Unconditional Parenting

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"Most parenting guides begin with the question "How can we get kids to do what they're told?"--and then proceed to offer various techniques for controlling them. In this truly groundbreaking book, nationally respected educator Alfie Kohn begins instead by asking "What do kids need--and how can we meet those needs?" What follows from that question are ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them. One basic need all children have, Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including "time-outs"), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Kohn cites a body of powerful, and largely unknown, research detailing the damage caused by leading children to believe they must earn our approval. That's precisely the message children derive from common discipline techniques, even though it's not the message most parents intend to send. More than just another book about discipline, though, Unconditional Parenting addresses the ways parents think about, feel about, and act with their children. It invites them to question their most basic assumptions about raising kids while offering a wealth of practical strategies for shifting from "doing to" to "working with" parenting--including how to replace praise with the unconditional support that children need to grow into healthy, caring, responsible people. This is an eye-opening, paradigm-shattering book that will reconnect readers to their own best instincts and inspire them to become better parents. "

Customer Reviews:

  • Very Anti-Religious
    First of all, this book gives ideas that have absolutely no practical application. For example, he suggests that ideally you should never praise your kids, because they should learn to feel proud of themselves, not rely on your pride. Sure, they should feel proud of themselves, but aren't they more likely to just feel bad about themselves if they grow up with parents who refuse to hand out praise?

    More importantly to me, as a Christian parent, is the fact that he sites religion as one of the reasons parents these days are too conditional in his opinion. He actually states that the God of Christian and Jewish religion is the ultimate example of conditional love, and goes on to say that these religions teach God loves you only if you love him. I can't respect anything he has to say after reading that kind of nonsense....more info
  • Parenting for emotional competence and relationships
    This book is an excellent resource for parents who want to move away from parenting children who are simply obedient and "apparently" no trouble. Because the world has changed, and the family context is very different from that in which most parents were brought up, it is extremely important to help them develop strong resilient families where children learn emotional competence as well as how they belong and care in their relationships- skills they will need for life in the world of 21C. This book offers well researched strategies for achieving these goals and helping parents find a credible way to cope with the changes they face. ...more info
  • best parenting book ever
    This is a book that is very readable, however, it has so many wonderfully deep ideas that I found myself taking breaks from it every few chapters just to absorb the information he presented. It is probably a book I will reread a year from now as well. I am so glad I found this book when I did. Very well written and thoughtful premises....more info
  • To many assumptions...
    I was very excited when I read this book, but after a few weeks of trying out some of the philosophies, it lost it's warm glow. Firstly, I don't find many of the assumptions the author makes logical. One of his premises is that a time-out or withheld privilage is actually "love withdrawal" He presents a lot of research that shows "love withdrawal" methods of disipline can be ineffective or undermine self-control/esteem, but he never really proves that children experience timeouts or privilage loss as love withdrawal. By this rational everytime you don't give a child what they want, you are showing them you don't love them. I tried to check into the research mentioned in his book, unfortunately it seemed very difficult to find, but I did find many articles and papers online that contradicted the findings he writes about.

    My three year old daughter is very smart, fun loving and strong willed...when I was attempting to use the unconditional parenting philosophy, my daughters testing, hitting and tantrums increased quite a bit. Obviously children are individual and different philosophies will work differently, but for my determined three year old I find clear consistent limits and consequences go the farthest toward keeping things on an even keel.

    I am also put off by the emotional language used in this book. The author's use of loaded phrases such as "unconditional love", "love withdrawal" punishments and many more suggests that traditional reward punishment is not just ineffective or counterproductive, but hurtful and unloving. Really, it just sound like emotional manipulation, which I find quite disconcerting in an author selling parenting materials. (Gosh, if you feel bad enough, you might just buy the DVD and the workbook too.)...more info
  • Different take on parenting
    Compared to other books on parenting this one is refreshing and original, I'm sure every parent would agree that the ultimate goal is understanding and love between child and them, not an authoritarian relationship...more info
  • Every parent should read this. Incredible book
    The title says it all. Really enlightening w/o being dull or preachy. ...more info
  • Concise and easy to understand
    I wouldn't claim that this is his best work until now, but this tiny book of his actually managed to give layperson especially parents (those who do not specialise in psychology)a glimpse of how our behaviors can affect our children, argued in scientifically-relevant ways using many of the research available. For those who are into psychology, this book enhances your knowledge, gives new perspectives, and making an arguement against reward (which effect is less frequently discussed in parenting books or psychology literature). ...more info
  • This positive parent loved it!
    Our family has, by and large, adopted most aspects of attachment parenting and, as our daughter grew, positive parenting. As I read this book, it felt as if Alfie Kohn had been inhabiting the recesses of my mind that were (to me) inexplicably torn about giving our daughter a treat when she used the potty. Whether you read Alfie Kohn, Magda Gerber, William Sears, or many others, respect for children remains key.

