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Most parenting guides begin with the question “How can we get kids to do what they're told?” and then proceed to offer various techniques for controlling them. In this truly groundbreaking book, nationally respected educator Alfie Kohn begins instead by asking, “What do kids need—and how can we meet those needs?” What follows from that question are ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them.
One basic need all children have, Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including “time-outs”), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Kohn cites a body of powerful, and largely unknown, research detailing the damage caused by leading children to believe they must earn our approval. That's precisely the message children derive from common discipline techniques, even though it's not the message most parents intend to send.
More than just another book about discipline, though, Unconditional Parenting addresses the ways parents think about, feel about, and act with their children. It invites them to question their most basic assumptions about raising kids while offering a wealth of practical strategies for shifting from “doing to” to “working with” parenting—including how to replace praise with the unconditional support that children need to grow into healthy, caring, responsible people. This is an eye-opening, paradigm-shattering book that will reconnect readers to their own best instincts and inspire them to become better parents.
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Atria Books; 1 edition (March 28, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743487486
- ISBN-13: 978-0743487481
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
A paradigm shift in parenting that changes everything
46 people found this helpful
Mind-blowing. I saw Alfie Kohn speak, and was deeply moved by his arguments against using positive reinforcement (bribes) and “logical consequences” (punishment) as a means to control children’s behavior. He argues that by using a “doing to” approach, we teach our children that they should behave certain ways to either get rewards or avoid punishments. This removes the intrinsic desire to behave a certain way because it’s the right way to behave, or because then our brother won’t be unhappy and will play with us longer, etc. It confuses and changes the real reason we want our children to behave a certain way in the first place, and it controls their behavior through external means rather than helping them develop internal mechanisms for control. It can also make our children feel as though they’re loved conditionally – his argument against forced time outs was absolutely heart-breaking and gut wrenching… to a small child, a forced time out is essentially forced isolation until they conform to something we want – it’s the removal of our love and presence based on what a child has done.
As much as I hate feeling controlled by other people I was in fact …
24 people found this helpful
I’m thankful and blessed to have had the chance to read this book. It has inspired me to reflect on my parenting methods and evaluate the effects they have on my children. As much as I hate feeling controlled by other people I was in fact a completely over controlling father. I have learned that the goal of just getting kids to obey authority is very different from the goal of developing good judgement and responsibility. I say yes a lot more. I am more attentive and take their needs seriously. I no longer look at my kids as a an opponent that I need to pick battles with to win and show who is boss. I try my best to see things from their perspective. I listen to them better. I do my best to foster autonomy. I let them reasonably make as many decisions and choices as possible. I have a much clearer understanding of what unconditional love looks like. I focus on what my kid needs instead of caring what people are thinking when my 3 year old acts like a 3 year old in public. I don’t sacrifice our long term goals and relationships for immediate compliance. I don’t spank. I don’t use time out. I don’t give rewards. I don’t use coercive strategies to try to manipulate my children.
Good read along with other mainstream parenting books
7 people found this helpful
All in all I like how the author puts in broad principles which adults use to resolve day to day conflicts and perhaps boost positive behaviour of people around them to as possible ways to raise children. My personal view is the principles or techniques endorsed in this book are not entirely new or different from other popular texts, but what this book stands out is perhaps the attempt of the author to bring readers to reasons behind why the endorsed principles may be better than other ‘common’ parenting techniques recommended in other books. A setback of this book that I would flag is that when the author emphasized that threats against children can do more harm than good to their lives, the pouring and repeating of research results trying to show that how much damage has/ may have been done to children by parents using parenting techniques not taken on board by the author in the first half (or even more than that?) of this book actually feels like posing threats towards readers and provokes negative feelings which might drive away readers’ interest in continuing to go through the gem of the book and the author’s knowledge insights which he would like to share.
Parenting for democracy – and healthy kids
30 people found this helpful
How often have you heard parents justify their parental dictates on the basis of “because this family is not a democracy”? On the surface, that probably sounds rather common sensical. Who would think that little people who have never had to punch a time clock or make a mortgage payment would know anything about running a family? Instead, conventional wisdom (along with most “experts”) tell us that children need a firm, strong hand, clear boundaries and limits and predictable consequences for violating said limits. Finally, at long last comes Alfie Kohn to turn such conventional assumptions on their head. Why, Kohn asks, should children be expected to be unquestioningly obedient to adults? Why should adult needs and desires necessarily trump those of children? In fact, if you ask most parents what they want for their children in the long run, you will probably hear words like “independent”, “self-assertive”, “creative” and “confident”. Why then do we so often fall back on day-to-day parenting strategies that insist on obedience and parental control? Kohn is no Pollyanna. He recognizes that parenting is hard work and that there are real life demands that must be met.
7 people found this helpful
I’m only through the first chapter, but I already have to say that this book is amazing. I’d imagine that most of the negative reviews are coming from parents who feel called out about their own harmful approach to parenting and are unwilling to change the harmful patterns they have been following with their own children. I’ve found it to be nothing but enlightening. People always say stuff like, “Well my parents did ……. and I turned out fine!” Turning out fine, is not the same as thriving and reaching your full potential as a human being. Plus, people who respond with that sort of explosive, hostile defensiveness are likely individuals who were never given the proper coping skills and self-esteem needed for constructive dialogue and communication with others. If you the type of parent that wants to learn more about training your child–this is not the book for you (although you are the type of person that really should read it). If you are the type of parent that wants to learn more about giving your child everything they need to be compassionate and responsive human beings (not just to obey to your commands) even if it takes a bit of extra work, this would be a great book for you.
You need a second book for younger children
I didn’t like the repetition. I usually have this complaint about many books recently so many it is because i beige read and most others don’t. I loved how simple he makes the theory and his supporting data. I enjoyed his stories and how he went about a few of his own issues. I did buy P.E.T. Parent effectiveness training (haven’t started it yet) to pair with this knowledge if I can. I would suggest some other supportive text to give you more or better instructions on actual situations if you, like me, have young children. My four year old is not capable of the level of conversation that are suggested in cooperative problem solving and he is my oldest but it’s wonderful to keep in mind as all my children get older
Very valuable and eye-opening for our family.
8 people found this helpful
Like any parenting book, this one won’t be everyone’s speed, but my husband and I both enjoyed it quite a bit. It asks the question “What kind of adult do you want your child to be?” and examines various ways parents might try to reach their longterm goals with their kids. Kohn’s ideas can be rather mind-blowing in that he is not a fan of time-outs, sticker charts, and other mainstays of modern parenting and education. He explains his opinions in a very readable and conversational tone and backs everything up with research. If you have tried techniques such as time-out and they are not working for you, you might be encouraged to read some this information. One thing I really love about the book is that Kohn comes from the starting point that most kids are inherently good and that through our parenting we help our children cultivate that goodness. It is a very collaborative style of parenting. I personally am put off by discipline books that assume that all kids are bad and just waiting for the chance to disobey their parents. This book was already more in line with my personal beliefs about raising children.
One person found this helpful
A thought provoking book that is backed by quality research. I’m a counselor and recommend this book to many of the parents of kids I see in addition to following this with my own child. I often see children who struggle truly believing their parents love them despite their parents obvious love. Rewards and consequences can lead to kids feeling that their parents only love them when they are good. He is critical of natural consequences and Christianity which may not mesh well with some. I am a Christian and don’t believe the principles he shares contradict my beliefs. God himself gives us unconditional love and forgiveness. His grace goes before us, we don’t need to EARN his grace. In fact, we can’t earn it, it’s a free gift.