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  • Unconditional Parenting/Teaching

    Hi

    I have read Alfie Kohns Unconditional Parenting and we agree with a good portion of what he is saying and want to implement his ideas. It can be hard, when we watch DD do something new to NOT say anything or we'll try to say something descriptive such as "you did it" or "You got the ball in the basket all by yourself!" or "you stacked those blocks high"... I have a couple of ponderings ... if we sound excited "You did it!! " is that a type of praise? i want to show interest and sometimes some of the UP stuff almost comes across to me as too much "hands off" if that makes sense.

    Secondly, how do you teach ... for example, we do sign language for DD. So, when she sees a ball and signs ball we usually say "thats right" in moderately happy voice. Is that appropriate ... if not, how do you give feedback on teaching type of things?

    TIA
    Last edited by KaitlynsMamma; 01-15-2010, 12:39 PM.

  • #2
    Hi, I love that book too! And yes, it can be hard to find ways to apply his ideas, but it sounds like you're putting a lot of thought onto it and are on the right track.

    Originally posted by KaitlynsMamma View Post
    ... if we sound excited "You did it!! " is that a type of praise? i want to show interest and sometimes some of the UP stuff almost comes across to me as too much "hands off" if that makes sense.
    It does make sense, and I've heard that from parents before regarding Kohn's UP. I've felt it, too, in my own parenting. But I think that the excitement in your voice when you say things like "you did it!" is encouragement as opposed to praise. It's genuine excitement for your child in the things they are learning. It's encouraging for children to hear excitement...other people's exciement doesn't say "I am pleased with you", it says "I'm happy for you". And of there's any ambiguity, you can always follow up with, "you must feel so proud of yourself!"


    Originally posted by KaitlynsMamma View Post
    Secondly, how do you teach ... for example, we do sign language for DD. So, when she sees a ball and signs ball we usually say "thats right" in moderately happy voice. Is that appropriate ... if not, how do you give feedback on teaching type of things?
    Yes, I think that's appropriate...it's an encouraging form of "you got it!" Much different than "good girl, here's reward for getting that answer right". Teaching children means we have to be able to give affirmations in the same way we'd give corrections & redirections. So sometimes we're going to have to say, "Yes, that's a ball!" with encouragement and excitement in our voice. With UP, I think it's always important to focus on the effort & accomplishment, rather than a simple form of praise.

    But I think you probably already know that, and I think it's great that you're giving this so much thought! Good job! (ha ha ) Seriously though, thanks for such thoughtful questions!

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    • #3
      I do try to combine Kohn's ideas with NVC, which can be a bit contradictory if you think too hard about it.

      On one hand you certainly don't want a child to play (learn etc) a certain way just to amuse or delight YOU (parent or other adult) but on the other hand we do live together in a family unit and a community. It is a fine line sometimes. I think it is important to use both techniques modified for the age and personality of the child, activity and parents intention. It is VERY easy to overthink this...my brain is hurting just trying to type this!

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      • #4
        I have UP, but haven't read it yet. One of the reasons is the whole praise thing. I guess I should read it first, so I know exactly what he's talking about, but I just find it hard to understand. I know we don't want our children to do things only to please us, but what is wrong with them doing that sometimes? Don't we all like to please other people? Especially people in our family that we are close to? I don't see anything wrong with that. And I know as an adult I like to be praised. I want my boss to tell me I did a good job. I don't get it. I will read the book though!

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        • #5
          Yes, definitely read the book. I consider it a must-read parenting book...it's one of my 4 "staple" books that I refer to, and refer to others. And yes, it can be hard to digest at first....well, maybe not difficult so much as foreign. It can be a strange concept at first (the idea of doing away with praise), but Kohn presents it so convincingly and with such strong research that it does make sense. It changed my view on parenting; I immediately wanted to start making changes in the way I do things that would teach my children internal motivation and self-worth.

