Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Unconditional Parenting

I've been mulling over Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn for several months...I've read and re-read this book and watched the DVD. It's taken me so long to write about it because it's so thought provoking and challenges the assumptions that many of us have been conditioned to believe about raising our children. I know that I can't be the only mom out there struggling with the whole concept of discipline. As some of you know, I've tried various and seemingly benign methods of discipline and I just don't feel comfortable, nor does it seem to help. In situations where I become completely overwhelmed by a particular behavior, I often resort to time out...and truthfully, not for any other reason other than I need that moment to collect myself before my head explodes. I'm not joking it really does feel like my cranium is going to burst. But time-out doesn't feel right. This uneasy feeling is what led me to Unconditional Parenting.

Alfie's message makes an extremely valid point: traditional discipline in the form of consequences is only effective in the short term, if it actually worked long term, we would not have to keep doing it. He suggests working with the child instead of "doing to" the child. He points out that, as parents, we need to look at the bigger picture...we want them to grow to be responsible adults.

The DVD is an overview that gets to the core of this insightful work and Alfie is very entertaining in his delivery. The book, of course, goes into much more detail. Unconditional Parenting has inspired me to trust my instincts in that if something doesn't feel right for my family, it's because it's not. That is not to say that I have all the answers yet, but I do believe that I have found another piece to the puzzle.

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posted by Wendy at 5:17 AM

6 Comments:

Anonymous vickie said...

Thanks Wendy for this post. i was unaware of this book but "punished by rewards" was life changing for us and discusses a lot of what you mention. when we read that book it ulitimately moved us to change our school which was pushing all the wrong messages through to our child. i TOTALLY get you on the time out thing. doesn't really work, i don't feel right about it....doesnt' seem to have any meaningful impact other than give me a moment to calm down.

i will check out this book. :)

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Stacy (Mama-Om) said...

When Orlando was a baby, someone gave me an article about not saying "good job" by Alfie Kohn and it was very eye-opening.

When Orlando was around one year old, I began a very long journey into searching for a way of relating to my children and of handling my own feelings under stress... I am so glad I did. I have learned/am learning so much. Sometimes it is amazing to me to deeply question things that I grew up with or see all around me.

I have a list of books on my website that really helped me... here are some of the main ones:

How to Talk So Kids Will and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Faber and Mazlish

Kids Are Worth It, Barbara Coloroso

The Natural Child, Jan Hunt

The Continuum Concept, Jean Liedloff

Non-Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg

Your Competent Child, Jesper Juul

Buddhism for Mothers, Susan Napthali

Your One Year Old, Your Two Year Old, etc., Ames and Ilg (these books are "dated" and I wouldn't recommend their discipline advice per se, but they gave me a great understanding of normal developmental behaviors)

This online forum helped me greatly: Positive Parenting and (non-punitive) Discipline Yahoo Group

And now this online forum and "daily groove" emails help me: Enjoy Parenting

I am one of those people that needs to take in a bunch of information and see what resonates and what doesn't. These books and sites really helped me give words and form to my heart's desire.

It is amazing where our hearts will lead us. Keep listening to yours, and thank you for sharing your journey!

Blessings,
Stacy

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Antje said...

Hi Wendy,
It's so true what you say. Your post came at just the right time. I feel that time outs etc. can't be the answer. And while a parent/child relationship is certainly not a 100% democratic one, I feel like punishment is taking advantage of my power, and as you say, it does nothing in the long run.

I'm still looking for gentler yet effective ways to show my son that certain things are not ok.

Thank you for this lead, and I'm curious to hear about your progress.

All best,
Antje from NH

9:19 PM  
Blogger Pampered Mom said...

I can totally relate. I find myself struggling with much the same things. I "get it" on an intellectual level, but find it difficult to apply it on a day to day basis. Partly because of the example I saw when growing up and partly because of my overall cultural background. I actually checked it from the library for another reading this week.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Green Mamma said...

I struggle with discipline too, mostly because I grew up with such a strict disciplinarian and a very relaxed passive parent . . . a sharp contradiction.

Months ago, I was totally against time outs, though what I offer my daughter now are opportunities to relax and focus . . . what Dr. Sears' calls time-ins.

I read Alfie Kohn in my teacher preparation program for undergrad and found myself very much alone in my agreement with his philosophy on what works and what is not working in the public schools; I think that with much patience, time, and commitment to our children, it is possible to parent in a way that is intuitive and is not a strange bargaining system (when we parent this way, I feel as though I am preparing my daughter for entering a courtroom or to go into negotiating . . . not that this would be such a bad thing . . .).

Thank you for this post Wendy. Unconditional Parenting is in our AP library and I have long been meaning to read it.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Welcome, PM...love your banner. It's like the view from our hammock :-)

3:09 PM  

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