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A spoonful of chocolate helps the medicine go down


What mom? I didn't have any chocolate. Really.

Ah, “Love and Logic,” the parenting protocol based on natural consequences. Where you don’t fight. You don’t negotiate. You don’t even engage in power struggles. You simply allow consequences to occur as they would in real life. Sounds fairly simple. Until it involves the dreaded, delectably delicious cocoa bean.

Seriously, I stumbled into hell on this lesson. My 11 year old son, Levi, was in his school play last week. As a special opening night gift, we gave him one of those ginormous dark chocolate bars that realistically could serve as dessert for a dinner party of 40 people. We’re not usually big fans of food rewards, but we made an exception this time and he was elated.

He carefully gnawed away at it over the week, demonstrating remarkable self control. He never had more than a square at a time, only allowed himself his small portion after meals, and generously shared with all who asked. Everything was going splendidly. Until the other day.

As we were leaving for school, I noticed a hunk of chocolate in his hand. “Not in the morning,” I gently reminded. “O.K.,” he answered. He then proceeded to bite off a chunk of it, his back turned to me, and pretended to return it in its entirety to the fridge. My 
“Love and Logic” voice kicked in. “Ohhhhhhh…,” I softly murmured. “Bad choice.”

Now my children have learned to dread these types of soothing sighs and understated comments about their choices. They know that when they hear those, the other shoe is surely going to drop, even if they can’t predict when, where or how. Levi started back-pedaling immediately. “What?” he challenged, “I put it back. Come on, mom. What did I do?” Like a well scripted actor, I merely repeated the lines Id been rehearsing for all these months. “Not to worry, sweetie.” And off to school we went.

When I got home later that morning, I knew what had to be done. I also knew that given my affinity for the dark, rich indulgence, this was going to be a challenge. But I powered on, opening the fridge and directly confronting the thick, Belgian, beauty, stoically staring back at me with those wide, innocent squares, and sweetly alluring scent. I cradled it into my arms, my heart filled with as much sorrow as Abraham must have felt on Mount Moriah as he prepared to sacrifice his beloved Isaac. “No,” I lamented as I dropped the edible delicacy unceremoniously into the garbage can. There was no turning back.

No one ever said motherhood was going to be easy. But I never imagined It would test me like this. One can only hope that lessons of this depth will need only to be learned once.

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

9 responses to “A spoonful of chocolate helps the medicine go down

  1. So much self restraint, Chocolate does not last in this house, that is why it never steps foot in it.

  2. mamadestroy ⋅

    You are a stronger woman than I! I fear that I might have decided the only reasonable way to discard it was to consume it, in its entirety, all by myself.

  3. Claire

    Is that the best way to go about it? Throwing it out entirely?

  4. Joy Strimple ⋅

    Better to do it now…because soon it will involve the family automobile–out of gas or dented or some horrible incident and of course HE didnt have a thing to do with it…lol

  5. Claire

    That’s true– What if he just thinks someone else ate it or something? I suppose it’s to teach him if he didn’t lie in the first place, there would have still been some chocolate in the fridge for him to eat?

  6. Susan ⋅

    I am unclear on how telling your child not to worry and then throwing the chocolate out when they are not there a “natural” concquence. I am disturbed by this technique as I understand it from this post. Seems like having your kids never know “when or where the shoe will fall” creates an environment of fear and some potential long-term consequences that are unexpected.

    • Dr. G

      Susan,
      If Debra doesn’t mind, Because I teach classes based on this, I’ll answer your question.

      You are right, in that when he does something wrong, he will not know when the consequences will occur. Only that they will. (as long as the parents are consistent). This gives him the opportunity to think about his actions in a non hostile environment. He’ll probably think of consequences much worse than anything you could think of. Which will cause him to wish he made a different choice. and probably think through what would happen if he had made a better choice. Which will provide a mental exercise of practicing making that choice.
      He will also learn that just because there are no imitate repercussions, doesn’t mean he got away with something. as exemplified by Debra’s photo ticket column.

      • gettrich

        Dear doctor,
        Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Unfortunately, the photo radar example is a poor one. Since, I truly try my hardest to avoid those damn things but cannot seem to get free of them, regardless of the consequences. Btw, I was just served again. Apparently there is a warrant out for my arrest. Have fun raising our children. Bake me something with some cleverly hidden “get out of jail” file inside.

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