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I'm reading Unconditional Parenting...

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I feel like I need to join a discussion group for this book.

Here's the first question: I was really surprised in reading it, that Kohn does not support "natural" or "logical" consequences. He says that it's basically another way of wording punishment. Some of his examples really made sense to me and DH and I both agreed that making your child suffer because they made a mistake is harsh...His example was a child forgetting their umbrella (or losing it) and you as the parent "allowing" them to get rained on, instead of helping them or getting a new umbrella. Getting rained on is the natural consequence of forgetting your umbrella, but acc. to Kohn that is still punishment and in the long run not good.

I see a lot of natural and logical consequences talk on this board so I'm curious. Who follows Kohn's advice...and do you just pick the things you agree with and still use these consequences? Or do you use logical consequences and completely disagree with Kohn's methods?

I just always assumed from this board that the whole idea of natural consequences and gentle discipline was supported by Kohn since this book is recommended so often.
post #2 of 19
There are a few ways of doing things within the scope of gentle discipline. Really, GD just means nothing physical, nothing shaming or humiliating, really just nothing painful emotionally or physically. But punishment can be done gently, and allowing natural consequences to happen when you could have stopped them, and creating logical consequences, or even gentle use of time outs, are part of GD, but not all people who use GD do that. And not all people who do GD agree with Alfie Kohn, and I imagine some agree with some things he says but not others, or agree with him to some extent but think he takes it to far, or whatever.

I personally do generally agree with Alfie Kohn, and I avoid punishment, althogh of course there's always the potential philosophical argument about what punishment is. I think generally if the child feels punished by it and you're doing it with the intention of creating a behavior change, it's punishment. I think that some people think Alfie Kohn is more hands off than he is. For instance, he does enforce limits, he just simply stop something from happening rather than creating a punishment over it. (Like taking away something used as a weapon. It isn't intended as a punishment, but I wouldn't let one child continually whack another over the head with something, or even discuss it. I'd just go into protection mode. The non-UP thing would then be to punish over the hitting. You could certanly gently punish and be within the scope of GD, but punishing - even gently - would be outside the scope of UP.)

There are people who go even beyond that and try to create a completely consensual environment, where nothing is done without everyone's consent, and the family always works to find mutually agreeable solutions to every problem. And I like that idea and find the perspective useful in my parenting, but I personally haven't always found it to be practical.

I guess the short version of that is that there are a lot of different ideas and perspectives within GD. I think this place (MDC in general and this subforum) is useful in that you get a wider perspective when hearing what people from all over the GD spectrum would do, and that can help when trying to figure out what is the right answer in some very specific circumstance.
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks, mamazee.

I guess I was a bit thrown when I started reading the book. I almost feel like I need to see people's philosophies when I read their advice. I guess I feel like the majority of responses to people's GD questions are along the lines of some sort of natural/logical consequence, but UP is the most recommended book. So I'm wondering if people are reading the book, agreeing with it, but then finding that practically they need to impose some sort of consequences.
post #4 of 19
I'm fairly new to this but what I've been doing is trying to phrase things better. If my daughter is using the toy golf club to hit things with first I'll ask if she forgot to be safe. If she continues I take it away and tell her that if it can't be used in a safe way she can't play with it. I then tell her if she can use it in a safe way she can have it back. The logical consequence is to take it away, but I'm being respectful about it and giving her the option to choose to have it back. Hopefully she feels that way too. But in this case she is deliberately being destructive, but in the umbrella case the child simply forgot. Everyone forgets things. So I guess I try to assume she's not willfully doing undesirable behavior, but if it seems she is, then I graduate to consequences.
post #5 of 19
I've been working on reading Unconditional Parenting (finished it, and have been re-reading and discussing a little with my local ap group.)
Here was my personal journal entry when I first read that chapter:
Quote:
Chapter Four: Punitive Damages

Quote of interest (from page 66.): emphasis mine.
Another version of what might be called Punishment Lite is known as "natural consequences," which invites parents to discipline by inaction - that is, by refusing to help. If a child is late for dinner, we're supposed to let her go hungry. If she leaves her raincoat at school, we're supposed to let her get wet the following day. This is said to teach her to be more punctual, or less forgetful, or whatever. But the far more powerful lesson that she's likely to take away is that we could have helped -- but didn't. As two authors note in their discussion of the practice, "When you stand by and let bad things happen, your child experiences the twin disappointments that something went wrong and you did not seem to care enough about her to lift a finger to help prevent the mishap. The 'natural consequences' approach is really a form of punishment."

