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Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason Paperback – March 28, 2006
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"Powerful alternatives to help children become their most caring, responsible selves." -- Adele Faber, coauthor of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen . . .
About the Author
Alfie Kohn is the author of nine previous books, including Punished by Rewards and The Schools Our Children Deserve, that have helped to shape the thinking of parents and educators across the country and abroad. He lectures widely and lives (actually) with his family in the Boston area and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.
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This book is not about quick fixes, or easy strategies to get your child to "behave". It's about avoiding punishments and bribes that result only in "short term compliance at an extremely high cost", and opting for an approach of working with your child, instead. The second part of his book discusses in great length, with examples, ways that we can work with our children.
I don't agree completely with Kohn's removal of all parental praise - when his daughter climbed the stairs for the first time, he didn't applaud or freak out, he just said matter of factly "you did it". I'm more in the exuberant praise for major accomplishments category. However, I found his argument against using praise as a means of control extremely compelling. Don't praise your kid overly for putting his jacket on, because you want him to keep getting himself ready for school. Do celebrate (in my opinion) your children's accomplishments that they're proud of by sharing in their joy and applauding them also.
If I could get every parent to read this book, I would. I am so grateful that I discovered Alfie Kohn's work when my sons were preschool age. I believe this could help me raise resilient kids who feel loved, who trust me to be on their side, and who are at lower risk for dangerous behaviors as teenagers because they've had an opportunity to learn the real consequences of actions - not that mom or dad will be mad, but that now something is broken and needs to be repaired, or they may have to choose a different college, or mom was up late worrying because they weren't home. Punishments and bribes obscure the real reason we should do something, make our kids feel conditionally loved, and don't have positive long-term impacts on behavior.
My personal view is the principles or techniques endorsed in this book are not entirely new or different from other popular texts, but what this book stands out is perhaps the attempt of the author to bring readers to reasons behind why the endorsed principles may be better than other 'common' parenting techniques recommended in other books.
A setback of this book that I would flag is that when the author emphasized that threats against children can do more harm than good to their lives, the pouring and repeating of research results trying to show that how much damage has/ may have been done to children by parents using parenting techniques not taken on board by the author in the first half (or even more than that?) of this book actually feels like posing threats towards readers and provokes negative feelings which might drive away readers' interest in continuing to go through the gem of the book and the author's knowledge insights which he would like to share. I read real slow through the 'horrible scenes' and felt uneasy and asked myself if I could read to the end, not knowing if there would be more negative information to be received in later chapters. Perhaps in his next book the author can try to balance the weight of the 'horrible scenes' and the ideas he would like to share so as to make his book relatively more encouraging to read from start to finish.