Unconditional Parenting - Deepstash
Unconditional Parenting


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Unconditional Parenting

by Alfie Kohn

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When you say "Good Job" to a child, what you are doing is increase your love for the child in that  particular situation. This is chain into "I like you because you did such- and such". Which will be perceived as My Dad loves me because I do such and such. which also means that "My dad won't love me if I don't do like that." You may say that you are only praising not saying those words but good job. But it isn't about what you give, it's about what the child receives. Hence, it can be proved that Praising is a direct aspect of conditional parenting.


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A research by Mary Ruddy in 2013 found that children who were frequently praised by their teachers often answered in a question tone of voice(Um, Photosynthesis?). They were less likely to share their ideas or stick with a task once they started. And they often backed off from something they had proposed about as soon as the teacher disagreed from them.


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One reason they’re so harmful has to do with the child’s experience of feeling controlled. And it works the other way around, too: When we use punishments and rewards and other strategies to manipulate children’s behavior, they may come to feel they’re loved only when they conform to our demands.

The dominant problem with parenting in our society isn’t permissiveness, but the fear of permissiveness.

A lot of parents act as though they believe that kids don’t deserve respect in the way adults do.

Some parents hit, some scold, some use guilt, some criticise, some use other techniques.


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almost everyone gives in to the impulse to overcontrol, at least on occasion. Some do so as a result of their conviction that children must learn to do what they’re told (and, after all, adults know better than kids, don’t they?). 

It’s easy for most of us to observe Bad Parenting on Parade, to watch people who are much more controlling than we are, and to take comfort from saying, “At least I’d never do that.” But the real challenge is to reflect on the things we have been known to do and ask whether they’re really in our children’s best interest.


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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.

One reason that a heavy-handed is that, in the final analysis, we really can’t control our kids—at least, not in the ways that matter. It’s very difficult to make a child eat this food rather than that one, or pee here rather than there, and it’s simply impossible to force a child to go to sleep, or stop crying, or listen, or respect us.


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study focused on preschoolers who had been identified as defiant. Their mothers were asked to play with them as they usually did, while others were trained to “engage in any activity to allow the child to control the nature and rules of the interaction.” They were asked to refrain from commanding, criticizing, or praising. (Notice that praising was included). After the play sessions, the mothers issued a series of commands to their children having to do with putting away each of the toys. The result: Children who had been subject to less control were more likely to follow their instructions.9


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The controlling parenting leads the child to excessive compliance where the child obeys the commands and honor his parent. Seems good, aye? It has been found that these children pay a price the self confidence area of their life. They seem to interact less with their peers and never gain self-esteem. These are the children who later in their lives become “yes-men” in the office, those deferential employees who never disagree with the boss.


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There’s something paradoxical about the fact that it’s those parents who are most concerned about controlling their children who may end up having the least control over them. Far more significant is the fact that this power-based approach isn’t just ineffective—it’s also terribly damaging, even when it appears to work.

So it is when parents insist on absolute control. Some of these children become excessively compliant, and others become excessively defiant. Let’s consider each of these reactions in turn.


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When we command a child to do something by for, this often generates anger in them. Just that they don;t show anger at that time doesn't mean it is disappeared. They rebel everything and anything. They earn to empty this anger on us, where have they learnt this anger? From us. Parents who don't even allow to show this anger from the child, make their children double-lived. They are cute and obedient in front of their parents but behind their backs they become absent brainy hooligans. These are also the kids that communicate wit their peers aggressively and defiantly.


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If punishment is so effective, how come I have to keep doing it to my child over and over?

Researchers found that punishment is ineffectual over the long term as a technique for eliminating the kind of behavior toward which it is directed and the parents who punish[ed] rule-breaking behavior in their children at home often had children who demonstrated higher levels of rule-breaking when away from home.

Punishment doesn't mean only spanking or slapping (physical); it includes even time-outs(emotional), threats(mental).


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Sometimes, parents are told to use time-outs instead of spanking. The reality is that both of these tactics are punitive. They differ only with respect to whether children will be made to suffer by physical or emotional means.

Another version of Punishment is known as “natural consequences,” which invites parents to discipline by by refusing to help. If the child forgets raincoat in school, let him get wet tomorrow. This is said to teach her to be more punctual, or less forgetful. But the far more powerful lesson that she’s likely to take away is that we could have helped— but didn’t.


