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Unconditional Parenting Support thread

(368 Posts)
tillymama Sat 04-Dec-10 12:50:36

This thread is a safe place for those of us who have read the book and are trying to implement these ideas into our family lives.

It is also a place where people who are interested in the concept of Unconditional Parenting can find out more, and ask questions from those of us who use it day-to-day.

This is not a place to debate whether or not UP is the best thing since sliced bread, or a laughable concept. If you wish to debate, please start your own thread.


Good starting points for people wanting to know what UP is all about:

The principles of UP
Alfie Kohn's website
Buy the book!

Littlepurpleprincess Sat 04-Dec-10 16:14:30

I have just read the principles. I am a childminder and very interested in all things childcare! I have to say I agree with those principles. They are very nice but they are just common sense really aren't they?

My question is (and I hope it's relevent to what you wanted for this thread - about fitting it into family lives); can anyone really be this kind of parent, all the time? Do we, as flawed, sometimes tired, impatient, stressed, people have the ability to fufil this?

I would love to be this type of parent, and I think I am more often than not, but I also often get it wrong. I find patience, and remaining calm with DS the hardest thing.

I also find it a lot easier with minded children.

BertieBotts Sat 04-Dec-10 17:17:52

I think that whatever approach you choose you will get it wrong at times though. I still think it's useful to remind ourselves of how we would like to do things.

Simic Sat 04-Dec-10 17:38:41

I feel like this a lot but I think there is no such thing as the perfect parent. But, I must say reading the UP threads recently has given me renewed motivation to be more as I want to be and parent as I want to more of the time... I think there´s a point there about your own child versus other people´s children. Your own children are probably the people in the world where you can most "be yourself" but it means too that they sometimes see the very worst sides of me when I do hide it better from other people. I have to keep working on this! I want to "be myself" with my children but on the other hand I don´t want to be like that!!!
But, I had a really good day yesterday with the children where I was really taking my time with everything that we were doing, thinking about my responses and just feeling good about where I´m going and I really noticed how it affected the kids.

Littlepurpleprincess Sat 04-Dec-10 21:10:05

Your own children are probably the people in the world where you can most "be yourself" but it means too that they sometimes see the very worst sides of me

I have never thought about it like this before, it's a very good point.

MoonFaceMamaaaaargh Sun 05-Dec-10 09:31:37

Thanks for staring this thread Tillymama smile

I'm interested in UP and am about to read the book (quickly! Before the library want it back!)

DS is 9m so I'm quite new to all of this but that doesn't stop me sticking my two pen'th in! grin

I like this too..."Your own children are probably the people in the world where you can most "be yourself" but it means too that they sometimes see the very worst sides of me"

And I guess that's the thing I'm kind of wondering do you let dc's see and understand your (and therefor others) emotions without them feeling responcible for them?

But as I say I haven't quite read the book(broken the first rule already!) so please feel free to may all become clear!

tillymama Mon 06-Dec-10 08:52:05

I think you do have to control your emotions to a certain extent, depending on what sort of a person you are. And it's about the language you use. Explain, don't blame!

I don't think it's beneficial for my DD to see me in a foul mood, banging and crashing about. It happens, don't get me wrong. But if I've really lost it, I leave the room and try to calm down.

But as she gets older, I don't think there is anything wrong with explaining that Mummy is very cross and is going to go into the kitchen to calm down? To me that is part of modelling behaviour.

Similarly, if she physically hurts me, I see no problem in telling her so.

As long as you stay away from negative language, and simply state the facts - "You kicked your legs and hit mummy. That really hurt mummy" - I think it can only be a positive thing.

Simic Mon 06-Dec-10 09:45:01

I agree completely with Tillymama - the more you can control your emotions, the better.
I think it's a lot about staying generally positive and kind. I know my father was often just really tired (stressful job etc) and that made him irritable. I always understood it as that I'd done something wrong. I want to a) really try not to be irritable with my children (which has a lot to do with early nights as well as making the effort as much as possible) and b) when they are a bit older, I will be able to explain to them that the reason is that I am tired and it has nothing to do with them. Actually, I think I have a responsibility to them NEVER to be irritable. But unfortunately, I just can't manage that - so I'm trying to manage my own emotions/tiredness as best I can...

FattyArbuckel Wed 08-Dec-10 19:25:47

i try to run a quick filter on my negative reactions - so if I feel irritable and want to snap at my dd, or if I feel angry and want to shout at her, I hold back from doing this straightaway and have a think about things from her point of view, and sometimes I ask her in a neutral way what her take on things is as it is all too easy for me to put 2 and 2 together and make 5!!!

Generally when I have done this I realise that my irritation/ anger is usually either due to not understanding how things are to my dd or about my trigger reactions due to my own issues. So then I choose to react differently to my dd from my first instinct. In return, what tends to come back from her quite often is a degree of support and understanding for me that you wouldn't particularly expect from a child. We also have a chance to talk about different approaches and options for dealing with things in a calm way.

