Archive for the ‘society’ Category

Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 5: Pushed to Succeed


  • Some parents are so focused on future success that the whole of the child’s present is consumed by it. (p. 75)
  • Focus on success shifts learning from “What does this mean?” to “Do we need to know this?” (p. 75)
  • Comparing children to others can cause them to view others as obstacles and base their self esteem on performance and what other think. p. 76)
  • Kohn suggests that it isn’t how much we do for our children but what we do for our children that is important. (p. 77)
  • He also suggests we consider “for whom we are doing our parenting?”
  • Pressure to succes in school (pp. 79-85) and athletics (pp. 85-88) actually backfires (just like use of control) and ends up leading to less success.
  • Children pushed to succeed often have a fear of failure that causes them to put in less effort to succeed in order to not have to face the possibility of failure. (If you don’t try then you can’t win but you can’t lose either.)


  • Did/do you feel motivated to learn for the sake of learning or do you recall having felt overly focused on the outcome (success or failure)?
  • When have you felt the pressure of success affecting your parenting/child? (height/weight percentages? eating and sleeping of infants and toddlers? walking? talking? reading? …..)
  • When you ask yourself “For whom am I doing my parenting?” when do you get the answer that you are doing it for yourself versus doing it for your child?

Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 4: Punitive Damages


  • Research has shown that punishment is “ineffectual over the long term as a technique for eliminating the kind of behavior towrad which it is direct.” (pp. 63-4)
  • Punishment has recently been repackaged as “consequences.” (p. 65)
  • Warnings about the consequences to follow  (punishment–loss of privilege or something else unpleasant) end up being threats that reveal distrust that children want to or will do the right thing if there is no punishment. (p. 65)
  • Natural consequences (Example: forgetting lunch means going hungry) can be experienced by the child as the adult in their life refusing to help. (p. 66)
  • “The more you rely on punishment, ‘the less real influence you’ll have on their lives.'” (p. 68)
  • Why punishment doesn’t work (p. 67-71): makes people mad, models use of power, loses effectiveness, erodes our relationships with our kids, distracts kids from the important issues, makes kids self-centered.
  • Children more likely to ask “What do the grown ups with the power want me to do and what will happen to me if I don’t? versus “What kind of person do I want to be?”
  • Punishing out of love is confusing to children.
  • There is a continuum of conditional parenting(doing to):
    • harsh corporeal punishment       
    • milder spankings      
    • other punishments       
    • tangible rewards       
    • verbal rewards
  • Goal is to get off the “doing to” continuum entirely and moving towards a “working with.”


  • Do you agree that consequences are punishments wrapped up in a new package? Why or why not?
  • When have you found yourself along the conditional parenting continuum? As a child? As a parent/caregiver?
  • What is a time/situation in which you found a solution other than something along the conditional parenting continuum? What led you to that action/thought/solution instead of something conditional?
  • What do you think helps you move towards a working with approach rather than getting stuck in a doing to kind of reaction?

Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 2: Giving and Withholding Love

Disclaimer: Let’s all agree that we are doing our best with what we’ve got to work with, which means some things we are proud of and some things we are not. Let’s withhold judgment, from ourselves and each other, so that we can be honest and learn and grow together. These ideas are deep and wide and take some time to digest and integrate. Let’s all be patient, again with ourselves and each other as we strive to be our best selves.


  • Studies of discipline (starting in 50s and 60s) suggested that children receiving power-based discipline (hit/yell/threat) were worse off than children receiving love-based discipline (everything else –too broad–including controlling with love). (p.24)
  • Conditional parenting has “two faces:” love withdrawal — “the stick,” (pp.24-31) — and positive reinforcement — “the carrot,” (pp.32-42).
  • Time out originated as “time out from positive  reinforcement” during experiments with lab animals to control animal behavior; Kohn argues that current time out methods with children is effectively a “time out from your love.” Kohn raises the idea that we not focus only on the behavior, that children are not simply more complex in their behavior but also in their learning, and that a parenting model based on control is far from ideal or truly loving. (Remember: Focus is on the child’s experience of our actions/love.) (pp.25-27)
  • “The Stick:” Love withdrawal (emotional punishment) will often produce results because children want love and approval. However, the effects of conditional love may have several negative and undesirable effects, especially as the focus is on the consequences to the child rather than on the feelings or care for others. (pp. 28-30)
  • “The Carrot:” Rewards for compliance (or doing what we, the adults, want) less successful long term or beyond the “payoff.” In fact, they often decrease commitment, quality of work/learning and motivation. (pp. 31-32)
  • Intrinsic motivation (doing something for the sake of doing it or out of true desire) is destroyed by extrinsic motivation (doing something to get something else); this means children will likely stop doing things when the rewards and accolades run out. (p. 33)
  • “Praise” is a reward (positive reinforcement) that expresses conditional love and focuses on the behavior rather than the child’s whole self. (pp. 34-41)
  • High self-esteem is still not desirable if it is contingent on accomplishment; conditional love makes it hard for children to accept themselves.


