where trouble was needed

September 16, 2009

Alfie Kohn in New York Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 2:58 pm

HEALTH | September 15, 2009
Mind: When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’
Evidence is now available about the mainstream thinking on the disciplining of children.

my comment:

Dear Alfie Kohn, thanks for speaking up for Unconditional Parenting. I guess I am surprised to see that it encounters this much resistance "even" in the New York Times.

One most important point I took home from your book is, in the event of misbehavior, respond to your child, not to bystanders. When I have shared this advice with others, their wide-eyed sighs of gratitude show that people crave permission to do this and many other things you advise to support autonomy (esp, "avoid rushing"). These techniques really do work. We don’t need to demean ourselves or our children by resorting to bribes, law-enforcement via time-outs, counting, and other ways we maintain the upper hand. We really can explain and be answerable and flexible, thus modeling responsible behaviour.

I thank you for your clear message on praise. When my daughter was just 20 months old I held back (with great difficulty, I might add) from "praising" a drawing she had made, remaining silent long enough to hear her observe, "mountains." From that day I was sold.

To be honest, when I read _Unconditional Parenting_ 3-4 years ago, I called it a "dumbed down version of the Continuum Concept" — not to dismiss "for dummies" books. Having lived among indigenous communities in India, I could relate to some of the observations Liedloff made about family relationships among the Yecuana, and bristled at what I read as your attempts to translate these into lessons fitting a suburban middle-class consumer lifestyle.

Still, in a world where we are surrounded by people ready to accuse us of being permissive, not-disciplining when we are actually cultivating inner discipline, it helps to have an expert like you to reassure us and remind us that there is evidence to support our approach.

Of course I get evidence of this every day. People might call me biased :-). But if I did not see my child growing more capable of making responsible choices, expressing compassion, and learning from mistakes, from where would I get the patience to keep up? It takes a lot of time to listen, answer, explain, give her a role in decision making, explain some more, try to see things from her perspective. It also takes considerable faith to recognize that there is something to learn from a tantrum – both for the child and parent. Much of what we learn goes towards preventing the conditions that lead to the tantrum, since often they are in our control. But no matter what we do, there are times when life does not make sense. A tantrum is one honest response to this — till we can build inner reserves of confidence in ourselves against the abyss – the absurdity of life, the unquenchable why, what if … We would do well to acknowledge and respect this process rather than silence or apologize for it.


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