Swiftwater Journey

faith, culture, and growing up in a rapidly changing world

Unconditional Parenting September 20, 2009

Filed under: Parenting — billmacphee @ 2:30 pm
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During a ParenTeen Seminar I often ask parents to take a moment and reflect on what they love about their kids that is not related to their performance. This sounds easy but we have been so conditioned to love and praise our kids based on what and how they are doing.

Here is an excellent NY Times article giving clear focus to the need for unconditional parenting. The author points out research that demonstrates conditional parenting can indeed invoke compliance from children but inevitably leads these same kids to resent and even dislike their parents in the long run. Here’s an excerpt:

In practice, according to an impressive collection of data by Dr. Deci and others, unconditional acceptance by parents as well as teachers should be accompanied by “autonomy support”: explaining reasons for requests, maximizing opportunities for the child to participate in making decisions, being encouraging without manipulating, and actively imagining how things look from the child’s point of view.

The last of these features is important with respect to unconditional parenting itself. Most of us would protest that of course we love our children without any strings attached. But what counts is how things look from the perspective of the children — whether they feel just as loved when they mess up or fall short.