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Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,591 Ratings  ·  579 Reviews
Most parenting guides begin with the question "How can we get kids to do what they're told?" — and then proceed to offer various techniques for controlling them. In this truly groundbreaking book, nationally respected educator Alfie Kohn begins instead by asking "What do kids need — and how can we meet those needs?" What follows from that question are ideas for working wit ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 28th 2006 by Atria Books (first published 2005)
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Maria I imagine it is helpful with teenagers. A large part is trying to understand their perspective and be empathetic with them. Hopefully you can build a…moreI imagine it is helpful with teenagers. A large part is trying to understand their perspective and be empathetic with them. Hopefully you can build a close relationship with your children in which they will be able to trust you and come to you with their problems.(less)

Community Reviews

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Christine Cavalier
May 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: parenting

And not in a good way.

Before I give you more details on my review, let me give you some of my background.

I have a 6-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. I also have a BS in Psych and a Masters in Ed Psych. I study behavior and psychology as a hobby as well as use it in my freelance writing career. I read pop psych books like others devour romance novels or baseball statistics (check out my Social Media reading list or my behavioral economics list for my favorite books in these areas).

Oct 08, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2007reads
I didn't want to like this book.

What is it about “gentle” parenting types that makes them so obnoxious? Why does the phrase “unconditional parenting” make me want to hurl? Why do “lactivists” make me want to offer their children Dr. Pepper in a baby bottle?

But really I love baby slings! And nursing! Why do I want to run screaming when I meet up with some ardent proponents of things I more or less agree with??

I think it’s the strident “mommier-than-thou” tone of a lot of attachment/gentle/natural
Sonya Feher
Jul 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: parenting
The concept of unconditional parenting appeals to me, the idea that we love our kids unconditionally: whether they behave, throw a tantrum, do (or don’t do) well in school. Kohn debunks many popular discipline strategies including time-outs, positive reinforcement and praise, reward systems, and punishment. Instead he offers thirteen parenting techniques that help parents to honor their kids and to treat them as if they like them rather than are in charge of them. He also challenges parents to c ...more
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Parents/Educators
Shelves: lifechangers
This book changed my life! It completely restructured my parenting paradigm, and I am now feel passionate about this message.

Our culture has borne a generation of "praise junkies" - children whose behavior is motivated not by intrinsic goals, but by rewards or the avoidance of punishment. True, Classical Conditioning is a proven method for behavior modification...but do we really want to treat our children like Pavlov's dogs?

In this book, Kohn discusses the perils of praise, and uses both common
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Parents - all of them.
I have to give this book a wholehearted recommendation. It took me about a week to read it and caused what I can say was my first real "I'm-not-the-awesome-parent-I-thought-I-was" crisis. Which was so good for me. What if everything that you take for grated about parenting (time-outs, stickers for toilet training, praise and accolades) might actually be hurting your relationship with your child, or even your child him/herself?? Alfie Kohn says that these traditional punishment and reward systems ...more
May 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
I went through a period of time where I read a million and one parenting books. This one came highly recommended from a good friend (and cousin). I found that it lacked practicality and weighed heavily on scare tactics (ie: you're going to permanently damage and ruin your child if you do X, Y, & Z, but then never gave examples of what you should do in these situations). And I had a hard time with the fact that it claimed you can only love your child unconditionally if you fit their mold.

Rachael Lauritzen
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting
This was an amazing book. The thing I liked most was that it really helped you to think through parenting assumptions, many of them handed to you by pop culture, and whether the conclusions of that thinking through are what you as a parent actually want for your kids. It was almost iconoclastic in its stance towards many popular parenting techniques, which isn't always a good thing, but the author's logic, conclusions, and recommendations (all backed up by research) are rather persuasive.

I will
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As both a parent and a teacher, I think this is one of the most important books I will read. I think I will return to it again and again to remind myself to keep the ultimate goals for my child (and for my relationship with my child) in mind. Kohn turns conventional "wisdom" about "discipline" on its head. He asserts that a "working with" approach, rather than the more traditional "doing to" approach, more effectively reaches the goal of a sensitive, caring and independent child. His questioning ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
The front cover of this book describes it as "A Provocative Challenge to the Conventional Wisdom about Discipline." Uh, YEAH.[return][return]This book had me squirming in my chair on a regular basis. Over and over, the author would present compelling research about how parenting with rewards and punishments doesn't necessarily get you a kid who's more compliant. And over and over, I would think to myself: "Well, if you don't use rewards and punishments, what the crap else are you going to do?" T ...more
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book on parenting I have ever read. Before this, I have read tons of parenting books and found that attachment parenting worked best for me. I heard Alfie Kohn speak on the radio and ordered this from the library, thinking I would read more (he has a ton) if I liked this one. Some people are turned off by his obvious passion and strong opinions on this subject, but I find that it's nice to have someone believe strongly in their (well-researched) approach to parenting, when that ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading this book requires patience to get past the first six chapters without screaming, "Okay, I get it! I know what not to do. What do I do!?"

