Skip navigation.

Synopsis of Unconditional Parenting

By Alfie Kohn

Chapter 1: Conditional Parenting

Unconditional Conditional
Focus Whole child (including reasons, thoughts, feelings) Behavior
View of Human Nature Positive or balanced Negative
View of Parental Love A gift A privilege to be earned
Strategies "Working with" (Problem-solving) "Doing to" (Control via rewards and punishments)

Chapter 2: Giving and Withholding Love

The Failure of Rewards

Not-So-Positive Reinforcement

Chapter 3: Too Much Control

Chapter 4: Punitive Damages

Why Punishment Fails

Chapter 5: Pushed to Succeed

At School

Chapter 7: Principles of Unconditional Parenting

The Guiding Principles

Chapter 8: Love Without Strings Attached

What to Minimize

Beyond Threats

Beyond Bribes

Instead of saying... Try...
"I like the way you..." saying nothing (and just paying attention)
"Good drawing! I love those pictures!" describing, rather than evaluating, what you see: "Hey, there's something new on the feet of those people you just drew. They've got toes."
"You're such a great helper!" explaining the effects of the child's action on other people: "You set the table! That makes things a lot easier on me while I'm cooking."
"That was a great essay you wrote." inviting reflection: "How did you come up with that way of grabbing the reader's attention right at the beginning?"
"Good sharing, Michael." asking, rather than judging: "What made you decide to give some of your brownie to her when you didn't have to?"

On Success and Failure

Chapter 9: Choices for our Children

Chapter 10: The Child's Perspective

Perspective Taking