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No matter how many times we have seen our kids lashing out in anger or pain or making no improvements after punishing, we assume that the only response to this, is to punish-again. Research finds the worst effects aren’t due to the parent’s initial intervention but rather to the use of punishment after the child fails to comply with the first request.

Though, the more vicious cycle is held over the years, when we punish the child, he becomes a defiant adolescent, and we ground him etc. The more this strategy fails, the more we assume the problem is with child, rather than with strategy itself.


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“Misbehavior and punishment are not opposites that cancel each other; on the contrary, they breed and reinforce each other.”


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  • It makes people mad.- the use of punitive consequences often enrages whoever is on the receiving end, and the experience is doubly painful because he or she is powerless to do anything about it.
  • It models the use of power.- Punishment teaches children a way of solving problems- POWER. They may or may not earn the lesson we supposed to teach them but they WILL learn that when the most important people in their lives, their role models, have a problem, they try to solve it by using power to make the other person unhappy so he or she will be forced to capitulate.


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Whole System To Avoid

This is the whole continuum we need to avoid. Even if this is mixed with good parenting, it cancels out the effects of it and leads to bad parenting. Here you can't say "More the merrier"


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Children are pressured to be good, achieve more, be excellent, have a good time table etc. Well, these are the same children who become drunkards or depressed in the future because they just can't handle the stress. But there is an even harmful thing than this-competition. "Be superior to your peers, they are an obstacle to your success. The world is a race and everyone kills each other. you have to stand different." These children have their self-esteem suffer on this. "Oh, so I can get hugs and smiles only when I get this grade in my report card, ok then I will work like a wild ass from now"


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The more the parents focus on the higher grades of their children, the lesser will the child love learning. This has been studied many and many times. In schools, when we are given homework and told that they hold the marks for our report card, we choose the easiest way possible. We choose the shortest novel or the simplest decorations possible for our projects. This is not us being not creative; we are rational. If we are encouraged by our teachers for the love of learning and excitement to do the project, we would love school and the learning it gives us, instead of hating it for the marks.


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There are parents who literally control their children's lives, and they choose in which sport he or she will be going, for competition or for fun. Some say,"we just tell our kid to do his best." The author replies that doing his best is far away from doing just fun, and do the arents of these children react the same when the child says he did his best that day as compared to when he gets a trophy?

All of this has conditioned the kids to thinking that sports is where you have to make everyone fail to win and you must compete.


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competition holds people back from working or learning at their best.  Cooperation makes more sense than competition if we care mostly about bottom-line results, just as it does if our prime concern is how people feel about themselves and those around them.

Some people believe that fear of failing helps us to succeed. Well, even if we believe that they will rise up and start their journey again if they fail, it is not necessary that they will. Often, children are so much occupied trying to recover from failure that they can't start succeeding. Fear of failure, instead, is an obstacle to success


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We control so much because-

  1. what we see and hear- we see our parents, neighbors, doctors, doing overcontrol, so we think that it would be better because everyone's in it.
  2. what we believe- our beliefs of regards, capabilities, competition, religion, justice affect our actions.
  3. what we feel- we impart on our children what we were imparted. we scold or praise them on occasions on which we were scolded or praised because we respect our parents.
  4. what we fear- our fears of parental inadequacy, powerlessness, being judged, children's safety, babying, permissiveness.


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treat them as people whose feelings and desires and questions matter. A child’s preferences can’t always be accommodated, but they can always be considered and they need never be dismissed out of hand. It’s important to see a child as someone with a unique point of view, with very real fears and concerns and with a distinctive way of reasoning.

In this chapter there will not be step-to-stp things like what to do in this or that situation, here w will know the principles of unconditional parenting, like a baker's dozen building guide.


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1.Be reflective.

2.Reconsider your requests.

3.Keep your eye on your long-term goals.

4.Put the relationship first.

5.Change how you see, not just how you act.


7.Be authentic.

8.Talk less, ask more.

9.Keep their ages in mind.

10.Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts.

11.Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily.

12.Don’t be rigid.

13.Don’t be in a hurry.


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Try to figure out what may be driving your parenting style. The more transparent you are to yourself—the better you come to understand how your own needs and experiences affect the way you act with your children (such as what drives you crazy and why)—the more likely it is that you’ll improve.

Be honest with yourself about your motives. Don’t stop being troubled by things you do that really are troubling. And be alert for signs that the way you interact with your children may have drifted toward a controlling style without your even being aware of it.