    As a Children's Librarian, I see many flavors of parenting every day. I also see the effects of parenting styles on unattended children on a daily basis. What helps me remain a caring professional even on rough days is respecting the young customers who need assistance. I've seen enough child reactions to silently hope for better from my own daughter, but this book has encouraged me to think about what I really want for her, why I want it, and how to allow her to become the best person she can be....more info
  • Best Parenting Book.
    We got this book last year. I love the ideas about treating kids with respect, like you would any other family member. There is also a dvd you can order off of Alfie Kohn's website, which is good for parents who don't have much time to read but are interested, like my partner. Putting this parenting style into practice has really made our lives so much better-more peaceful, enjoyable, happier. ...more info
  • Carefully reasoned explanation of good parenting
    Alfie Kohn consistently writes thought provoking books which are well supported by research, which is carefully cited. As a result, you can easily follow up on any of the ideas he discusses. Because he provides a thoughtful and reasonable explanation of his ideas, you can generalize to many situations using the logic he lays out. His argument is deeper than "what works" or "what we have always done." And that means it requires thoughtful consideration. It is well worth the effort. I am a parent, a grandparent, a psychotherapist, and a parent educator. I use all of Kohn's books, and I am extremely grateful that he has addressed the issues of parenting. It is helpful to be able to recommend good books to the parents with whom I have the privilege of working....more info
  • wonderful parenting book- should be required reading in high school
    This book is really a wonderful tool for parents- new parents, people who want to be parents and people who have been parents for a while. It sparked great conversations between my husband and me.

    Kohn lays out his arguments so well, and everything in the book is thoroughly backed up with research. It is funny, poignant, and clear. A must read for sure!

    If this book were required reading in High School, many of our families would be much happier and healthier.
    ...more info
  • Thought provoking, but not helpful
    I found the book very interesting, and it challenged many of my guiding premises about parenting. I had always considered myself a patient, loving Mom..But Alfie set me straight!! No, seriously..I agree with him that it is necessary to consider a child's needs, valuable to consider their feelings, and important to respect them as individuals....But, there is a lot to be said for controlling their behavior and avoiding bedlam in your home. He equates allowing children to experience natural consequenses with punishing and spanking..all tantamount to withdrawal of love..and he goes too far.
    I'm glad I've read it, and would reccomend it as PART OF a parenting library...But the ideals presented are not realistic, as the author himself admits when he says that he uses consequenses when absolutly needed. I like the concept that our goal as parents should be studied, and our parenting choices should fit that goal. there is value in this book..But it's far from a "How To" raise great people kind of book..Lots of theory and condemnation of current practices..and lots to think about....more info
  • wonderful, fantastic and eye-opening.
    this book is wonderful. I am re-reading it for the third time, and every time i am reminded how important it is to be a mindful, caring parent. How important it is not to dismiss your children's requests, needs, demands. I highly recommend this book to everyone....more info
  • Very realistic, very loving approach to parenting
    This book does an excellent job of addressing some of the key problems with the "traditional" parenting methods of rewards, praise, time outs, etc.

    Since most of the reviewers here have summed up what the book is about, I will mention the key points that stood out to me.

    I liked how he showed the long term effects of traditional parenting methods. I was raised this way and I can clearly see how the "carrot & stick" mentality had an affect on me.

    Since I want my children to grow up to be confident, self assured, balanced and loving, I have incorporated Alfie Kohn's methods into my parenting. I only wish my parents had done it for me! ...more info
  • children stand on their legs
    Children stand on their legs and adults will stand on their brains.
    A 5-year old grandchild, given the opportunity, knows better (not better, as in a comparison, but better in knowing the world as it is at any given moment) than grown-ups who act and think on mere suggestion.
    The world draws upon your curiosity. Any grandparent who pays attention knows (not as in logical argument) this. That's what grandchildren teach them. That's all....more info
  • The most important book on parenting ever written
    After eight years of parenting and dozens of books and classes, this is the only one that is a must-read for me....more info
  • Runs counter to everything else I've read or heard.
    ...and illicited numerous knee jerks from me in the course or reading. And, yet, I'm unable to refute anything he has said in this book. Even if you choose to ignore what this author has to say, you should read this book to understand what you are choosing to ignore....more info
  • It's about time! Every parent should read this book.
    Kohn does an exceptional job of making parents rethink their entire approach with children, and gives much healthier alternatives for everyone involved. In this book, he gives multiple reasons why this is necessary and gives multiples sources for every point he makes. He is a fantastic researcher and I'm thrilled that he's written this guide for parents. Even before reading the book, I have been practicing this form of parenting with my children and have seen firsthand how well it works....more info
  • Really makes you think
    I have read this book through several times. On the first pass much of it seemed pretty irrational. As my child ages and I am seeing more of what is done by many parents and schools I find myself revisiting this book often.

    I was able look at the rampant use of punishment and rewards in a whole new light. I am happy I read it when I did.

    ...more info
  • kohn vs. the entire history of human experience
    Some of Kohn's reservations about currently popular parenting techniques (time out, "bribery") are worth thinking about, but the basic premise of this book--that rewards and punishment should be thrown out of every parent's arsenal--seems not only wildly impractical but possibly a little insane.

