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Publisher's Summary

One basic need all children have, educator Alfie Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including "time outs"), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Kohn cites a body of powerful and largely unknown research detailing the damage caused by leading children to believe they must earn our approval. That's precisely the message children derive from common discipline techniques, even though it's not the message most parents intend to send.

More than just another book about discipline, Unconditional Parenting addresses the ways parents think about, feel about, and act with their children. It invites them to question their most basic assumptions about raising kids while offering a wealth of practical strategies for shifting from "doing to" to "working with" parenting - including how to replace praise with the unconditional support that children need to grow into healthy, caring, responsible people.

©2005 Alfie Kohn (P)2016 Tantor

What listeners say about Unconditional Parenting

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Best parenting book I've read!

Funny, practical, filled with anecdotes and puns between research and a lot of reality checks. It just makes scary sense. I wish the whole world could get this as a required course for having kids and getting into a relationship. The world would be a better place. No scripts for when child said A you say B, but an entire paradigm shift about what you really want your child to become and whether your immediate B will even get you there. This is a total wakeup call, even if you think you're on the right track. We parents can always learn a little more and do a little better so our kids end up stronger, more empathetic as well as independent and healthy.

10 people found this helpful

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Liberating!

I won't sugar coat it, this book will feel like a punch in the gut at first. I have been gentle/positive parenting for a number of years and when I first started reading this it felt like a nasty blow that some of my more gentle approaches were still part of the problem in our family. My son has OCD and anxiety. I stuck with it, listening to Alfie's suggestions. As I have been applying these practices in my own life and with my children my son's OCD symptoms have dropped dramatically! I feel like I have my son back. We laughed together for the past week without any anxious meltdowns and minimal ocd rituals. I highly recommend listening to this book along with 'Non-Violent Communication'. I feel empowered as a parent and love that I get empower my children and witness them growing and flourishing. One day they will be parents and will get to be even better with their children.

8 people found this helpful

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A different, more effective lens for parenting

A wonderful change of perspective on how the traditional "common sense" approach to parenting is probably causing just as many problems as it solves.

As a father of 4 kids under age 7, Unconditional Parenting caused some uncomfortable moments of reflection. However, the overall message is optimistic and positive, and the changes in approach are easy to practice. I enthusiastically recommend this to parents of children at any age, but the earlier the better.

My only critique of the book has to do with structure, not substance. The book spends a great deal of time reviewing how common parenting practices are ineffective in creating the long-term characteristics we want in our kids (kindness, empathy, patience, persistence, Independence, etc.). The chapters are well written and well argued, but the reader must make it through half of the book being told how and why the way we parent is well intended but probably wrong before the positive approaches recommended by the author are explained in detail. As a reader/listener, this made it difficult to persevere as I questioned my self image as a good father, and I did leave the book unfinished for a long period before returning to it and finishing. The benefits of finishing are worth it, but it seems that balancing discussion of why common practices do not work with explaination of the recommended alternative practices within each chapter would, at least for me, have helped to keep me engaged and encouraged.

Great book that should be required reading for any new parent

7 people found this helpful

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Pretty solid stuff here

I enjoyed it. I already had an idea as to what works for my 7 year old, but this confirms it even more. Writer isn't boring with his voice and really gives you some Ah Ha moments. Love that.

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Amazing book!

I have read tons of parenting books and this is the only one that really seems to have the best interest of the child in mind. I am more of an authoritarian parent and it has really opened up my eyes on how punishments and rewards are perceived by my children. This book has finally explained to me in a way that I can understand why not every wrong doing should have a consequence. My children are happier and so am I.

3 people found this helpful

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He doesn’t think much of parents

I wanted to like this book. Kohn seems to love and respect children and makes some interesting points about the dangers of dominating your child. He doesn’t seem to have the same respect for parents, however, who love and KNOW their own children. He makes a lot of good observations about the failings of modern discipline and I kept waiting to hear some ideas that would work. Instead I heard him insult religion in an arrogant and incredibly ignorant way, and draw conclusions out of thin air. He uses a mocking tone when voicing parents’ concerns and (although I admit I didn’t quite make it to the end) seems to think you can work everything out with your child simply by talking through it and saying yes as much as possible. His methods might work for some, but they certainly won’t work for all, and while I am as soft and loving a mama as it gets, I will not be treating my children as my equal any time soon. They need me and my husband to use our own wisdom drawn from experience to set boundaries and guide them into adulthood. I trust us a lot more than Alfie Kohn does.

10 people found this helpful

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An ironic mocking tone

The most ironic thing about this book is the author’s continual use of a mocking and belittling tone when he is mimicking bad parenting practice. Many of the phrases I have used in my parenting, so I can’t help but listen to his sarcasm and feel he is judging me, or believes I am inferior to him as a parent.

The concepts are solid. The delivery would be a lot better received if the reader could feel unconditional positive regard from the author.

2 people found this helpful

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The best book on parenting I've read

As a mental health professional, you'd think that I would already know much of the information in this book. but this book for me was groundbreaking. While I have had a considerable amount of training on behavioral strategies and a lot of information found in many popular parenting books, this approach to parenting is refreshing and at the same time makes so much sense - as a human being wanting, to take care of, teach, coach, guide, and relate to my kids in a respectful manner. I can't say enough good things about this book. Definitely worth a read.

1 person found this helpful

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Thought-provoking book

Very interesting approach, many things to think about and maybe even use. The most important to me that author tries to use data and common sense to support his opinion.