  • How would you describe your “discipline” style and actions so far as a parent/caregiver? How does what you do/say match what you actually intend to do? Does it create the outcomes you actually want? (Think back to larger goals.)
  • What are your experiences seeing or using time out, rewards, praise, yelling, threats or more unconditional love? What difference do you notice in your child’s response based on your actions/words? How has your view of these methods changed (or not) after reading Kohn’s ideas?
  • When you find you are not using UP principles, do you find you tend to be more a carrot or stick person or both? What past or present influences/circumstances lead you to go to those methods? (For example: Kohn suggests “some parents who received too little unconditional love when they were children end up misdiagnosing the problem and assume it was praise they lacked.” — p.  41)
  • Do you think that saying thank you (for sharing or cleaning, etc.) or stating your observations in an excited tone (You built a tower!) fall under the category of praise and positive reinforcement? Is there a time, place or circumstance for enthusiasm and excitement? (p. 35-6)

Online Resources:

Growth: There IS No Set Pattern

I have never cared about growth charts and percentiles.

It makes sense to me that with the wide range among adults there would come a wide range among children. It also makes sense that children do not grow in regular increments but in fits and starts. I also believe there is a difference in the growth of breastfed babies and babies who are formula-fed as well as babies who start solids around 4 months and babies who start solids after 6 months.

Recently my family has been looking for different health insurance. The company with the plan we have been looking at told us that they would charge us $150 extra a month because my daughter is “does not fall within their guidelines on the chart” for height and weight. (My daughter has always been a lightweight but on the taller side and completely healthy.) When asked what the concern is for her health, the representative was “sure there are many risks associated with having ‘low’ height and weight.” When asked to name one concern, the rep said, “I’m not a doctor, but I am sure there are several risks.”

So now you know. According to some insurance companies, it’s risky business to be short or lean, regardless of your child’s actual health condition and history (or what a pediatrician says).


Here are some growth charts, if you’re interested:

Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 1: Conditional Parenting

Disclaimer: Let’s all agree that we are doing our best with what we’ve got to work with, which means some things we are proud of and some things we are not. Let’s withhold judgment, from ourselves and each other, so that we can be honest and learn and grow together. These ideas are deep and wide and take some time to digest and integrate. Let’s all be patient, again with ourselves and each other as we strive to be our best selves.


  • How we love matters, and each child may need to be loved differently. This goes against the idea that all love is equally desirable.  (p.10)
  • Conditional parenting is loving kids for what they do; unconditional parenting is loving kids for who they are.
  • Conditional parenting is generally based on behaviorism (B. F. Skinner and operant conditioning). Two points in this type of behaviorism are that only what can be seen and measured is important (behaviors), and all behaviors occur based on reinforcement.
  •  Unconditional parenting means loving children “for no good reason.” It is important that children feel loved (despite mistakes and such), not just that our intentions are loving. (p.11-12)
  • It is the child who engages in a behavior that matters, not just the behavior itself. (p.15)
  • Our modern view of children is “awfully sour.” The underlying assumptions and beliefs are that children are bad. (p.16)
  • Children (and everyone) should earn everything, including love. For children, this leads to the idea of privileges vs. rights.  (p.18)
  • Because conditional parenting is about obtaining a certain outcome, it is more about doing to a child (using consequences to get them to do what you want). In unconditional parenting the emphasis is working with a child (reflecting, problem-solving together to understand what is going on with the whole child). (p.19)
  • How we feel about our kids isn’t as important as how children experience those feelings and how they regard the way we treat them. (p. 20)


  • Do you make your child say sorry or please and thank you? Why or why not? (p.12)
  • How/when do you talk about behaviors and feelings with your child(ren)? (p. 15)
  • How has your view of children changed over time– since you were younger, became a parent? (p.16)
  • Are children able to develop compassion, cooperation, altruism independently? Is it in their nature? (p. 17)
  • What privileges do your children have? What do you think are a few rights they have? (p.18)

Online Resources:

Sunday Surf: Alternative Parenting Info for Family and Friends

Holidays and celebrations usually mean family get togethers and all that comes with those situations.

For many, this is a joyous time when perhaps people who rarely enjoy sharing the same space have a day or more to “live together” in some ways. What happens when the small family unit chooses to live differently than the family at large? For parents who subscribe to alternative/gentle/positive/natural/attachment whatever you call it parenting, the coming together of different styles of raising children can cause tension and frustration. Some families also have a hard time over the phone or the internet.

A few things I think cause trouble are a lack of compassionate understanding of the various “sides” and feelings of judgment and defensiveness that block communication. This happens for everyone, but it seems that the hows, whats and whys of a less typical type of parent are less known (and also, therefore, respected?). I know I wish that my family could read some of the articles that shape my parenting choices.

What follows is a rough draft of my dream list of 10 blog posts to give someone a sense of where I am currently coming from as a mother. (Yes, I reserve the right to change and learn and grow.)