    In the face of Kohn's theory I feel compelled to state the obvious: Behavior (a word Kohn dislikes) has consequences whether you are 3 or 63 and rewards and punishments are an inescapable part of life. Isn't it better to acquaint children with this reality? The last time I was pulled over for speeding, the officer didn't open a discussion with me on how we could work together to make sure I drove the speed limit in the future. I just got a ticket.

    I'm not sure if it would be possible to live by Kohn's theories, but should parents even try? Has there ever been a society that did not operate to influence human behavior based largely on rewards and punishments?

    If these two means of influencing behavior are so completely wrong, doesn't that mean that Kohn is the only guy in the history of humanity to be right? Which seems more likely to you?
    ...more info
  • Is this guy from Mars??
    I saw him on the Early Show one morning and was intrigued by the little "snippets" they went through about this book. My feeling is, don't waste your money! Sure, there were a couple of good points/highlights in the book. I feel that my husband and I are loving parents and, in fact, DO take into consideration the feelings of our child when parenting/disciplining him.

    I don't feel that this form of "parenting" is truly realistic ~ as a whole. We have a number of parenting books and keep referring back to Parent Magic 1-2-3 and the Pocket Parent. I don't agree with this author's definition/description about "behaviour" when he's referring to it in other parenting books (which, by the way, he's constantly putting down!).

    Moderation is the key...we've heard many times before...to everything ~ including parenting. There is a happy medium that can be reached between Mr. Kohn's book and the two books I've mentioned above (as well as other books out there, I'm sure). His is just one (very) small piece of the puzzle, that I'm sure most parents are aware of and incorporate into their parenting concepts, in general....more info
  • Good
    A real eye opener on how to cherish little people and enable them to grow into assured, self confident adults. So many things that adults do to children, not realizing the detrimental effects they cause to a childs growth. I was skeptical at first, but once I got into the book I found it fascinating....more info
  • Saccharine hippy dippy nonsense.
    My wife loved this. She found it inspiring. I hated it, I found it profoundly unhelpful.

    It is typical of most parenting literature in that 1) it tells you that you are doing it wrong. and 2) there is no 2.

    The author is all negative. Don't focus on getting good behavior through rewareds or punishment just use love and understanding. Ok, what should I do when, say the toddler stomps on the cat just to see what happens?

    STOMP!! MEOOWER! "OK, honey baby, that makes the cat sad, so please don't do it."
    STOMP!! MEOOWER! "Hey kiddie widdlie, when you kick the cat upside the head, it hurts her, and she doesn't like that, so she would prefer it if you stopped that."
    STOMP!! MEOOWER! OK, screw Alfie. Back to reality, kid. You are getting a time out!

    He has nothing to say about real world parenting challenges, spending the entire book burning straw men. He would rather criticize the (no doubt fictional) parent who supposedly chastised their child for enjoying a day at the park, than tell real parents how to cope with real challenges. ...more info
  • Amazing! Alfie Kohn at his best again!
    Children need to know that no matter what they do that they'll always be loved. Some people have this way about them, when dealing with their children, that alienates their children into feeling like they're not wanted. Alfie Kohn gives you so much info in this book, really gets into the thick of it, how it affects your children, how best to go about it in the future,etc. Its a must read. Its life changing and chock full of great information!...more info
  • A MUST READ!!!!!!!!
    This book is an absolute must-read on parenting. I was fortunate enough to come across this book when my oldest was a baby. I didn't know how it would work, but I was committed to the book's principles which really resonated with me. My son is now 4.5 years old, and I can tell you that this is a wonderful, loving, close, gentle, respectful way to parent, that pays more and more dividends as time progresses. I've watched my son blossom from a very intense and high-need baby/toddler to a very intense, active, loving, generous, kind boy. Did Unconditional Parenting change his basic independent, challenging, engaging personality? Of course not. Nor would I want it to. It took millions of years of evolution to give us all the wonderfully diverse personality types we see today. But he wasn't an "easy" baby, and he's not an "easy" child. But I see him mirroring his treatment of me and others by my treatment of him. He has a high respect for himself and others. He's happy,healthy, and thriving with the help of unconditional parenting (and attachment parenting).

    ...more info
    This book is great in theory but good luck putting into practice!!
    Some of his ONLY real advice was to let a child (while in public) ride out a temper tantrum. Well, what about kids you flail, bite, hit, throw, and do anything possible while having a tantrum....what then?
    There is nothing in this book I don't already do.
    Saying "Good job" is bad? Come on, lets all live in the real world!
    Somebody give me some REAL advice for the extreme situations!!...more info
  • Not what I expected
    I bought this book hoping to get some advice on how to deal with kids (although my first baby isn't born yet). I wanted to be prepared. But, the author spends SO much time telling you how NOT to treat your kids, and I feel like much of what he says is common sense. I'd like to know HOW to deal with certain situations that may arise so that I can be prepared. To compare this book with it's polar opposite:Dare to Discipline by James Dobson, I find it interesting how BOTH authors approach children from the same standpoint, of finding out the motive behind a behavior and to approach discipline from a loving and respectful standpoint. (This is one thing I like about both books.) But, the approaches are totally different. The approach presented in this book lacks the specifics that I was looking for, especially age appropriate discipline. I'd be happier with an author who wasn't as vague as this author, and not as supportive of physical restraints as Dr. Dobson....more info
  • Very thought-provoking
    This book was useful for me because it allowed me to truly consider the discipline techniques and attitudes I was using as a parent to a 2-yr old. It opens your eyes and really makes you think. It's always interesting when the truth doesn't always match with our common sense. You'd think some discipline techniques are productive, when in reality, maybe they're counter productive? ...more info
  • Could change our lives
    I found this book to be really thought provoking. It took me a while to read because it really brought up a lot of issues from my own childhood and helped me to examine them in light of how I raise my kids.

