If you read my book Differently Wired, you may remember I share a story about a book that completely shifted my thinking about how Derin and I were parenting, and more specifically disciplining, Asher, when he was younger. The book was Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, and the author is my guest on today’s episode, Alfie Kohn. Alfie is a writer and speaker and expert in human behavior, education, and parenting who was described in Time Magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.”
I was thrilled to have the chance to talk with Alfie about parenting and differently wired kids and dig into the concepts that many consider highly provocative and controversial because in many ways they are a radical departure from more traditional approaches to parenting, praise, rewards, punishments, discipline, and motivation.
If you haven’t been exposed to Alfie’s work before, I encourage you to listen with an open mind and curiosity. Some of the concepts he shares today may challenge your ideas about raising kids, but if you know me, I deeply believe there is value is reconsidering everything we thought we knew about parenting. After having this conversation with Alfie, I became even more aware of things I was doing that I wanted to tweak as a way to better support Asher’s growth, and I’ve already noticed a difference in what’s happening in my family dynamic. I hope you get out a lot out of our conversation.
About Alfie: Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of fourteen books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations. Kohn’s criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.”
THINGS YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE:
- What “unconditional parenting” looks like
- Why Alfie believes a goal of raising compliant kids is misguided
- What the science says about rewards and punishments and why they tend to lead to the opposite result we’re going for
- The potential downsides of positive reinforcement and “praise” in relation to supporting our children’s development and personal growth
- The difference between love and unconditional love, and why the latter is what we want our children to feel
- The importance of focusing on long-term versus short-term goals for our children
- Alfie’s advice for where parents can start today when it comes to working toward a more unconditional parenting approach
- Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn
- The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Coddled Kids, Helicopter Parents, and Other Phony Crises by Alfie Kohn
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