My thoughts:
I disagree with Alfie on this one. I think his examples are far extreme on the spectrum of "natural consequences." Well, actually then, in his examples, yes, I agree that the "natural consequences" are really guises for punishment. My disagreement lies in the examples being appropriate usage of natural consequences. And with the bolded part, in reality, there's often only so much that you CAN (or may be willing) to do.
In our world, the natural consequence of refusing to put a coat on in cold weather is that you'll be cold. But the parent still brings the coat along for when the child realizes that no coat = cold (hey, sometimes they don't mind the cold, sometimes they do!). That said, there's a degree of reasonableness in the equation. If we're going from grocery store to car and Lauren refuses to put her coat back on but then halfway across the parking lot realizes that she's freezing... I'm not going to stop right there and put her coat on. At that point, she'll just have to wait until we get into the car. If we're out somewhere and she goes tromping in the snow (after being advised not to) and we don't have any dry pants and shoes with us, then she will be cold and wet until we get back home... I'm not going to run into a store and buy her new pants and socks.

The key, IMO, to natural consequences, is that they must truly be "natural" and not "parentally imposed." And the more you have to search for an explanation of the consequence, the less "natural" (or comprehendible (sp?) for the child's developmental stage) it probably is.
What I've since determined...
I apparently have a non-mainstream (or even GD) interpretation of "natural consequences." I've seen here (MDC GD forum) the term "natural consequences" used for something that IS parentally imposed and may in fact be more of a "logical consequence."
And just a few minutes ago I was reading another thread in this forum where someone posted this article regarding what "natural consequence" is: http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/rue_kream2.html.
I think the examples that Alfie gave are "logical consequences" that are being called "natural" (when in fact, IMO, they're not truly natural).

Keep reading. IMO Intro-Ch 6 were tough to get through. Definitely some "aha" moments. But the really practical stuff came in Ch 7 and beyond. Unfortunately, I know many people who were really turned off by Alfie's writing style in those first 6 chapters. :/

(And I also occasionally stalk mamazee 'cause I like what I've observed of her parenting philosophy and she articulates very well, IMO.
post #6 of 19
nevermind!
post #7 of 19
Well, to OP's specific question-- we don't do any kind of punishment and we try to care for DD unconditionally, but if she were to say, break her toy by being too rough with it, then it'd be broken and done. I'm not going to replace every broken toy. But if she broke her one pair of shoes, I'd buy her new shoes. So that kind of shows where our line is, if you get me.

I find Kohn really speaks to me. I see it as reminding us that normally all you really needs is more love, more listening, more understanding. It's worked REALLY well for us thus far. I'm sure it depends on your kid and situation.
post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeanyMama View Post
WELL SAID!! I added boldness!

UP has such a huge following and some great info, but (in my experience) is often impractical and nearly fosters self-frustration in parents, which leads to confusion in children. I know some great mamas that love it, but it's low on my list of favorite AP books. I lean more toward practical, gentle books filled with real-life scenarios.
Oh well we have some miscommunication here. The bolded part is not about UP, it's about a parenting philosophy that goes beyond UP. I've heard it called Taking Children Seriously (TCS) and Non-Coercive parenting. I think they're basically the same? Anyway, the book UP isn't a book of practical real-life scenarios, it's more a philosophical book, but I do personally find UP to be practical and I haven't found that dh or I have been frustrated or that our kids have been confused.
post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by flower01 View Post
His example was a child forgetting their umbrella (or losing it) and you as the parent "allowing" them to get rained on, instead of helping them or getting a new umbrella. Getting rained on is the natural consequence of forgetting your umbrella, but acc. to Kohn that is still punishment and in the long run not good.
I don't agree that allowing them to get rained on is always a punishment, but I do believe that offering them the choice to either get rained on, or to get another umbrella, allows them to experience what a natural consequence is (without interfering with a logical consequence or use of punishment like leaving the umbrella at home to teach them a lesson). I've known parents who would just get the umbrella for the kids, and after time the children begin to develop a "I don't have to do it myself because my mom will do it for me" attitude. Like when parents follow their kids around cleaning up after them. The child never learns to clean up for himself.

I don't believe it's possible to go through life without experiencing natural or logical consequences, but there is a difference between using a natural consequence as a punishment. And (IMO) a logical consequence should only be used in times of safety (like taking a childs bike away because they refused to wear a helmet vs allowing them to fall and hit their heads).

Another example might be that the child has not yet learned respect for books and rips the pages. Books should then become a supervised activity to teach the child how to be gentle with the paper, vs just taking the book away to teach a lesson.

Unconditional Parenting is one of my favorite books, but like Mamazee said, it's more of a philosophical book, than practical real-life scenarios. And I think that everyone interprets it (the philosophy) just a little bit differently.

