…During the second part of the talk he laid out eight guidelines of Work With Parenting.
Before listing and describing them, Kohn explained that he wasn’t there to tell us what to do or say to your kids. He doesn’t know us and he doesn’t know our kids. It would be as presumptuous as it would be preposterous. Parenting is all about knowing your child. Observing them. And your relationship with them. How can you tell someone you don’t know what to say to someone you’ve never met? So, instead, he offered guidelines of how to work with your kids.
The guidelines are his. The commentary is my own.
ALFIE KOHN’S 8 GUIDELINES FOR “WORK WITH” PARENTING
1) RECONSIDER YOUR REQUEST
If your kid doesn’t just up and do what you want him to do, or is putting up a fight (as in trying to stick up for themselves), did you really ask something reasonable?
2) PUT RELATIONSHIP FIRST
Is it really worth eroding your relationship with your kids (or their own relationship with their hypothalamus) to get them to not have a second cupcake?
3) TRY TO TAKE YOUR KID’S POV
I think this quote from to Kill a Mocking Bird captures some of what he meant:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
You may not feel hot and sweaty in a jacket, but can you imagine that your child who isn’t putting it on when you asked, might? Perhaps he’s been playing for an hour while you’ve been sitting in the shade.
Can you imagine how it might feel to be three years old and to show up at a birthday party at a big gymnasium and be told to go jump on the trampoline with your hands in the air and follow the leader on obstacle course over balance bars and swinging ropes? And then when you cling to your mother and shake your head no and find that she’s not the warm refuge you were looking for but is instead pushing your out there? After all, all the other kids are doing it. Ask: What is your kid seeing and feeling? Personally, I want my kids to be cautious when it comes to potentially new, scary overwhelming and dangerous situations. Honor it. (For example!)
4) THE MESSAGE THEY NEED IS THAT WE LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY
How do we communicate this? It’s not enough to feel like we love the unconditionally. They need to feel it too.
You don’t want your kid feeling that they’re more loved when then get an A or win a game or share a toy or do as they are told or kiss grandma. Conversely you don’t want them feeling like they are unworthy of your love if they’ve messed up. They are always loveable.
5) BE REAL
Be authentic. Let them know you are vulnerable. That you make mistakes. If you made a mistake, apologize. If you are frustrated, tell them. You don’t have to scream about it! If you’re disappointed or sad, be disappointed or sad. All emotions are valid, why wouldn’t we want our children to see us vulnerable and human? It will make your closer.
6) TALK LESS, ASK MORE
Listen to them. Elicit information. Great parenting is a function of being a great listener.
7) ATTRIBUTE KID’S BEHAVIOR TO THE BEST POSSIBLE MOTIVE
You don’t need to think they did something nice because they were trying to manipulate you or to get something. Think the best of your kid.
8) GIVE KIDS MORE SAY, LET THEM MAKE MORE CHOICES.
And he means real choices. Not: “Do you want a red cup or a blue one?”
OKAY MY WORLD IS ROCKED. I’M OVERWHELMED, NOW WHAT?
A mother who had clearly been deeply affected by Kohn’s talk said, “My child is older. I’ve made mistakes! Where do I start?”
Kohn answered by saying that he’d just be honest.
“Honey, I went to hear a parenting expert talk last night and I realized that so many of the things that I’ve been doing that I thought were helping you, actually aren’t. I have a new perspective. Over time, I’d like to talk to you about these things. I’d like to hear your point of view. I want to work with you.”
Starting an authentic dialogue is important. And apologizing for mistreating your child is too.
There are so many ways I can imagine to help oneself become a Work With parent. Certainly it is a challenge. But I’ve found that with practice it does get easier (though I wouldn’t say easy!). Here are some ideas –
– Go directly to alfiekohn.com.
– Take a parenting class from Echo Parenting & Education
– Bring the film Race to Nowhere to your community.
– Print Kohn’s 8 guidelines and put them on your refrigerator. Read daily.
– Create your own support group of like-mindedish parents and bring in material to discuss weekly. Places to start gathering material:
I know I’ve left out so much. If you went to the talks, please share!