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Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason [Paperback]

Alfie Kohn
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 28 2006
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.

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Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason + Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting + Playful Parenting
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Author of nine books, including the controversial Punished by Rewards, Kohn expands upon the theme of what's wrong with our society's emphasis on punishments and rewards. Kohn, the father of young children, sprinkles his text with anecdotes that shore up his well-researched hypothesis that children do best with unconditional love, respect and the opportunity to make their own choices. Kohn questions why parents and parenting literature focus on compliance and quick fixes, and points out that docility and short-term obedience are not what most parents desire of their children in the long run. He insists that "controlling parents" are actually conveying to their kids that they love them conditionally—that is, only when they achieve or behave. Tactics like time-out, bribes and threats, Kohn claims, just worsen matters. Caustic, witty and thought-provoking, Kohn's arguments challenge much of today's parenting wisdom, yet his assertion that "the way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions" rings true. Kohn suggests parents help kids solve problems; provide them with choices; and use reason, humor and, as a last resort, a restorative time away (not a punitive time-out). This lively book will surely rile parents who want to be boss. Those seeking alternative methods of raising confident, well-loved children, however, will warmly embrace Kohn's message. (Mar.)Forecast: Kohn is a controversial and popular author/speaker, well regarded by scholars and educators. This title should appeal to parents who want to explore the "whys" and not just the "hows" of raising kids.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Powerful alternatives to help children become their most caring, responsible selves." -- Adele Faber, coauthor of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen . . .

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I have sometimes derived comfort from the idea that, despite all the mistakes I've made (and will continue to make) as a parent, my children will turn out just fine for the simple reason that I really love them. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Seed for the Future of Parenting June 10 2006
In struggling to deal with my strong-willed 4-year-old daughter, I kept upping the ante, usually by yelling louder and coming up with more creative consequences. There were lots of "successes" but her outbursts at home seemed more desperate. Something in my gut said this just isn't working -- like I was getting her compliance at the expense of her self-esteem. I read Unconditional Parenting and the subtle concerns I had were in this book. Besides providing the history of time-outs, the author provides insights on common North American parenting strategies (rewards, punishments, "say, 'I'm sorry, Billy'", "say, 'Thank you'", "Ooo, what a pretty picture"), then provides a common sense look at who kids really are and what's behind our current style. Here was the seed for how I could guide my daughter without trying to manipulate her, and keep my respect and love for her intact. And I was shocked as it inadvertently explained the origin of issues I'm facing as an adult and the parenting I received that coincide with these. My husband and I started using concepts in the book and were much happier with the results we got with our daughter -- not compliance, but solutions that we chose together, leaving her with a genuine smile, and a sense of peace for us. But this is not a "do this" book. It's common sense and inspirational, and our change in approach fell immediately out of it. So, after several weeks, I plan to re-read this book, be re-inspired, and see if we can stride further. I hope to see more from this author and more on this style of parenting. I think this is the start of the future of North American parenting, with the goal on teaching children how to make decisions, and parents being able to sleep nights with our integrity intact.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for any parent Sept. 23 2007
This book is revolutionary in its approach to parenting. As is Gordon Neufeld's "Hold on to your kids". If you are finding that "time outs" and all the other advice you've gotten from people and books simply don't work, try this approach you will be amazed at how well it works. Only thing is you don't get recipes for discipline, but rather it teaches you to show love for your kids without rewards and/or punishments.

One thing that really struck a chord for me was when he says that there's no question that all parents love their kids, the only problem is that very few kids feel loved unconditionally. And if kids don't feel loved unconditionally they can't really thrive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading Jan. 13 2010
There may not be a manual for raising kids, but there ought to be some required reading. This is one of those rare books that comes along and makes you re-think everything you thought you knew about what it means to discipline your child. If you, like me, aren't aware of many options beyond what you've seen on Supernanny or what you yourself were subjected to as a kid, then you need to read this book.

Time-outs, rewards systems, even common statements like "no" come into question. Instead, we are asked to take the viewpoint of the child and encourage them to reflect on their actions in order to make better decisions next time. If I were a kid and I had the capacity, I would tell my parents to read this book before sending me to my room for another time-out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The cover says it all: BLACK and white July 12 2013
Okay... credit where creit is due. Alphie Kohn makes a good point, but how he goes about it is bitter, haughty, acrid and condescending.

I have a very difficult time reading or listening to parents who hold themselves above others and deem themselves superior in their methods of doing things. I got the feeling reading this book that he was raised an angry, bitter, abused child who vowed never to make his parents mistakes, and dedicated his life to not only doing things differently than what he knew, but by aggressively denouncing anything that reflected his experience.

I was really fascinated by his points, found his arguments compelling... however, I believe strongly in moderation, and I do not believe that my child will be scarred for life and suffer "love withdrawl" because I chose to sit him on a chair for two minutes in a dreaded-god-forbid "time out"; nor do I believe that my child will turn into a reward driven narcissistic ego maniac if I say "Hey! Great job cleaning your room!"

No, I DON'T chase my kids around, squealing like a pig chanting "Good sharing! Good pooping! Good farting!", nor do I reign tyranical over their heads and expect seamless conformity to their every action.

Everything in moderation, including moderation. I think good parenting is a combination of support, encouragement, communication... and yes, god forbid, that means some degree of punishment and praise. I HAVE said "If you can't sit quietly and watch your movie, it's bed time" without feeling that I'm a horrible person using priveledge as leverage for good behaviour. Consequences for actions are very real in the world, and so is accountability for behaviour.

Although I find this book compelling, I find the extreme to which he takes it unrealistic and a little insulting to the intelligence.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but.... Feb. 22 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I initially gave this book 5 stars and a glowing review, and I am still grateful for having read it. Kohn's stance against punitive consequences and fluffy, non-specific praise are valuable. However, over time I've found that we need more. Howard Glasser's work has proven much more workable in our home. Like Kohn, he is against punitive consequences. But he strongly advocates clear, specific praise that shows children how they are already succeeding, thereby tending the fires of their own greatness. He balances this with a very strong system of consequences that while mild, provide clear, consistent, and immediate feedback. He has had great success with even the toughest of behavioral issues, bringing many, many kids back from the verge of self-destruction. But he works with all kids and emphasizes that all kids flourish with this approach - it's just that the tough kids demand something different. Ross Greene's "Explosive Child" is also exceptional - and it's applicable to all kids (and perhaps all relationships).
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