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Radical Parenting: Unconditional Parenting

In his book Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Kohn, writes that all children have one basic need –unconditional love. They need to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments, rewards, and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. They reinforce the idea that “if you do this, you get that,” which permeates our society. It also makes children dependent on rewards, rather than teaching them about intrinsic goodness and character building skills.

People who use unconditional parenting methods in their homes believe that parenting begins with the parent and is not about reacting to the child’s behavior. It is about making a conscious decision about how you will interact with your child. Rather than looking at the child’s behavior or achievements, you accept the child for who they are as a person no matter what.

I’m pretty certain I got spanked with a leather belt and got my mouth rinsed out with soap as a child. I remember many punishments, revoked privileges, timeouts, and having to write standards at a desk in the corner. My parents believed that I would have a better chance of growing into a responsible adult if I was punished for my mistakes and rewarded for my accomplishments. Perhaps they were right, but I could have just as easily learned that if I break my new expensive toy in a fit of frustrated rage, I won’t be able to play with it anymore. The sadness of realizing I’ve ruined my own play thing would probably teach me to be more careful next time.

Maybe you have the types of kids who need to get punished from time to time, other parents just hypnotize their children into doing the right thing.


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