Parenting ideals - Unconditional parenting


Active Member
Often when parenting a difficult child we are so concerned with putting out fires, making our homes functional that we lose the bigger picture of ' parenting'. Being very passionate about Collaborative problem solving approach - Ross Greene - The explosive child, Edward de Bono - Teach your child how to think , The Myrna Shure series - Raising a thinking child etc , the book Unconditional parenting - moving away from Rewards and punishments to love and reason helped complete and round off the paradigm shift that the Explosive child started for me.
In his foreword Kohn asks parents - what are your long term objectives for your children ? what word or phrase comes to your mind to describe how you would like them to turn out , what would you want them to be once they are grown ? Most parents said that they wanted their kids to be happy, balanced independent, fulfilled, thoughtful , loving , caring etc. Kohn then argues that interactions with children that evoke discussion, examination and reflection of who they are and their impact on others will help with these goals. Rewards and punishments may in the short-term produce compliance but engraves on the kid's mind the question , what's in it for me , what will I get if I do this , what will be done to me if I do this. Parenting is not just getting behavior , doing kind acts but rather becoming a kind person.

check his site for articles on parenting, education, and business -- all the same theme. He ' blows my mind ', challenging conventional wisdom. For me Kohn puts education back into parenting. So if you are a fan of the Explosive child this book and Alfie Kohn's site is for you.



Active Member

Ross Greene on UP by Alfie Kohn

"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


New Member

thanks for posting about this. I have to say of all the parenting type books I have read, this one made the most profound positive impact on me. It really questioned everything I was doing re rewards, discipline, punishment etc.

So many of us come to parenting without a real clear philosophy of why we are doing what we are doing. This book really challenged my thinking.

Can you tell? I highly recommend it!


Active Member
Thanks for this, Allan. I do feel that with difficult children we need to go back to basics and reinvent the wheel, custom-designed for each kid. Books like this not only empower us to do this, they give us the tools.



Active Member
Alfie Kohn gave me some great answers about praise and self esteem. Often ODD kids don't have a problem of self esteem and ego. Research suggests that low self esteem is negative for a peson but high self esteem does not neccessary lead to positive or prosocial behavior . It depends on the ' self ' of the self esteem , how self centered the kid is. Boys that have high self esteem are often involved in risky sexual behavior , usually girls with low self esteem are involved in risky sexual behavior Praise is often interpreted as an attempt to control and manipulate one and ODD kids pick this up very quickly

5 reasons to stop saying - good job
the case against gold stars



Active Member
from an interview with Alfie Kohn
I do an exercise with teachers or parents in which I ask them a simple question: What do you want your kids to be like long after they've left you and left school? And everywhere people say: We want our kids to be caring, compassionate, creative, curious, lifelong learners, responsible decision-makers, good communicators, and so on. So then the question becomes: Can we best pursue these goals by using the same teacher-centered traditional model under which we were taught? You say you want kids to be caring and responsible, and yet you're using rewards and consequences that undermine a sense of responsibility and get kids hooked on trying to avoid the punishment and get the reward. The research clearly shows that kids who are rewarded or praised are less generous than their peers. It shows that kids raised in an environment of clear black-and-white rules, which they are expected to obey on pain of punitive consequence, are less likely to become ethically sophisticated. And if we're talking about the academic domain, the research shows that schools using traditional grading produce kids for whom three things are true: 1) they think less critically about the issues in front of them; 2) they prefer easier tasks if given the choice and will go out of their way to avoid challenge; and 3) they're less interested in learning.

For me, it's all about understanding the difference between reasonable, ambitious goals for kids and the worn out, illegitimate practices of teaching (which are now being made worse in the name of raising standards).

I am sure you all know what I feel about Alfie Kohn ( we share the same initials )



Former desparate mom
Allan, my experience with difficult child is similar to mine with different results. Your difficult child felt you were manipulating, stroking or that he was doing so poorly that you had to praise him for doing regular things.
I found that constant praise for normal acceptable behavior became a hollow tin can. Lots of noise but not much substance. difficult child has such wonderful self esteem that he is shocked that we would be displeased with his shortcomings. It didn't do much to open up his world from self absorption to part of the family unit.

Comments from difficult child(over the years).
"that school doesn't know I'm special"

"I don't understand the words to that song. "there is always a reason to not feel good enough". I always feel good enough"

"how I am is good enough".

His good enough was pretty nonfunctional so obviously it wasn't and isn't.

I turned to pointing out his positive behavior. Just noticing it. I point out how easy child or husband would react to the same situation that difficult child would meltdown over. I really try to make interactions a learning experience. I must say after a certain age(21) I just wanted him to "do it" and not have a learning experience.

Somewhere between having a difficult child feel he never does anything right and difficult child thinking how he is now is good enough has to be a moderate middle ground.

Thank you for the referrals. We need some fresh books and articles for the group to read. These are highly recommended. :bravo: