Many years ago while preparing for the birth of our first child, my husband and I got really into this parenting technique called Love and Logic. It originated in the 1970s, but like disco, bell bottoms, and permed mullets, it managed to keep a cult following for decades beyond its emergence.
The premise of Love and Logic is that you let your children experience the natural consequences of their actions, lovingly supporting them through the process of learning from (and because of) their mistakes.
Over the years we found the basic concept worked really well — we could tell our daughter a thousand times to pack her backpack the night before, but until she rushed out the door one morning with her unpacked backpack, leaving an important assignment behind, she just wasn’t going to internalize that message. But when neither her father nor I would bring the assignment into school for her and she was left to face the consequences? You’d better believe she has packed her backpack the night before school every day since.
Meanwhile, our son learned the hard way why we tell him to pick up his LEGOs when he’s finished playing with them — you don’t soon forget the pain of stepping on a LEGO while barefoot on your way to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
In neither instance did we like watching our children suffer. But we definitely liked the part where the experience brought about something all the talking, begging, threatening, yelling and cajoling in the world could not — a change in behavior.
We weren’t perfect in our administration of the Love and Logic technique — in fact, we failed often. And every now and then the system would fail us, too, when the promised negative consequences never seemed to occur.
“Please put your clothes in the dirty clothes hamper so we don’t get spiders.” That did us zero good because the kids never saw the spiders. (Though, honestly, aren’t the spiders we don’t see the ones we should be the most fearful of?)
“Don’t eat too much candy or you’ll get a tummy ache.” Somehow our bottomless pit children were immune from that one.
“Don’t make faces at your sister or your face will freeze like that.” That one might have been our fault for naming a consequence that was highly unlikely to actually happen.
Natural consequences can be a powerful teacher, especially when followed with empathy and loving guidance.
That’s why it’s important that you know I am absolutely sincere when I say I am sorry that the president of the United States of America has reported that he tested positive for COVID-19. I hope he makes a full recovery. But I also hope it’s a little miserable for him — miserable enough that he’ll change his message to the American people and amend the cavalier attitude he’s projected.
More than it being a great opportunity for President Trump to change his tune on the virus, I fear the huge detriment it will be if he doesn’t suffer at least a little.
If he skates through with no or only minor symptoms, he’ll ramp up the rhetoric that the virus is not that big of a deal. Because it was minor for him, all accounts of it being devastating to others will be discredited and discounted, no matter how many there are or how overwhelming the evidence that for many people the long-term effects are catastrophic.
I hope his bout with the illness is ultimately short-lived and without debilitating symptoms. But I hope it’s a sobering experience for him, one that opens his eyes to what many others have been seeing for months.
I hope it leads him to exercise more caution and to advocate more vigilance in the simple and effective means for mitigating the virus’s spread — hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing.
And as a nation, I hope we can learn from others instead of having to suffer consequences ourselves before we will learn.
Jade Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.