Love & Logic Article by Jim Fay: Enforceable Limits
“Love and Logic teaches that parents, as well as teachers, must use enforceable statements if they want to set effective limits. Enforceable statements are powerful because the adult owns the response, not the child. In contrast, unenforceable statements give the power of the response to the child, and the adult loses control. Setting limits with enforceable statements is an essential technique for parents and teachers who use Love and Logic in the home or classroom. Being able to deliver enforceable statements without lecturing, threatening, or showing anger is an acquired skill and must be practiced like any other skill. When an adult learns to use this important skill, the stress on the adult disappears and kids learns to become responsible for their choices.
Years ago, a teacher shared an insight with me about the value of setting limits for kids in her classroom and how she learned to use this skill properly. She was using enforceable statements but was struggling when kids tested her limits. When they tried to test her, she would use the phrase, “So what did I say?” However, she realized that she was getting frustrated and mad at the kids whenever they tested a limit. Then she explained how she changed her view of what was happening: “Here’s what’s so great, Jim. Now I tell myself that they are just checking to see if I still love them enough to provide limits. It’s a totally different mindset. I still say, ‘So what did I say?’ when they test a limit. But when I do, I feel like I’m giving them a gift.”
Set limits with enforceable statements. When limits are tested, follow through with empathy and understanding, realizing that you are truly giving kids a gift—the gift of learning how to make responsible, respectful decisions on their own.”
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