Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared their parenting practices and how they fit in with their parenting purpose. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

"It's easier to raise a son than it is to change a man." -Author unknown

After reading Kohn's amazing book, Unconditional Parenting, I took the author's advice to heart:  I contemplated my long-term goals for my toddler son. What kind of person do I want to raise? What kind of relationship do I want to have with him when he's an adult? I surprised myself a little when my answer to the first question didn't include success or happiness. What I really care about is that Munchkin grow up to be a good person. I also hope that we will maintain a strong, healthy connection. Good person, good relationship. That's it.

That's it, huh? Upon deeper reflection, I realized it's a tall order. I hope my son will grow up to be empathetic, compassionate, conscientious, honest, considerate, loving, hard-working, self-sufficient, confident, assertive, patient, independent and self-aware.  Plus, I hope he will still love me, respect me, and come around because he wants to, not out of an obligation to see his mother. Whew!

Where to begin with such lofty goals? I started with some of the basic principles of Attachment and Unconditional Parenting and worked from there. I have three overarching ideals: show respect in order to earn respect, model the behavior I want to see, and be responsive rather than controlling.

Many of the parenting practices I have adopted, or hope to adopt, make up the heart of my blog.  Each practice warrants its own post, but for now I'd like to share my toddler-friendly starter kit. These are just a few highlights of the parenting practices I'm using that I hope will further my long-term parenting goals:

Avoid the system of rewards and punishment to change behaviors. Instead, I focus on underlying needs and feelings that may have led to my son's "misbehavior" (including tantrums). I'm building a repertoire of things to say instead of the empty "good job" type of praise.

Set the stage for partnership by looking for opportunities to compromise and loving ways to encourage toddler cooperation.

Respect a child's body, space, and time by asking before touching, not taking objects out of his hands, and not interrupting when he's focused on something (with obvious exceptions to avoid danger).

Encourage personal responsibility and self-care by setting an example (or at least trying to!) and providing age-appropriate tasks. Remember that self-care includes sleep, diet, exercise, hygiene, personal boundaries and mental, social, and emotional needs.

Build two-way communication by teaching and learning baby sign, practicing Elimination Communication, and learning about Nonviolent Communication to express feelings, needs, and requests. But mostly, just learning to listen to him.

Allow room for meaningful choices by permitting him to listen to his body (he chooses when and what to eat), and by acting as a "satellite" during free play

Reinforce a strong attachment bond by co-sleeping and breastfeeding...indefinitely.

Teach empathy before manners by modeling empathy and good manners, not by pressuring him to share or to say please, thank you, or I'm sorry.  Empathy takes time to develop so I'm patient and trusting in this endeavor.

Maintain realistic expectations based on the child's age by learning about child development at each new phase of our journey.

Admit mistakes and apologize to show that I'm human and fallible and willing to admit it.

Be willing to make changes in light of new information or when the status quo doesn't work. One of the most amazing aspects of parenting is that we get to raise ourselves with our children. We get to evolve and change and transform into the person we want to be so that we can raise little people to be who they want to be. This means I am open to revising my practice if conditions warrant it.

Accept the child for who he is instead of who I want him to be. I can provide the nurturing ingredients, but in the end I have to acknowledge that he is his own person. The rest of the world will also have an influence on him that I can't control. Munchkin will grow in his own way, in his own time. I will just keep on loving him, unconditionally.

What are your long-term parenting goals and how do you hope to fulfill them?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.
  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.
  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured's parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).
  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter's first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.
  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.
  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.
  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.
  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.
  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.
  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.
  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.
  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom's parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.
  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.
  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She's come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.
  • My Parenting Inspirations - Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.
  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.
  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It's the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.
  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter's life.
  • On Children — "Your children are not your children," say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.
  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.
  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.
  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.
  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she's using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.
  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.
  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.
  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it's important for her daughter's growth.
  • What's a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.
  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.
  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.
  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.
  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.
  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh... — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.
  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.
  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.
  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.
  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there's no right answer when it comes to parenting.
  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.
  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.
  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …
  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they'll need.
  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.
  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she's doing.


  1. You and I could have written very similar lists :) I loved discovering Kohn and Rosenberg and some of the other concepts you mentioned when Kieran was younger - they have been invaluable to me, both when Kieran was a toddler, and especially now that I am being more challenged as the mama to a preschooler.

  2. Yes yes yes! I definitely agree with every point you listed. Well said!

  3. Your last two points are my favorites -- being open to change and accepting his free will. It's easy to think, "Because I am doing things right, things will turn out well." But, on the one hand, sometimes the 'right thing' changes from day to day and year to year, and sometimes a child chooses to do something we wouldn't choose for them. At those times, it's good to remember your two points.

  4. What a beautiful post, got me bit teary eyed indeed ;)
    As Dionna says, it gets more challenging as they grow older (DD is 4,5). As you say we do the best that we know and we cannot control everything that will influence them. But our unconditional love will always be here.

  5. First off, I love the quote that it's easier to raise a son than to change a man. It was very therapeutic for me to read Kohn's book. It's very challenging to change your conditioned mind (from what your parents did, etc)to become an unconditional parent and think differently about raising children. It's a great list that you wrote that every parent should aspire to.

  6. I have been meaning to read Kohn's book - I will get to it someday! :) But meanwhile, I'll use your fantastic "starter kit" as a reminder of WHY I parent in a peaceful way, and how to continue to do so and nurture a cooperative and loving relationship with my children. Thank you for putting this together!

  7. Thank you for the feedback! I'm glad to hear other NP moms enjoyed this post. I will definitely have to revisit this list as my son grows older...hopefully I'll get a bit wiser, too.

  8. Those are great precepts, and that is one of my very favorite parenting books. I love the cosleeping & breastfeeding indefinitely part of your post, because I'm definitely feeling that right now with my 4-year-old. :) But they keep needing that connection, so the best thing is to keep providing it as they ask for it!