It's brutal. But I understand that Kohn feels he needs to convince his readers of the evidence against rewards and punishments for children. His case seems strong to a layman like me, though I can imagine a lot of convincing is needed for many parents or parents-to-be. The point was fully belabored.

Once we do get to the advice portions of the book, it's
Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Parents, teachers,
This book is one of the standards of positive parenting, and I beleive it was Kohn who coined the phrase, "Praise Junkie", which appears in this book.
The basic premise of his philosophy is that running around applauding our children for every little thing they do teaches them not only to expect praise for everything, but also that if we aren't praising them immediately, they must be doing something wrong. Thus our love must be conditional.

My favorite idea was that the constant "good job" assumes
Aug 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Eric's Lessons:

1. Reconsider your requests: is what I'm asking for worth the trouble?
2. Put the relationship with your child first
3. Respect your child, don't demean them "Just ignore him when he gets like that."
4. Be authentic, apologize
5. Talk less, ask your child more questions
6. "Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts"
7. Say Yes whenever possible instead of No
8. Be flexible
9. Don't be in a hurry (when we are rushing or in public we tend to be more controllin
Jun 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I definitely agree with the basic premise that children should be loved unconditionally. I like the ideas about not constantly praising your child (saying things like "good job!") but rather engaging children in conversation about what they're doing.

I guess my main problem with the book was how disrespectful the author was towards parents who weren't doing what he thinks is right. I trust a lot about how I parent from my heart, and I think it's important that
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Özgür Bolat’ı okur musunuz? Ben yazılarını çok severek okurum, bence çok değerli bir eğitimci. Koşulsuz Ebeveynlik kitabını okurken sık sık Özgür Bolat’ın yazılarıyla paralellikler yakaladım, hatta üşenmedim birkaç eski yazısını tekrar okudum. Kendisinin referans verdiği yazarlardan birinin de Alfie Kohn olduğunu görünce hiç şaşırmadım. İkisinin en önemli ortak noktası bence, çocuk büyütürken günü kurtarmaya ve itaatkâr bir nesil yetiştirmeye değil, bugünün çocuklarının geleceğin yetişkinleri ol ...more
In general I guess I have a problem with things, people, views, methods that are either too extremist or too generalizing, or both.

I'm not really a big fan of The Right Way (for one as for all), and anyone who claims to have found it and who starts lecturing other people on it and how they've come to master it to perfection, I tend to regard with a bit of incredulity.

So as much as I agree with dear Alfie that children should always know they are loved, and that it is important to treat children
Cristina Ermac
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un îndrumător exceptional pentru cei ce doresc sa cunoasca si/sau aplice parentingul neconditionat bazat pe multa afectiune, rabdare, cooperare, si intelegere a copilului.
Autorul nu isi impune nici propria pozitie ai nici solutii concrete general valabile, ci prezentând argumente, explicatii, statistici, si adoptând o alta perspectiva a problemelor, ii ajuta pe parintii-cititori sa vadă cealalta parte a monedei.
Nu voi intra mult in detalii despre carte deoarece despre ea ori nu vorbesti deloc
Sep 26, 2009 rated it liked it
There is much to say about this book, but I will sum up:

1) It will make you think about your approach and philosophy and whether you are being the parent you want to be
2) It will remind you to think of a situation from the kid's perspective
3) Kohn's platitudes are impossible to apply in some situations and he rarely offers much specific guidance
4) I almost completely disagree on his thinking about competitive sports
5) I disagree that a "time-out" is always a signal to the child that you are with
Santhosh Guru
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Sounds like a classic work on the craft of parenting. Marking it for a re-read in the next few weeks.
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it
I am not sure quite what to rate this book. Would I recommend this to others...not sure. Here is what I liked and what I didn't like about the book.

One of the things that helped me to keep reading was the fact that the author backs up most of his ideas with research. Granted you can find studies that support both sides of a position. But so many authors of parenting books just throw out their opinions with nothing to back up their opinion. The author even gives the study and the results of the s
Nov 18, 2011 added it
Shelves: babies-parenting
I think a lot of Kohn's work really comes down to examining intrinsic vs extrinsic motivations. I mostly agree with him but not to his full extent. I still believe in logical consequences and think extrinsic motivations are inevitable and can be useful (in small doses). Still, this book gives interesting theory, and I think most importantly, makes you really examine on a deeper level what you hope your children grow up to be like. I know I want my son to be a life long learner (vs learning how t ...more
Molly Westerman
I largely agree with this book's argument--that punishments (including time out and subtler "love-withdrawal" reactions) and even rewards (including a constant stream of "good job!" used to push children into doing/being/wanting what you want them to do/be/want or what is convenient for the adults around them) are really problematic and probably not even effective in gaining compliance ... if you really, in your heart, want "compliance." I don't like the whole concept of discipline and have been ...more
Jun 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
At first I was annoyed that my husband was bugging me read this book since he was the one who bought it AND hadn't read it. Seemed like a hokey-feel-good-but-too-permissive philosophy.

