I'm working my way through Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. It's taken me a while because I frequently get tempted by fiction when I'm tired. But the basic premise is that our goal, as parents, is to raise happy, compassionate, responsible, self-determinative adults but most parenting methods and techniques are based on creating compliant children, which by definition will not raise the adults we'd like them to be. I think the subtitle is telling. "Moving from Rewards and punishments to Love and reason."
So, traditional or, as Kohn calls it, conditional parenting has things like arbitrary punishment and consequences for a child's actions. The focus is on getting your child to do what you want the child to do. Unconditional parenting is not focused on control. Rather, it's about teaching your child to make good choices. It's about stimulating creativity. It's about letting your child make his own choices whenever it's appropriate. It's about not setting boundaries for convenience but for safety and necessity.
Yes, I know. It sounds really touchy-feely. Really permissive. Really wimpy. It sounds like you're just stepping out of your child's life and letting him fend for yourself. But that's not it. You're still there, engaged, involved, helping him work through problems and issues. And the thing about it is, this is a really difficult way to parent. Training my child to behave a certain way would really be much more convenient. And easier. Stopping to explain things, to work through tantrums, recognizing that they're expressions of frustration.
I don't know if I'm doing a very good job of explaining it. I told one mother who's opinion I respect about it. And I showed her the principles. As she read them, she said things like well, that doesn't work. I don't think I really communicated the idea wasn't to get your kids to do what you want when you want them to.
So, I'm going to list the principles, as they're labeled in the book: Be reflective; Reconsider your requests; Keep an eye on your long term goals; Put the relationship first; Change how you see, not just how you act; R-E-S-P-E-C-T; Be authentic; Talk less, ask more; Keep their ages in mind; Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts; Don't stick your no's in unnecessarily; Don't be rigid; Don't be in a hurry.
I'm thinking about this whole thing and will talk more later. Ken just got home and now I'm distracted.
It's amazing to me how much being a mother has made me more of a thinker. How it has increased my patience and my humility. And altered my world view.