Saturday, February 15, 2014

Enforceable Statements for Parents, Teachers, and Spouses

Today is Saturday, February 15, 2014.

Back in 1977, Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. established their philosophy, called Love and Logic.  They have been teaching it to educators since that time, and one of the outcomes of their philosophy is something called Enforceable Statements.  It's obvious from their website that they have expanded this philosophy to marital relationships, as well.  

Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone (especially a child) where you got pulled into making a control statement that you could not enforce?  (Example: If you –fill in the blank–, I'm going to –fill in the blank–.)  Your child or student (or your spouse!) resisted and did exactly what you told him or her not to do, thereby regaining control of the situation.

You ended up looking foolish when you couldn't carry out your threat, didn't you?  Don't worry, we all get into these situations from time to time. 

Fay and Cline have developed Enforceable Statements as a way to "share control" with the person you are arguing with, so that the other person is less likely to resist.  The result is that you avoid getting into an argument where you are trying to control a situation that you really have no control over.   Instead of making threats, tell the person what you will do or what you will allow, rather than just telling them what to do.  Set limits, in other words. 

Here are some examples of Love and Logic Enforceable Statements: 
  • Breakfast is served until 7:30. Get all you need to hold you till lunch.
  • My car is leaving at 8 a.m.
  • I'll listen as soon as your voice is as calm as mine.
  • I'll be happy to listen to you as soon as your father and I are finished talking.
  • I keep the toys I have to pick up. You can keep the ones you pick up.
  • I'll lend you the car if you are willing to make a deposit equal to the insurance deductible.
  • I'll lend you money if you have collateral.
  • I'll reimburse you for your college tuition for those classes in which you earn a "B" or above.
The trick, I think, is to keep your promise.  If you tell kids you will give them some money and they uphold their end of the bargain, then don't suddenly plead poverty.   If you tell them you will take them somewhere in the car when their homework is done, then do it right away and don't put it off.  If you plan to leave at 8:00 a.m. sharp, then do so – knowing that if the other person is late, you will have to deal with their anger at least once – and don't get conned into feeling sorry for them.

The point to get across to the person you're dealing with is that they do have a choice.  Keep in mind that you will have to respect their choices, and especially with kids, you will have to prove that to them.  As well, if you are dealing with an adult or a teenager, they may start making some enforceable statements of their own, and you will have to deal with that.

There is nothing really new about enforceable statements.  Fay and Cline have simply packaged and marketed a concept that all good parents and teachers already know, but sometimes lose sight of.  Their website has some free articles for parents and teachers, as well as some information about how to request training or attend conferences where Fay and Cline are speaking.  There are also support materials for training facilitators.

The important thing to remember is that you can never really power another person down, whether it is one of your kids, a student, or your significant other.  You can set limits beyond which you are not prepared to go, and you can make promises as long as you can actually keep them, but you must give other people a choice, and be prepared to accept their decision.  

Political tyrants may seem all-powerful, but much of what they do is based on fear of losing control.  Eventually, they do lose control, and if you've watched the news, you know that they often end up dying in an undignified manner, if not a horrific one.   

It's not easy to share power with others, but this is something we have all come into this life to learn. With respect to kids, how are you going to teach them responsibility if you don't give them some?  :-)

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