If you're looking for more of a "real-life lesson" book, that's somewhat related to the UP philosophy, I would suggest "Honey I Wrecked the Kids". There were a few bits in that book where I sort of raised an eyebrow at, but for the most part I found her method to be very gentle, and as close to UP as I've read in any other parenting books. These two books cary in which one I like more (depending on my current mood for parenting books, I guess).
post #10 of 19
We use a lot of the ideas from UP, but I do think that natural/logical consiquenses make sense, just not the way they are described in UP. Their examples are much more extreem.

For example- child forgets umbrella, so child has to wear a raincoat instead (here in florida a raincoat would not be as fun to wear b/c it would be hot!)

We do things like:
spill your water, you clean it up (we keep cleaning rags accessible so he can do this on his own)

rip your book, you get tape and fix it (along with a reminder to turn the pages more gently)
post #11 of 19
I find Adverntures in Gentle Discipline (from LLL) to be a great practical book, as well as Playful Parenting (although all his crazy silly rough games scared the beejeezus outta DD when we tried them! But still lots of wonderful points... and some philosophical stuff, too).

And yes, leighi123's examples would be in line for us, too.
post #12 of 19
I get the idea that consequences often look like punishment. I do agree....and honestly, if my dd forgot her umbrella, I'd probably just grab it bc there are few times she needs an umbrella, so I completely understand forgetting such a thing.

But, here's the rub in our house. My 7 yr old is CONSTANTLY losing things....library books, her special stuffed animal of the day, her wallet, her backpack, her shoes. All of those things have a designated home (hanging rack by door for backpack and purse/wallet, shoe bin, library book bin etc), so I feel I have provided an area for her, but she chooses not to return her things to said area. BUT, when she is looking for them, she takes two seconds and then says, "Mommy, where are my shoes?"
Me:"I dont know. Did you check the bin?"
DD: "They're not in there. WIll you help me find them?"

So then I can do one of two things----help her, or tell her no, bc I find them for her every single day and I"m frustrated that I give her a home for them, and yet she still misplaces them all the time. So if I dont' help her find them, she always says, "You're mean".

I have no problem helping my children find things that are rarely used---rainboots, snowboots, a special shirt that is needed etc. It's really those 4common things that drive me bonkers.

So what would Alfie say to do??
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by MommyDOK View Post
My 7 yr old is CONSTANTLY losing things....library books, her special stuffed animal of the day, her wallet, her backpack, her shoes. All of those things have a designated home (hanging rack by door for backpack and purse/wallet, shoe bin, library book bin etc), so I feel I have provided an area for her, but she chooses not to return her things to said area. BUT, when she is looking for them, she takes two seconds and then says, "Mommy, where are my shoes?"
Me:"I dont know. Did you check the bin?"
DD: "They're not in there. WIll you help me find them?"

So then I can do one of two things----help her, or tell her no, bc I find them for her every single day and I"m frustrated that I give her a home for them, and yet she still misplaces them all the time. So if I dont' help her find them, she always says, "You're mean".

I have no problem helping my children find things that are rarely used---rainboots, snowboots, a special shirt that is needed etc. It's really those 4common things that drive me bonkers.

So what would Alfie say to do??
Have you tried getting your DD's input? Tell her you're annoyed about being asked to find stuff when there's a system in place and see what she suggests to solve the problem. Maybe she would like some input into how things are organized or where they are kept. Or she might agree to a few days of reminders to get in the routine of putting her stuff away as soon as she walks in the door. Or if the system is something that's in place for everyone and changing it just for her would be a pain, maybe it's a topic for a family meeting.

I'm rereading UP too and trying to figure out exactly what to take from it. I get that controlling your children is bad, but what about when you are dealing with defiance for the sake of it? Are you supposed to just sit there and take it?
post #14 of 19
For a book with great UP examples and everyday scenarios, see Becky A Bailey's Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline Strange title but wonderful book. She applies Kohn's ideas to more practical daily life so you can see how it plays out.
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by MommyDOK View Post
I get the idea that consequences often look like punishment. I do agree....and honestly, if my dd forgot her umbrella, I'd probably just grab it bc there are few times she needs an umbrella, so I completely understand forgetting such a thing.

But, here's the rub in our house. My 7 yr old is CONSTANTLY losing things....library books, her special stuffed animal of the day, her wallet, her backpack, her shoes. All of those things have a designated home (hanging rack by door for backpack and purse/wallet, shoe bin, library book bin etc), so I feel I have provided an area for her, but she chooses not to return her things to said area. BUT, when she is looking for them, she takes two seconds and then says, "Mommy, where are my shoes?"
Me:"I dont know. Did you check the bin?"
DD: "They're not in there. WIll you help me find them?"