    I think that following the advice of this book is more difficult than using to time outs and rewards. However, in the long run I believe in the idea of working with your children with the focus on teaching them rather then coercing them to do as they are told. For instance I have been afraid for a long time that by constantly insisting that my 3 year old do what I say - even though my intent is good - that her spark and tenacity would eventually be quieted. I honestly didn't know what to do about this though. At what cost would I have obedience in my home? Are manners always the most important thing? When we go to playgroup though everyone expects you to use time outs and discipline.... it is not an easy choice to make.

    The whole issue about school and grades is very interesting too. When my child gets older do I want her to be focused solely on grades? That's how I was and I hated school after a while. My family labeled me the B+ student and implied that I didn't do my best all the time. I know a lot of people who got worse grades than I did who are successful...

    I think this book contains a lot of food for thought and we will try our best to incorporate it into our lives. In the few weeks that we have been doing so, my 3 year old who is quite moody has been a little less so. I have also been surprised by her answers sometimes when I ask her why she is acting a certain way and try to talk it out with her. It can be frustrating and time consuming, but actually seems more effective than the time outs she would have had before.

    In all, this book has the potential to change our lives and to make the long-term mother-daughter relationship a lot stronger and how I wish it would be instead of what my fears have been about what it could become.

    A lot to take in but worth it....more info
  • Best parenting book ever!
    I was compelled to write a review for the first time on Amazon after being so shocked to see the negative reviews for this marvelous book. Alphie Kohn is the first (that I know of) to put not only himself as a parent but also the whole body of parenting advice literature in a critical light. His own humble advice is simple and logical but, at the same time, nothing less than earth-shattering. It puts the whole concept of parenting under the microscope and makes us ask ourselves whether our ideas are ethical, or even practical. I have now seen my children blossom under the respect I have been able to give them after reading this book without fear of losing my "authority." I found that my children are even more able to show me the respect I need as a mother and a person, when they are being respected themselves. This means taking their needs and feelings seriously, as seriously as we take our friend's or spouse's needs. What a simple concept, but oh so threatening to most of us who are deeply afraid of those shopping-mall tantrums and bad reports from teachers. It takes a lot of courage for parents to shut out the rest of the world, with its judgements and expectations, and relate directly with the small, but equally valuable, person that is our child. What scares so many parents is the idea of losing control, and this fear comes through in negative reviews. What a sad reflection on us as "big people" and as a civilized society, where everyone, except of course the young, have equal rights for respect, dignity and freedom....more info
  • A Must Read For Parents, Educators and Health Professionals
    Many times I hear professionals giving parents advice that is not researched or well thought out. Time outs, stickers, manipulation, threats - all of these tactics that only make children resentful. Kohn's book is poignant, intentional and filled with research that matters. If you like Kohn's writings, you should read his other work on "how children learn" on his web site, [......], he is intellectual and is a genuine advocate for American children....Kohn will be known in history as one of the true pioneers that stood for children.

    Other books that you may find helpful are: How To Talk So Kids Can Listen, Got the Baby Where's the Manual, Between Parent and Child, How Children Learn, Discipline Without Distress and Kids-Parents and Power Struggles.

