The Limits of Love and Logic in Christian Classrooms

People sometimes ask me if student behavior today is worse than it was in the past. Given the impacts of technology, the media, and declining parent control–combined with the disappearance of corporal punishment–they kind of presume that kiddos must be a lot harder to manage nowadays.

So are students getting worse? That’s a tough question, to be honest.

My grandpa use to recall a couple of bullies who would dangle schoolmates by their feet outside an upper-story window, and my dad still tells the story of a prankster at his school who hid a bull snake inside the piano. Fast-forwarding to the next generation, my own classmates and I often laughed at the punishments we were given. One incident we’ve never forgotten is the time a boy giggled uncontrollably at our angry teacher–even as she was bending him over the knee and whacking him on the butt with her shoe.

Thankfully, the naughtiness in my classroom has never plummeted to those depths! So in one sense, no: students of today’s generation are no worse than those of the past. But in another sense, some of the attitudes we notice lurking beneath have grown more unsettling, even in the last 20 years or so.

For one, more children than before lack empathy for the feelings of others; they have no regard for the way their actions affect the people around them. Additionally, teachers complain about a growing sense of entitlement among students; more young people believe they can openly disapprove of anything that is not to their liking, or they protest when they are called out for their own bad behavior.

Which brings me back to my summer reading on Love and Logic and how this approach might work in my classroom this year. Regarding the troublesome attitudes of selfishness and entitlement, the approach is timely. I’m eager to abate some of that stuff, and I think Love and Logic will help. Furthermore, though not overtly “Christian,” Love and Logic appeals because it aligns with Christian ideals–demonstrating love for students while holding them accountable for their choices. In a Love and Logic classroom, you see, even unkind student behavior is met with calmness and empathy. I can’t help but think of the notable Proverb: A gentle answer turns away wrath. And there’s Paul’s admonition to the Christians in Rome: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Still, every approach has limits. Christian educators ought to reflect on the core assumptions that trickle through a philosophy before adopting it wholeheartedly. In my assessment, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Love and Logic approach. The problem is that the thought system, on its own, doesn’t go far enough. Approaches to discipline must encompass more than responses to misdeeds.

Granted, Love and Logic rests on a foundation of positive relationships, which are vital to any classroom management plan. But if we wish to exterminate weeds like self-centeredness and entitlement–or others like apathy, narrow-mindedness, or stubbornness–we must also think about how to grow the inclinations we desire (compassion, curiosity, open-mindedness, cooperation).

In that vein, I’m going to leave you with some questions concerning discipline approaches and Christian thought:

  • How do we determine if a discipline plan aligns with our beliefs as Christian educators?
  • If you’ve adopted a specific approach, such as Love and Logic, what about that system appeals to your beliefs as a follower of Christ in the classroom?
  • What do your discipline methods convey about children, wrong doing, correction, and grace?
  • Do you think your particular approach lacks any factors that Christian educators should address in classroom discipline?

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