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Am I the only one who wasn't thrilled with the book Unconditional Parenting? - Page 2

post #21 of 117
You're definitely AP enough! My feeling from the book was that he's saying EVERYONE in the family deserves respect and to have their needs met. I came away from it realizing that I didn't HAVE to control everything my dd does and that we should all get our needs met some of the time. I took his emphasis on letting go of control as a signal that he was/is really trying to show a radical alternative to current mainstream parenting practices. And coming from a family who exercises a ton of control, it was nice to see someone reaffirming my instincts (ie, it's okay to acknowledge dd's opinions and preferences)

I was also disappointed my his NPR interview. Both with him and Diane. I felt like she missed a major point of the book, ie every child and situation is unique and using blanket "if x do y" approaches fails to respect the individuality of all involved. I felt like he didn't do a very good job of getting his message across. This book doesn't tell you what to do if you kids won't sleep or throw food on the floor. There aren't any formulas or charts involved. Instead it asks you to work with your child to find a solution that is mutally acceptable most of the time. Even if you reject this approach, it can be useful to use some of the time or as another parenting tool.

Great discussion!
post #22 of 117
I'm reading the book right now and by-and-large I'm enjoying it. I, too, was a little hesitant to buy it after hearing him talk to Diane (he was totally dismissive of a teacher who called in to ask about a particularly difficult child in her class--even Diane, who's usually pretty mild-mannered, sounded irritated and pointed out that he was avoiding the question). But even so, I bought the book anyway.

Coming from a very controlling, authoritarian family, I needed to hear what he has to say. I don't want to repeat the kind of childhood I had, but I didn't have any other models to follow. This book is giving me a good start toward being the kind of parent I wish I'd had. I find myself wanting specific situational advice, but I appreciate his resistance to provide it since different children and circumstances require different responses. So I'll have to become better at finding my own style. But I figure it's a growing and learning process for us all--I know I'll make mistakes, but I hope that we as a family grow closer and more trusting along the way as we work together through each issue.

Just wondering . . . did it seem to anyone else like Kohn makes "Mommy" the scapegoat in his book? Everytime he's got a negative example, it's always something "mom" did or said. That, coupled with the fact that the "right" way of doing things is coming from a man/dad (Kohn himself), was particularly irritating.
post #23 of 117
I am only a little way into the book and have not noticed yet that he blames mom! I will look out for it.

I am enjoying this book so far. I am looking forward to discussing it.
post #24 of 117
Originally Posted by momandmore2
Just wondering . . . did it seem to anyone else like Kohn makes "Mommy" the scapegoat in his book? Everytime he's got a negative example, it's always something "mom" did or said. That, coupled with the fact that the "right" way of doing things is coming from a man/dad (Kohn himself), was particularly irritating.

I didn't notice that, and I read it through twice.

I think maybe it came off that way because a lot of toddler examples involve mothers mainly because mothers often spend more time with young kids. Also the experiments showing the negative effects of control all involved moms, not dads- but he was quoting research there and it's not his fault if the researchers used moms rather than dads.

I thought he said lots of things about good moms.
post #25 of 117
I didn't notice the mom thing, but maybe that's because we've only got moms in our house, so if a parent screws up...yup, it's mom!

Not that we have ever screwed up....

I totally loved the book. Finished it last night. Gave me so much to lean on and think through.
post #26 of 117
Originally Posted by Meli65
Hmm. I took this book out of the library based on a recommendation of a friend of a friend but I am really resisting reading it. I feel that as the AP parent of a high-needs child I am already bending over backwards to set up his world in a way that suits him -- picking battles, making sure he has lots of stimulation every day (he is a classic extrovert) and basically denying my own needs in order to meet his. After 3-1/2 years of this, I am exhausted!

I'd like to make my life as a parent a little bit easier, and would also like to raise a pleasant child who recognizes the needs of others. Ds is very kind-hearted, so we must have done something right.

I already worry that I am not "AP-enough" and feel like this book will just make me feel worse. Any thoughts?
I think I'm never going to read another parenting book again. Like you said, doing you own thing and caring about your child's needs works pretty well without having to worry about what else you should be doing. I never read parenting books when DS was an infant, why do I need them for a toddler? I should have more confidence in myself.
post #27 of 117
Originally Posted by chfriend
I didn't notice the mom thing, but maybe that's because we've only got moms in our house, so if a parent screws up...yup, it's mom!
post #28 of 117
Originally Posted by luv my 2 sweeties
But my sense from the radio show was that he remains long on theory and short on specific strategies for the trenches. In my experience, that equals guilt and confusion for me. I still don't know what to do when..., but now I feel worse about the way I *do* manage to handle it.
I'm only about a third of the way thru this book so far but this hits the nail on the head for how I'm feeling about it. I have a IRL friend who has read the majority of it and says it has refreshed her whole approach to parenting. So I'm sticking with it. But I have to say, I feel like I'm trying so dang hard at this whole parenting thing and want desperately to do the right thing for my kids and so far, this book has been a hard pill to swallow. I am sure I will have to re-read it at least twice to fully digest the points he is trying to put forth.