Sometimes your kids will inevitably witness you behaving badly. I think this has a value in that it shows them that sometimes people do behave badly and that we are not all perfect all of the time. I do believe in apologising to a child for behaviour like this just as I would expect an apology from the child if they had behaved badly and realised that they had.

Mainly though I think role modelling for your kids is really important. Punish them and they will learn to punish you back. Understand them and they will afford this back to you.

monkeyflippers Sun 09-Jan-11 21:47:39

I don't know anything about this really but just read the rules and it seems a bit vague. Will maybe have another read . . .

AngelDog Tue 11-Jan-11 15:30:17

Marking my place - I've read the book and want to make some notes before the library demand it back.

I don't agree with 100% of what Alfie Kohn says, but I think most of it is spot on.

<waves to MFM>

nogreatexpectations Tue 11-Jan-11 15:54:01

I haven't read the book but I am now off to get hold of it so I can.

I home ed, so I have DS1&2 almost all of the time. From reading the blog, I think I mostly share this approach to parenting. Mine are 10 and 6 and I very rarely ask them to do anything and I hate reward and punishment parenting. I speak to my children, I make requests, I thank them, I explain things to them. What I am struggling with is DH who grew up with a very authourative and strict (arsehole) of a father. He is prone to shouting first, makes demands and expects the children to jump to it, with clear consequences, warnings sounded "go and get dressed and make your bed, otherwise I will take ?? away"

So I am off to find the book, intriqued to know more and hopefully convert DH into a more chilled parent.

justalittleblackraincloud Tue 11-Jan-11 19:23:02

To monkeyflippers & nogreatexpectations - the book is definitely well worth a read. I found it hard getting my head round the idea until I read the book in its entirity.

It made a lot more sense afterwards!

Othersideofthechannel Tue 11-Jan-11 23:01:02

Collective wisdom required please.

DD (just 6) hates getting things wrong.

Eg If she comes down to breakfast in just a T-shirt/pj top and is cold, it is my fault for not reminding her when I woke her up that it is winter and that it is not as warm in the kitchen as under her duvet. Therefore it is my job to go and get her jumper/dressing gown.

I feel that it should not be my responsibility any more. Occasionally someone else in the family might fetch her something warm but she should accept that much of the time we will be too busy or just not feel like doing this for her and she will have to resolve the situation herself. But she is adamant that it's my fault and I need to make amends by going to fetch her jumper.

Repeat ad infinitum for most things she forgets to do. I don't mind reminding her to do things, but I am finding her response to the reminding hard to handle.

Any creative ideas?

Simic Wed 12-Jan-11 10:44:14

We have similar issues. I find Jesper Juuls' idea really useful that it's not useful to think of boundaries around a child, blocking the child off from doing things, but think of a boundary as a protective shield which the adult holds up (he doesn't put it like that, he has a nice diagram - in "Your Competent Child").
I have in the past explained to dd (5), on the subject of her wanting me to do things for her, just to imagine if grandma wanted me to pick up her knitting, if grandpa wanted me to fetch his coffee, if papa wanted me to tidy up his newspapers, if ds wanted me to pick up the food he threw on the floor (just imagine!), if neighbour wanted me to clear the snow in front of her house, if friends mum wanted me to xxx and I carried on this with getting funnier and funnier examples with all the people I could think of, and ended with:
"I couldn't do all that. I would spend all my time doing things for everyone and no time playing! So I say "hey!, I like to help. But I can't do everything that everyone asks me." I say "hey, no!""
She really giggled at all this. I like to say the "hey" in quite a cheerful, positive way, but a really assertive way! - smiling and joking.
The first time I did this, she giggled a lot at the explanation and I thought I'd made headway. Then she steadfastly still refused to take her own shoes off! Then I suggested, ok, I wasn't going to do everything for her, but she could take my shoes off and I'd take her shoes off. This was what we did.
I liked the approach - it felt right. But, I'm trying to expand and develop it!
Dd also says that things are my fault exactly as you describe. I am wondering about a bit of explanation along the lines of "Hey! That's not fair! smile I don't think I did anything wrong. It's just that it is cold downstairs. Not my fault! If everything that happens in the world is my fault, then I've got SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many faults! [smile smile, body language: this is all a bit of a joke] But I haven't really. I think I'm ok. Are we both ok, you and me?! Let's go and get your cardigan together!"

As I say, it's work in progress, for me!

Simic Wed 12-Jan-11 10:50:40

Sorry I wrote so much. I guess all I was trying to say was: it's an opportunity for a bit of practice/modelling of assertive behaviour and telling other people where your boundaries are. I am really bad at this with other adults but I want to try to think of a good way to deal with it with dd so she learns better assertive behaviour.
And if I present it as learning assertive behaviour then it's not "me against her" but, "how can we set boundaries towards others who treat us as we don't want to be treated".

