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Unconditional Parenting Discussion Thread (5/1-8/31)


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  #1  
May 12th, 2012, 09:18 AM
Jule'sMomInOR's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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Here is our May/June pick:
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason: Alfie Kohn: 9780743487481: Amazon.com: Books

I actually watched a 2-hour DVD of a talk Alphie Kohn gave about the book. It was wonderful! I even go DH to watch it with me. DH is completely on board with not only no spanking, but no punishments, at least for a while until we see how well it works. That means no punitive time-outs (just the "taking a break" kind), no grounding when she gets older, etc.

I don't have a lot of time right now but I'll come back to this. Alphie's general recommendation for discipline is to "work with, no against" your kids. He gives an example of his 3 y/o daughter making them late for work/preschool every day. One evening when they weren't in the moment, he and his wife asked what she thought they should do about it. She said that since it takes a long time to get dressed, she should get dressed the night before and sleep in her clothes. She did it, it worked, and they were no longer late!

More soon. I have so much to say and a few questions.
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  #2  
May 12th, 2012, 05:31 PM
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Here are some thoughts on the no punishment aspect of Alphie Kohn's technique: My DH and I may not always act exactly the way we want each other to but we get along great for the most part. That's because when one of us is not doing exactly what the other would like us to, mostly we let it go because it's not worth a battle, and when it's very important we simply bring it up and talk about it. That usually solves the problem. I don't cheat on him, not because I'm afraid of getting caught, but because it's not the right thing to do and I owe him better than that. If he told me "if you cheat on me I will divorce you and take everything you owe" or "if you don't have dinner on the table by 5 pm I will beat you" I would be less likely to want to please him and there would be disharmony in our family, and no one would benefit. So there's no need for punishments and no need for us to control every aspect of our behavior.

I think something similar might work for raising kids, but it probably depends on the kids. Starting out early (from infancy), be fair and reasonable, don't say "no" unless you really have to, be flexible, but don't be a pushover. If you do this and truly follow through, it is likely that your kids will really want to please you and in the back of their minds they will wonder with every decision they make if mom an dad would approve. That will not keep them from never making a bad decision, but neither will punishment. It will make them more likely to own up to their mistakes.

Additionally, punishment teaches compliance for the wrong reasons. We want our kids to develop morals and do the right thing because it's right, not because they're afraid of punishment and getting caught. I can totally relate to this from my own experience growing up. My parents were control freaks and "my way or the highway" and it just made me want to rebel.

In working with kids, not against them, you teach them that their opinions are valued and that they as individuals are valued. Sometimes they may say something ridiculous, but at least you have taken the time to ask their opinion and listen to what they have to say without ridiculing them.

I'm still not completely sure about the no praise thing. I still need to read the book and find out more details. Alphie's argument there was basically that too much praise will cause a child to grow up to become dependent upon others' validation of what they did before they can appreciate it themselves, but I don't think you want to ignore your child's accomplishments. If anyone else has read the book and can comment on this part, I'd really love to hear what you have to say!

It will probably be another week or so before I actually start the book because a friend recommended Fifty Shades of Grey and now I'm going to read that one first.
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  #3  
May 13th, 2012, 07:22 PM
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There's an interesting thing about praise in NutureShock. I had read that book before UP and I found it interesting that both authors stated in different way why praise always isn't the best idea. I do find myself praising DS, but I do it consciously now. I often say, "you did it by yourself!" because he's suddenly doing new things again.

Where can I get that DVD? There is zero hope of DH ever reading the book, but a DVD he can do if I beg enough! lol
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  #4  
May 14th, 2012, 10:10 AM
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I found mine at my local library. I also posted a link to some youtube videos that were of Alphie speaking on the same topic but the video was much shorter.

Here is a blog post on the subject of discipline without punishment.
Kids Just Want to Have Fun: 3 Secrets to Discipline without Punishment
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  #5  
June 29th, 2012, 09:05 AM
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I am loving this book. I got it late and have been reading it non-stop for two days (which, with two kids means I am about 100 pages in ) It is right up my alley with the psychology stuff and the explanations of all the different types of ppunishments, rewards, etc.

