Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Alfie Kohn: A Voice in the Wilderness

My husband and I had a rare treat tonight - an evening out together without our son. Even better, we attended a speech by Alfie Kohn titled Unconditional Parenting: Beyond Bribes & Threats.

Some of Mr. Kohn's more popular books include:
1. The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting

2. Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason

3. Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes

From the title of the speech and the books he has written, it's fairly clear that his message flies in the face of a lot of traditional parenting advice. Although that may be controversial in some circles, I find it refreshing. A main point that he made this evening was an encouragement to stop "Doing To" our children and instead "Work With" our children.

This is definitely something I struggle with as it is so difficult to navigate through parenting without often feeling the overwhelming need to coerce my son to do X, Y or Z. Lately, X for us has been getting DJ to wear clothes. I'm not talking about wanting to wear this shirt instead of that one or not liking a particular pair of pants. Given the freedom to choose, DJ would prefer to be absolutely naked. At least, until you do get clothes on him and then issue Y becomes refusing to take clothes off. No matter how soiled or wet his clothes might become, his choice is to NOT take them off. Ever. For some reason, I decided to put my "Parent Hat" on and insist that he MUST wear clothes when I said so. Which has resulted in quite the power struggle between us, involving a lot of doing to and not much working with. It's a good thing I don't have to be a perfect parent to be a good parent.

Thank you, Mr. Kohn, for shining the light on a better path to take in this wilderness of child-rearing.

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