I’m a self-proclaimed book worm. I can’t go a day without reading, and I can’t sleep at night if I haven’t read immediately prior to turning off the light. I love everything about books: the way they smell, the weight of a real book in my hands, the feeling that I’m embarking on uncharted territory when I turn to the first page of a new tome. There are a handful of books I’d deem life changing. Most books might tell a good story or, if I’m lucky, teach me a new concept. But it takes a special book to change the way I view the world. I can say unequivocally that Unconditional Parenting is that book.
What I'm Reading
The main premise of Unconditional Parenting is that everything we know about conventional discipline is wrong. Kohn explains how even strategies like rewards are tools of manipulation and control which communicate to our children that our love is conditional. Kohn is in support of the basic peaceful parenting premises of positive discipline, connection, and respect. Yet he doesn't stop there, he makes a powerful argument against any measure which suggests that our love for our children is contingent on what they do. Timeouts, praise, even pushing our children into competition all subtly communicate that our children have to earn our affection and remain in our favor to be accepted.
Instead, Kohn advocates for unconditional love and acceptance. That doesn't mean we ignore or condone behaviors which require our intervention, but he proves that even discipline can be done in a manner which preserves our children's dignity.
This book is nothing short of mind expanding and eye opening. Alfie Kohn is a true child advocate, and he has been instrumental in shaping the way I parent and coach other parents. He’s remarkably perceptive, and he never relies on opinion to make his points. Instead he cites endless studies to support his position, and he makes his case persuasively.
“Nothing is more important to us when we’re young than how our parents feel about us” (Page 30).
“We might say it’s our job to be 'in control,' in the sense of creating a healthy and safe environment, offering guidance, and setting limits - but it’s not our job to be 'controlling,' in the sense of demanding absolute obedience or relying on pressure or continuous regulation. In fact, although it may sound paradoxical, we need to be in control of helping them gain control over their own lives. The goal is empowerment rather than conformity, and the methods are respectful rather than coercive” (Page 62). Emphasis added because it's just so good I didn't want you to miss it. :)
“Hitting children clearly ‘teaches them a lesson’ - and that lesson is that you can get your way with people who are weaker than you are by hurting them” (Page 64).
“Whether your child spills the chocolate milk today, or loses her temper, or forgets to do her homework doesn’t matter nearly as much as the things you do that either help or don’t help her to become a decent, responsible, compassionate person” (Page 123).
“To ‘take kids seriously’ is to see them as people with distinctive points of view. To ‘talk less, ask more’ is a way to learn about how they see things. And once we do so, once we realize that what we’re demanding may seem a lot less reasonable from their perspective, we may need to ‘rethink our requests’ rather than just trying to enforce them” (Page 205).
“Bad things done for good reasons aren’t nearly as helpful as good things done for good reasons” (Page 219).