The Practical Principles of Parenting With Love and Logic – An Interview with Dr. Jim Fay Part 1

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

He’s become one of America’s most sought after presenters in the fields of parenting, positive discipline, and classroom management. Along with Foster Cline, MD, he’s the co-founder of The Love and Logic Institute and co-author of the bestseller, Parenting with Love and Logic. Jim Fay has over 30 years of experience in education, serving in public, private and parochial schools in a variety of roles including elementary education, art and music teacher, school principal and administrator. He’s been consulting and speaking about parenting and education for more than 30 years founding the school, Consultant Services, which is the sister company to the Cline Fay Institute in 1977.


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Tana Amen: Welcome back to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I cannot be more thrilled today to introduce our guest. In fact, I am here with my two favorite parenting experts. Of course, you already know my husband, Dr. Daniel Amen, but I was introduced to Dr. Jim Fay with Love and Logic, the Love and Logic Institute a few years ago, actually about nine years ago now when my daughter who is very, very strong willed was giving me a lot of trouble.

I'm super excited to introduce Dr. Fay. He's become one of America's most sought after presenters in the fields of parenting, positive discipline, and classroom management. Along with Foster Cline, MD, he's the co-founder of The Love and Logic Institute and co-author of the bestseller, Parenting with Love and Logic. He's sort of become a pied piper for parents providing practical teaching and parenting techniques and encouraging adults to become consistent and effective in their efforts with kids. Jim Fay has over 30 years of experience in education, serving in public, private and parochial schools in a variety of roles including elementary education, art and music teacher, school principal and administrator. He's been consulting and speaking about parenting and education for more than 30 years founding the school, Consultant Services, which is the sister company to the Cline Fay Institute in 1977. Super excited to have you, Dr. Fay.

Dr. Jim Fay: No, the excitement is mine. Get a chance to talk about kids, what can go wrong, huh?

Tana Amen: Absolutely.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Dr. Fay, I've recommended your book, Love and Logic to literally thousands of patients over the years and find it incredibly helpful. Start by talking to us about how you developed this and some of the overarching principles behind it.

Dr. Jim Fay: Glad to do that. I started out, see, I'm a child of the '30s and the '40s with a very autocratic dad, my way or the highway, and I thought the way you raised kids was you keep them scared and so, I became a teacher. I could start out back in the '50s scaring kids into doing their work, but that didn't last very long. The world changed and I hadn't and then, I was having all kinds of problems.

One day, had this little kid with reactive attachment disorder and I had failed so miserably with him all year long that we ended up in an altercation where he got slapped and he turned out to be a bleeder and he bled all over the school. If I hadn't had a wonderful relationship with his mother and she knew how hard I was working with him and fact that it was 1960s instead of now, I wouldn't even be around.

I got out looking for every bit of information I could find. I was reading every psychology book I could find and by then, as I was working my way through this, I actually became a principal of a school and there was a wonderful man there by the name of Dr. Foster Cline, psychiatrist, and he had a little boy at our school. We made friends because he was really interested in schools and I was really interested in psychology so, it was a good match. We got together and we started teaching people about the importance of having limits for kids in a loving way and the importance of kids learning through experience and so on, but half the people we talked to said, "Boy, this stuff works like dynamite," and the other half said, "Oh, thanks for nothing. Now our kids are more angry and obstinate than they were before."

We start trying to figure out what in the world was going wrong with those that didn't seem to make it work? We finally got tired of studying sick people. We started looking at people who did really well and watching a bunch of really effective parents and teachers, and we found out that they were doing things a lot different. They're using a lot of empathy with their kids, a lot of understanding, but still holding their kids accountable.

As we moved along, things developed into four basic core beliefs and the first one was that whatever we did with our kids, we want to maintain both their dignity and our dignity, and it paid to get them thinking more than us and sharing the control. Then the big secret was that when kids had to be punished or consequenced, we needed them in the thinking mode instead of the fighting mode and that meant locking in a lot of empathy first before you tell them the bad news about the consequence. Those have remained the core beliefs since we started and our big goal is to raise kids who have a little voice in their head that says, "Wow, I wonder how my next decision's going to affect me." If you do that, you don't worry about your kids so much.

Tana Amen: Yeah, it's been so incredibly helpful for me. Just to give you a really quick idea why I'm so excited to have you here, we had this very strong-willed child and one day when she was just turning 5, I broke down, started crying, and I started praying, and I thought there's no instruction manual for this kid, and it's not supposed to be this hard. I intuitively knew that parenting shouldn't be that hard, and it's the only time I ever felt like I got an answer from God when I got ... two people actually recommended your book to me and I realized something. My problems with my child were really my responsibility. The problems with communication were up to me to figure out, not a 5-year-old. When I got your book, it literally changed the way I thought. I'm one of those parents who's very probably like your dad, more authoritative and autocratic, and I figured if I told her to do something, she should just do it, only she had a very different idea so, it's worked out so well for us.

Dr. Jim Fay: Those strong-willed kids make really great adults ...

Tana Amen: She's amazing.

Dr. Jim Fay: ... if they live that long ...