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Perhaps when your child doesn’t do what you’re demanding, the problem isn’t with the child but with what it is you’re demanding. It is worth asking that what we're demanding is really needed to be done or even can be done by your child. If we’re giving children reasonably healthy meals, is it necessary to force them to eat something? why does the only place in the world that is truly a child’s own have to be maintained according to the parents? before searching for some method to get kids to do what we tell them, we should first take the time to rethink the value or necessity of our requests.


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Keep you long term goals in your mind. What you want him to be in future, a man who is appreciated and thanked for what he does occasionally or when he obeys or you want him to be thanked for his personality and himself.

Keep your relationship first. Is it good enough to scold your child so that he sleeps? It is more important than even your relationship? 

Change how you see, not just how you act. Whenever the child does something 'bad', don't think it is something to be punished; see it as a teachable moment.

Respect your child. Respect his opinions, fears, actions, decisions. Respect forrespect


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Be authentic. Your child need to know that his parents are human beings, not perfections. Tell them the truth wherever needed. Show them mistakes can be done by anyone. The author suggests to say sorry to your child at least twice a month.

Talk less, ask more. You agree that democracy is better than dictatorship. Apply this to your child. Ask him if we wants to sleep, to eat, to go inside or not. Avoid asking like 'Why can't you just stop right there? Can't you understand?" These question are harmful. Ask him for his actions and his wish to do them.


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Keep his age in mind. Distracting a 3 y old to something else to remove a thing that may harm him, like a knife, from his hands is ok. But not to a 7 yr od. Imagine saying 'Look an aeroplane' and then snatch the hone away from him and saying 'the dog took it'. Doesn't make sense. All strategies are age-sensitive.


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ATTRIBUTE TO CHILDREN THE BEST POSSIBLE MOTIVE CONSISTENT WITH THE FACTS. When the child does something that has a negative effect, doesn't mean that he had a negative motive. Suppose a child throws something, (not to make mommy miserable); maybe he was testing how things fall, or the sound which comes It is important to understand that children's motives are not necessarily negative. It is you you thinks they are. But surely if a teenager kicks someone on the face doesn't mean they didn't mean to cause harm. That is yhy you must think for the best possible motive consistent with the facts.


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Don't stick in your no's. Think upon the reason you are saying yes or no. There will always be times when you can teach the child that everything he says can't come come to him. But as far as your convenience and child's harm is concerned, say yes. Whenever you say either yes or no, just think upon the reason. Why do you need to say no or even accept the child's offer to play outside rather than inside?


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Don't be rigid. Let them be flexible. Do not this that there are infractions to be punished; think they are problems to be solved. It is a lot more easier to be flexible when you know there's no penalty you will be given. The absence of punishment also frees up parents to respond differently to each of their children without stirring up angry charges of favoritism. Mom and Dad should not act as a united team against the child. It i good to show children that adults sometimes disagree but the matters can be solved with respect and sometimes compromise. 


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Don't be in a hurry. Don't rush your child through the supermarket. Think of the times when you do not need to rush. Think your time table with your child. Do you need to wake up 15 min early or sleep 15 min late? This time will pass too. Don't hurry this child to teen.


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Perfect unconditional parenting is almost improbable, because there are times when we may slip our tongue or hand over our kid; but this should not stop us from trying to be mostly unconditional. Perfect happiness is not possible too, but this fact doesn't top us from being happy. Being unconditional doesn't mean taking your hands-off your child; it is an active role in child's life too.


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  1. The first step is simply to be mindful of the whole issue of unconditional parenting.
  2. Second, we need to get in the habit of asking ourselves a very specific question: “If that comment I just made to my child had been made to me—or if what I just did had been done to me—would I feel unconditionally loved?”
  3. we have to communicate that we love them even when we’re not thrilled with what they’re doing.


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Parents who find unacceptable a great many things that their children do or say will inevitably foster in these children a deep feeling that they are unacceptable as persons.


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  1. Limit number of criticisms.
  2. Limit intensity of each criticism.
  3. Limit scope of each criticism. Even when kids do rotten things, our goal should not be to make them feel bad, nor to stamp a particular behavior out of existence. Rather, what we want is to influence the way they think and feel, to help them become the kind of people who wouldn’t want to act cruelly.

Be the parent does not mean to put your foot on the neck of the kid (metaphorically saying), it means to rise above the temptation of a childish quid pro quo:“ if you’re not going to do your chores, then I’m not going to give you dessert”


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