Thankfully I finally got around to reading has completely changed my outlook on parenting and how I interact with my kids.

Kohn's book encourages you to re-evaluate the reasons behind their actions, how to foster independence, encourage dialogue, work together to resolve dilemmas, and how to help them own th
Adam Ross
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another great book by Kohn, this one taking on the notion of parenting styles. Unlike most parenting books, which depend upon anecdotes and unproven theories, Kohn builds his case from the actual research that has been done in the last fifty or so years on parenting. This sets his book apart from most of the books on the shelf in its rigorous scientific basis. He argues that too many parents today use conditional love to get their kids to conform. Conditional love means that parents withdraw aff ...more
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I actually read most of this a couple of years previously, but gave my copy to a friend (who was having a baby) before finishing it. And even before that, I had read a handful of essays and articles by Alfie Kohn on similar subjects, so I knew what I was getting into.

This is definitely the most sensible, caring, thoughtful, evidence-based approach to parenting that I've come across.

The message of the book could be quite a challenge to accept for people who have been exposed all their lives to a
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Too theoretical, with not enough practical advice. I love the idea of showing our children that we love them unconditionally. I would have just liked this book to give some more examples of how to show that love while still guiding the children to behave appropriately. The author asserts that we should literally never praise our children, because the kids will start to think that we love them only when they are doing something well. I think that is insane. How is a child supposed to know he acco ...more
Mar 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
Okay...I haven't actually read this. I planned to, but I got the DVD lecture from the library and changed my mind!! He lives in a theoretical world. He condemns such "horrors" as consequences and giving praise, but then doesn't offer any substantive replacements for these things. Just says to "reason with them." All of it sounds so nice and lovely, but the application is completely impossible, unrealistic, and in my opinion, ultimately detrimental to the child. Consequences occur naturally in li ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: educație-copii
Cea mai bună carte de parenting citită de mine până acuma, chiar dacă fix cu un an în urmă ziceam așa despre cartea Alethei Solter „Lacrimi și crize de furie”. La moment, „Parenting necondiționat” este pe primul loc.

Nu am reușit să citesc ultimele 17 pagini din această carte și asta pentru că am luat-o cu împrumut și nu am reușit în acel răstimp s-o lecturez. Drept urmare, vreau să am cartea mea, în curând mi-o cumpăr, o termin de citit și revin cu o recenzie completă.
Mar 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
Well-researched and convincing (although I didn't really need convincing, just more information and backup). Takes the concept deeper and to a level that it is useful to the whole family. NOT prescriptive. Refreshingly NOT anecdotal (except for a few, but not like most parenting books). Ties in nicely with the democratic schooling we're looking into.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: unreasonably patient parents with improbably calm and obedient children. Not for parents of a 3yo.
Recommended to David by: friend of the wife's
For non-fiction, I usually dog-ear pages that are intriguing or in some way thought-provoking enough that I want to refer to them later. For this book, that happened first on page 103.

Up to that point, the author spends most of his time trying to convince you of his central thesis: conditional parenting is bad.

What is "conditional parenting"? It's behaviors that imply or communicate to a child that you only love them if they do XYZ. Typically, "XYZ" is what you want them to do, for whatever reas
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Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of eleven books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations.

Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken
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“Even before i had children, I knew that being a parent was going to be challenging as well as rewarding. But I didn't really know.
I didn't know how exhausted it was possible to become, or how clueless it was possible to feel, or how, each time I reached the end of my rope, I would somehow have to find more rope.
I didn't understand that sometimes when your kids scream so loudly that the neighbors are ready to call the Department of Child Services, it's because you've served the wrong shape of pasta for dinner.
I didn't realize that those deep-breathing exercises mothers are taught in natural-childbirth class dont really start to pay off until long after the child is out.
I couldn't have predicted how relieved I'd be to learn that other peoples children struggle with the same issues, and act in some of the same ways, mine do. (Even more liberating is the recognition that other parents, too, have dark moments when they catch themselves not liking their own child, or wondering whether it's all worth it, or entertaining various other unspeakable thoughts).
The bottom line is that raising kids is not for whimps.”
“In short, with each of the thousand-and-one problems that present themselves in family life, our choice is between controlling and teaching, between creating an atmosphere of distrust and one of trust, between setting an example of power and helping children to learn responsibility, between quick-fix parenting and the kind that's focused on long-term goals.” 13 likes
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