But I do have one major problem with the book...and that is that I think it gives kids too much mental credit. Kids are brilliant, smart and very intuitive. I don't doubt they pick up on things I never would and make connections that are well past their age. BUT, I seriously would question whether some of these things are too over their heads. I do NOT believe that by removing Liam from a situation and taking him to his room (I sit in there with him) and remaining in there until he calms down sends the message that "I am capable of overpowering you and will use my power to make you do things you don't want to do." And truly, I don't think Liam feels that way either. When he gets really upset now, he ASKS to go in his room and either sit on his bed or rock with me. It is a time-out in all definitions of the term. We leave the area, he is generally not thrilled to have me remove him, and we go somewhere isolated and quiet. So, in that book and by its logic, I am teaching him I have power to remove him and that I am withdrawing love (??) because he is not acting how I want him to. When, in my mind, he is not acting appropriate for the situation and I am taking him to a place where we can talk about it without distractions and trying to get him to learn some emotional distance so he can eventually change his behavior without the removal from the situation. I don't see how I am withdrawing love just because we are isolating him from the problem.

So my main problem this far is that the author is clearly versed in psychology and truly believes in the power of manipulation to cause problems in later life. I agree. But I do not think some of these things are quite as dramatic as he makes them. A kid who gets occasional praise, in specific forms (not just "good job") is NOT going to grow up dependent on that praise. EVERYONE wants acknowledgement. Adults, animals, kids, teenagers, infants, fetuses (okay, that might be going a little far). Despite the evidence, which is mostly based on a large amount of non-specific praise (from what I have currently read), I think Liam needs to hear "You made an awesome choice to share that toy with your brother, it makes him happy and happy brothers can play together." THAT is praise...I am praising HIS choice of behaviors. And am valuing them against my own values. Because I want him to ingrain that value of sharing with others to make them happy. And I want him to know that by helping people become happy with their situation will also benefit him. I don't see that as a negative lesson. It doesn't take away intrinsic motivation, it encourages a thought process behind it, which is what I want. I just want him to think about why sharing might make the playtime more enjoyable.

So yeah...I like the book and I totally am on board with the main points of the book. That lots of parents have power trip issues and use coercion to get kids to bend to their will. I agree that rewards can cause kids to expect rewards. And punishments make them fear being caught instead of making them fear the behavior. And I REALLY love what he said about "natural consequences" because I have never fully been on board with them. It made sense that the kids would draw either no conclusion from the situation or they might think "well, my mom just let that happen to me." And I was not okay with that. It helped me put a finger on why I was uncomfortable with those type of situations.

I still have to get to the alternatives to these things sections and maybe that will help me understand more about the "right way" to go about some of the things I currently do. Or will shed more light on some of the comments I have not reall agreed with in the first few chapters.

All in all, a great tool for parenting. And I think it is the one I can most relate to so far. But it has some quirks I am not really totally 100% behind at this juncture. Maybe I need to get further into it.

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  #6  
June 29th, 2012, 10:24 AM
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I really need to read this book. The thing I want to get out of it in the short-term is whether to use sticker charts for when Juliana goes to the potty. I'm leaning towards no. I'm sure the author's stance will be no, but I really want to read the book and draw my own conclusions.
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  #7  
June 30th, 2012, 07:10 AM
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I really want to read it too. I am going to request it from the library.
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  #8  
June 30th, 2012, 08:51 AM
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I got it on Kindle and got 29% of the way through during M's mega nap yesterday! So far I agree with it and find it very interesting. I wish he had mixed up his "do this" parts with the "don't do this" parts. It is getting old to plow through all the dismal stuff about how time out and praise and rewards and stuff are totally screwing up your kid I would like some "but this is a good alternative!" stuff. I will try to be patient but TBH I am starting to skim because I feel like I "get" the whole coercion-is-conditional love concept and am ready to move on.

