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Difference between Consensual Living and Unconditional Parenting

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I hope there are some people left on this forum that can help me out with this.  I see these two terms thrown around together a lot and yet to me they are not the same. 


I have read Unconditional Parenting and to me, it does not seem like Alfie Kohn is saying that we need to live with our children "consensually" (although he does advocate seeking consensus if possible).  He does say that we should try not to say "no" too often, that we should not punish our children when they misbehave and that, conversely, we should not reward or praise them for "good" behaviour.  And we should try to control our children's actions less.  But he also acknowledges that parents are there to guide their children and sometimes, we really do know what is best for them and we need to steer them in that direction. 


One example he gives was once, at his son's bedtime, his son didn't want to go upstairs to bed, so Alfie Kohn had to pick him up and take him upstairs to bed.  At the top of the stairs, the son cried because he wanted to climb the stairs himself, so Alfie Kohn took his son back downstairs so that his son could climb the stairs himself.


My question is, is this the same as what is know as "consensual living" or would consensual living take it once step further and let the kid stay up as long as he wanted to every night?  What other difference are there between Unconditional Parenting and Consensual Living?

post #2 of 6

Ak also sees value in family,,  community and classroom , not only individual choice. I have not read much about consensual living but it involves cps - collaborative problem solving , they also talk about equality of family members . so my guess would be 


your eg  - bedtime   -  kids concerns = not tired , wants to watch Tv 

                                 moms concerns =  wants time with husband, 

                                 mom's concerns  = kid needs a regular sleeping pattern 



if we say kid knows what they need and does not disturb mom and dad  -  then let her stay up 

if we say parents need to be the guide , the problem will be solved in a cps way.

post #3 of 6
UP is an anti-behaviorist thing. It is about not using punishment or rewards to get your children to do what you want. However, I don't remember him saying that he never makes his kids do what he feels necessary if something is necessary, and in fact the bedtime example is a case of him making his child go to bed when his child doesn't want to. It seems like he says at one point that some things that feel necessary really aren't if you think about it, but he does just make things happen that need to happen. He just wouldn't follow it up with a punishment. It's not about whether the parent should ever be in charge and make decisions for their kids, it's really just about using punishment and rewards.

Consensual living is the belief that everyone's feelings are equal and should be given equal weight, and that every time there is a disagreement, the parties involved should find a mutually acceptable solution. And I think that you shouldn't coerce your kids into doing what you want. So to force the bed time you have chosen on a child who doesn't want to go to bed then, even if you really know the child actually needs to sleep then or he/she will have serious trouble the next day, would not be reasonable in CL. You couldn't just make a child go to bed.

So Alfie Kohn wouldn't punish for not going to bed when he wants, "Either you go to bed or I'll take away X", and he wouldn't give a reward, "If you go to bed without complaining, we can do X tomorrow", and he wouldn't use praise to get the child to regularly do what he wants, "Good job! You went to bed without complaining!" But he might very well decide that bedtime is now and the child is going to bed. Just instead of punishing, you might carry the child to bed or whatever. The child asking to walk himself to bed instead of being carried seems very reasonable to me, and probably did to AK, so he went down and let him go upstairs on his own, but he had still decided it was bedtime.
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

OK so it sounds like we agree. I posted the thread because the terms UP qnd CL seem to get thrown around together and interchanged a lot even though they are not really the same thing.

post #5 of 6

I think they are thrown around because the philosophies are very similar in many ways.  This is a good website for information on CL:


post #6 of 6

Just wanted to say I appreciate this thread. I love UP but I definitely don't even aspire to CL, at least not with a three year old. :) I'm sure I will move more in that direction when my kids are older. But I've been struggling lately with criticism from family saying that DD "needs" punishment/consequences, and I appreciate this explanation...it's helping me understand my parenting philosophy better. 

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