Love and Logic Basics

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

In their book, Teaching with Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom, Jim Fay and David Funk offer educators alternative ways to communicate with their students. The Love and Logic process includes sharing control and decision-making, using empathy with consequences, and enhancing the self-concept of children. They assert that their methods lead to improved student behavior and achievement.

The Love and Logic philosophy states the importance of adults providing limits in a caring way. It involves building students up so they feel more capable, even after being disciplined. When interacting with students, educators need to stay calm and avoid provoking, threatening, moralizing or lecturing. Fay and Funk recommend that educators use polite statements that are enforceable and offer children choices within limits, thus avoiding power struggles. Discipline is maintained with compassion and understanding. They describe childhood misbehavior as an opportunity for helping children grow through their mistakes. Their methods help children learn to be responsible and gain self-confidence.

These authors value children and place a heavy emphasis on the importance of treating them with respect and dignity. They contend that successful teachers know that they must build a positive relationship with their students because they cannot make children do their best by being angry with them. They assert that sharing control and stopping undesirable behaviors early are most effective, and that getting to know students on a personal basis can have many benefits.

One of their suggestions for working with a troublesome student was to try an experiment. For six times over a period of three weeks, say something like, "I noticed ... that you like horses (basketball, rocks, rap, etc.)" or "I noticed that you enjoy running, (spelling, helping others, etc.)" The book stressed not to include praise or judgment in the statement and to use the "I noticed..." prefix. They also proposed that at times you may want to ask, "Will you try that just for me?" They also suggest that the teacher may want to ask, "Will you try that just for me?" if a child has an especially low feeling of self-worth.

Fay and Funk maintain that the best way to gain student cooperation is to provide many choices throughout the day, thus building up a bank account of shared power. But, when discipline is needed, they warn that offering two choices, one you like and one you do not like, is not effective because the student will most often pick the one you don't want. Instead, they propose that teachers only offer two acceptable choices, and if the child does not choose one within ten seconds, the educator chooses for him or her. Students soon realize that the consequence of not choosing an option is that the teacher will make the choice. They recommend saying something like:

  • "You can either play in the block area or the home living area. It is your choice. You decide."
  • "Would you rather sit and read or work on your project?"
  • "What would be best for you to play kick ball or to watch the others?"
  • "Feel free to sit in the chair by me or remain quiet in your seat."
Fay and Funk suggest that teachers use "enforceable statements" rather than angry, negative comments. For example:
  • "I will begin when everyone is quiet" instead of saying "I'm not going to start until you are quiet."
  • "I know you have something important to say, and I listen to students who raise their hand and are called on to participate" rather than, "Raise your hand if you want to talk and wait to be called on."
  • "You may join us outside as soon as you complete your work" rather than, "Do your work or you can1t go outside!"

The Love and Logic thinking requires children to experience consequences for their mistakes. When a problem occurs, they recommend that the adult start with an empathetic comment and end with the logical consequence. The absence of adult anger causes children to think and learn from their mistakes, helps them accept responsibility for their behavior, and decreases the "it's not my fault" attitude. Fay and Funk advise not arguing with students or giving in to their protests, but simply stating your concern and the consequence again if necessary. This way, by providing a choice, the students feel some control over the outcome for their behavior. The authors recommend using empathy with consequences because they assert that children learn more from their choices when an adult does not scold or moralize, but expresses sincere understanding. When the child chooses not to do his or her homework, the teacher could say with sincerity...

    "That's too bad. That zero will have to be averaged with your other grades."

Or, if the a child does not do his or her work, the teacher could say,

    "I'm so sorry you chose to play instead of doing your work. I'm sad that you have to lose part of your recess."

Fay and Funk contend that delaying a consequence rather than providing an immediate one can bring more satisfactory results. They state that dealing with a problem on the teacher's terms, with short, kind interactions work best. For example, if a child swears in class, the teacher might calmly say, "That language is unacceptable in my room. I will have to do something about it, but I am not sure what I will do. Right now I am busy teaching so I will let you know tomorrow." They contend that saying, "Don't worry about it," can have the opposite effect on the student.

The authors share many more practical suggestions on helping children become responsible and guiding them to solve their own problems. They recommend saying, "You can solve your problem anyway you want as long as your solution does not cause a problem for anyone else." The "anyone else" includes the teacher. The Love and Logic principles work best if an entire school staff studies and supports the concepts. See for additional information, resources and available training conferences.

Fay, Jim, and David Funk (1995). Teaching With Love And Logic: Taking Control Of The Classroom. Golden, CO: The Love and Logic Press, Inc.

Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website [], 6/04

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