Unconditional Parenting

Parenting without Punishment & Rewards

Unconditional parenting teaches that a parent’s love for a child is not contingent on the child’s behavior, unlike parenting with punishments and rewards.

Unconditional parents strive to meet the needs of their children rather than trying to control their children through punishments and rewards. Children whose needs are met are more likely to feel confident in their parent’s love, be agreeable and grow into grounded, capable adults.

Punishment Drives a Wedge in the Parent/Child Relationship

Parents who practice unconditional parenting believe that punishment of any kind leads to a child feeling alienated and unloved. Even time outs once heralded as the perfect non-violent form of punishment, can lead to a child feeling ostracized and abandoned by her family.

Instead of time-outs, unconditional parents can practice something called a time-in. When a child is having a tantrum or difficulty behaving, it is often a sign that more attention is needed from the parent. Spending time reconnecting with the child through cuddling, hugs, reading or rocking in a rocking chair will often soothe a distraught child and teach compassion and kindness.

Practice Tantrum Prevention

Many times tantrums are caused by a child’s needs being unmet. To prevent tantrums while parenting unconditionally, a parent needs to heed the signs that the child is not at her best due to an unmet need. At the basic level, this means ensuring that the child is well-rested and not hungry or thirsty before venturing out into an activity that could be overstimulating, such as grocery shopping or a play date.

If a child does a tantrum, whether in public or at home, unconditional parents look for the unmet need instead of punishing the behavior. Sometimes the unmet need is easy to spot. Most parents know when their child hasn’t had as much sleep as usual.

Other times, an unmet need is harder to figure out. The tantrum could be a sign of her frustration that her father is working late in the evenings and not able to read her a bedtime story as usual. With some digging, it is possible to get to the root of most tantrums.

Rewards are Manipulative

Unconditional parents believe that rewards can be as bad as punishment for children. Many people believe that a reward teaches a child that a given behavior is desirable and, therefore, should be repeated. In reality, regular use of rewards teaches a child that she is only loved when she does something good. Using rewards regularly is an attempt to manipulate the behavior of the child.