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“Mom, I can’t find my swimsuit!”

“Bummer. What are you going to do?”

Little exchanges like this are true Love and Logic moments. Don’t take on the kid’s problem, Love and Logic tells us. Turn it back to your kid with the simple little “What are you going to do?” question.

Is this applicable to special needs kids? You bet your flappy hands it is — perhaps more so even than typical ones. Special needs kids really need a focus on thinking for themselves, handling their own challenges, and doing things without reminders. Is Love and Logic harder for parents of special needs kids? I believe it is. It is super easy for us to be overprotective of our kids, to want to set things up to be a success for them. To protect them from not experiencing the consequences of their disability.

Love and Logic made such a difference in my life as a parent that I got trained to be a presenter. A few times a year now, I co-teach a six-week series with my friend, Ellen. This is one of the many gifts brought to me by autism. Standing up there and being really authentic about our own struggles helps the parents share what’s going on in their lives. Parents don’t attend these classes because their family lives are working: we might get parents who are having all-out arguments daily with their kids, or forcing kids into massive rebellions with their parenting style, or who are about to just plain give up on their kids. It’s sobering. And humbling. And amazing to watch how the simple techniques of Love and Logic can make such a difference.

A huge part of Love and Logic is the concept of empathy. Not sympathy, where you’re feeling sorry for your kid (and often want to avoid or fix the pain)– but empathy, where you go down the rabbit hole and feel with your kid. Let’s say, for example, that we make it very clear that we’ll take our kid to the ballgame if his/her room is clean by noon.

No reminders from the parent once the expectation is clear.

Noon comes and — you guessed it — the room is still a mess. Before we deliver a consequence, we first express genuine empathy: “Oh, this is so sad. We can’t go to the ballgame.”

If the kid is anything like my Joseph, begging begins. “Oh please, Mom. I’ll do it now, fast! I really will! Here I go!”

“Oh honey, I know this meant a lot to you, but what did I say?”

Then come the tears. This is where I will hug my son warmly and tell him how much I love him, how I’m sure he’ll do better next time. And that, as they say, is that.

Such a powerful little lesson: If we don’t meet our expectations, there are consequences. Is this an understanding that will be meaningful for a lifetime? Of course. Do we have to teach it a million different ways? Of course. Do we have to teach it five million different ways if we have a special needs kid? That’s been my experience.
Beyond that wonderful lesson, there is also the understanding that, not only does Mom mean what she says, but she is also on her kid’s side. Thanks to empathy, parent and son are side by side, looking out at the kid’s behavior and learning from it. Oftentimes these experiences bring a new closeness – as opposed to the anger, resentment and mile-wide divide between kid and parent that can result when consequences are delivered differently.

I could go on but I won’t…for now. Suffice it to say that, of all the techniques and interventions we’ve used with Joseph, Love and Logic stands high on the mountaintop as one of the most powerful. If you haven’t looked into it, I suggest you do!