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Alfie Kohn/Unconditional Parenting. Is it possible in a normally boistrous 3 year old with pretty much no ability to sit and reflect?

(91 Posts)
fillyjonk Sun 01-Jul-07 08:55:09

I am re-reading Unconditional Parenting

The trouble is that I CANNOT see how to work it with my family.

Sometimes my kids have to do things when I need them to do them. And also NOT to do things when I need them not to do them. I think that this is partly because I have youngish kids (3 and 2) and partly becuase I have 2 with a small age gap. And they DO fight and take all the juice and hit each other. And I am not really willing to sit with them and say "now fillygirl, how do you think fillyboy felt when you hit him?", to which she will say "Happy! Happy!" and giggle and run away.

But also, this sitting down and reflecting on stuff business. My 3 year can't/won't do that. I have no idea if its developmentally normal/a boy thing or whatever but...and if he won't, how can I get a 2 year old to do it?

Also I think he is telling you not to say thank you to your kids. I can't do that! It'd be rude!

I know one woman who i think does follow Alfie Kohn. She is a very good parent, though I think she gets very burnt out at times. But she has only one.


fillyjonk Sun 01-Jul-07 09:42:51


JodieG1 Sun 01-Jul-07 09:58:07

I like that book. I try and do a mix of that and sears. I must re-read alfie kohn actually. I usually talk and explain things to them and try to get the to empathise with others. They do get it but a lot depends on age. My mantra is it's age appropriate behaviour lol. We don't do "punishments" either.

FrannyandZooey Sun 01-Jul-07 10:02:53

I have just taken what I wanted from it Filly

I didn't "get" all of it, and some of it I outright disagreed with

I don't see why it has to be prescriptive, I use it more like a recipe book and if I don't have any carrots I use parsnips instead, and leave out the garlic because I don't like it.

fillyjonk Sun 01-Jul-07 10:06:43

oh agree, franny and jodie

but i can see how it could be helpful.

i just can't quite see how to apply it to under 4s, at least mine.

I am finding myself using a lot of consequence based "punishments", which is more the dr sears approach i think. but then he has lots of kids and small age gaps...

I don't want to be doing this but I honestly don't get how to apply his approach, which is pretty reflective, to this age group.

I don't shout, or smack or anything, and that does lull me into a false sense of security but really...

JodieG1 Sun 01-Jul-07 10:10:18

It is harder with the younger ones. My ds1 is a very spirited little boy ad it's only in the past couple of months that he's started understanding a lot more about how what he does affects other people. He's getting there but slowly, it's just his personality to be boisterous.

FrannyandZooey Sun 01-Jul-07 10:12:34

Well, if it doesn't apply to the ages or personalities of your children then I would ignore that part for now

it may become feasible in the future, but IMO for now it would be like taking the advice of a guru you admire on weaning, when your baby was 2 months old

FrannyandZooey Sun 01-Jul-07 10:13:15

Oh filly I also believe if you email him and ask questions, he replies

fillyjonk Sun 01-Jul-07 10:17:56

at me having to convince franny of the overwhelming merits of alfie kohn

I think he is advocating an excellent general approach to kids. Basically that they are nice people and should be treated as such. Not as problems to be managed.

I utterly subscribe to this.

I just don't know how to do it

I don't think he is a parenting guru in the more usual sense of the word. He doesn't advocate particular techniques really.

maybe I will email him


moondog Sun 01-Jul-07 10:28:31

Hmm,be very careful.
Children do indeed sometimes need to be told who is the boss and that frankly is that.

(Did I mention that criticising AK's approach forms part of my MSC??? )

I am a lentil weaver but with a strong streak of 'Sit down,shut up and bloody listen' emblazoned across my soul too. Don't feel the two are incompatible.

FrannyandZooey Sun 01-Jul-07 10:39:39

No I am mostly with you on this Filly

and I also wish he would just Tell Us How To Ruddy Do It

I think you do do it, mostly instinctively, FWIW

juuule Sun 01-Jul-07 10:58:21

Okay does any of this help?

Guiding principles from the book:
1. Be reflective.
2. Reconsider your requests.
3. Keep your eye on your long-term goals.
4. Put the relationship first.
5. Change how you see, not just how you act.
6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
7. Be authentic.
8. Talk less, ask more.
9. Keep their ages in mind.
10. Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts.
11. Don't stick your no's in unnecessarily.
12. Don't be rigid.
13. Don't be in a hurry.

"There will be times when, in order to do the right thing, we have to put our foot down and cause our kids to be come frustrated with us. But before we resort to controlling interventions, before we make a child unhappy, and certainly before we do anything that could be construed as placing conditions on our love, we should make absolutely sure it's worth the possible strain on the relationship."

I don't think AK is saying that we should let our children get away with murder. He is just saying that we should think before we act and consider why we are doing what we are doing and how it is in everybody's best interest including the child.

I'm probably not putting this very well but I hope it helps a bit.

TheodoresMummy Sun 01-Jul-07 11:01:06

"I am a lentil weaver but with a strong streak of 'Sit down,shut up and bloody listen' emblazoned across my soul too. Don't feel the two are incompatible."

Good advice !! Thanks.

juuule Sun 01-Jul-07 11:01:29

Oh and I don't think he is saying don't say thank you. I think he is saying don't say thank you if you don't mean it - if you are only saying it as a way of manipulating your child.

fillyjonk Sun 01-Jul-07 11:13:06

thanks juule

i think it IS a state of mind

i am struggling with, bascially the fact that there are things that kids HAVE to do and that there are things that they MUST NOT do

I agree with paring these down to the bone but i am talking about stuff like not hitting each other, which chex filly IS non negotiable.

