unconditional parenting book cover

Unconditional Parenting:

Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason

(New York: Atria / Simon & Schuster, 2005)

From the Book Flap:

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. ctions to his provocative message.  

What People are Saying:

"Unconditional Parenting is going to make you think - hard - about the type of relationship you want to have with your child, about your parenting priorities, and about how to avoid many of the mistakes of our predecessors. It's what we've come to expect from Alfie Kohn, and this is unquestionably one of his most persuasive, important works. For your sake and your child's…read it!"

-- Ross W. Greene, The Explosive Child

"This book underscores an important parenting principle: Discipline is more about having the right relationship with your child than having the right techniques."

-- William Sears, The Baby Book and The Discipline Book

"I found myself wanting to underline every other sentence of Unconditional Parenting, which is different from - and a refreshing challenge to - most other books about raising children. It's entertaining enough so that you can read it quickly, but it's so packed with thought-provoking ideas that you'll want to take your time."

-- Barbara Coloroso, Kids Are Worth It!

"A gift to parents! Armed with voluminous research, Alfie Kohn exposes the harm inherent in widely accepted disciplinary practices and offers a variety of powerful alternatives that make it possible for children to become their most thoughtful, caring, responsible selves."

-- Adele Faber, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen...and Listen so Kids Will Talk

"Alfie Kohn holds a crucial position in the American dialogue on parenting. Unconditional Parenting is a very important book that can challenge, support, and even change our perspective on what parents do."

--Michael Gurian, The Wonder of Boys

"Alfie Kohn does it again: He takes a topic (parenting) that has been studied and written about for years and gives us a wise way of adjusting our lenses so that we really see it clearly. He doesn't give simple rules, he gives deep understanding and a core foundation for parents."

-- JoAnn Deak, Girls Will be Girls

Click here for an interview with Alfie Kohn about Unconditional Parenting.


Table of Contents:



Conditional Parenting


Giving and Withholding Love


Too Much Control


Punitive Damages


Pushed to Succeed


What Holds Us Back?


Principles of Unconditional Parenting


Love Without Strings Attached


Choices for Children


The Child's Perspective

Appendix   Parenting Styles: The Relevance of Culture, Class, and Race



Where to buy it:

In Association with Amazon.com or


 www.alfiekohn.org -- © Alfie Kohn