Did anyone read the story in the New York Times last week about parenting titled: "When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’?" (Click this sentence to read it.) It was by a man named Alfie Kohn. Apparently he "is the author of 11 books about human behavior and education, including 'Unconditional Parenting' and 'Punished by Rewards.'"

The gist of the article is that if you discipline your kids you are harming them. Kids need to be unconditionally loved. And the spectrum of discipline, from spanking to time outs is less than unconditional love and will, therefore, irreparably harm your child.

Can get a read from you guys on this? I feel like parents run the spectrum. Some of our friends are very permissible; some are stricter. Brent and I expect that when we are parents we will be on the stricter side.

But this just seems crazy. No discipline?

Let me know what you think.


Erin said...

Don't take this to mean I agree or disagree, but your post reminds me of this: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94977387.

The speaker says something about inner-city parents in his area tending to be stricter with their kids and about what impact that may have on their brains.

Montana Harkin said...

Just watched the latest Nova that discussed epigenetics.

They talked about two mice mothers, one who comforted their pups, and one who didn't. They showed that the comforted mice then comfort their pups.

In addition, when a pup from a non-comforting mother was placed with a comforting mother, they then comforted their children too. The comforting of the pups changed their epigenetics.

This 2007 Nova Science discusses it too: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3411/02.html

harkinna said...

Erin: I just read that guy's book about Harlem and Baby College. Loved it. Love his ideas. But they use time outs.

MT: I know the studies you are talking about. But is any discipline the same as this black and white study? It seems different to me. Naturally, there will be comfort and love in addition to at least some discipline...

Pam Rutter said...

There is so much to say on this - Holy Cow! Balance is the key. I was at a high school back to school night last night and there were many undisciplined teenagers there doing a ton of inappropriate behavior in and out of the classrooms I was in...discipline helps children to learn the boundaries of accepted behavior. Going back to my balance is the key-- for everything. I'm not a fan of physical repremanding but rather talking, explaining and discussing behavior. I think I've done pretty good and am very proud of the 2 independent young women that I've raised. It's a journey!

And the guy that says saying I love you means do what I say -- that's a load of crap. I have never said I love you to anybody as a means of control or manipulation.

one more rant...i think juvenile detention centers and rising prison rates of juvenile offenders is also a product of something in this country...probably bad parenting or lack of parenting or lack of discipline or something...

Sorry for ranting...there just are so many kids in the world that don't hear I love you...and so many kids who could reach higher bars of expectation in their life if their parents were engaged more in their lives...

nothing is easy and there is no right and wrong way...it's about commitment and balance

Bobby & Nicole said...

I definitely think this is one of those subjects that it is difficult to speak about without actually having children but b/c I have a high maintenance dog and I was once a child, I'll give it a shot. I definitely think some form of discipline is necessary. Children need to be taught the difference b/w right and wrong and when they test those limits to the extreme, it may require more than a simple "no" to get it across. We use 5 min time outs with our dog and it works most of the time. We all emerge calmer. I think the key is that as long as you are acting out of love and with compassion, your child will hear that louder than anything else...

Maureen Richmond said...

I agree with the PP who indicated there is a balance that needs to be achieved.

My parents raised us really well, and their model was one of love (I never doubted we were loved every day) but also consequences. We understood the rules of the house and that if we went against them, we would be in trouble.

For me, just knowing I had disappointed my parents was enough to make me do the right thing. For my brothers, it might have taken other measures.

What my parents said was the law. And that's the way it was.

Though my son is 10 months old, I do not foresee a lack of discipline in my future. My husband and I are the parents. We're not there to be BFF with our son; rather we are there to teach him and guide him.

My mom and I were never "friends" when I was growing up. She was my mom, and I respected that. But now that we are both adults, I would say she is one of my best friends. I wouldn't have it any other way.

And for the record, I have never said "I love you" to someone so that they would do what I say. "I love you" should mean just that.

Anonymous said...

You can just look to the natural world to find the answer, if you ask me. Little ones get swatted and drug back to mom all the time when they stray from the desired path. And discipline does not mean you don't have unconditional love - correcting undesireable behavior is more about love than not in most instances. When discipline is reasoned and is understandable to the child (you don't ground them for three weeks for calling their sister a moron, for example), it works. Try training a dog without a leash or a stern voice and see what you get!

Anonymous said...

I thought the article was interesting but i think it all depends on how you apply your love or disapproval. I definitely knew kids growing whose parents were very domineering and they seem to struggle between doing what they themselves wanted and what their parents wanted. but i think you can also be clear about what you think is right or wrong and still allow your kids to develop and make their own choices. I thought the article was a little subjective in it's framing.

Anonymous said...

The article seems to suggest that a parent's disappointment in less-than-perfect achievement is the same as discipline. It is not. If my child struggles in school, or does not succeed in his bid for the Ivy League, I may be disappointed that it's not easier for him, but I will still love him if he decides to be a truck driver - if he so chooses. It's maybe not the path I would choose for him, but I will still love him unconditionally. Discipline, however, enters into the picture to help shape our kids into functioning members of society. It is my empirical evidence, that without some discipline, my child bites and hits me. If I tell him no, or give him a time out, he does not hit me or bite me (or equally annoy his friends at school). Discipline doesn't have to be about shaping my child into my vision of the perfect child, but it is about shaping the acceptable boundaries that will help him have as many choices as possible down the road. Discipline (within reason), in my mind, grows out of love.

He also seems to equate love with affection and praise. It isn't. If the writer had watched Super Nanny closely, he'd notice that after time outs, there are always hugs. The point isn't the isolation, it's the taking a break for both parent & child. Then kids are less likely to get beat, and kids learn that they need to take breaks before they blow up.

Having said all that, I have a deep-seated need for external praise to validate my choices. It doesn't matter that I like my paint color choices, it matters if other people also think they're great. It doesn't matter if I like my career if it makes my parents proud that I have an "exciting job." It's ridiculous, and I'm working on not giving a damn what people think. Maybe it IS conditional, that I will love my child less if he becomes a mass murderer, and that I'll love him more if he's a successful philanthropic doctor-without-borders.

The writer doesn't really suggest a viable alternative - set NO boundaries? set NO (or LOW) expectations? That, to me, sounds like indifference, not unconditional love.