    Kimberley Clayton Blaine, MA, MFT
    Licensed Child Therapist
    founder, www.TheGoToMom.TV
    Author: Mommy Confidence: 8 Easy Steps to Reclaiming Balance, Motivation, and Your Inner Diva...more info
  • Your Child's Happiness and the Happiness of Others
    I loved this book for multiple reasons. Kohn supports his ideas by referring to a rich and diverse scientific literature. Beautifully written, the book is accessible and honors the reader by assuming intelligence. Kohn doesn't offer annoying how-tos but a framework for thinking about our goals and objectives in rearing children. I particularly enjoyed his articulation of the parenting aim to help children pay attention to the needs (and happiness) of others and not just focus solely on the child's happiness. Kohn's reasoning is not moralistic but humanistic: the ability to read others' cues and pay attention to the needs and happiness of others promotes harmonious relationships (the pathway to true happiness). ...more info
  • If you read only ONE parenting book, make it THIS ONE.
    This book is thus far the one that has made the biggest impact on my parenting -- hands down. I've only had the book 24 hours and it has already made a HUGE difference in my relationship with my daughter (almost 2). Absolutely nothing about how I feel about her has changed -- the feelings of love and concern for her haven't changed a bit -- but I'm certain her perception of how I feel about her has changed dramatically. That she can sense and appreciates the changes is completely palpable.
    I'm astounded and so very grateful....more info
  • Best parenting book ever!
    This book was a smash hit for me. I am a different mommy now. It's not a simple "how to" book, but it has been the most important parenting advice I have ever received. ...more info
  • Changed my life
    As a father of three, this book changed my life forever, and I owe him - and my kids owe him - an enormous debt. Please read as Kohn dissects the conventional wisdom regarding "time outs", and "positive reenforcement". The book is easy to read, its arguments masterfully structured, the prose smart and funny enough to keep you engaged....more info
  • Not interesting or new
    Kohn's original book Punishing by Rewards is well worth reading, but this one's pointless and the title tells all you need to know, making the rest of the book superfluous....more info
  • Good Ideas and Interesting Perspectives
    I am an educator and have read several of Mr. Kohn's books geared for educators so I was intrigued at the prospect of a book on parenting. I find his idea's quite interesting as I always enjoy having my beliefs challenged. In fact, despite some of the negative reviews posted here, much of what he discusses in the book has merit and has changed the way my wife and I talk to our 2.5 year old. It does make sense that constant praise for every little thing can, in the long run, be just as damaging as the effects of some of the consequences and punishments parents use. While we may not agree 100% with everything he writes, if you are willing to question why we discipline the way we do and how our kids perceive that discipline, this book is definitely worth a read....more info
  • Well-documented, but fallacious
    First, the good: Kudos to Mr. Kohn for taking the time to back up nearly all of his assertions with references to scientific studies. He is correct in his criticism of the vast majority of parenting books that fail to do so.

    Now, the bad: Even assuming that Mr. Kohn presents an unbiased sampling of the literature (something I question from somebody who obviously has an axe to grind) and that his characterization of the studies he quotes is correct, I believe that he still arrives at incorrect conclusions.

    Most of the relevant studies he cites represent one of two types. Either they say, "The average performance (by some measure) of kids raised with such-and-such a technique was lower than the performance of kids raised with this other technique." Or they say, "In a controlled setting, a larger percentage of kids who encountered this technique exhibited the desired behavior."

    The first kind of study has an obvious potential fallacy involving causality. Do kids display problem behavior because they were punished a lot, or were they punished a lot because of their behavior? Mr. Kohn addresses this question, but unconvincingly. This is one of the few cases where he makes assertions with little empirical evidence to back them up.

    But let's assume for the moment that his assertions regarding causality are correct. All that has been demonstrated is that one technique is usually superior to another - not that it is always superior. Perhaps 70% of kids will respond better to Mr. Kohn's suggested parenting style, but we are given no reason to believe that the other 30% might not respond better to a traditional rewards-and-punishment style. And how should I determine which group my child falls in?

    Yet Mr. Kohn has the audacity to claim that rewards and punishments should never be used. He even claims that an eclectic approach - using different methods as the situation demands - will be harmful. Again, Kohn fails to produce convincing evidence to back this assertion. The universality he claims for his position reveals the extremity of his bias.

    This is not to say that he doesn't give good food for thought, or good suggestions. It is certainly worth reading the book, if only to rethink your take on the proper role of discipline. But take it with a grain of salt - especially the more extreme claims.

    As for me, I think that for the most part I do follow his parenting style. But I am firmly opposed to protecting children from the (non-severe) consequences of their actions - a philosophy that Mr. Kohn lumps together with punishment, and brushes aside in a short paragraph with little supporting evidence. I also refuse to restrain myself from praising my child when I am genuinely proud of her accomplishments. I believe (without any supporting evidence) that to do so would create the very kind of emotional distance that Mr. Kohn deplores....more info
  • Really outstanding book!
    Hello to all current and future parents to be!

    I really enjoyed reading that book. It brought a new perspective to me of how children need to be raised. I have never been bribed as a child and I think what Alfie Kohn have written in this book is really valuable and true! I highly recommend this book!


    Rosica Yugova, mother of 11 month's old Stanley
    ...more info
  • Amazing!
    My husband and I are getting ready to have our first child so we've been reading up on parenting books. This one is amazing. Something didn't seem quite right to us about praise and time outs. This book offers a ton of research as well as an alternative way of parenting. I wish everyone would read this book just to have a different perspective on how people could parent. ...more info
  • Best book on Parenting I have ever read
    This is the first book on parenting that does not offer just another method for controlling your kids but offers the radical viewpoint of looking at your children as little persons that are worthy of your respect, guidence and love without conditions such as good grades or even good behavior. This book shows you the beauty and benefits of loving your child just because they are, not because they do....more info
  • Must Read for Parents and Educators
    I opened the Wall Street Journal today to find an article entitled "The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work." The article describes how some employers have to "dish out kudos to workers for little more than showing up." One company has a staff "celebrations assistant" whose job is to throw confetti at employees and pass out helium ballons; another estimates that employees receive praise every 20 seconds. The examples go on and on. Perhaps parents and educators need to look at "rewards and praise" in a new light. This book does just that and I wish I would have read it sooner! I cannot recommend this book enough. Instead of giving you a "blow-by-blow" of what to do in a specific situation, Kohn gives you strategies that can apply and be expanded to numerous situations. Many new parents and teachers want to know what to do if the child does "this." Well, as we all experience by dealing with various people in our lives, we need to treat each person as an individual and may deal with the situation differently depending on the people involved. One important point Kohn makes that I found extremely insightful was to think (and listen) to how we speak to our (and others') children. If we would not want to be spoken to like that then perhaps we need to reflect on how we can handle the situation differently. Good luck to all new parents and educators who are willing to take a deep look at their choices and make the necessary changes to help our children! ...more info
  • Unconditional parenting very challenging
    Unconditional Parenting is probably the best and most provocative parenting book I've ever read. Be prepared to be challenged if you read this book. The author does not believe in time-outs, punishments in general, or in giving rewards to children. He basically believes we should be unconditional parents and treat our children like guests in our homes. Yet, he isn't hands-off or loosy-goosey. He doesn't believe in authoritative, traditional parenting or using control unnecessarily. I read this book when my boys were 11 and 13 years old. I wish I had read it when they were babies! I would have done a lot of things differently with them had I read it earlier. My husband agreed to watch the DVD (of the same name) with me and also agreed with a lot of what Kohn says. ...more info
  • A much-needed shift in thinking about parenting
    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....more info
  • Please Read This Book

