Unconditional Parenting

by Alfie Kohn

Recommended by ONCDC


In “Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason” Alfie Kohn outlines a strong case for what he calls working with, not ‘doing to’ parenting. Kohn’s book is a a clear, though quite loud, presentation of the research and logic behind moving away from the reward/punishment model. The first six chapters lay out the clear challenges with the old model and throw away the ideas of permissive or authoritarian parenting. In the next three chapters Kohn outlines a model for unconditional parenting.  – All in all, the book is a well written and researched examination of moving away from the reward/punishment model. Kohn’s work can come off as ranting at times but if you can get past that “Unconditional Parenting” is a great read. This book tends to be little more theoretical but the later chapters contain a few specific techniques.

From Amazon: “Most parenting guides begin with the question “How can we get kids to do what they’re told?” and then proceed to offer various techniques for controlling them. In this truly groundbreaking book, nationally respected educator Alfie Kohn begins instead by asking, “What do kids need—and how can we meet those needs?” What follows from that question are ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them.”

Key Points:

  • Rewards and punishment create conditional relationships and parenting must be unconditional.
  • Taking the child’s perspective is really challenging in moments but we must take their perspective if we want to build a deep, respectful, cooperative relationship.


This power shift is complex. This book is just a start on that path.