I spoke with DH about what I've read so far and he seemed pretty on board. His parents were an interesting mix of conservative/heavy guidance and extremely loving gentleness. He and his siblings turned out great and love their parents so much. I think the trick is to have strict rules and guidelines and expectations but never seem like your love/approval depends on meeting them... keep a loving tone even when correcting. It worked with those kids but I think they are genetically more obedient and compliant, my side has a long history of contrary, stubborn, anti authoritarian fighters and M *clearly* has that... so I think I will have to work really hard to remain non coercive and pick my battles with her and not expect her to fall in line as easily as DH's family did. I will have to give up any fantasy of controlling her much at all!!... I really hope the later parts of the book talk about what that looks like, especially in the toddler years...
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  #9  
July 1st, 2012, 09:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ashj_1218 View Post
I am loving this book. I got it late and have been reading it non-stop for two days (which, with two kids means I am about 100 pages in ) It is right up my alley with the psychology stuff and the explanations of all the different types of ppunishments, rewards, etc.

But I do have one major problem with the book...and that is that I think it gives kids too much mental credit. Kids are brilliant, smart and very intuitive. I don't doubt they pick up on things I never would and make connections that are well past their age. BUT, I seriously would question whether some of these things are too over their heads. I do NOT believe that by removing Liam from a situation and taking him to his room (I sit in there with him) and remaining in there until he calms down sends the message that "I am capable of overpowering you and will use my power to make you do things you don't want to do." And truly, I don't think Liam feels that way either. When he gets really upset now, he ASKS to go in his room and either sit on his bed or rock with me. It is a time-out in all definitions of the term. We leave the area, he is generally not thrilled to have me remove him, and we go somewhere isolated and quiet. So, in that book and by its logic, I am teaching him I have power to remove him and that I am withdrawing love (??) because he is not acting how I want him to. When, in my mind, he is not acting appropriate for the situation and I am taking him to a place where we can talk about it without distractions and trying to get him to learn some emotional distance so he can eventually change his behavior without the removal from the situation. I don't see how I am withdrawing love just because we are isolating him from the problem.

So my main problem this far is that the author is clearly versed in psychology and truly believes in the power of manipulation to cause problems in later life. I agree. But I do not think some of these things are quite as dramatic as he makes them. A kid who gets occasional praise, in specific forms (not just "good job") is NOT going to grow up dependent on that praise. EVERYONE wants acknowledgement. Adults, animals, kids, teenagers, infants, fetuses (okay, that might be going a little far). Despite the evidence, which is mostly based on a large amount of non-specific praise (from what I have currently read), I think Liam needs to hear "You made an awesome choice to share that toy with your brother, it makes him happy and happy brothers can play together." THAT is praise...I am praising HIS choice of behaviors. And am valuing them against my own values. Because I want him to ingrain that value of sharing with others to make them happy. And I want him to know that by helping people become happy with their situation will also benefit him. I don't see that as a negative lesson. It doesn't take away intrinsic motivation, it encourages a thought process behind it, which is what I want. I just want him to think about why sharing might make the playtime more enjoyable.

So yeah...I like the book and I totally am on board with the main points of the book. That lots of parents have power trip issues and use coercion to get kids to bend to their will. I agree that rewards can cause kids to expect rewards. And punishments make them fear being caught instead of making them fear the behavior. And I REALLY love what he said about "natural consequences" because I have never fully been on board with them. It made sense that the kids would draw either no conclusion from the situation or they might think "well, my mom just let that happen to me." And I was not okay with that. It helped me put a finger on why I was uncomfortable with those type of situations.

I still have to get to the alternatives to these things sections and maybe that will help me understand more about the "right way" to go about some of the things I currently do. Or will shed more light on some of the comments I have not reall agreed with in the first few chapters.

All in all, a great tool for parenting. And I think it is the one I can most relate to so far. But it has some quirks I am not really totally 100% behind at this juncture. Maybe I need to get further into it.

