It was a bowl of spilled applesauce that brought Lisa C. Greene to her knees as a parent of a child with cystic fibrosis.
Greene had been hiding the pancreatic enzymes needed by her toddler in a variety of foods. He seemed to always find and refuse them. On this day, he hit her hand and applesauce splattered all over the counter. Out of desperation, and out of character, Greene spanked her child. He responded with an inconsolable tantrum.
“I felt so hopeless,” said Greene, 45. “I had a child with a life-threatening illness who was heavily dependent on my ability to make sure he was getting the care he needs. If I couldn’t get a two-year-old to take his enzymes, what would I do as he gets older?”
Enter the parenting philosophy of “Love and Logic.” Greene devoured the information from a seminar and from the various books by authors Foster Cline, Jim Fay and Charles Fay, which are written for basic parenting. Greene used the techniques to make sure her kids got their breathing treatments, took medications and ate healthfully.
When the young mom sought out Love and Logic’s founders for more answers, the move resulted in the unexpected. Greene collaborated with Cline, a psychiatrist, to write the book “Parenting Children with Health Issues.”
The idea is to give children age-appropriate choices and responsibilities. Instead of taking full control over children, parents offer measured amounts of decision-making power that give children the weight of the consequences as well as the rewards. Greene said she started to retrain herself as a parent and as a caregiver to her son, now 11 and daughter, now 8, both of whom have cystic fibrosis.
As for the enzymes, Greene asked her strong-willed son if he wanted them with applesauce or with chocolate sauce and sprinkles. The choice gave him the control he needed and got the enzymes in his belly.
Greene said the “Love and Logic” taught her to teach her children they can help themselves by complying with medical treatments, and how to step in when they don’t.
Greene cautions, however, that parents new to this kind of parenting should not start with medical issues. Nor should a child’s health ever be compromised as a consequence. “Start with homework or something simple,” she said.
For Greene, a resistance to a breathing treatment means a conversation like this: “I'll be happy to take you to your friend's house after your breathing treatments are done.”
The implication and sometimes the result, is Greene doesn’t take her child to their friend’s house. And if she doesn’t, she expresses empathy about her child’s own decision not to go.
Greene learned her son had cystic fibrosis in the days after he was born. His distended abdomen was found in a pre-natal ultrasound, resulting in an emergency C-section. As the newborn recovered from the life-threatening intestinal blockage – a side effect of cystic fibrosis – Greene was overwhelmed with absorbing the information from the diagnosis and learning about the medical care she’d need to preserve her child’s life.
It wasn’t until later that she realized how many parents, like her, had trouble navigating the tricky intersection of parent and medical caregiver. Greene said it’s been rewarding to share the information she’s learned.
“It helps me to know that I’m giving back and able to take a situation that’s incredibly devastating, and make something good out it,” Greene said.