Saturday, November 6, 2010

Helping Children Flourish

We had our second parent education meeting and book club on Thursday.  We are discussing Alfie Kohn's book Unconditional Parenting.  As one parent noted, his approach is very different from what we've been taught about parenting in the past, which tends to be very behavior-oriented. In other words, many parenting directives are intended to get children to comply with our expectations, as opposed to focusing on what the child needs or is feeling. We discussed our long-term objectives for our children, and examined how our contributions can help lead to those outcomes.  We asked ourselves, "How do we help a child develop traits like independence, happiness, patience, responsibility and confidence?"  Certainly not by getting the child to always do only what we want.  If we place a premium on obedience, we may be helping produce a child who is blindly obedient not only to us, but to others.  We may also produce a child who believes they are loved only when they act the way we demand, or when they perform well in school or at sports.  We discussed the importance of unconditional love, or loving a child for who they are, and as they are.  This sort of love is not tied to what they do.  This love allows a child to flourish, because they are freer to accept themselves and others as fundamentally "good" people.  However, unconditional parenting is not about letting children do whatever they want.  Kohn says, "It's very important (once the storm has passed) to teach, to reflect together . . . Whatever lesson we [hope] to impart [is] far more likely to be learned if the child [knows] that our love for her [is] undimmed by how she had acted."  We are covering Chapters 2 and 3 next month, which focus on giving and withholding love, and too much control.   

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