, so think of things that are not important and let your child assume some of that control. The authors then claim that you can then easily take control when you do need it (pages 11-12). I have to throw a word of caution in here about "the choice addiction." If you hand too much control over to the child, you will face a child unwilling to accept your lines in the sand. On the flip side, if you don't give enough control, you will have a very frustrated child. So you want to find the right balance in how much control is allowed, and perhaps that is why they call it "art." 

Luckily there is a science to control, also. You can share control by offering choices that don't matter. I have talked about this in the past. You can offer your 20 month old a choice between her pink sweater or her yellow sweater. She gets to choose the color, but you are making sure it is a warm enough shirt for the weather outside. 

If you have a baby or young toddler, you might be wondering how this all is in practice and how you know when to offer choices, how often, and how you know if you have gone too far too fast or not far enough.

Again, I go back to the "Art." There isn't really one right sequence or way for all children out there. Sometime between 12-18 months, your child might have an opinion and want to choose between two choices. She might not care until she is more 18-24 months. If I remember right, it was closer to two when my children really showed an interest in making choices like that. 

If your child is in general grumpy and seems frustrated in life and you can't explain it, he might need more choices offered to him in life. 

If your child refuses to listen to your instruction when you give it, you know you have gone too far too fast. So if you have been letting him choose between shirts, then one day you choose the shirt for whatever reason and he fights you on it, you know he is getting too many choices and can't quite handle the level he is at. For more on this, see The Choice Addiction (for Toddlers) :

Rest assured that as you get the hang of things, it will become easier to assess. You will become more of an artist as a parent. 

Remember to share control. Don't hold it back, and don't wait to enforce limits until kids are teens. As Fay and Fay point out, the time to enforce limits with your children is when they are young (page 14).

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