    Please read this book.

    Very few times in my life, I have encountered certain deep truths that struck me to my core. This book presented so many that I can say that reading this book has changed me for the better. I can give a book no greater compliment.

    While I could go on about my thoughts about this book, I think a recent comedy sketch hits the point home. On the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, during a segment called The Word, Stephen Colbert presented the word "Jesi" meaning more than one Jesus. He pointed out the many representations of Jesus in modern society and made the following observation-James Dobson, the Christian leader of the group Focus on the Family, in his book "Dare to Discipline" states, " . . . spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely." Mr. Colbert quips that you can tell the real Jesus if you see him striking a child.

    If you sense the shock of the image of Jesus striking children, then you should feel more shocked about the notions of punishment of children that people advocate and read this book.

    ...more info
  • Moronic and Irresponsible
    Is this why I have to put up with so many brats when I go out in public? Is this the same clueless fool who said you can't spoil a child? At least he admits one of his goals is to tear down the individualism this country is founded upon by replacing systems of rewards and punishment, and the goal of responsibility with navel gazing anarchy. Newsflash, author, we already have a society based on no parenting parenting, I shudder to envision a world of his making that is even more so....more info
  • Good ideas obscured by condescending tone
    I think Alfie Kohn has done a tremendous amount of research and offers great ideas and much for parents to think about. However, I think he'd have a lot more success getting his ideas across and converting people to "unconditional parenting" behaviour if he toned down some of the sarcasm and condescension.
    I felt as though Mr. Kohn wrote this book with the wrong audience in mind. It seemed his imagined audience consisted mainly of parents who have already adopted and agree with the unconditional parenting concepts. Instead, he should have more clearly kept in mind the parent who knows and has been using more "traditional" parenting techniques - people he hopes to convert to "unconditional parenting".
    For example, on pg. 155, Mr. Kohn writes "At first, it can feel weird to hold back when you're used to offering these constant evaluations. ("Good drawing!" "Good drinking!" "Good drooling!")"
    "Good drooling!"??? See, that feels to me like he thinks parents who haven't adopted his methods of unconditional parenting are so off-course that they actually praise their child's drooling. There are gems like this scattered throughout the book. It made it quite off-putting to read at times, and that much more difficult to remain open-minded to the otherwise good ideas he's relating.
    So, to summarize, "Unconditional Parenting" has a lot of good ideas. It will make you think, evaluate how you are parenting and how you were parented as a child. You just have to set your ego aside and mentally edit out the condescension when it arises....more info
  • Not much practical advice
    I bought this book after hearing the author on NPR. While I agree that time-outs, rewards, and punishments may be overused these days, I had trouble ferreting out what exactly he proposed as their alternatives. The book is more about his parenting philosophies and about criticising other parenting books than about giving practical advice to parents. There is little advice and few real-life examples.
    Two things I found upsetting about the book: one, his assertion that "other" parenting books would recommend that you deny your child their bedtime cuddling routine after a tantrum. I would like to know WHAT book he is referring to, because neither my Mommy friends nor I could recall ever hearing such advice. Secondly, he says that if a mother refers to herself in the third person ("let Mommy help you") when the child is old enough to understand the pronouns "me" or "I", that the mother is distancing herself from her child. Nonsense! I refer to myself as "Mommy" all the time, it's a title I'm proud to use exclusively when speaking with my daughter, and I am quite certain that I am not distancing myself from her by referring to myself as Mommy, subconsciously or otherwise. ...more info
  • Reality Check
    Kohn gives text book advice for text book situations. "Kohn, how about joining the real world?"Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason...more info
  • Utterly Amazing!
    I continue to be amazed by the assertions made by Alfie Kohn with regards to parenting, competition, and schooling, (but not amazed in a good way). Again and again and again we are told by Kohn that "rewards" are harmful. As I have mentioned in another amazon review of his book Punished By Rewards, the use of rewards is only "harmful" under very contrived and unnatural circumstances (and by harmful, he means that using rewards will decrease "intrinsic" motivation to do something and that the person on the receiving end of the reward may "feel bribed").

