Friday, July 15, 2011

Unconditional Parenting

.Cohen, Alfie. (2005).  Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. New York, NY: Atria

Summary / Analysis:
Alfie Cohen continues his work dissecting adult roles in discipline and consequences.
Chapter titles include Withholding Love, Too Much Control, What Holds Us Back and Choices for Children .  there is an appendix on different parenting styles and the relevance of culture, class race.

Much of what Cohen instructs is easy to agree with, and difficult to actually do. The belief system behind Cohen’s arguments applies equally to teachers as it does to parents. The fact remains that children deserve to be heard and really listened to.  Teachers have a particularly important role in this work, most especially because they are working with other people’s children. It requires a tremendous amount of effort to respond to children in the moment using strategies most of us were not brought up with.  Unconditional Parenting reminds adults that our relationships with children can be more positive, and less reactionary, if we pay particular attention to our own responses and the child’s situation.

Relevant Quotes / Concepts: (Pages listed are from the e-reader version)

“Ensuring that children internalize our values isn’t the same thing as helping them to develop their own” (33).

“The subject of this book is not merely discipline but more broadly, the ways we act with our children, as well as how we think about them and feel about them” (40)

…many popular discipline strategies  cause children to feel they’re accepted only when they act the way we demand” (47).

“One reason that a heavy-handed do-what-I-say approach tends not to work very well is that in the final analysis, we really can’t control our kids – at least, not in the ways that matter” (177).

“Deci and Ryan believe that children are born not only with certain basic needs, including a need to have some say over their own lives, but also with the ability to make decisions in a way that meets their needs; they’re equipped with a ‘gyroscope of natural self-regulation.’  When we control kids excessively-for example, by offering them rewards and praise for doing what we want-they start to become dependent on external sources of control.  The gyroscope begins to wobble and they lose their ability to regulate themselves” (194).

“…many of the schools that are truly committed to high-quality learning – and to ensuring that students don’t lose their love of learning-make a point of avoiding letter and number grades altogether.  They find more informative and less destructive methods, such as written summaries or personal conversations, for letting parents know how well their children are doing and where they might need help.  And, no, these students don’t have any trouble getting into college as a result of the absence of grades’ (270).

“In addition to listening, we need to be candid about our feelings and, ultimately, to look for solutions together: ‘Let’s talk about what is fair to you but also what might address my concerns.  Let’s come up with some ideas and try them out” (557).

“Kids really respond when they are treated with respect, involved in problem-solving, and assumed to be well-intentioned” (559).
Annotations by A. Worrall

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