But you know, I *REALLY* need the specifics. I need to know what *IS* okay to do when my kids make me so mad I could spit nails. I mean, I fully acknowledge that walking away from them in the heat of the moment is more about me keeping my cool than about doling out punishment. So to hear that this is not okay, that this tells them I love them conditionally? It's HARD. It's very HARD. I mean, here I am feeling like I'm doing an okay job of controlling my own feelings and not unleashing them upon my children, and then I read that my method for doing this is detrimental to their emotional health. So what do I do instead? You know?

I know, I need to finish the book and re-read it and let it sink in. But I'm having a hard time with it.
post #29 of 117
I have read most of Punished by Rewards and to tell you the truth at first I hated it. Just so much full of theory that didnt jive in any way with my experience. But it has been sitting in the bathroom and I have thumbed through it more and towards the back where he quotes the research he does make several qualifying statements like how sometimes genuine praise IS a good idea and parents shouldnt' avoid it altogether. I even think he said that sometimes a well thought out consequence like time out is necessary. But these things shouldnt be the primary tools in a parents reportoire.
So I think I will read it cover to cover now and not just throw it down when I get ticked. . . Because he really doesnt mean it to be as black and white as it sounds in the beginning.
I have also read just about all the articles on his website. I think the man has excellent ideas on education. I find that I disagree a great deal on his ideas on parenting and I am not really motivated to read Unconditional Parenting.
For example. I do not believe timeout to be a "withdrawal of love". Or that it makes kids feel that it is unfair and makes them angry. I never felt this way and my children never responded this way themselves.
I think this may be true for some. I dont deny it. But he states things that he has observed asa being true for some as if they are true for all and that just drives me nuts when it is stated as fact.
And as to the PP who stated that if you think obedience is important for its own sake this type of idea is unlikely to appeal to you.
I agree but i wanted to point out that there is a middle ground.
IT isnt "my children must always obey right away" or "we dont have the concept of obedience or disobedience in our home". In my home I do expect a reasonable amount of obedience within a reasonable time frame. Things are always open for negotiation, and there is always a reason why. So obedience is important but never for its own sake but for the sake of expediency and family harmony etc. . ..
Anyway, Alfie Kohn is worth reading because he has a lot of interesting ideas but he kinda should be taken with a grain of salt.
post #30 of 117
Originally Posted by jenmk
For other things, I try to describe rather than throw out a generic "good job!"
I'm interested in this part, as I tend to use "good job" in one particular way, more often than not. I tend to use it when dd is showing me that she can do something she's proud to have accomplished (figuring out how something works, example). She'll tell me what she did and then show me, and I usually reply with "good job". I don't really know what else I'd say. Repeating back what she just told me seems....patronizing or something.

This is interesting, as I haven't read much of what you're all talking about. I've come across other references to overpraising, but I've never read much about it.
post #31 of 117
I think Alfie Kohn is a bit full of himself and kind of a one trick pony. That said, I think that his basic message is a good one for adults to hear. I found both "Punished by Rewards" and "Unconditional Parenting" to be longwinded, repetitive, and a little condescending.

I was so excited about "Punished by Rewards", because I was a special education teacher (wasn't yet a parent) who couldn't stand the overuse of "reward systems" I was seeing. That book helped me take my teaching to the next level, and helped me realize why these "rewards" I was seeing children get made me feel queasy.

But as a parent, I have been much less impressed with what "Unconditional Parenting" had to offer. Which does not mean that I don't agree with his basic philosophies.

post #32 of 117
I think that anyone who starts reading this book with the expectation it will tell them what to do will be disappointed. Personally, I think it falls more into the category of a parenting philosophy book. Kohn questions several parenting practices, many of which are the accepted norm (at least in all the places I've lived in the US). And right there is the value in reading this book (for me). I'm surrounded by people who value time out/punitive discipline/parental control/etc. I felt that UP gave me a different look at these practices and helped to spur a critical look at what my own personal parenting philosophy is based upon.

I also really appreciated that it wasn't another "if child does x, parent should/must do y". I think parental instinct is so undervalued and too many of us (myself included) look to perfect strangers who know nothing about our lives and children to tell us what to do. Because really, there isn't any one size fits all answer. Ultimately, we as parents need to sift through all the data and figure out what works for us.

The biggest idea I took away from this book was that it's how my children interpret my actions that matters, not what my intentions are. This point has really given me a lot to think about and was a good reminder that kids (little ones especially) aren't tuned in to the multiple levels of thinking and feelings that may be behind my actions.