So then I can do one of two things----help her, or tell her no, bc I find them for her every single day and I"m frustrated that I give her a home for them, and yet she still misplaces them all the time. So if I dont' help her find them, she always says, "You're mean".

I have no problem helping my children find things that are rarely used---rainboots, snowboots, a special shirt that is needed etc. It's really those 4common things that drive me bonkers.

So what would Alfie say to do??
I'm kind of curious about this myself. I have 2 nephews (who are both raised without any consistent discipline, definitely not GD/UP) and one is like that. He constantly loses everything, his hat, his gloves, his phone, his mp3 player and the other one is very careful with things, likes to save up his money, etc. I see that they're both raised in the same way, so I attribute the difference not to how they're raised, but to their character differences. I kind of wonder, if the one who loses things is maybe less materialistic...he just cares less about things. One thing is that they both get too much stuff, too easily. But if one is truly "absent minded", is it defiance to the discipline style or just that person's personality? I kind of think that perhaps, each child has a specific kind of character, and the parent's job is to figure out their kid's character and figure out how to help their child be the most successful person they can be, but keeping in mind that you can't turn one character into another. So if one is absent minded, perhaps you can never make them really mindful of where they put their shoes. I'm curious what your dd would say if you asked her WHY she constantly loses her things.
post #16 of 19
I think so much of this just comes down to being nice. If you notice that your kid left a book outside and it's starting to rain, it's nice to bring it in. The natural consequence would be that the book is ruined... but if I can help my kid (or anyone - I would do the same if someone left a book in the courtyard at my lab, for example) avoid having something unpleasant happen, then that seemes like the nice thing to do.

Problem solving is great... much better than imposing punishments/consequences.
post #17 of 19
I help my dd find stuff when I'm able to. If I'm truly not able to, I don't, and over time she's come to understand and trust that I do help her when I can and that if I don't (say I'm busy with the baby or in the middle of making dinner) I truly can't. And then she wears older shoes, or doesn't have her stuffed animal. UP is about not making bad stuff happen, or allowing it to happen when we could have stopped it, but bad stuff does still happen despite our efforts to the contrary. When bad stuff happens and we've caused it or allowed it to happen when we could have stopped it, they get angry at us and IMO learn that we aren't always going to help them and aren't "on their side" when something bad happens rather than learning how to take care of their stuff. Our lack of help causes them to displace the attention they should focus on learning to take care of their stuff and put that attention on us as anger for not helping. But when bad stuff happens and we have a history of helping when we can so they know we aren't just sitting by and allowing it to happen, they are less likely to displace their attention and become angry at us, and at that point there is only one place to look to figure out how to fix something, and that's at their own behavior.

And I do have a dd (8 years old) who misplaces stuff. She is getting a lot better about it, but I think it's just age and maturity rather than really being taught. She's matured a lot just in this past year, and is much better about this than she was at the beginning of the school year, so your dc might be on the cusp of figuring this out too regardless of how you handle it. At the beginning of the year we were routinely searching for something in the morning before school, but I can't think of the last time we've had to hunt for something in the morning. Or the last time she's forgotten to put something in her backpack, but she made a list of what she needs in her backpack and put it up on the fridge so I imagine that's what's helped her with that.
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by flower01 View Post
I see a lot of natural and logical consequences talk on this board so I'm curious. Who follows Kohn's advice...and do you just pick the things you agree with and still use these consequences? Or do you use logical consequences and completely disagree with Kohn's methods?

I just always assumed from this board that the whole idea of natural consequences and gentle discipline was supported by Kohn since this book is recommended so often.

Let me start with my caveat: I like some of Kohn's ideas, but I think there is a place for both natural and logical consequences. I disagree that they're always bad. I do think it's worthwhile to think about the consequences and whether you are just punishing the child.

Also, there is often confusion about "natural" vs. "logical" consequences. The natural consequence of not wearing a raincoat when it's raining is that you get wet. Living in Oregon, my kids have experienced this enough to be able to decide for themselves whether a raincoat is worth it. Often they choose a hoodie and it gets damp.

A logical consequence is one that's related, but imposed by the parent. This would be something like "You choose not to wear a raincoat, so you can't go outside."

