This is from Alfie Kohn: 10 Guidelines for Parents which is adapted from his book “Unconditional Parenting“. I try to follow these guidelines but as one of my friends says, we end up reverting back to our default behavior. I think the hardest things for me are assuming the best motivations and loving unconditionally. Actually to be honest I really can’t do any of them.
10 Guidelines for Parents
- Reconsider your requests. Sometimes when kids don’t do what we tell them, the problem isn’t with the kids but with what we’re telling them to do.
- Put the relationship first. What matters more than any of the day-to-day details is the connection that we have – or don’t have – with our children over the long haul – whether they trust us and know that we trust them.
- Imagine how things look from your child’s perspective. Parents who regularly switch to the child’s point of view are better informed, gentler, and likely to set an example of perspective-taking for their children (which is the cornerstone of moral development).
- Be authentic. Your child needs a human being – flawed, caring, and vulnerable – more than he or she needs someone pretending to be a crisply competent Perfect Parent.
- Talk less, ask more. Telling is better than yelling, and explaining is better than just telling, but sometimes eliciting (the child’s feelings, ideas, and preferences) is even better than explaining.
- “Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts.” Nel Noddings reminds us that kids will live up to, or down to, our expectations, so it’s better to assume the best when we don’t know for sure why they did what they did.
- Try to say “Yes”. Don’t function on autoparent and unnecessarily deny children the chance to do unusual things. People don’t get better at coping with frustration as a result of having been deliberately frustrated when they’re young.
- Don’t be rigid. Predictability can be overdone; the apparent need for inflexible rules may vanish when we stop seeing a troubling behavior as an infraction that must be punished and start seeing it as a problem to be solved (together).
- Give kids more say about their lives. Children learn to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions. Our default response should be to let them choose – unless there’s a compelling reason to deny them that opportunity.
- Love them unconditionally. Kids should know that we care for them just because of who they are, not because of what they do. Punishments (like time-outs) and rewards (like praise) may communicate that they have to earn our love – which is exactly the opposite of what people need, psychologically speaking.