          Also, any other parenting book about positive parenting, positive discipline, attachment-based, connected parenting, etc. is based on unconditionality. None of API's recommended books include any that are based on praise/ rewards and punishment/ consequences. Unconditionality is the heart of a connected relationship, and positive discipline as well.

          If you and yoru husband read the book or watch Kohn's presentation on DVD, it will provide a very interesting conversation starter between the two of you! When my husband watched the DVD (why are husband so reluctant to read parenting books? ), he disagreed with a lot of what Kohn was saying, but we had a very enlightening conversation about our parenting goals, values & ultimately approaches. We came to our own conclusion about where we stand within the realm of Unconditioal Parenting, and we got closer to the same page on an approach to parenting.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by connerleesmom View Post
            I have UP, but haven't read it yet. One of the reasons is the whole praise thing. I guess I should read it first, so I know exactly what he's talking about, but I just find it hard to understand. I know we don't want our children to do things only to please us, but what is wrong with them doing that sometimes? Don't we all like to please other people? Especially people in our family that we are close to? I don't see anything wrong with that. And I know as an adult I like to be praised. I want my boss to tell me I did a good job. I don't get it. I will read the book though!
            If you feel you are needing praise from others, ask yourself what the need is behind that desire. Is it acceptance? affirmation? self-worth or esteem? Kelly did a great job ( ) explaining unconditionality, i will further add that the point in UP is raising children whose internal needs are met and, therefore, ultimately do things because it is being the most true to themselves and honoring to others, not due to an unmet need. Kohn discusses how praise may offer a quick fix for many of our unmet needs, but only unconditionality truly fulfills them.

            I will add that I have been practicing UP in the context of AP for almost 7 years and both of my children have incredible self-esteem. My oldest really thinks the world of himself So children raised w/out praise do turn out magnificently.

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            • #7
              I don't like praise from others because of an unmet need. Everybody likes to be told thery're doing a good and to feel appreciated. What if your husband told you he thought you were a great mother? Should he not say that because it's praise? Will it be harmful for him to tell you you're doing a good job? I think it's natural for kid's to want to please their parents. I don't see anything wrong with that as long as that's not their only motivation. I do love my son unconditionally. I just like the look of happiness he gets when he accomplishes something. Shouldn't it be acknowledged that he's done well?

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              • #8
                connerleesmom,
                there are a few different points in your post, i'll try to respond, but really, my explanation pales in comparison to kohn.
                you say you like praise b/c it makes you feel good and feel appreciated. those are needs that you have that get met thru praise. i'm not passing judgment or insinuating that there's something wrong w/you b/c you have unmet needs. as humans, we all do. and we all try to get them met. nothing wrong w/that. it's what we're suppose to do. that's what our children do. i like praise from my boss b/c it lets me know i'm on the right track. i have a need to feel successful at what i do. now, i'd rather have constructive, specific feedback on areas i need to improve or to continue doing, but it's rare to get that kind of response.

                my husband tells me i'm a good mother, but it's usually in response to something specific like i patiently respond to their demands. this falls more along the lines of constructive feedback, not praise. praise is usually defined as something general, vague, empty. there's not a lot to go on. so when we tell our children they're doing a good job, internally they may think "mom likes how i put my socks in this drawer. i need to put socks in all of my drawers. that will make her happy. she loves me when i do this." instead, saying "when you put your socks away, that really helps me out with the laundry. then i can spend more time with you. thank you." provides feedback that communicates what specifically was done and shows that a specific need was met in the mother, not linked to some type of conditional love.

                yes, many children want to please their parents. UP and, especially NVC, highlights the RELATIONSHIP as what should be the driving force in our lives. not a one-sided, do things b/c it pleases others response. so, i don't want my children doing things b/c it pleases me. i want them to do things that contribute to our family and our relationship. i want us to maintain our attachment. that is above whether they do things that i agree with or that i think are great.

                of course you love your son unconditionally. the idea behind UP is to communicate that love to our children. this is what we all want, for our children to love them, not b/c of WHAT they DO, but b/c of WHO they ARE. i think that once you read it, you will better understand Kohn's POV, not that you will then agree with everything he says, but he will make more sense than i do

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                • #9
                  Yes, certainly read the book (Kohn).

