How to Use Love and Logic Discipline

As a parent, you naturally want to prepare your child to handle real-life situations. Love and Logic discipline, pioneered in the 1970s by Jim Fay and Dr. Foster Cline of the Love and Logic Institute in Golden, Colorado, adopts the premise that children are more likely to become "respectful, responsible and a joy to be around" when parents hold them accountable for their mistakes in loving, but firm ways 123. Through Love and Logic techniques, you build your child's self-confidence by guiding her to own and solve her own problems with guidance and caring. When you consistently use Love and Logic discipline principles, you help your child develop cause-and-effect thinking to consider how her choices will impact her life and guide her toward better decision-making skills and resistance to peer pressure.

"Lead with empathy" is oft-heard advice in Love and Logic workshops and literature. Before you apply any discipline or consequences, express sincere empathy or sadness for the frustration, disappointment, anger, regret or other emotion your child must be feeling as a result of his poor choice. A sarcastic or manipulative delivery will only rub salt in the wound and backfire on you. The key is to protect the parent-child relationship of trust by establishing that you recognize how hard this situation is for him and are there to help him figure out how to solve his problem, if he wants your help.

Set firm, loving limits as to what you will allow and stick to it. Avoid anger, lectures, threats and warnings, recommends Jim Fay. When your child crosses your line and makes a problem for you or anyone else, lock in your empathy and ask, "So how do you think you are going to solve that problem? Would you like to hear what some other kids have tried before?" If your child accepts your help, list good and bad ideas and ask, "How do you think that would work for you? " after each one. Don't press for a choice. After three or four choices, smile and say something like, "I am sure you can figure this out. Let me know how it turns out for you." Then walk away.

Offer an array of choices about small issues to give your child practice at decision-making while the consequences are still affordable and satisfy her need for a sense of control. For example, "Would you like to wear your coat or carry it?" Handle dawdling by saying, "My car leaves at 7:30 a.m. sharp. Would you like to go to school with shoes on your feet or in your backpack?"

Use as few words as possible in stating what you will do rather than engaging in a power struggle by telling your child what he has to do. Love and Logic parents avoiding the arguing cycle with enforceable one-liners such as, "Kitchen is open for dinner until 7:00 p.m. Eat all you need to last you until breakfast," or "I will be happy to talk about this with you as soon as your voice is as calm as mine." When your child tries to argue, take loving control of the situation and short-circuit the attempt by repeating, "I love you too much to argue," regardless of what arguments he throws at you, recommends Jim Fay 124.

Delay consequences for a more opportune time when your child acts up in public, emotions are running too high to resolve satisfactorily in the moment or you need time to think about the most appropriate consequence for her creative misbehavior. Love and Logic encourages parents to get their children to think more about how their behavior choices affect their lives than the parents do 2. Therefore, when delaying the consequence is the best course of action, lean in and whisper in her ear, "I'm going to have to do something about this, but not now. Try not to worry about it." Be sure to follow through when you get home and clear thinking prevails.

Employ the generic Love and Logic consequence when your child's rule violation or misbehavior defies natural or reasonable consequence 3. This involves your child paying you back for the time and energy drain he caused you in dealing with the problem he created. At your discretion, he may do some of your chores or pay you in toys, allowance or savings or in special acts of kindness and respect.


Common empathy lines in Love and Logic include, "That's so sad!" or "Bummer!" With young children, singing "uh-oh" as you take immediate corrective action soon teaches them that there is a direct correlation between "uh oh" and their personal liberties and happiness.

The Love and Logic website can direct you to classes, seminars, workshops and conferences for further training in its methods and techniques.


No technique can guarantee that your child will always make a good choice so when giving choices, only give choices that fit your value system. Be prepared to allow your child to learn from the consequences, good or bad. Never give a choice that would actually endanger his safety.