I thought in the video Alphie said that time out is appropriate if you stay with the LO so that it's not isolating him/withdrawing love. It sounds like what you are doing is perfect and doesn't conflict with the advice (at least what I remember) but I haven't read the book so I probably should wait to comment.
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  #10  
July 1st, 2012, 09:23 PM
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In the article that Shen7 posted, it talked about how intermittent rewards worked better for rats trying to find their way through a maze than consistent rewards. I wonder if this works on people, too. I can see how it would be bad to give a child a reward every time he does something good. This can lead to him expecting to receive something every time he does anything, and refusing to help around the house without getting paid. However, what about every now and then coming home with a new toy and saying "I love how you have been helping around the house lately and I wanted to give you this as a token of my appreciation." Is that also bad? I know in the video I saw, Alphie warned against making things contingent upon good behavior, but in this case there is no dangling it out there as an offering if the behavior is the way I want. It is being offered after the fact.

I also wonder if the same could apply to praise. I can see not using empty praise and not praising constantly. However, what about something like "I noticed that you have been very nice to your little sister lately, and that makes me very happy." I don't see how that could be bad. That just shows that the parent is paying attention to the big stuff.
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  #11  
July 2nd, 2012, 07:07 AM
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I placed a request for this at the library, finally, but I have to wait for one person ahead of me. Ugh.

I noticed in one of the reviews that someone said he did a better job of describing how to set limits in his other book "Punished by Praise".
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  #12  
July 2nd, 2012, 07:42 AM
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I am totally with you on the intermittent praise/rewards. I think that it is an important thing for kids to know that we notice thief efforts. I think that being aware of how often it is offered and making sure it is not an expectation thing is the important message he is sending.

I will check out that other book. I do love some of the simple ways to remind myself how to talk to Liam. I have been really remembering to consider how it would sound if I were saying it to an adult. And also if I was empowering him to make choices, instead of just trying to please me. It is pretty cool stuff, overall.
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  #13  
July 2nd, 2012, 08:20 AM
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Okay I want to dive into the praise thing again Just because the more I think about it the more anti-praise I feel!

Intermittent rewards is one thing. Like allowance/spending money or gifts. That is cool I think. But praise as the reward or with it is insidious. Think about the difference between these two things:
"I noticed you being nice to your sister lately. That is great of you to do, I am so proud of you for being nice. Here's a new toy for being nice."
"I noticed you being nice to your sister lately. Doesn't she seem happier lately? And mommy has been happier too. Doesn't that feel good? It's nicer for everyone when we all get along, isn't it? I love you." (No toy)

To me the first option is putting the focus on my approval/disapproval and my power to dispense incentives. The second is about discussing social dynamics and drawing attention to the intrinsic rewards of nice behavior. It is a bit subtle but I think a pattern of such things over time would make a difference.
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  #14  
July 2nd, 2012, 09:43 AM
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I remember Alphie talking about how you should focus on how a child's actions make the other person feel (instead of "You shared. Good job!" try "You shared with Johnny. Look how happy he is.") but I'm not 100% clear on why it is bad to focus on the fact that she made me happy and instead I should focus on why the other person is happy. I guess that is because then my love/praise is not dependent on making me happy? I actually was up at 2 am last night thinking about this stuff!
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  #15  
July 2nd, 2012, 12:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jule'sMomInOR
I remember Alphie talking about how you should focus on how a child's actions make the other person feel (instead of "You shared. Good job!" try "You shared with Johnny. Look how happy he is.") but I'm not 100% clear on why it is bad to focus on the fact that she made me happy and instead I should focus on why the other person is happy. I guess that is because then my love/praise is not dependent on making me happy? I actually was up at 2 am last night thinking about this stuff!
Oh man, don't lose sleep over it mama!!! But yeah, I think actually it is like the Po Bronson article said. It is really easy to constantly praise as a way to show our love, and more fun for us, the parent. It takes a little more work to focus on a specific effort or action to praise, or to have a more descriptive comment on the situation. I think my default is becoming instead of "good sharing/good job/good girl for doing X" it is "you shared/you did it/thank you for doing X, that was helpful for mommy". And letting my tone, touch, smiles etc show love, all the time, even when she is being a pill. I try anyway.

