Unconditional Parenting

Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason

(Atria Books, 2005)(Tantor audio, 2016)

Unconditional Parenting - Alfie Kohn - Back

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 Parentingaddresses 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.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Conditional Parenting 10
2 Giving and Withholding Love 24
3 Too Much Control 46
4 Punitive Damages 63
5 Pushed to Succeed 74
6 What Holds Us Back? 93
7 Principles of Unconditional Parenting 117
8 Love Without Strings Attached 140
9 Choices for Children 167
10  The Child’s Perspective 191
Appendix   Parenting Styles: The Relevance of Culture, Class, and Race 212
Notes 222
References 243

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…

“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

“Author of nine books, including the controversial Punished by Rewards, Kohn expands upon the theme of what’s wrong with our society’s emphasis on punishments and rewards. Kohn, the father of young children, sprinkles his text with anecdotes that shore up his well-researched hypothesis that children do best with unconditional love, respect, and the opportunity to make their own choices. Kohn questions why parents and parenting literature focus on compliance and quick fixes, and points out that docility and short-term obedience are not what most parents desire of their children in the long run. He insists that ‘controlling parents’ are actually conveying to their kids that they love them conditionally — that is, only when they achieve or behave. Tactics like time-out, bribes, and threats, Kohn claims, just worsen matters. Caustic, witty, and thought-provoking, Kohn’s arguments challenge much of today’s parenting wisdom, yet his assertion that ‘the way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions’ rings true. Kohn suggests parents help kids solve problems; provide them with choices; and use reason, humor, and, as a last resort, a restorative time away (not a punitive time-out). This lively book will surely rile parents who want to be boss. Those seeking alternative methods of raising confident, well-loved children, however, will warmly embrace Kohn’s message.”

— Publishers Weekly

“The best parenting book I’ve ever read.”

— Barbara McDonald, mother of two
Oakland, CA

“If everyone thought like Mr. Kohn, no one would have to worry about our generation.”

— Natalie Bosshart, age 16,
Belle Plaine, IA

“Kohn’s views, while controverisal, are well-researched and ring true. . . . So throw out the time outs and the ‘atta girls’ and get ready for a challenging and paradigm-shifting view of parenting. Open the book and open your minds. You won’t be disappointed.”

— www.simpleasthat.com (parenting website)

“Readers who are interested in raising moral and compassionate children will be challenged and inspired by Unconditional Parenting.”

— Greater Good

Where to buy it

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