There are a number of different parenting styles that you can follow when raising your children, and oftentimes, parents adapt a certain style without even really knowing they are doing it. Most often, parents react to their children rather than proactively deciding on which method to use when parenting them. This leads to a lot of focus being put on the incident or the moment at hand, rather than the overall goals behind the approach used for that specific parenting style.
Consequences, punishments, and rewards are often used in traditional parenting styles, but they’re completely abandoned when it comes to unconditional parenting.
Unconditional parenting requires that the focus be put on the child’s needs, 100%. Children are encouraged and supported, even during the moments that tend to be the most challenging. The idea of rewarding or punishing behavior does not exist.
Instead, the Natural Parents Network summarizes this parenting method by stating,
“When we treat our children as if our love is conditional, meaning they have to do something to receive it, we are abandoning our responsibility as parents to love our children no matter what.”
Focus On The Method, Not The Behavior
Many parents use rewards for good behavior or offer consequence-based guidance when a child displays less than desirable behavior. Sometimes, voices are raised and punishments are enforced. However, when it comes to unconditional parenting, Positive Parenting suggests that none of these reactions or methods of approach are encouraged. Instead, parents focus on what is happening with the child’s feelings and emotions during the time that an incident is unfolding, then offer solutions rather than ultimatums.
Parenting unconditionally means parents put themselves in the child’s shoes and try to relate to and understand the world from their perspective. There is no power struggle or desire for the parent to be “right” about any given situation. Rather, the child’s needs are being addressed in a manner that makes sense to their perception of the world.
A Parent’s Love Is Never Conditional
When other parenting styles offer rewards for good behavior, it is thought that this makes children feel they have to act a certain way in order to receive praise, support, and ultimately, love from their parents. Following the same scenario, children who are punished or are faced with consequence-based corrections after displaying a less than desirable behavior are made to feel that they have to change something about themselves in order to gain the love and respect of their parent.
Unconditional parenting puts love first. The love that the parent has for the child is never conditional, meaning it is never held in conjunction with praise or criticism. No matter what the child says or does, the love the parent has for them remains consistent and doesn’t falter. The child doesn’t need to ‘do’ anything to get their parents’ attention back, because their behavior, no matter how poor it is, will never be ignored. Instead, parents try to understand what’s unfolding and lend a hand towards finding a resolution.
Unconditional Parenting Supports Kids’ Independence
When a child is taught to behave a certain way in order to receive praise or to avoid conflict and consequences, the unconditional parent believes their independence will be affected. Rather than stripping away a child’s ability to act naturally and make good decisions on their own, other parenting methods pave their child’s behavioral path through reward and punishment systems that are linear and prevent kids from doing any explorative growth.
According to National Parent Network, the concept behind unconditional parenting is to
“support their autonomy, bring them in on the decision-making. Children will feel better about themselves. The way kids make good decisions is by making decisions. Let them decide unless there is a compelling reason not to.”
Shed Societal Norms
Many parents exhibit certain behaviors and parenting styles simply because at one point or another, society has embraced and popularized them. For example, there are a number of books that suggest parents walk away and let their child “cry it out” when they refuse to sleep on their own. This goes against the grain of what most mothers want to innately do, which is to hug and comfort their crying child. At some point society began to insist that this will “spoil” children and that such consoling means they “will never learn.”
Unconditional love removes harsh words and threats from parenting altogether. Rather than scolding the crying child or abandoning them to force them to settle down through their anxiety and emotional breakdown, a parent that offers unconditional love will be there for the child. The consequence doesn’t need to be taught harshly. The child will immediately discover that nothing bad will happen if their parents leave the room, because their parent will simply never let anything bad happen to them. Their feelings are discussed, affection and unconditional love is demonstrated consistently, and the child learns there is nothing to fear without having to be scolded, ignored, or reprimanded to send that message.
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