Tana Amen: Yeah, my daughter's now 13. I just have to brag for a second because she went from being so difficult for me to my friends literally hate me because at 13, their kids are starting to go sideways and having attitudes and my daughter is so loving, responsible. She's hyperresponsible if anything and we have this incredible relationship. It really works if you understand how to implement it I think.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Let's-

Dr. Jim Fay: That's something to cherish, yeah.

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Let's break down these in a practical way. The first principle is dignity. Talk about what that means in interactions between parents and children.

Dr. Jim Fay: What we teach parents is that when there's a problem, sometimes it's pretty hard to maintain your own dignity and one of the tricks in Love and Logic, which violates most everything we were taught in college is that when things go south with your kid, you want to buy a bunch of time. You want to be able to say to them, "Man, this really makes me mad. I make better decisions when I calm down. Give me some time to figure this out. I'll get back to you."

Tana Amen: That's brilliant.

Dr. Jim Fay: Then if you feel especially vindictive, you can always say, "Try not to worry about it in the meantime."

Tana Amen: I use that one a lot.

Dr. Jim Fay: Buying time, how many incidents of child abuse do you think there are in America where people are at their wit's end, really frustrated and the part of their brain that's operating is not frontal cortex? It's brain stem and then, they do something they wish they hadn't had done because back in their head is this silly notion that we have to have an immediate consequence or we lose the chance to teach the kid anything.

Tana Amen: Yeah. No, that was really helpful for me. I remember one incident where ... I've only swatted my daughter on the rear a couple of times when she was little, but one of the times that I spanked her, she was 3 years old and she turned around and looked at me and said, "Why are you hitting me? How does that help?" I have my hands full with this kid.

Dr. Jim Fay: It's rough when the kids are suddenly smarter than you, isn't it?

Tana Amen: Right? Very frustrating actually. I never spanked her again. It was a waste of time, I realized that, and that's why I love your book, which is based on real life consequences. It's one of the things I learned.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The second principle is shared control. Talk about that.

Dr. Jim Fay: Control is a big deal for human beings. It's one of the basic human needs. When we try to take all the control, they're going to try to get it back, but if we can give them lots of little choices that don't mean anything to us, we can actually build up a savings account in their mind of control. It's like when I'm around this person, I don't have to fight to get my control needs. Now, they're probably making the little decisions that don't mean anything. Do you want blue socks or red socks? Do you want orange juice or milk? You want to leave the party right now or do you want to wait for 10 minutes? We always ask them that 10 minutes before we want to go, right?

The more of those little decisions that they're making and the more of those control needs are being met, it's like a savings account that you build up and then you can take a withdrawal every once in a while because we have a responsibility as parents to boss kids around from time to time and say, "This is the way it has to be." That's when we can say to them, "Wow, aren't I usually pretty reasonable? Don't I usually let you make a lot of decisions when I can? It's my turn now. Thanks for understanding," and you're taking a withdrawal from the account. Something I could've never done in my autocratic early days as a parent and a teacher. Don't put anything into the account, you can't take anything back.

Dr. Daniel Amen: One of my favorite examples is homework used to be stressful ...

Tana Amen: Nightmare.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... for Tana and after she read Love and Logic, she just looked at Chloe and said, "Not my homework. It's your homework. If you want to do it, awesome. If you don't and you want to repeat the 3rd grade, it's completely up to you. You'll make new friends."

Tana Amen: She got so mad. I said, "Honey, I love you so much. I'm never going to make you do homework again." She was immediately suspicious. She looked at me and she's like, "What, that doesn't make sense?" because we used to fight every night. I said, "No, I love you so much," and then I told her, I said, "You'll make new friends," and said, "I wouldn't be happy with the consequences that go with that, but if you're okay with it, they're your grades, not my grades." My daughter, I've never sat down with her to tell her it's time to do homework again. She's if anything paranoid. She's very anxious about her homework. I never took homework to school and she now has a 4.0 and she is still anxious about getting work done early.

Dr. Jim Fay: Yeah, that gets into that no sense in both of us worrying syndrome that boy, if my parents aren't going to worry about this, somebody better.

Tana Amen: Right, that's exactly what happened.

Dr. Jim Fay: If they're going to hold the worry, why should I waste my time with it?

Tana Amen: That is exactly what happened. She thought I was going to be the one in charge of it so she didn't. It was just brilliant. The other one I use, the other tip I used from your book that I just love, which stunned her unto this day, she thinks I'm ... We have an amazing relationship, but she just thinks it was one of the most horrible things I ever did.

She threw a temper tantrum like none other one day and so I gave her 20 minutes to cool down. I needed the 20 minutes. I gave her 20 minutes to cool down in a room and while she was in there, I called ... We were supposed to go on a very special family trip that day and do something together. I called someone to come babysit. Keep in mind, I've never had a babysitter ever. She shows up and my daughter thinks this person's going with us and she's like, "Oh, yehey, let's go." I'm like I handed a list of chores to the babysitter and said, "When she's done with her homework and her chores, then you guys can go swimming or do something fun, but not until then." Chloe's jaw hit the floor and I looked at her and I said, "It's okay, honey." I said, "I will give you an advance on next week's homework."

