Along the same lines of Haim Ginott’s Between Parent and Child, Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting provides an updated version on the same concepts of consensual living while coining the term unconditional parenting. I’ve long been a fan and advocate of several of his books and his stance on parenting, although we disagree on education. I’ve recommended Unconditional Parenting to many parents. I’ve found that most parents who take the time to actually read the book agree with this line of thinking – living consensually with their children.
The problem with Unconditional Parenting is that many parents read the book, agree with the concepts, and yet have a hard time with the aftermath. The book is purely philosohpical without suggestions for practical applications. This is hard for many people who are left with the feeling that one parent expressed to me, “I completely agree with the concepts. I feel like I’ve been sucking as a parent. What do I do now?”
Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting is definitely worth the time to read, although it lacks some of the practical examples given by Ginott. I would go so far as to say it’s worth adding to your home library. Just be prepared for further reading along the lines of consensual living if you find yourself in the “I suck. What do I do now?” camp. Anyone who knows me knows that continued reading is something I advocate, anyway.
Unconditional Parenting is a good introduction to the philosophy behind consensual living. If you don’t have time to read the book, Kohn has a DVD titled the same. At around two hours, it’s a great start for parents with limited time or those with partners who aren’t inclined to read parenting books. Make a date with your partner to watch the DVD and change the way you think.
“Don’t be a parent, be a human being who is a parent.”
– Dr. Haim Ginott
At the same time, rather than viewing our children as children, we should view them as human beings who are children. When we view both ourselves and our children as people, it changes the perspective quite a bit. Our interactions with one another take on an entirely different light. If everyone could remember that everyone else is a person just like they are, people would be much more likely to treat each other with acceptance and compassion. We would see that we are all on our own journeys, learning more about ourselves and from others.
Before Alfie Kohn, Pam Leo, Naomi Aldort, or many of the other consensually living authors of our time, there was Dr. Haim Ginott. Ginott revolutionized the parenting and psychology worlds with his new philosophy on communicating with children. His book, Between Parent and Child, was on the national best seller list for over a year when it was written in 1965. While the republished version, edited and ammended by his wife Dr. Alice Ginott, has been updated, it retains the same basic premise.
First and foremost, children need compassion and understanding from their parents. They need to hear that their feelings, wishes, and dreams are acknowledged by us and that those internal feelings are always acceptable, although the resulting behaviors may not be. Guidance, not criticism, will help them to convey their thoughts and feelings in appropriate manners. As parents – the indviduals whom our children should be able to count on and trust more than anyone else, the words we use hold much more power and we should be cognizant of that when we speak with them. By modeling effective communication and giving our children the opportunities needed in order for them to develop their own responsibility, we will be helping them develop the skills they need.
If you are looking for one book to add to your home library this year, I would strongly recommend putting this one on your list of possibilities.