Honestly I don't know what a big difference it will make but it just feels more right to me. I will read the book more and try to get to the more positive/"do this" parts of the book and report back.
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July 2nd, 2012, 01:03 PM
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Chart on pg. 157! Around 47% on kindle but he cites it as p157 in the text so I assume that's right. Instead of X say Y. New idea to me, he suggests asking questions about what the kid has done instead of praising. He says "good job" is not needed if you are truly attentive and interested, and not effective if you aren't... I liked that one.
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  #17  
July 7th, 2012, 08:57 PM
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I got the book from the library and started it today. On the bottom of page 38 and 39 he says that the concern is not too much praise or empty praise, and that making your praise more rare and discriminative can actually make the problem worse because kids have to do more to earn our approval. *Sigh*
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July 9th, 2012, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Jule'sMomInOR
I got the book from the library and started it today. On the bottom of page 38 and 39 he says that the concern is not too much praise or empty praise, and that making your praise more rare and discriminative can actually make the problem worse because kids have to do more to earn our approval. *Sigh*
I wouldn't read too much into that. I think it is more important to just constantly radiate approval rather than using it as a coercion tool to control their behavior. Praise is a verbal shorthand for indicating approval but I think your tone, manner, gaze, etc is more important especially for little kids. I think in the beginning of the book he is a little more extreme in his statements because he is trying to get the reader's attention and snap them out of their accustomed way of thinking.
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  #19  
July 9th, 2012, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by shen7 View Post
I wouldn't read too much into that. I think it is more important to just constantly radiate approval rather than using it as a coercion tool to control their behavior. Praise is a verbal shorthand for indicating approval but I think your tone, manner, gaze, etc is more important especially for little kids. I think in the beginning of the book he is a little more extreme in his statements because he is trying to get the reader's attention and snap them out of their accustomed way of thinking.
I'm just getting frustrated because I feel like I can't get to where he says what to do, only what not to do. I'm on page 75 so I guess I need to hurry up and get to the chart you found.

I guess I also don't understand why, if I'm supposed to constantly radiate approval, it's so bad to say "Good job" all the time. I need to wrap my head around this. Why is this harder than reading a physics textbook?
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  #20  
July 9th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jule'sMomInOR

I'm just getting frustrated because I feel like I can't get to where he says what to do, only what not to do. I'm on page 75 so I guess I need to hurry up and get to the chart you found.

I guess I also don't understand why, if I'm supposed to constantly radiate approval, it's so bad to say "Good job" all the time. I need to wrap my head around this. Why is this harder than reading a physics textbook?
Lol. It makes for sense to me I guess because I was raised with a lot of "self esteem boosting" and it backfired. So to me, saying "good job" all the time is patronizing and distracting. Saying it only when you really want it to count, is coercive and manipulative. It is more honest to say "thanks for helping mommy" or "that's the first time you've been able to do X by yourself!" Or whatever.

But the most important thing IMO is non coercion, not controlling their behavior more than absolutely necessary. I think the more you can trust them and be unconditional in your love/affection/approval, the better.

I have been experimenting with this, just keeping a neutral happy tone with M and smiling at her even when I am correcting her (like stopping her from biting me or grabbing a stranger's purse) and it works just as well as when I used to take a disapproving tone. But I think it upsets her less and she moves on quicker. I have really taken this non coercive thing to heart. We will see how it goes - deciding to not praise/reward or show judgment/ disapproval to a small toddler seems pretty crazy!!! For me it's turning into mainly just checking in emotionally and being reassuring and loving towards her even when I'm forcing her to do something (like changing a poopy diaper or preventing her from pulling hair). And picking my battles. Does that help explain it??? This is what I got out of the book anyway.
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