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The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting Hardcover – March 25, 2014

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The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting + Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason + Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738217247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738217246
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A wise and passionate book--by one of the best friends our children have today--that is also a delight to read."--Jonathan Kozol, author of Fire in the Ashes

"Splendid....Kohn's analysis is incisive, witty, and fun to read. In a manner that reminds me of Voltaire, Kohn brings clear and profound social criticism to a topic of great contemporary importance."--William Crain, author of Reclaiming Childhood

"An insightful, well-informed, thorough analysis of the many false and hostile claims made about parents and children today. Kohn patiently dismantles myths about 'helicopter parenting,' every kid getting a trophy in every endeavor, and parents allegedly inflating their kids' self-esteem, and shows the myths to be not just without merit but destructive. Then he goes beyond the critique to provide a positive vision of parenting for our time, 'working with' kids rather than 'doing to' them. It's a vision that should be heeded."--Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, coauthor of When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?

Kirkus Reviews, 4/1/14
“Kohn attacks the status quo on child-rearing and parenting…Via research and interviews, Kohn closely examines the current media-backed perceptions of permissive and controlling parenting and contrasts them with actual data, deflating popular beliefs that children are now more spoiled and unruly than ever…A thought-provoking, semicontroversial scrutiny of modern parenting practices.”

Calgary Herald, 3/3/14
“[Kohn] tackles many modern parenting assumptions head-on in his latest book.”

Boston Globe, 3/30/14
“With his trademark blend of skepticism and idealism, [Kohn] dismantles most of the hype surrounding motivation and competition, failure and success.”, 4/3/2014
“The best parts of Kohn’s book are in the breathing spaces between the bouts of contrariness—the acknowledgment that it’s vital to pay attention to your kids’ desires and interests, that depending on ‘grit’ as the answer to all social ills is wrongheaded…that we should encourage kids to develop ‘thoughtful skepticism, a reflective rebelliousness, a selective defiance based on principle’ rather than simple rules-following.”

The Metro, 4/15/14
“The heart of Kohn’s philosophy all comes down to unconditional love. Whether you agree or disagree with his parenting methods, that’s something everyone can get behind.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/30/14
“Kohn picks apart the script that today’s kids are coddled and lazy—complaints every generation makes about the succeeding one.”

Huffington Post, 5/7/14
“[An] important new book… [Kohn] debunks many decades of nonsense about undisciplined, entitled, lazy, selfish, needy children who are the products of permissive parenting and schooling, rooted in the misguided progressivism of the 60’s and 70’s. His research is comprehensive, his logic compelling, and his prose accessible and witty…The importance of Kohn’s treatise cannot be overestimated.”, 5/6/14
“If you’re well-versed in current parenting and education discourse, you know that Alfie Kohn is America’s gadfly on these topics, consistently challenging the popular views with solid evidence to the contrary…The Myth of the Spoiled Child is a point-by-point response to the common but baseless social criticism of modern American parents and their children…[Kohn is] highly convincing as he meticulously discredits prevalent assumptions about falling school standards, pervasive narcissism, and the overly touted benefits of self-discipline and failure.”

Hudson Valley News, 5/14/14
“This book will calm your fears and help you to feel good about your own methodology of parenting.”

Portland Book Review, 5/21/14
“Kohn dispels the notion that we’re raising our kids ‘wrong’…[A] well-researched book…This is not a how-to parenting book, but will certainly provide insight into raising good world citizens.”

Bookviews, June 2014
“One hears so much about today’s kids being spoiled that it was enlightening and pleasurable to read a book that says it’s just not true…For the parent who needs a bit of advice, this book will prove helpful.”

New York Times Book Review, 6/15/14
“Filled with surprising insights and counterintuitive data…An energetic…argument against all the columnists, politicians and pundits who insist children today are spoiled.”

San Francisco Book Review, 8/20/14
“Kohn explains why the belief that modern parents are too permissive (or too overprotective) and that kids are entitled, narcissistic monsters is wrong. He has the research to back it up and creates a convincing argument.”