                  "my husband tells me i'm a good mother"
                  Mine does too...but I like it better when he describes why he thought it and decided to tell me at that momment. It is almost worthless (and a little suspicious!) when it is kind of random and unrealted to anything real or describeable.

                  Paxmamma I liked how you described how cleaning up helps with the entire family dynamic/balance.
                  "when you put your socks away, that really helps me out with the laundry. then i can spend more time with you. thank you."
                  That is REALLY the crux of things.......Growing up I felt like my mom's entire mental state hinged on if I cleaned my room! I have some serious adversions to cleaning because of this. I think if she described (in NVC) and in family balance how it affected her it would of been better for me. Of course sometimes it is nice to please and amuse your parents but it is entirely unfair to grow up thinking that your behavior is directly responsible for a parents meltdown.

                  This idea can be more difficult for those with very young children, as you cannot describe things as in depth. The general ideas are good even at a young age...SPECIFICS!!!!
                  Saying "good job" means so little compared to "You picked up all the markers yourself"
                  If you compare possible internal dialogue of a child after each statement it may differ a lot. From "Mommy thinks I am good" to "I can do things by myself, I am competent"
                  Hopefully the child will already know that Mommy loves him and is assured that the child's ability to be loved by Mom is already there regardless of his ablity to clean up. When a child is afraid that an infraction interfers with Mom's love (hence seems conditional) the abilty for the child to develop skills/self esteem seems too enmeshed in the parents pleasure.
                  It is the communication and realtionship of a parent-child set that is important. It is very easy to overthink this. Please read that book!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by PaxMamma View Post
                    My oldest really thinks the world of himself
                    I love this!

                    I think that paxmama and naomifrederickmd have made some great comments, and I would echo what they both said...definitely read the book & come back with more questions!

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                    • #11
                      I loved this book, too. I started with more technique-oriented books, which were very helpful, but this one opened me up to myself, to my inner wisdom and ability to handle situations I hadn't read about in a book.

                      Someone on a list I'm on just shared this article, which is a fantastic summary of the issue being discussed here.


                      Adrienne

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                      • #12
                        That's one of my favorite articles. I almost linked it earlier, too.

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                        • #13
                          I too, loved this book and like many, it was hard to accept the whole praise thing... then, it started to make sense. Of course, age of child does make a difference and sometimes I still slip in to the whole praise thing.... recently I did this with my 17 mnth daughter, cos' she was ill and had to have ear, eye drops and medicine and I adopted the "bravo" with a little clap when she took the medicine and drops etc... while vaildating that it was difficult for her. Quite sweetly, she started clapping herself when she did it.. I don't know if this was helpful but I said"I I know its hard to take these and hard to understand right now, but you did it and it was hard for you. They will help. Mummy and Daddy are here for you." But I felt she needed some positive feedback.

                          Now.. you can show interest and pleasure in the child's 'accomplishment' by showing INTEREST rather than willy nilly praising it. Such as.... I see you grew some plants, how long did it take? do you like doing it? tell me about the plants? etc - I practised on my friend's five year old son.. I could have just said, wow great plants, can't believe you did this at 5! and I would have before this book. The second way actually engaged conversation and i think it conveyed more.... but it is HARD. ALL of this parenting stuff is hard... we are really struggling some days with 17 mnth crying outbursts for things she can't have and redirection being difficult esp when she is tried.. last night I was really snappy... but today able to be more calm about it. These toddler times are hard for me.

                          Well, just my two cents!! GOOD LUCK to all xxx

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                          • #14
                            New to this forum and this thread is just what I needed to read! Sorry I don't have any advice/discussion or an answer to the original post.

                            Just wanted to say thanks for helping me find out about UP. Never heard of it before! Can't wait to read Kohns' book!

                            Krista

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