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Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason Paperback – March 28, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1 edition (March 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743487486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743487481
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

Review

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

More About the Author

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. He is the author of twelve books and hundreds of articles. Kohn has been described by Time Magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades and test scores." He has appeared twice on "Oprah," as well as on "The Today Show," NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and on many other TV and radio programs. He spends much of his time speaking at education conferences, as well as to parent groups, school faculties, and researchers. Kohn lives (actually) in the Boston area - and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.

Customer Reviews

Alfie Kohn consistently writes thought provoking books which are well supported by research, which is carefully cited.
Nora L. Ishibashi
He will make you think wholly and truly about the kind of parent you want to be and the kind of child you are helping to shape with your words and actions.
Paul T. Marinelli
This book offers well researched strategies for achieving these goals and helping parents find a credible way to cope with the changes they face.
Christine D. Wood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

185 of 189 people found the following review helpful By C. Pettis on February 25, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was skeptical before reading this book. No time outs? No punishments, no rewards? There's a problem with praise? I was even skeptical for the first few chapters. But by the end, I was won over by the sheer amount of research backing up Kohl's parenting philosophy.

I told my husband when I finished it that I was going to try it. We were done with time outs, punishments and praise. My husband raised his eyebrows but went along. While I can't say that we've done this perfectly, the change this wrought in the behavior of our oldest (4 yrs old) was amazing. So much so that my husband said about two weeks later that whatever it was that I was doing differently, I should keep doing it. Her preschool teacher remarked that my daughter just seemed to "really change, really grow" all of a sudden. Truly, it was remarkable.

It should be noted that this is not a "how-to" book. There are not a lot of practical examples of how to parent as Kohl suggests. For this, I would suggest reading "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish (as well as their other books).

Even if you end up not agreeing with this book, I would suggest reading it since it will challenge you to think critically about what kind of children you want to raise and how they way you parent affects them.

ETA: It's now been two years since I first read this book and I would still consider this the most important, even if not most helpful, parenting book I have read. It not only transformed my parenting but it gave me tools for sorting through the mounds of often contradictory advice out there.
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586 of 637 people found the following review helpful By Penny Thoughtful on June 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
Overall, I'm glad I read it, as it is a thought-provoking read that ultimately made a better parent just by grappling with the issues it presents.

Here is what I liked about it:

Kohn emphasizes teaching empathy, teaching kids about the effects their behavior will have on OTHER people, not just on themselves; teaching kids to behave because it's the right thing to do, not out of fear of punishment or desire for reward. This is an extremely important and useful concept that many parenting books neglect.

I think many of his observations about "conditional" parenting are spot on, and things I remember painfully from my own childhood.

Everything he says is well-documented, not just his own spouting opinion. I think he is especially brave to take on race, religion and culture when he makes his assertions. I find his information about self-esteem to be particularly relevant.

I like that he allows hardworking parents to cut themselves a slice of slack. The world is not going to come to a crashing halt if your child sees you fumble. I have a three-year-old, and his advice about three-year-olds is helpful in the practical sense. There truly ARE many times when I feel like yelling at my child, "Are you dense?!" only to have Kohn's words echo back at me, "I'm not dense! I'm THREE!" A lot of this information is reassuring and helps me to be more calm and patient.

Finally, he advises parents to take his own advice with a grain of salt, something most parenting gurus won't do. He acknowledges that there are times when your child needs a bath or you need to get out of the house by a certain time and you will have to impose your will on the child and there isn't a way around that.
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90 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Mark S. Meritt on July 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is perhaps one of the most important books I've read.

It makes a strong case for why both punishment/criticism/consequences and rewards/praise not only are ineffective in getting kids to do what we want but also cause lasting harm to kids' development. It provides many great insights toward alternatives, all flowing from the idea that we must unconditionally meet children's needs, that this is how we can give kids a solid foundation upon which to develop healthfully.

Yet the book is certainly not about being a pushover as a parent. The punishment/reward opposites it criticzes are distinguished as, themselves, just one side of another pair of dysfunctional parenting opposites. They are just different ways to use power to control kids. On the other hand is permissiveness, which is also ineffective. The book makes clear that it is both possible and necessary to be a parent, to set boundaries, and that it's simply a question of how one does so, respecting kids as human beings and seeking to work with them toward positive ends rather than do things to them that can't possibly move them toward the ends we want.

UP sheds a great amount of light on parenting, education and, if one is willing to extend its ideas, communication in general, even among adults. On top of all this, it is an easy and enjoyable read.

For those already interested in approaches such as attachment parenting, unschooling, positive discipline, etc., this book is a must read, giving perhaps the broadest picture possible about why these various approaches are so necessary and providing ways for people to make connections among them.

For anyone who is a parent of a child of any age, for anyone who relates with kids of any age, and really for anyone who wants to improve their communication and their relationships in general, I highly recommend that you find an opportunity to read this book soon.
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