About the Author

Alfie Kohn is the author of twelve previous books--including The Homework Myth, Unconditional Parenting, and Punished by Rewards--and hundreds of articles. His work has helped to shape the thinking of parents, educators, and social scientists throughout the world. A popular lecturer, he lives (actually) in the Boston area and (virtually) at

Customer Reviews

Well thought out with exhaustive research.
Marc Phillips
This book is required reading for all parents and anyone who works with children.
P. Voskeridjian
I previewed a pre-publication copy of the book.
Jerry L. Hillyer, II

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Jerry L. Hillyer, II on April 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Title: The Myth of the Spoiled Child

Author: Alfie Kohn

Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books

Date: 2014

Pages: (preview copy e-book) via netgalley: 282

Author Page: Alfie Kohn

[You need to read this before you take another glance at this page: the FCC wants you to know that it is imperative information that I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I'm glad that's off my chest and I hope you feel better knowing it.]

I was warned about Alfie Kohn when I was in graduate school. I was warned that his ideas are somewhat 'naive', that they sort of controvert the 'mainstream,' and that they are not compatible with 'reality.' So I began the reading with not a little nervousness and apprehension. Yet, as I went deeper into the book I found myself nodding in agreement, highlighting in agreement, and sort of shaking my head in disbelief at the depth of common sense I was discovering with each turn of an electronic page. I was warned that Kohn is a little out of the mainstream; I was not told that I might actually find what he is saying useful, helpful, and sensible.

I was trained at a university in the finer points of Applied Behavior Analysis and I am a strict student of the tools, techniques, and trials that accompany such a method of educating students who have special needs.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dienne TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first stumbled on Alfie Kohn’s work when I happened to see THE HOMEWORK MYTH at the library. It was like a light bulb coming on. I had always sensed that there is something wrong about the traditional ways that kids are treated/raised (and that that something is somehow related to much of what’s wrong with society as a whole), but that book began to give me the vocabulary to understand and discuss such problems.

This is now my third Alfie Kohn book, plus I have read nearly all of his articles that are available online. It doesn’t take long to realize that Kohn has one basic overarching point, and that his writings simply come at that point from a variety of different angles. His point has to do with how we as a society tend to exert control and expect compliance, and how we use punishments and rewards as the main means of instilling this control. This power and control, and the punitive means of enforcing it, is actually harmful not only to the individuals subject to it but to the fabric of society. It creates individuals who are insecure, risk-averse, compliant, conventional and conforming. If we want people to be bold, analytical, critical, creative, innovative and, well, free, we need to become more supportive, nurturing and unconditionally accepting. In short, Kohn refers to this as “working with” rather than “doing to”.

This particular book, as the title indicates, comes at this paradigm by exploring current (and past) ideas that kids “these days” are spoiled and coddled; that parents “today” are both too permissive and too involved in their kids’ lives. He explores a range of typical, usually conservative bogeymen from indulged, “entitled”, narcissistic kids, to helicopter parents to participation trophies and self-esteem.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kelly on April 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In The Myth of the Spoiled Child, Alfie Kohn examines the motives, values and beliefs underlying the conventional wisdom—espoused on both the political left and right—about raising children. Unlike many parenting books that attack straw men, the ideas Kohn argues against are central tenets on child rearing that any parent will recognize. He presents arguments and evidence in favor of the conventional wisdom, including direct quotes from some of the many experts who proffer it, such as certain prominent psychologists. He then analyzes what would have to be true for such conventional parenting wisdom to be logical and accurate, and weighs what research says about its validity. He also shows why, for all too many adults, its validity is beside the point.

Kohn’s the rare author who breaks down real-life arguments into their components and doesn't just cite but, rather, pores over the original research pertaining to each of them. He dissects several important studies whose so-called results get thrown around quite often in parenting books and articles—e.g., the marshmallow experiments, research on narcissism in young people, studies on children’s self-esteem and the importance of grit—and surprises us with what the research actually shows (and, at times, the disparity between how the authors of the studies interpreted their results versus how others typically report them).

It’s all too rare that an author walks readers through such conceptual and research heavy lifting that they come away with new understandings about topics with which they thought themselves already familiar. Kohn has done a tremendous service for us parents and our children by writing such a book.
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