So, I say, like with any book, it really depends on where you are in the parenting journey and what you're looking for.
post #33 of 117
I am currently reading this book - about halfway through it - and so far I am really enjoying it. I would agree that it's more of a parenting philosophy book than a how-to book, but that doesn't bother me. So far I don't feel like I've read anything new, but I do appreciate that he seems able to articulate much of what I've been thinking and feeling for a long time.

I have also been surprised at how much this book has helped me to understand that my parents really did have good intentions. They always told me that they raised me and my brother to question things and be independent, but their actions succeeded in undermining most of this. If we did question things and express our opinions we were put into our place. So in some ways, they were able to ignite the spark (are rather not completely suppress it) but we learned not to speak our minds.

Thanks to several years of therapy, (I put off having a child until my 30s because of my upbrining), I am at peace with most pieces of my childhood. But it's been fascinating to understand that some of the things my parents did actually probably were done with the best of intentions. So even if I don't get much out of this book concerning my own parenting (though I already have at least by feeling supported in my own ideas & philosophies) I definitely find it worth the read as it is helping me to better understand my own parents and continue healing our relationship.

I'll try to check-in to this thread again after I finish the book.
post #34 of 117
UP is one of those books that really changed me, and how I look at things. It didn't make parenting harder, if anything it made it easier because it enabled me to give up many battles I felt were important before (for reasons I don't understand). I think more than anything he asks us to focus on the long term and treat children with the respect we'd give an adult, which should be second nature for everyone but sadly isn't.

When I was reading it I would tell dh about it and he'd be very resistant. Finally he agreed to read it and it had the same impact on him. One day my dd was jumping off her little picnic table onto the grass and I said, "No, no!" and dh gently said, "Is there a reason she can't do that, or are you just asserting your authority? She's jumped off higher things and onto harder surfaces, and I don't think she will likely get hurt..." and he was right! That's when I knew he was in with me.

I will admit I wasn't 100% convinced that time-out = love withdrawal until I watched "Supernanny". UGH. That show really illustrates everything AK is talking about, doesn't it? The cold lack of respect, not to mention the focus solely on behavior, is horrible to me.
post #35 of 117
I really enjoyed UP and should re read it. I found it inspired me to do what already rang true to me. Not that at times it isn't very much a struggle but it reaffirmed my beliefs.
And I can understand those disapointed by the NCSS-a wasteful read for me although I understand it was and is very helpful for many others.
post #36 of 117
I have read most of the thread but might be repeating a few things.

First, the praise you say is not the kind of praise he's talking about being bad. Saying, "good sitting!" "Good eating!" "Good singing!" etc. is more what he means. Kids hear an endless stream of this and it really doesn't mean anything and can set them up to epect and need that kind of praise to respond to things. What you said, which is explaining to a child how what he/she does effects others (in this case a cat) as I recall is exactly what he says should be done.

Alfie Kohn is *not* a fan of the traditional school system, so my guess is he doesn't think kids should be conditioned to do well in it. He is a big fan of homeschooling.

I personally liked the book. It gave me a new perspective on some things. But I've felt that way with books before. It is disappointing to buy a book and not have it be what you hoped.
post #37 of 117
Super great thread! Thanks for starting it. I haven't read any AK, but have been very curious. Everyone expressed themselves so well. Loved hearing all the different opinions.
post #38 of 117
I haven't read the book yet, but I agree with your points. Children need GUIDANCE. They are children, they don't automatically know things like how to tell right from wrong or how to control themselves when they're upset, and it's up to us to teach them these things. We do them a great disservice if we don't.
post #39 of 117
I have to say this thread has been GREAT for me!
I had often wondered if I was the only one here who had serious doubts about some of the things AK has to say.
I mean. I like him OK. But I dont think he has all the answers, or that all of his ideas apply to all kids all the time.
Thanks for starting this thread.
post #40 of 117
I agree with much of PbR (which is really other people's research presented by Kohn), but found UP almost intolerable. Kohn has written a tome designed encourage parents to constantly question every single thing they do -- all day all the time. He is also incredibly rigid and judgemental about anyone's parenting techniques other than his own. And what's up with most of the hypothetical examples being "mommy." Grrrr.

It must be wearying to be Alfie; living in a world in which children don't possess the least resiliance, always wondering if what he's said or done or if the expression on his face has scarred a child for life. I'm certainly not saying that our actions can't have unintended effects on our children, but rather that I'd like my kids to see me as a fully functioning adult with strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. Reflect, apologize (and deal with the natural consequences), move on... just like I teach them. I greatly prefer the P.E.T. approach in which I get to have foibles and a bit of guilt free breathing space.
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