***Last minute addition!***

I just found this post on the 10 RIE principles of caregiving, and it addresses all the main issues I’ve been trying to raise with my own family. I may even share it with said family…….

10 Articles to Help Understand My Parenting Aspirations

High-Needs Babies, Spirited Toddlers and Highly Sensitive Children

Part One: High Needs Babies

When my son Beanie was born, we struggled to breastfeed. I tried every position my midwife recommended, every trick I read online and still nothing worked. I was terribly upset and so was he. What I thought would have been the most magical time of our life was turning out to be a nightmare. On the third night, sleep-deprived, hormonally volatile and bursting with milk, I begged him, “PLEASE nurse!” I looked into his eyes and saw it – sheer stubborness. “You are going to be a stinker, aren’t you?,” I sighed. We rented the breast pump the next day.

I had a “high-needs baby”. (They are also labeled “fussy babies”, a term I do not like due to its negative connotations. These babies can’t help what they feel; they are just being themselves!) I should have expected it – he was a wiggly, hiccupy little guy in the womb and he continued to be after he was born. Having researched and discovered attachment-style parenting to be biologically normal, my husband and I were excited to try out babywearing and co-sleeping. We were trying to be “minimalist parents”, getting by with only the necessities, so this fitted well with our philosophy. Instead of spending on a crib and stroller, we got a huge King-sized bed that we placed on the floor and a few slings. We did buy a vibrating bouncer that saw little use. Honestly, though, it was HARD. Even though I had worked with babies before, I had no frame of reference of what it was like to be on-call 24-hours-a-day, of what “normal” was. I was pumping round-the-clock (while still trying to get him to latch on with a nipple shield), carrying/babywearing him and after he started spitting up/reflux, sleeping with him on my chest.

While reading Dr. Sears’ Baby Book and website, I realized Beanie had most of the characteristics of a high-maintainance baby! He was: intense (I called it going 0 to 60 in 3 seconds), hyperactive (constantly needed motion to dissipate his energy), draining (physically and emotionally), always hungry (I barely pumped enough to satisfy him), light sleeper (sometimes wanted a swaddle, sometimes not), unpredictable (what worked one day, would not the next, but maybe the day after that), very sensitive (to outside stimuli and emotions), needed constant touch (and later, motion) and was very sensitive to separation (although generally it was only daddy and occasionally grandma). He had a love/hate affair with our convertible car seat (he would fall asleep in it, but he would arch back and refuse to sit down to get buckled).

How did I cope? First, my husband and I job-shared at that point, so he was able to provide lots of hands-on support. He did most of what needed to be done (cooking, cleaning) and going out to the supermarket was our weekly “date”. There was even a brief period when Beanie was waking up at 6 that Dan would take him downstairs, cook breakfast and bring both upstairs an hour later. My day revolved around laying in bed upstairs watching Netflix and then moving downstairs in the afternoon to watch cable. It was boring. But it was all I was able to handle at that point. As he got older and we both felt more comfortable with babywearing, I would take him out for walks close to home. When he napped on me, I would use that time to sleep mostly, but sometimes I’d read a book or play Wii. When he woke up, ready for action, I would cook or clean something or just have a dance party with him. Things got easier at about 2.5 months (the fourth trimester); I felt like he was more interested in the world around him and that made him more interesting too. When he started to crawl at 6.5 months, I was ecstatic! He could disspate energy on his own and it gave us both some much-needed space and independence. I also want to mention that some of the homeopathic remedies we used for teething (particularly Hyland’s), were also remedies to promote calmness. I also noticed a relaxation in his temperament when he consistently wore his teething/eczema hazelwood and amber necklace.

There are a few things I wish I done differently. First, I would have made some good mama (and papa) -friends before we had Beanie. It would have been nice to spend time with some other folks who understood what I was going through in those early months. In a similar vein, I would have also attended more groups, like La Leche League and Holistic Moms’ Network. It would have been helpful to have advice and tips from people who had “been there, done that”. I think I would have been able to breastfeed more quickly (he finally latched on at 3 months) and babywear earlier (which would have saved my arms and kept me from watching too much of The Office.) I would have asked more people to do more for me: dropped off some food and maybe throw in a load of laundry. Ultimately, I am glad we put in all that hard work in those early months – because I see it starting to pay off now! More on “the spirited toddler” next time.

Is/was your baby high-needs? How did this affect your parenting? What words of advice would you give other parents at this stage?


Dr. William Sears: Author of The Baby Book and The High Needs Baby website, including information on characteristics, sleep and handling criticism. Information on attachment parenting found here.

Dr. Harvey Karp: Author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. His website has book and video excerpts.

Dr. Elaine Aron: Author of The Highly Sensitive Child with a chapter on babies. (Although I must note, I do not completely agree with her views on sleep. Whatever works best for you and your family is best!) There is also a quiz to take on her website, although it is intended for older children.

The Fussy Baby Site

Fussy Baby

High Need Child Facebook Page

High Needs Baby Yahoo! Group

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