The North Shore Neighbourhood House gym was packed on the evening of Thursday February 22nd, 2007. Our guest was author Alfie Kohn presenting on the topic of Unconditional Parenting.. Kohn is an energetic, engaging speaker with an aversion to any parenting strategy that hints at Behaviorism. He believes that parents should “work with” their children rather than “doing to” them. On this concept, we are in full agreement. Where we differ is over the use of consequences.


Kohn equates consequences with punishment (“doing to”). Our parenting philosophy sees consequences as results or taking responsibility for choices made. This is discipline which means to teach not to punish. The goal of discipline is to teach children self-discipline. We allow our children to make mistakes and experience the consequences of their own actions. We want our children to know intrinsically the right thing to do not because we are running along behind them barking orders, telling them what to do or rescuing them from mistakes (learning experiences) made. We intervene only if the situation concerns a health, safety or moral issue.


Natural consequences teach children - without parental interference – what happens when we go against the laws of nature. If you don’t eat or forget to take your lunch to school, you may be hungry or you learn to negotiate with your classmates for some of their lunch! If you don’t dress warmly, you’ll get cold.


Logical consequences are set up by the parent with input from the child but must be reasonable, respectful and related to the behaviour. It is not the severity of the consequence that is important but the certainty (Barbara Coloroso). The child knows in advance what the consequence of the choice made will be. If he leaves his skateboard or bike lying around, it may disappear for a few days. If she borrows something and does not return it or damages it, the parent may not be willing to lend it again for a certain length of time. With logical consequences, parents do give children the opportunity to try again at a later date.


Logical Consequences become a “doing to” or punishment when they are delivered in a punitive or controlling manner if the parent’s tone or body language is critical or judgmental (“I told you so”) or if suffering is an expected outcome. Children do not need to suffer in order to learn.


Alfie Kohn is an “edutainer”. He educates us while entertaining us. It is up to us to decide how we integrate his ideas into our own style of parenting