    Unlike Kohn's assertions, however, rewards can in fact help each of us live more satisfying and productive lives when used effectively. There is an exhaustive review of the research literature regarding the use of rewards that backs up this last statement. The book is called Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation: Resolving the Controversy and it is authored by Cameron and Pierce. Unlike Kohn, these authors review for the readers ALL the relevant research studies on the issue of using rewards, not just those that support a personal thesis. Unfortunately, this is the danger with non-peer reviewed books of the popular type Kohn writes: the author can pick and choose which studies to present to make a point without paying any attention to those that contradict that point (and there are MANY that contradict Kohn's assertions--see the Cameron and Pierce book above). While case studies about his own children may convince certain readers of the usefulness of Kohn's approach, I await peer-reviewed evidence. The shelves of bookstores are already awash with enough pseudoscience about what makes children tick; Kohn's book just adds to the puddle.

    I gave this book 2 stars because I do agree with Kohn's goals about parenting. Reading the book will certainly support my view that they are noble aims. Given the lack of research support, however, Kohn does not have much of a leg to stand on as to how to best achieve those aims. I would like to suggest that other readers take a look at The Power of Positive Parenting by Latham for a set of parenting techniques that have a great deal of research backing their use.

    We owe it to our children to parent them effectively.
    ...more info
  • This is deeper than "what works or not..."
    I am always amazed at people's reactions to truth. In reading some of the less enthusiastic reviews here, I can't help but want to point out that this book touched a chord in them because they are defending their own need to parent conditionally. Alfie Kohn is not extreme or radical or unreasonable in any way. What he writes about speaks to a child's healthy psyche, spirit and self. But it takes a parent who is self-aware and honest enough to look within in order to think about things from a child's point of view. I ask this: if conditional parenting (timeouts, spanking, bribery, punishments, etc) apparently "works," then why do we have so many people in jail, on drugs, on the streets, on Prozac, suffering from eating disorders, abusing themselves and others, crashing and burning, cheating, gambling, running,staggering out of failed marriages and sabotaging jobs and their own potential???
    Alfie Kohn dares to speak out about something deeply human and ironically profoundly difficult for so many people to grasp and accept. Many parents want control of their children because those adults are threatened by anything that affects their perceived power and suppressed fears. Since so many adults are wounded, unresolved, still suffering the slings and arrows of their own upbringing, they feel only marginally better about themselves if they are keeping the children "in line." It's tragic. And I applaud Alfie Kohn for having the passion and courage to advocate for our children. How many adults are in therapy saying "My parents never thought I was good enough..." Or "I never really felt lived for who I was..."...more info
  • A must read for all parents
    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. ...more info
  • Stimulates Self-Examination, Lacks in Practical Guidance
    I like Kohn's challenge to critically examine our parenting practices, keeping in mind our ultimate goals for our children. He makes strong points emphasizing the importance of considering the consequences of our parenting choices, whether they are ostensibly positive, such as praise, or intentionally negative, such as punishment. However, I found myself anxious to get through all the theory to the practical application. My anticipation was never quite quenched by the implementation ideas offered. I found most of them to be lacking in substance and fraught with caveats. I felt that Kohn was often shrugging his shoulders, implying that this is the way things need to be done, even if compliance never happens and the parents' needs are not met. I have taken Kohn's basic premise--that children have a fundamental right to unconditional love--and tried to extend it beyond words to more carefully considered action. I am using more descriptive, rather than evaluative, language when commenting on my three-year-old son's activities, and I have moved away from contingency management discipline, which had lost both its effectiveness and its peacefulness. Still, there are times when compliance is necessary, and I believe that I have rights and needs in the parent-child relationship, too. I frequently find it necessary to impose potential consequences, which Kohn would characterize as threats. When my son resists my requests to stop throwing balls at me while I am working on the computer because it disturbs me, I ultimately resort to saying, "If you want to stay in here with me, you must stop throwing that ball now. Otherwise, you will lose the ball, and you will have to leave the room." I struggle with guilt about saying that after reading Kohn's strong admonitions against threats, consequences and love withdrawal, but the reality is that I am responsible for finding a way to make living with my son tolerable, even enjoyable, for both of us. I am keeping my long-term goals for him in mind, but I am functioning in the present, and I believe that I have a right to live without walking on eggshells to protect my son's fragile psyche at all costs....more info
  • This book will change you...in a good way!
    I've seen it written so many times regarding this book, but I will say it again: This.Book.Will.Change.Your.Life... And, of course, the way you parent. It may provide confirmation to you that your instincts on gentle and life-affirming parenting practices are right-on. But it just as likely will turn everything you have ever learned about discipline and parenting on its head.

    Try this one on for size: The "carrot" (positive reinforcement) is just as detrimental to your child's self-esteem as the "stick" (punishment). Yes, you read right. Praise is not the cure-all you have been lead to believe it is. What is important to your child's well-being is that he knows that you love him unconditionally. Which, of course, you do. But does it show through your words and actions? Your intentions are meaningless. All that matters is what your child feels.

