SUNDAY TIMES - You're not doing your child any favours by solving their problems for them
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Sunday Times Lifestyle By Leigh-Anne Hunter, 2017-04-09 00:00:00.0

You're not doing your child any favours by solving their problems for them

'You need to empower kids to make wrong decisions and deal with the consequences early.'
Image: iStock

In a classroom, a teacher drills students on their homework. Leigh, a tired-looking mom of three, reports that she's managed to get her nine-year-old to put his dirty clothes in the wash basket. "Great progress," the teacher says.

This is a classroom for adults - the parenting programme "Love and Logic", which teaches parents how to outsmart their kids.

Rhoda Kotzé started M&R Centre in Hermanus as a place where pupils could come for extra lessons after school. Hearing from parents who "would come in and cry about their kids," prompted her to start tutoring parents too. "We want the desperate parents, because they are teachable."

The programme, for parents of kids from tots to teens and over (there are tips for parents of 25-year-olds still living at home), was developed in the US by an educator and child psychiatrist. It's now taught worldwide. "Put an end to back-talk and begging!" it promises. "Teach kids to complete their homework without pay!"

Karen de Bruyn, a former air traffic controller from Pretoria who now teaches the course with Kotzé, turned to the programme when her star-student daughter rebelled. "The more I tried to control her, the worse it became."

She was drawn to Love and Logic's two-step approach, which was "neither permissive nor punitive".

Step one: parents must set firm, loving limits, without showing anger.

Step two: when the child presents a problem, the "adult shows empathy and then lovingly hands the problem and its consequences back to the child".

Kotzé, who has an unruffled composure acquired from years of disciplining hooligans, blames today's "helicopter parenting" trend for behavioural problems.

De Bruyn says over-indulgent parenting is "doing our kids no favours". Instead, we are creating a world of what the New Yorker called "adultescents".

"I know a mom whose daughter phones her from university because she has run out of toilet paper," says Kotzé.

Teaching kids responsibility could save their lives. "You need to empower kids to make wrong decisions and deal with the consequences early," says Kotzé. "Because when they get to high school and drive under the influence and friends die, it's a hard lesson for a teenager to learn. It's an easier lesson for a toddler to learn that they're not getting another ice cream."

Love and Logic's philosophy may sound simple, but applying it is hard work.

The course runs over six weeks. Parents learn a range of techniques that can be applied to different scenarios. One technique is "Playing Brain Dead".

Says one mother: "So when your child tries to make his problem yours you play brain dead. Works like a charm."

I watch moms engage in role-playing scenarios where one gets to be the parent and the other the misbehaving kid.

De Bruyn flashes a cue card, and the moms chorus. "Never tell a stubborn child what to do. Instead, describe what you are willing to do or allow."

Give kids choices, so they feel they have some share of control. For example: "Are you going to turn the TV off now or in 15 minutes?"

"It's much more difficult parenting kids these days," says Jane, a mom on the course. "We deal with everything from online porn to bullying. You have to teach your kids to problem-solve." Moms say the course has taught them how to build a relationship with their kids. Now their little monsters aren't quite so monstrous.

Contact Rhoda Kotzé on 028-313-0209 or neldi@m-n-r.co.za. To attend a Joburg Love and Logic course, visit raisingtomorrow.com.