Dr. Daniel Amen: Allowance.

Tana Amen: "Allowance. I'll give you an advance on next week's allowance so you can pay the babysitter and if you still don't have enough, she takes choice for payment." I learned that from you. Before she could scream, I ran out of the house. Never again did she do that, never again.

Dr. Jim Fay: Yeah, it's funny you do effective things, you don't get to do them very often.

Tana Amen: No.

Dr. Jim Fay: You do ineffective things, you get to do them over and over and over and over.

Tana Amen: Isn't that true? Yeah, I was almost looking forward to doing it again, but it never happened again.

Dr. Jim Fay: Yeah. It's always a tell-tale thing when the parents say, "I tell him and I tell him and I tell him."

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Jim Fay: Yeah, it must not be very effective. One of the-

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So those are consequences with empathy so I've really liked that a lot.

Tana Amen: I didn't have to get mad. I usually get mad. I used to get really mad at her. Instead, I didn't need to get mad because it was on her just like you said. I now said, "This is what happens," I use your line all the time, "when you drain my energy or you use my energy for something else when I need to be focusing on something important and now, I don't have time to do those things or I don't do things for kids who treat me that way and neither should you." We would teach her that and it just worked out so well. All things I have learned in your book and it's funny because my husband has some amazing tips, but it's sometimes harder to hear it from your spouse.

Dr. Jim Fay: You're not supposed to be able to hear it from him.

Tana Amen: Right, exactly. It worked well for both of us.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The last one is shared thinking. I like that one a lot. Talk about how that came up.

Dr. Jim Fay: We find that any time you tell a kid something, that's your reality. Any time he has to think and come up with an answer, now it becomes his reality. The more we talk to our kids in questions as opposed to statements, the better off we are. Wow, how do you think you're going to solve that? Would you like to hear what some other kids have tried before? That causes the kids to do lots of thinking. We're so programmed to believe that it's our job to tell them how to think all the time.

Tana Amen: Yeah, and they're actually pretty smart.

Dr. Jim Fay: It was funny when that first book was commissioned by The Navigators, a Christian publishing company, they called up and they said, "We'd love for you to write this book," and they said, "We're down here in Colorado Springs with Jim Dobson," he has a company not far away from there focused on the family.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Jim Fay: They said they were concerned whereas he was teaching everybody how to think and your books teach people how to think and that's what we want.

Tana Amen: Right. It certainly works for me. When you have a strong-willed child, if you tell them how to think, I can almost guarantee if you got a kid like mine, she will immediately dig her heels in. I locked in the empathy and I only offered the advice when she wanted it. I would just say, "Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry. I know that's really horrible." Then I would wait for her to get panicky and then I would say or if she asked I would say, "So would you like to know what other people have tried?" I couldn't even do that until she was ready to hear it.

Dr. Jim Fay: Yeah, that whole idea of relationships, who do you like the best, people who are always telling you what to do or people who sit back and seem to have that knowledge and who are willing to share it with you if you ask for it?

Tana Amen: The nice thing, we're going to talk more about this in the teen section, but the nice thing is that when you lock that in young and they start to think for themselves, I now have a 13-year-old whose friends call her mom because she now thinks so much for herself that she is not swayed by other people's thinking. Now, she's used to thinking for herself. She's used to coming up with solutions that work and it's great.

Dr. Daniel Amen: She also took an online test, what's your age?

Tana Amen: Your mental age.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Your mental age and her friend took it and got 4 years old. Another friend took it, got 7 years old. They asked her how she scored and she said, "I'm not going to tell you."

Tana Amen: She goes, "I'm like a soccer mom," and she was 43.

Dr. Jim Fay: Yeah, right, exactly.

Tana Amen: Her mental age came out at 43.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Mine actually came out at 42, which means I'm younger than she is in many ways.

Tana Amen: It was so funny.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's why I say child psychiatrists are really children.

Dr. Jim Fay: There's so much talk about teenagers, their brain's not maturing until much later, but as I remember back in the '30s, '40s, '50s and so on, I bet if you gave those same tests back there, it would've come out different.

Tana Amen: Yeah, because they were forced to be responsible.

Dr. Jim Fay: Because kids were forced to think for themselves early in life back in those days and then something changed along the way. It became a parent's job to think for their kids.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Jim Fay: Along with the helicopter parent movement, became the thing where we started thinking for the kids and brains don't seem to develop the same way. I'm not an expert on that like you guys are, but I have-

Dr. Daniel Amen: So interesting.

Dr. Jim Fay: I have an idea that might be true.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us. We are going to come back and talk with Dr. Fay about parenting small kids and then, we're going to talk about teenagers and then young adults. Get his book, Parenting with Love and Logic.

Tana Amen: They have amazing tips that they send out weekly. I always thought they were very helpful. You can go to loveandlogic.com or Parenting with Love and Logic, what is it, Dr. Fay?

Dr. Jim Fay: Loveandlogic.com, yeah.

Tana Amen: Loveandlogic.com and they've got these simple tips they send out every week that are so amazing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.