Othersideofthechannel Wed 12-Jan-11 11:30:29

Thanks. That was really helpful.
We do also have a problem with her being dissatisfied with the amount of time I do things with her.
I chatted to MIL about this today and we realised that it partly come from DD wanting to be perfect. If it is someone else's fault that she didn't remember, then it doesn't make her imperfect. So I guess we also need to play around that.
I'm going to start making it more obvious when I have forgotten to do something, perhaps clowning it up a bit when it isn't particularly serious like leaving a light on.

Othersideofthechannel Wed 12-Jan-11 11:32:37

DD is a lot more assertive than me!

Simic Wed 12-Jan-11 11:46:38

I have been shocked recently with my dd always looking for whose "fault" something is - which of course is related to what you say about who is perfect and who not. I think she must have got it from me although at least at work I'm more pragmatic than this: I first ask, is there really a problem and then, how can we solve it - I never worry about who did what and whether that was right or not. But, I know that I do always see myself as being at fault for everything.
Your idea about showing how everyone can make mistakes is a good one. Maybe I should start having a "funny mistake of the day" or something where, when I do something silly I say "that's my funniest mistake of the day ... I wonder if I'll make an even funnier one soon!". But, that's still calling it a mistake - and in a way I want to get away from thinking or talking about mistakes at all - or anything being anyone's fault. I just want us to carry on and just DO things!
- and if they have an effect which means you have to do something more afterwards (like mopping up the spilt drink), then you do that too and it's not a big issue. It's not a time for finger pointing.

Othersideofthechannel Wed 12-Jan-11 15:53:28

I don't think it is a problem to talk about mistakes. To err is human and all that.

baskingseals Wed 12-Jan-11 21:37:07

I think that accepting that one is not perfect and makes mistakes, and being able to be okay with that is absolutely central to personal growth.

when dd was about 7 we were in the car coming home from school. She was trying to write and got really cross because I was 'jogging' her, at first I geniunely didn't understand what she meant, why was it my fault that we were in a moving car? I explained that there were bumps in the road that I couldn't avoid - if she wanted to write in the car it wasn't my fault or her fault if the car wasn't steady - it's just the way it is.

Sometimes things just are. It's colder downstairs than in bed. If I forget to tell you that, it's not my fault, I didn't do it on purpose. I just forgot and everybody forgets things sometimes, because NOBODY is perfect and that's OKAY. I think sometimes children feel that their parents are all powerful god-like beings who can 'fix' everything. Well we're just mere mortals, but hopefully we can give our children the tools to accept themselves for who they are - the good and the bad, and I think exploring the idea of fault is an excellent starting point.

So if dd is cold, depending on my mood I will get her dressing gown or not. I will tell if I don't feel like doing it, then it's her choice to be cold or go and get it.
If your dd is looking for perfection, she will not find it in herself or humanity - perhaps a rose or a sunset or a thistle or a cloud.

RalphGnu Thu 13-Jan-11 14:13:25

I haven't read the book; hadn't even heard of it before now, but this is the way I said I would bring up my child. Having found motherhood much, much harder than I expected I'd lost sight of this and was used to being stressed and shouty. I'm glad you started this thread. I'll read the book with interest and hopefully I can become more of the mother I always wanted and said I would be.
<inexplicably wells up>

Othersideofthechannel Thu 13-Jan-11 16:49:36

Upon reflection I definitely need to explore the theme of perfection with DD. Does anyone know of any good children's storybooks on this theme?

peapod2010 Thu 13-Jan-11 20:46:40

I have just finished the book, and found it generally tallied very well with the way I want to be with DD (9 mths) and it's also pretty much the approach my parents used, too.

However- I am yet to find any discussion on how unconditional parenting works when a young child is being looked after much of the time by others who don't follow the principles. I can only think it will be confusing for DD if she is treated differently when in childcare compared to when she is at home with DP and I. Has anyone had this experience or any views on the subject?

Simic Fri 14-Jan-11 08:33:23


I can remember reading Little Miss and Mr Men books including Mr Silly, Mr Topsy Turvy and one of the little Misses (Little Miss Dotty? sorry, I can't remember), where it was all about doing fun things that were "wrong". That was good.
However, I think with some of these stories the emphasis is on making someone who is not perfect, perfect (they tell Mr Muddle to do one thing, so that he will do the other) - which I don't want to be the moral of the story! I don't want a book about becoming perfect, I want a book about NOT BEING perfect and that that is ok.
Anyway, I'll watch with interest which books people recommend!

Personally, I think that for a child to experience different parenting/caring styles isn't a bad thing. My DH parents differently from me. His parents parented differently from my parents. But he felt unconditionally loved and had a very healthy relationship with his parents. So, it's right that he does what feels right to him and I know the children will benefit from this. He is a fantastic Dad.
With your DD, her knowing she is unconditionally loved by you and your partner is the most important thing. On the other hand, there are caring styles that I would NOT want used on my child at nursery...!! (physical punishment being the obvious extreme example, which doesn't happen any more!). So, I think it depends more on your relationship with the carers???

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