Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 7: Principles of Unconditional Parenting

MAIN POINT: Shift from asking “How do I get my child to do what I say” to asking “What does my child need and how can I meet those needs? (p. 118)


  • There is no formula, so every parent/caregiver needs to “decide whether each idea sound reasonable, and, if so, how it may apply to raising your own child(ren).” (pp. 117-8)
  • It is challenging to “work with” children, as it asks more of an adult than “doing to” requires. (p. 118)
  • Must commit to taking children seriouslyto focus on their needs and to work with them to find solutions. (p.119)
    • express unconditional love
    • give children more chances to make decisions
    • imagine how things look (and feel) from your child’s perspective

The Guiding Principles

  1. Be reflective. (The more you understand “what drives you crazy and why,” the more you can understand how your needs and beliefs affect how you are with your children. pp. 120-1)
  2. Reconsider your requests. (Before working to get your child to do what you want, consider whether your request is as reasonable, necessary, valuable or desirable as you seem to think it is. Sometimes the problem is with the request, not the child. pp. 121-2)
  3. Keep your eye on long-term goals. (When you focus on more than getting your child to obey, you can use better parenting skills and get better results. Example: Problem solving with your child who has spilled a drink moves you closer towards your goal of helping them be a compassionate person than just getting them to not make a mess through a range of punishments or rewards. (pp. 122-3)
  4. Put the relationship first. (Being right, being in control, and having kids do what we want is not as important as having children feel safe and trusting. In fact, when children feel safe and trusting, and have a sense of autonomy they are more likely to tell about their mistakes and listen when we say something important. p.123)
  5. Change how you see, not just how you act. (Misbehavior can be either a teachable moment to involve the child in problem solving or a call for punishment/consequences. p.124)
  6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (Loving a child does not necessarily mean respecting them. Respecting their ideas, opinions, feelings, questions and concerns goes a long way towards taking children seriously. pp. 124-5)
  7. Be authentic. (You have needs, feelings, thoughts. You don’t know sometimes and do the wrong thing sometimes. Apologize. Acknowledge your humanity. pp. 125-7)
  8. Talk less; ask more. (Step one is to figure out what children need. Ask questions that have more than one answer or that you are unsure how your child will answer. Sometimes children just need a hug or a kiss or a loved one to stay close. pp. 127-9)
  9. Keep their ages in mind. (Yes, children are incredibly capable, but some things are unrealistically high expectations. pp.129-130)
  10. “Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts. (First, we don’t know for sure why a child acted as they did. Second, our beliefs create a self-fulfilling prophecy. pp. 130-3)
  11. Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily. (Pick your battles, and say yes as much as possible. Try to think through the reason for your answer of “yes” or “no.” pp. 133-6)
  12. Don’t be rigid. (Flexibility and spontaneity allow parents/caregivers to meet the needs of different children and to have the freedom to respond uniquely to each situation. Consistently unreasonable reactions, limitations and expectations are undesirable, despite a child’s need for predictability. pp. 136-7)
  13. Don’t be in a hurry. (Work and think ahead to reduce the limitations of time constraints that often lead parents to coercive tactics. This also means enjoy your children while they are at the stage they are because they change quickly and childhood goes by fast. pp.138-9)


  • Which of these principles seems to pose the toughest challenge for you? Which might come easier to you?
  • What are some requests that parents (yourself included?) usually make of children that may actually be unreasonable or unnecessary?
  • What are your needs, and how might they come up during interactions with your child?
  • What do you believe your child needs? How can you help them get their needs met?

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