Friday, April 27, 2012

unconditional parenting: a round-up

i'm in major nesting mode these days. organizing, cleaning, preparing – and trying to tie up loose ends.
one such loose end is my self-appointed task of going through all of alfie kohn's unconditional parenting principals from his book – one of my very, very favorites – unconditional parenting.

i had every intention of writing about it regularly – because i live it regularly – as an exercise for myself. i didn't really think it'd hold much interest for anyone else but figured if it did, it'd just be gravy.

anyways, i hate not following through on stuff... however significant or insignificant, public or private. that is to say, i love the feeling of actually doing what i've set the intention of doing. it just feels good.

so in an effort to make good on this for myself, i'm going to wrap up the second half-ish of my project in one fell swoop, short and sweet. it's not exactly how i intended it to go but i'm 110% certain that no one cares. myself included.

i'm motivated to do this today because i know it'll feel good to check it off my mental list (even though i'm hardly loosing sleep over it) and because i need the parenting-check-in.

see, most posts 'round here are all about the juicy, happy, sweet and cuddly times. but there are absolutely times where patience is at a minimum and things are less than harmonious. right now is no exception. and checking in with my friend alfie is almost always a sure fire way to get things back on track. it could be easy for me to think that i've read his books, watched the dvd of his talk on unconditional parenting – and even seen him speak live! – so i'd be all set and ready to take parenting on, come what may. but alas, this is a journey and checking in with my roadmap helps me remember that i'm on the right path and to stick to it.

so, yeah. here goes. if this ain't your thing, that's cool. but my windows are open, the sun's out, music's on, bonzo's with the grandparents and i'm going to TCB!

here are all 13 principals. you can catch up on the first seven by clicking on them if you're so inclined. 

1. be reflective 
2. reconsider your requests
3. keep your eye on the long-term goals
4. put the relationship first
5. change how you see, not just how you act 
6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T
7. be authentic
8. talk less, ask more
9. keep their ages in mind
10. attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts
11. don't stick your no's in unnecessarily
12. don't be rigid
13. don't be in a hurry

so here goes.

8. talk less, ask more:
a couple quotes stand out to me in a major way.
"maybe we were so busy trying to get them to see our point of view that we didn't really hear theirs."
sometimes – especially at bonzo's age – he doesn't even know why he's upset. and he shouldn't have to, either. and, in the throes of it all, sometimes it's hard to remember that i don't need to talk or explain. he just needs to feel his feelings and i need to be there to hear them without judgement, without trying to fix them or explain my case. he may articulate what the problem is and he may not. but, at the end of the day, he's upset over whatever-it-is and him seeing it from my "adult-logical-rational" perspective isn't that important in that moment. plus, there's always time to convey what needs to be later. the likelihood he'll even hear it later is increased ten-fold anyways.

"as a rule, our first priority is to figure out the source of the problem, to recognize what children need. for example, two- and three-year-olds often act out because they're undergoing a bumpy transition from babyhood into personhood. they're wrestling with the attractions of freedom and independence, the power of being able to do new things, while simultaneously trying to cope with unwelcome limitations on the exercise of their will." 
yeah. this pretty much sums up the source of all friction at our house! 
alfie talks about how you have to know the source of the problem to solve it. and you won't find out without asking. and sometimes there's really not even room for asking – just being there to listen counts, too.

like almost everything he's got to say, this can help just about anyone – parent or not – be a better human.

9. keep their ages in mind
this one's obvious but hugely important. and so true – even just as it relates to the concepts in this book. they mean different things at different ages and stages but can still be applied to any age, any stage. and this is a big one at our house, too. bonzo's always been extremely verbal and grasps concepts and stuff quickly – almost always to our shock and amazement. sometimes we find ourselves forgetting just how old he really is sometimes because he can often act older in some ways than we'd expect him to based on his chronological age. we try to hold him to neither, though. i don't want to set unrealistic standards either high or low for him. anyways, age-appropriateness is a good reality check. especially when i'm getting flustered at the near-constant push-back and the 500th "no!" of the day. um, he's right on track!

10. attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts
"if we assume that an inappropriate action was motivated by a child's sinister desire to cause trouble or to see how much he can get away with – or if we attribute such behaviors to his being a natural troublemaker – he may become exactly what we fear."

jumping to conclusions rarely results in something positive or rad.
and certainly labeling a child – even if it's meant very innocently – as "shy", "picky", "mischievous" or whatever just opens the door for them to live up to it. for them to incorporate that as part of their story, as part of who they are, how they're seen and how they see themselves. 

hopefully we can realize that when we look at – and then judge or label – a child's behavior, we're not coming from a neutral place. our minds, agendas, feelings and past are all over it like white on rice. it'd be much more important and constructive to look at the child and/or their behavior as open-mindedly as possible. plus, doesn't it feel better to think the best of someone rather than the worst?

11. don't stick your no's in unnecessarily
ah, yes. this one comes up constantly. more and more everyday. sometimes i feel like my knee-jerk reaction is to say no to something. i'm thankful, though, that it almost always hangs in my head for a moment before finding its way to my lips. that gives me a micro-second to check in with myself and ask, "dude. is this really a no?" often it's not.

and i'm not talking about becoming the permissive mommy-doormat, either. i'm just saying that there are so many things that could so easily be a "yes"! and those things – and my willingness to just say yes to them – will make bonzo more confident as he goes about discovering his world and as he communicates with me. and will also help him actually hear the "no" when it's said. 

there are times when "no" is just "no" for sure. again, i'm not any more for permissive parenting than i am for authoritarian parenting. but stopping for a minute to ponder if a "yes" will do instead of a "no" is good stuff.

12. don't be rigid
this one is major. alfie talks about bending or just altogether forgetting the "rules" from time to time. live life, you know? sometimes it's so easy to think that if we, as parents, aren't totally consistent all the time, that a precedent will be set and there will be hell to pay for it. not so. pointing it out is a good way for kids to see that we're able to live in the moment and loosen up on the rules a bit, too. it shows them that thoughtful considerations can be made. i want to model flexibility for bonzo. again, this isn't about being too loose – it's just about checking oneself to make sure they're not being too rigid. 

13. don't be in a hurry
bottom line is that when we're in a rush bonzo is going to be less likely to want to cooperate – and i don't mean obey, i truly mean cooperate – and i'm going to be less likely to parent the way i want to in my heart. coercion? check. raised voice? check. friction? check.

"rather than trying to change your child's behavior, it usually makes more sense to alter the environment."

i've always been a punctual person. i would rather get up a little early, prepare the night before or just adjust my schedule so i'm not frantically or perpetually running late. parenthood hasn't totally derailed that because it's a trait that's pretty ingrained in me. but the reality is that bonzo-time isn't always standard-time as i've come to know it my whole life. i build in extra time for all the tasks i know should only take a moment but will likely take ten times longer. you know, changing the diaper, putting on sunscreen, getting in the car. but there are days that, despite my efforts, we're running behind. no one's at their best when we're against the clock because we're against each other at that point. 
and i love that alfie points out that these words don't have to be taken so literally. there's another meaning to them altogether: slow the ef down, people! life's passing you by. stop, breathe and take it in. 


and there you have it, friends – well, if anyone made it this far – some of the greatest thoughts (his, not mine) on parenting if you ask me. 


Tamara said...

you are such a great Momma. !! i find you very inspiring. my son is 19 months right now & i enjoy your thoughts on parenting and life. thanks for writing.

kandice said...

posts like these, especially, remind me how grateful i am to have found your blog. these posts help me in so many ways. i see parents do things so differently (if not, entirely differently) and to hear (or read) the words... to remind myself how sane it sounds to do things the right way (however patient you must become to follow through) well, let's just say it's needed. since parenting is an every day thing and the struggles change from day to do, i guess it makes sense that i might need a reminder every now and again.

anyway, thanks for being that for me. i really need to look into purchasing the books that you recommend.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

Love that book! Definitely my favorite for blowing my mind on a parenting level. Thanks for doing this roundup so I have a cheat sheet!

blake said...

Great stuff, as always. #10 really resonates with me... after a really rough night of no-sleep or crappy sleep, it would be easy to wake up and be pissed, thinking that he's trying to drive us crazy. But, really. Really? He's doing nothing of the kind. He's just having a hard time sleeping the whole night right now. No motives, just situations. So glad you rounded all this up! It's my cheat sheet too xoxo

La Maman Heureuse said...

Love the post! I had never heard of that book, but feels like a must-read. I love your way of parenting, just look at bonzo and you know he has a great mama! I'll be sure to check the other points on that list, cause it sounds really interesting and so recognizable :-)