I try to save logical consequences for things where the natural consequence is not something I'm willing to have my kids experience. The natural consequence of bending down to see if a firework is lit is that it blows up in your face. The natural consequence of riding your scooter in bare feet is that you scrape the skin off your toes. The natural consequence of my very fair children going to the beach without sunscreen is a horrible sunburn and an increased risk of melanoma in later life. For these, I will impose logical consequence. You can't keep your face away from the fireworks that are being lit? You get to sit on my lap or stay indoors. You aren't wearing shoes with your scooter? The scooter gets put away for a bit. You won't put sunscreen on? We stay home.

Some of my response depends too on the developmental level of the child. A 3-4 year old (or younger) is not capable of thinking ahead. All they know is that they don't need an umbrella now so why take it? 2 or 3 year olds often need to experience cold before they understand the need for a jacket. For a child this age, I would simply make sure I pack whatever it is.

On the other hand, my 9 year old is perfectly capable of understanding "the weather is predicting rain. Do you want to take a raincoat or bring an umbrella?" If he then chooses not to, it's his choice. I would, mostly likely, share my umbrella with him if I had one, or find a dry spot as soon as we could. But if I were wearing my raincoat, my older child had refused to take one, I'm not going to buy him an umbrella because he was too lazy to carry his coat. If he has the money, he can buy his own umbrella, I don't care. If not, he will get to experience the natural consequence of getting wet. I'll 't help him get dry if I can. If he can't get dry, we might have to go home early if he's cold and wet. This isn't punishment, it's the reality of choosing not to bring your coat.

What I wouldn't do is rub his nose in it -- "see if you'd just brought your raincoat, you wouldn't be wet and cold and we wouldn't have to go home".

Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post
I guess the short version of that is that there are a lot of different ideas and perspectives within GD. I think this place (MDC in general and this subforum) is useful in that you get a wider perspective when hearing what people from all over the GD spectrum would do, and that can help when trying to figure out what is the right answer in some very specific circumstance.
I agree. I'm on the more mainstream side of GD. I've used timeouts when my kids need separation or when they've hit. I tried Consentual Living for about a week before I realized that I could not do it. It doesn't fit my personality, and it doesn't match my understanding of child development. At the same time, I don't punish. I try to use consequences sparingly.



Quote:
Originally Posted by MommyDOK View Post
But, here's the rub in our house. My 7 yr old is CONSTANTLY losing things....library books, her special stuffed animal of the day, her wallet, her backpack, her shoes. All of those things have a designated home (hanging rack by door for backpack and purse/wallet, shoe bin, library book bin etc), so I feel I have provided an area for her, but she chooses not to return her things to said area. BUT, when she is looking for them, she takes two seconds and then says, "Mommy, where are my shoes?"
Me:"I dont know. Did you check the bin?"
DD: "They're not in there. WIll you help me find them?"

So then I can do one of two things----help her, or tell her no, bc I find them for her every single day and I"m frustrated that I give her a home for them, and yet she still misplaces them all the time. So if I dont' help her find them, she always says, "You're mean".
I second the suggestion that you talk to her. Let her know you're irritated and ask what would work for her.

A couple of other ideas: There was a point about a year ago where we were dealing with this, and I imposed a consequence: For every 5 minutes I spend helping you find things that have a home, I get 5 minutes of extra chore time from you. I think I actually enforced this once. Mostly it was a way to make tangible to my kids the fact that I had to drop what I was doing to help them and I was irritated. I'm sure this isn't UP.

My sister used to have 'finding time' at their house. A designated 5-10 minutes where they rounded up things that get lost - coats, shoes, backpacks and the like. I don't remember if they did it every day or just as needed. (Things definitely got lost at their house - once my niece arrived at the airport (a 2 hour drive from their house) and my sister realized that she had no shoes on! Luckily, they found an old pair of boots in the backseat of the car, and were able to get on the plane and then buy shoes later.)
post #19 of 19
I think for a 7yo, explaining that you wanted their help in return for helping them, when they consistently needed your help for something you have been working on, like having a system for where things go and helping her to learn it... well, I think that's totally reasonable and if it's explained and enforced in a loving manner, not un-UP at all.

I have to be stone-cold about stuff like that a LOT as a teacher, to protect myself from having too much work to be able to get other things done. I have ssytems, I train the kids (14-15yos) and then they have to use the systems to get what they need (ie put make up work in a certain folder, check a binder for missed assignments, etc. I can't deal individually with each kid about each thing, and if they lose a paper, yeah, it's on them to print it up from the web site, and if they forgot their HW, no I will not print it for them off my computer.) But I try not to see every interaction with DD as a chance to teach her something. Of course it's nice and shows love to help out a family member, but if it's limiting her motivation to keep her stuff organized, maybe it would help her. But I still think exchanging time helping each other is something family does for one another. I see this as a difference between UP and, say, consensual living where you don't "make" the kids do stuff.
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