So what do you do, be calm and understanding until you have to take swift action to prevent a decapicitation?

he gives an example of how this might work-a 7 year old and a rock-the teacher shows the 7 year old that the rock will hurt if it hits someone. his doesn't work for 3 year olds

juuule re the thank you-have checked again. i think he's lumping it in with praise. Actually tbh i don't see the big thing about praise. if I like a drawing or something of ds's i don't see why I shouldn't tell him. I think its pretty clear from our relationship that he has NO desire to gain my approval anyway (actually I just don't think he does, especially. And this commenting on things and explicitly making a judgement-my PILs do that, it comes across as INCREDIBLY annoying and manipulative.

fillyjonk Sun 01-Jul-07 11:13:32

oh aarrgh thanks EVERYONE else who has responded, typo. sorry

fillyjonk Sun 01-Jul-07 11:21:31

" and explicitly NOT making a judgement", that should have said

juuule Sun 01-Jul-07 11:26:45

For me regarding the hitting each other. I would dive in and seperate them. I would comment on "we don't do that" and give a quick why we don't. If one of them had got hit I would do the rock thing. "That hurt didn't it? Do you think it's a nice thing to do?" It does work for 2 and 3 year olds but you do have to be ready to be repetitive because they won't just get wise and stop straight away as with all things with young children. Also, depending on how I feel the diving in bit could be calm or a bit explosive
I think praise is okay as long as it is genuine. If you know that the child already knows it's done something worthwhile then you are only reaffirming that. The thing to aim for in my opinion is not to spoil a child's ability to self-appraise but there's no harm in everybody celebrating an achievement.
I don't know if I'm making much sense here. Wish I could explain myself better

fillyjonk Mon 02-Jul-07 07:32:44

yes thats pretty much what I do, but took from the kohn book that that was too much of telling kids and leading them to conclusions. so kohn would want a neutral voice "look at x's face, how do you think they look " (to which my 2 yo will say "happy! happy!", I suspect because SHE doesn't realise that other people hurt yet or have different feelings to her-this is developmentally normal, IIRC from uni psychology! and SHE is happy.

Prob with rock thing is that kohn was suggesting that NO instructions be given. The teacher (in this case) treated the situation as one where the boy had inadequate information (ie that the rock would be heavy and thus hurt, to which I am a bit about it not being a disguised leading judgement situation ANYWAY-he was HOLDING the thing!) . Now I don't think a normal 2 year old CAN really work with that information reliably, it requires far too much extrapolation.

Now I think on it Kohn's ideas are butting up against what I know of child psychology, eg Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner and all the subsequent exps based on their theses. etc.

Blandmum Mon 02-Jul-07 07:59:42

Brunner, the worst writer in the Ed biz!

I think that very small children are simply not capable of understanding fully cause and effect in abstract terms. Because the frontal cortex isn't adult in a child. That is the poojnt IMHO when you have to stiop being a lentil weaver and go 'I'm the grown up', a la Moondog.

You have to model good behaviour , expect the best etc etc. But at the same time we do our kids the worst diservice if we treat them as adults, because they are not. He even say this in the list 'consider the ages'.

You can leave them to 'Rock the teacher', rather as I can leave my students to 'Fail the Teacher' However I also use ' Swift bollocking given in a supportive way' the teacher and get them to pass.

juuule Mon 02-Jul-07 08:17:54

I do think it's the parent's place to guide a child, though. If your 2yo hasn't the understanding yet then all I would do is keep drawing her attention to what she has done (at the same time keeping an eye out for the 3yo).
My interpretation of Kohn is that parents she question what they are asking of their children not just go down the 'because I'm the adult' route and to use reasoning rather than the behaviourist approach. However, to some extent , behaviourism? does come into it. I don't see how it can't. It's better that our children learn what will help them be accepted into society from loving parents rather than find out because they end up with no friends. Imo Kohn's way is to explain and bring them to understanding why rather than doling out rewards and punishments a la Pavlov's dogs.
I feel there is a fine overlap somewhere where yes there may be a leading question which gives rise to discussion and is not a leading question which is an admonishment. You would expect parents to have some grasp of social skills etc. it would be unfair, at the least, to be so hands off that our children were basically re-inventing the wheel. They need our input. Sorry for the ramble.
Oh and I raised an eyebrow at the bit where it asks whether Max is unhappy (pg 198). I thought what if he doesn't care that Max is unhappy? I think I need to read the book again.

fillyjonk Mon 02-Jul-07 08:28:35

oh can of worm MB.

i don't have time to debate now as have to get kids out of door, but i do think that there are big problems with saying a. that area x is responsible for attribute y and then b. extrapolating that because area x is responsible for attribute y, then the development of area x corresponds to development of attribute y.

Blandmum Mon 02-Jul-07 08:31:29

singular worm, but a big one!

I think that there are just times and places for most things. And you 'read' the child and act as best you can. I can't go for any 'one size fits all' for anything to do with anything. Let alone something as complex as a child.

Bruner is the worst writer though!

also have to go and be 'bollocker' the teacher

fillyjonk Mon 02-Jul-07 08:32:47

its NOT a singular worm

you could easily chuck social darwinsim/evolutionary biology and all sorts of crap into the mix too

plus the whole "is psychology actually a science question?


Blandmum Mon 02-Jul-07 08:34:06

I know it is not a singular worm. that was a little jokette or your 'can of worm' typo.

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