If I were a child, Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting is the book I would want my parents to read. I was raised in a household where rewards and punishments were meted out with love and consistency, and I have tremendous respect for my parents. But this book showed me that there is another way to parent that can also produce loving, empathetic, and responsible adults--and it doesn't require punishment, threats, bribes, or rewards.
The task of convincing parents to exchange "doing to" behaviors for "working with" children is not an easy one, and Kohn is well aware of this. In the first half of Unconditional Parenting, he lays out compelling arguments that traditional power-based parenting methods may produce temporary obedience but often leave children feeling resentful, fearful, or unloved. In contrast, perceiving children's needs and responding appropriately tends to produce psychologically healthy children who are more likely to internalize moral standards. "Taking children seriously," Kohn writes, means "expressing unconditional love, giving children more chances to make decisions, and imagining how things look from the child's point of view."
The implications of this viewpoint are challenging, but Kohn's work is founded on research, experience, and readers' feedback. He's a nationally recognized speaker on education as well as parenting, and his messages are absolutely pertinent to those who seek to guide children in positive, meaningful ways of development.
I find it challenging to promote a book that argues against the prevailing Western parenting methods, but I do so because Unconditional Parenting guided me towards a more loving relationship with my children while I do my best to raise them responsibly and thoughtfully. And I'm sure my children are having a more enjoyable childhood because of this book's influence. Give yourself time to digest Kohn's reasoning, and soon you, too, will want to share his ideas with others.
What do you appreciate about the way you were raised? In what ways do you parent your own children differently?
Other posts in the 5 Books that Changed my Parenting series:
- Book 1: Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
- Book 2: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
- Book 3: Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy