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Friday afternoon.

The stage for showdown was set. Enter here the musical theme to a Hollywood Western. The adversaries stare each other down. If tumbleweed existed in Plano, Texas, the McDonald’s play place needed some to complete the effect.

Who will win, and have her desire fulfilled? Mommy or Zoe?

Mommy: Zoe, it is time to leave now. I gave you a ten minute heads-up. Let’s go.

Zoe: NO! I’m the boss, Mommy, and I’m staying here!

Zoe emphasizes those last three words. I’m…staying…here! She puts her hands on her hips, and stomps her feet. Her face says, “You’d better take me seriously, sister!” She may be only six-years-old, but she means business.

To her chagrin, Mommy is ready. Activate Love & Logic powers!

Mommy: Oh, Zoe. It is so sad that you don’t want to follow directions and come with your sister and me. You’re the boss of yourself, huh?

Zoe: Yes!

Mommy: Okay. You’ll find a way home for yourself, then? And I guess you won’t have to think too hard when you get hungry, because here you are at McDonald’s. Oh, but how are you going to pay for your food? But, you’ve already solved that problem, right, because you’re the boss of yourself?

Zoe: (pauses to think, but regains her stature) I’m staying here, Mommy!

Mommy: Sigh…okay, sweetie. We sure are going to miss you. (Turning to Sophia) Soph, I guess we can go ahead and leave without Zoe. I’m sad that she’s not coming with us, but she says that she’s the boss, so I trust her to take care of herself. (Turning to Zoe) Are you sure you don’t want to come?

Zoe: YES!

Mommy: Okay, then. I love you very much. It won’t be the same without you.

Sophia and I turn away from Zoe, and walk towards our van, which is parked about 70 yards away from the play place. Zoe screams her head off.

“Mama! You…come…back…here! Mama! Don’t leave me! Mama! I’m not leaving!”

I keep an eye on her over my shoulder as Sophia and I walk. We get into the van, and I glue my gaze to the rear-view mirror. Zoe’s countenance is changing from anger to fear, and she begins crying.

I back up, pull parallel to the curb, and open the van door for my daughter. By this time she is full-out bawling.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a Mom with her two children entering McDonald’s. Her head moves like she is watching a tennis match, but with three players: her children, Zoe, a search for the missing parent. The expression on the Mom’s face is unmistakable.

Where the *bleep* is this child’s parent???

I get out of the van, expecting to have to put Zoe in. But, she crawls in by herself, and gets in her seat. I hear the familiar click of the seatbelt. Usually I have to remind her to do that. Not this time.

“Mama! You were going to leave me!”

Me: “I am so glad that you decided to come with us, Zoe. I was going to really miss you. Our family just isn’t the same without you.”

I look up and the Mom is still staring at me. Her facial expression hasn’t changed.

What the *bleep*?!?! her eyes say to me. If I were a gambling person, I’d bet that she considered calling Child Protective Services on me. I’m pretty sure she believed that I made a craptastically poor parenting decision.

If I hadn’t read two Love & Logic books this summer; if I hadn’t researched the authors; if I hadn’t talked to numerous childcare professionals who strongly recommend this parenting philosophy and apply it themselves; if I hadn’t prayed about parenting my children this way; and if my husband and I hadn’t discussed it and decided together to parent our children this way, her look would have penetrated me and brought me shamefully to my knees. I would have crumbled under the pressure of another’s opinion of me and my parenting choices, and allowed self-doubt to wallop me.

Instead, I teach my children responsibility through dosing out copious amounts of love, and allowing my girls to learn through the consequences of their choices. Hence the parenting philosophy’s name: love and logic. This love is not permissive, doesn’t tolerate disrespect, and empathizes sincerely with the disappointment, frustration, and pain children feel when they must live with the consequences of their mistakes. This logic understands that mistakes are life-changing learning opportunities, and that kids’ self-concepts are built strongest when they think and choose wisely for themselves. This quote from Love & Logic authors Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay helped solidify Eric and my decision.

Parents send messages to their children about what they think their kids are capable of. The message of the helicopter parent sends is, ‘You are fragile and can’t make it without me.’ The drill sergeant’s message is, ‘You can’t think for yourself, so I’ll do it for you.’ While both of these parental types may successfully control their children in the early years, they will have done their kids a disservice once puberty is reached. Helicopter children become adolescents unable to cope with outside forces, think for themselves, or handle their own problems. Drill sergeant kids, who did a lot of saluting when they were young, will do a lot of saluting as teenagers, but the salute is different: a raised fist or a crude gesture involving the middle finger.[1]

My girls’ and I had two more jaunts planned for that afternoon: hair salon to get Sophia’s hair cut, and the store to rent a video. Friday nights are family nights in the Mabry Nauta home. We spread out a blanket, eat dinner picnic-style (a treat, as Mom usually enforces eating at the table), and enjoy a family friendly flick.

Only Zoe wasn’t finished stewing. The tone and volume of her voice displayed her displeasure, as did the disrespectful words coming out of her mouth.

Deep breath in, elongated exhale. Activate Love & Logic powers!

Mommy: Oh, Zoe. It seems that you’re still angry. Are you?

Zoe: Yes! I wanted to stay! And I don’t wanna go to the haircut place unless I get a treat. I won’t go!

Mommy: Oh, honey. You must be tired. You don’t talk to me this way and have such a poopy attitude unless you’re tired. Maybe you need to go to bed when we get home?

Zoe: I’m NOT tired!

Mommy: Then you’re choosing to have this attitude and treat Mommy like this. This is so sad. Children with poopy attitudes and disrespectful mouths don’t get to enjoy family night. Darn. I guess it’ll be just Mommy, Daddy, and Sophia tonight, and Sophia will get to pick out the movie all by herself.

Zoe: NO! I wanna pick out the movie, too! I wanna watch the movie and have family night!

Mommy: Then, you have a choice to make. Poopy attitude…no movie, no family night. Nice, respectful attitude…you get to be a part of all the fun. What would you like?

Zoe: I wanna be a part of the fun.

Later, as Eric and Sophia turned our living room floor into a lounger’s delight with pillows and blankets galore, Zoe asked that I help her with something in her room. I can’t remember what it was now. I do, though, remember what happened after we accomplished the task. Zoe and I took a couple of steps towards the door to exit her room when she turned to hug and kiss me.

“I’m so happy!” she said. Her smile lit up her face. “Thank you, Mama, for letting me be part of the fun tonight. I love you!”

“I’m so happy you’re with us Zoe,” I said as a tear fell down my cheek. (Honestly, why do I cry when I’m happy???) “It wouldn’t have been the same without you. I’m happy for you that you made the choices that you did this afternoon.”

“Me too!” Zoe said. “You did good, Mama!”

Point your kids in the right direction — when they’re old they won’t be lost (Proverbs 22:6, The Message).

[1]   Foster Cline and Jim Fay, Parenting with Love & Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, 2nd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006), 25-26.