    Children are people too. In fact, they are probably the center of your universe. So why are we encouraged to treat them as second-class? Why must they bow to their parents' every whim without so much as an explanation? This book will open your mind to the fact that children deserve and need to be respected on the same level that you expect to be as a parent.

    After all, are we not trying to raise the next generation of human beings to be compassionate and respectful of others' needs and feelings? This goal will not be accomplished by accident. We have to model the behaviors and attitudes that we want our children to learn are morally sound. If we want them to consider the effect that their actions will have on others, then this is exactly how we must act ourselves. They love and idolize their parents. Why would they not grow up to act exactly as they (we) do?

    If you are open to a new--or rather, an old, primal, instinctual--way of thinking about children and parenting, I encourage you to read Healing Our Children: Because Your New Baby Matters! Sacred Wisdom for Preconception, Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting (ages 0-6) by Ramiel Nagel. From preconception through pregnancy, birth and parenting, this book is full of the wisdom you need to succeed at being the parent you truly want to be....more info
  • The book is awesome, but...
    For me, the book started in the middle since I'm already aware of the damage of the traditional parenting style in our society. I understand why he wrote what he did in the first part of the book, though, since a lot of it is news to a great deal of people.

    What I loved the most about his book is the issue of respect. He emphasized that a great deal, which I feel is the cornerstone of healthy parenting. I also really enjoyed that it was conversational in tone rather than a drab, textbook style tone. A lot of what he says is truly common sense, which is what I see is the irony of it all. We all know how to unconditionally love, but a lot of us have been conditioned by our society to parent in a certain way. Having to have a book like this in our society shows that a good deal of parents need to be washed clean of their conditioning, so their true loving selves shine through....more info
  • Worth reading, even if you think you don't agree
    I was a little hesitant about purchasing this book. I've worked with children for a good portion of my life and now have one of my own. I've always used rewards and punishments. Honestly, I really didn't know about any other way to teach children right from wrong..... until I read this book.

    The first half of the book describes why punishments and rewards are so detrimental to children. I must say that while this was interesting, it certainly was long. I found myself feeling like I was reading the same thing over and over and kept wondering "Ok already, so what's the alternative?" The second half of the book dives into just that--what can you do instead of telling your child "good job" or putting them in time-out.

    While I'm not sure about how well some of his suggestions would pan out with real children, it certainly was an interesting read. It definitely prompts you to re-examine everything you thought you knew about parenting. And the basic premise that everything we do as parents should teach our children that we love them unconditionally is exceptional. Even if you're not sure you agree with Kohn, I do suggest giving this book a try and broadening your perspective on how we raise our kids. ...more info
  • Good Premise
    The book has a good premise. I think it will be a starting place for parents who really want to change the way they parent. I don't think all the answers are here, but it will help open up to a more expanded perspective on parenting in a mindful way. It may not be as thorough or concrete as some parents would hope for.

    Review is by Ramiel Nagel author of Healing Our Children: Because Your New Baby Matters! Sacred Wisdom for Preconception, Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting (ages 0-6) & Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition (First Edition)....more info
  • Nothing new under the sun
    Kohn does not understand the real nature of rewards. He is right when he criticizes the use of many rewards. However, none of his criticisms undermine the concept of positive reinforcement.

    Positive reinforcement is a wider concept than rewards. In fact the most important reinforcers are social interactions between people, i.e., the way you treat people. Whether you like it or not, you are changing the behavior of people all the time and vice versa by means of your social interactions (read positive reinforcement).

    Kohn is now advocating "love and reason". Well, he is advocating the correct use of positive reinforcement, that's it. In the final analysis Kohn is doing a great job of behavior shaping with his readers.
    ...more info
  • An eye opener!
    In stead of. 'No, don't do that!' I think, 'Why not?'
    My daughter and my husband an I have a lot more fun together now!
    I wish I could send this book to every parent....more info
  • This should be required reading for parents
    I wish I had discovered Alfie Kohn earlier. Finally, a book that just makes sense. So much of what conventional wisdom teaches us about how to treat children didn't sit well with me but I didn't have the depth of understanding of WHY it was wrong. Now I can follow my heart and my head knows it's the right thing to do. Life has gotten so much EASIER since I stopped trying to control my children all the time....more info
  • Be prepared!
    This book is an eye opener. Be prepared to really look into your own parenting skills and be open to a new way. The ideas presented in this book cut to the core of everything I believed was good about my parenting, but I'm now re-learning a better way. It's a profound change....more info
  • Alfie asks a better question - "`What does my child need- and how can I meet those needs?"
    Reading Unconditional Parenting made me ecstatic because Alfie Kohn's basic premise that,"Our main question shouldn't be "How do I get my child to do what I say?' but `What does my child need- and how can I meet those needs?" supports and expands on everything I teach and write about connection parenting. This is Alfie Kohn's most exciting and powerful book yet. It not only removes any doubts we could have about the ineffectiveness of using punishment as discipline, it is filled with information, inspiration, and ideas for "working with children rather than doing things to them." I enthusiastically recommend Unconditional Parenting to parents who want to move from parenting through coercion and punishment to parenting through love and connection. ...more info


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