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Very Inspiring and Thought Provoking

Lots of details and research listed on WHY you should be an unconditional loving parent. Also explaing the theory behind it and how it is a better alternitive than traditional or authoratative methods. Stating the Why's very clearly on how Gentle parenting is misunderstood and misrepresented. Gives different examples and guidelines toward the end of the book. Very Montessori & RIE aligned IMO.

1 person found this helpful

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  • sarah
  • 04-15-17

This book has been thought provoking and a revelation.

This audio has been so thought provoking I felt I needed to leave a review (the first I've ever written).

This audio has challenged the way I have been interacting with my child on every level. It's made me stop and think and treat my 5 year old with respect and as little human being in his own right with his own thoughts and feelings.

I'd fallen into the trap of do this, do that, do as I say and then getting cross with him when he didn't, leaving me struggling to get him to comply.

The best words of advice from this audio... talk less, listen more!

We now discuss things, work out solutions together. Explain why we are doing things or not to do things. I'm teaching my son empathy, problem solving, negotiating skills instead of teaching him to just follow rules!

We've a long way to go but Ina few short weeks we're connecting more, have less tears, life is easier and more fun!

Although a little slow to get going, do bare with it because the tools you will take away will be invaluable.

Highly recommended.

12 people found this helpful

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  • pepperstree
  • 02-22-17

must read

In the multitude of trends and advice on disciplining practices this book is a breath of fresh air, concentrating on principles of education. When you love your child this way is a no brainier as it does not require that you be mean or manipulative. The only but is that it is really hard work as it requires sooo much patience and often time.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Megan
  • 09-08-17

Thought provoking and uplifting

If you open your mind to the worldview of Alfie Kohn presented in this book then it will change your life! Or it has for me. Rather than suggesting a parenting methodology, this book presents a parenting philosophy. It will certainly be difficult to change my actions in accordance with my new beliefs about human cognition and behaviour, but I'm excited to try!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Luna
  • 06-02-21

Fabulous

Absolutely brilliant book and narration. I love how this book essentially examines the evidence to date and has a critical analysis of the different approaches. Alfie makes this so clear and easy to understand for anyone. Even if you aren't a parent this is a fantastic book and a must read for anyone who thought there may be a better way to be raised. This makes better humans and I have recommended it to everyone!

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  • Jenny
  • 04-10-21

Strong arguments and tools to do things differently

Told in an engaging and energetic way, this book opens your eyes to the impact of our everyday actions on kids. If, like me, you feel there must be a more connected way to raising little ones than what you might have experienced during your own childhood, this book provides strong arguments and tools to help you do just that.

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  • Sam
  • 02-08-21

This book changed our lives and therefor the lives of our 3 children and maybe just the children of theirs on the future

This book changed our lives and therefor the lives of our 3 children and maybe just the children of theirs on the future.

Amazing x

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  • Shane
  • 12-03-20

Thought Provoking

My son is 14 weeks old and I am very pleased I came across this (after the author was mentioned in Non violent communication).

I found this book thought provoking and challenging. Challenging in a good way.

Really enjoyed the theories discussed and I didn't want the book to end

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  • Naomi Simcock
  • 10-03-20

Refreshing and thought provoking parenting book

I’m sure the world would be a better place if every parent read this book! I found it challenging, refreshing, thought provoking and helpful. I feel that I am able to parent better now than before reading it. I found Alfie Kohns narration style takes a bit of getting used to but it is well worth it! Give it a go- your children will thank you!

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  • Thorunn
  • 09-04-20

Amazing!

Must read for every parent in the world!!
Realated so hard to everything in this book!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-09-20

Bring an end to the power struggle with kids

I enjoyed this book because it
> coherently articulates what's dangerous about how we mindlessly control our kid's
> Identifies parental fears
>Gives reasons as to why most parents fall into the usual traps
>Gives very practical strategies of how we can build more harmonious and happier relationships
> speaks to reason
> I didn't feel the need to make notes as it just brings to light principles we hold in our heart but have been made to ignore by the way we were raised and how society is shaped today.

What I didn't enjoy so much :)
>some points were overly laboured
>Authors tone of voice was at times patronising but also very passionate so overall it didn't matter.

This is my favourite book on parenting so far. I've previously read
> The brain child
> Raising our children raising ourselves
> The book you wish your parents had read

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  • Dr Jesse J Harvey
  • 01-22-17

every parent should read this

got through this very easily, great book, easy to listen to, changed the way I view my parenting and my parents

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-21-19

Clear and convincing: unconditional love

Helped me see more clearly the meaning and impact of my actions and words on the child. Thank you.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-17-18

Opened my eyes

Really enjoyed it and took some useful learnings which has improved my relationship with my child.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Karlsmum
  • 05-29-19

Amazing and life changing

Really great listen. Love the way Alfie backs up his points with research. Transformational read for parents and caregivers to change the relationships and the way they relate to the children in their lives.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Henry Kocatekin
  • 08-29-21

An evidence-backed perspective that frightens you…in a good way.

This is so scary. In the sense that it challenges al my beliefs as a person. Let it shake you to its core and your attitude and behaviours towards children!

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  • Amanda Green
  • 08-28-21

Wonderful book!

A wonderful book which is well worth the listen for any parent or any professional working with families. This book allowed me to assess my own parenting and think about it from another perspective.
If you are a parent definitely read this!!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-07-18

Brilliant!Amazing

highly recommend this book. it just makes sense. I tried these techniques and OMG they work.....thank you.