Saturday, 7 September 2013

What I am Currently Reading - Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

This is a fantastic book which turns everything you thought you knew about behaviour managements and discipline on it's head.
It advocated reasoning, love and persuasion as means of working with your children is preference to rewards and punishments, including time-outs and praise. Our society is so used to using these sorts of behaviour management techniques without question thanks to TV programmes such as Super Nanny, that any alternative seems hard to imagine but Kohn puts forward very persuasive arguments in favour of a different approach to working with children which is far more loving, nurturing and caring than the traditional techniques. 
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about this book going round such as that children are allowed to just get away with anything and aren't given any guidance as to how to behave, but it isn't like this it all, it really needs to be read to be fully understood and I think if you do read it you would find it very hard to fall back on the old techniques that are so frequently peddles by "behaviour specialists". 
The only negatives I can say about this book are that it is quite a hard, challenging read, it requires quite a bit of concentration to understand and would probably take several reads for all the information to truly sink in (this is the second time I have read it, although the first time I didn't manage to finish it)  The other thing I didn't like about this book was a small section which had a bit of a Bible bashing feel.  Kohn argues that an authoritarian approach to discipline has it's roots in certain religious belief systems, citing old testament fire and brimstone as proof of conditional love from God.  However I would argue that the Bible is filled with evidence that God loves us unconditionally because of what he did for us through Jesus, I would also argue that Christianity doesn't assume we are innately bad (as Kohn suggests) which is why we need saving and why we must be taught to behave, but that we are innately good but have gone astray.  This is obviously an extremely simplistic explanation which requires much much more that I can write in this book review (if you are interested read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell), but ultimately I think that in spite of this small section, Unconditional Parenting is still an excellent and extremely useful read.

When I began reading I was furiously underlining sections with a pencil for future reference, but fell behind when I didn't have a pencil handy, so here are a few quotes,, but they are mostly from the beginning of the book:

"What counts is not just that we believe we love [our children] unconditionally, but that they feel loved in that way.

"This approach (unconditional parenting)  offers a vote of confidence in children, a challenge to the assumption that they'll derive the wrong lesson from affection, or that they'd always want to act badly if they thought they could get away with it.

"That's an argument not for more discipline, but for grown-ups to spend more time with kids, to give them more guidance, and to treat them with more respect."

"On balance, the kids who do what they're told are likely to be those whose parents don't rely on power and instead have developed a warm and secure relationship with them. They have parents who treat them with respect, minimise the use of control, and make a point of offering reasons and explanations for what they ask."

An extremely good book for anyone who is interested in gentle parenting, gently discipline and building a strong, respectful relationship with their children.

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