Think you’re parenting the right way. Well, there are two types of parenting styles: conditional and unconditional parenting.

Raising children can be difficult, to say the least. However, there are so many lessons we learn while doing so. As parents, we want the best for our children, but we also want to train them to be a production and loving addition to the adult population. Thus, every parent approaches upbringing in a different way.

So, what’s the difference between conditional and unconditional parenting?

There are stark differences between these two types of parenting. While conditional parenting is more or less the style in which most of us were reared, the unconditional type has stoked the curiosity of new parents.

Honestly, I see good points with both techniques. Here are the main differences between the two so you can judge for yourself.

1. Focus

When it comes to conditional parenting, we focus on a child’s behavior. Our children present both positive and negative behaviors throughout childhood and adolescence. This behavior is conditional and has to be placed under rules and regulations. Now, whether this is inherently good or bad is subject to parenting standards, but society is moving away from this way of upbringing.

Unconditional parenting in this aspect focuses on the entire child, whether their behavior is good or bad. What this means is no matter what the child does, the parents focus on who the child is, their personality, characteristics, and emotions, instead of what they do.

2. Human nature

Conditional parenting sees human nature as a negative trait. When parenting, there seems to be a universal belief that human nature is basically bad and must be changed with effort. So, a child’s behavior, if it is a negative action, is due to the bad nature from being a human being.

Hence, strict parenting is needed to remove this nature and replace it with a positive one, a nature created and molded after the nature of his parents.

Unconditional parenting sees human nature as a positive thing. Instead of seeing the child’s natural instincts as a negative trait, parents who practice unconditional ways see their child’s human nature as something to explore and promote learning.

3. A parent’s love

Conditional parenting, according to some people, is an idea that the parent’s love must be earned. Some people, on the contrary, believe its just disappointment and not the lack of love. To win the love of their parents, or to avoid disappointment, a child will practice good behaviors and put away what their parents see as negative ones.

This form of parenting is like a reward system which forcefully makes the child focus on the parent’s standards and morals in order to receive the reward of love.

With unconditional parenting, a child receives love and acceptance regardless of their behavior. Again, the parent sees the child as basically good and wholesome, just flawed. Sometimes the parents even recognize that they can be wrong and the child can be right.

I think this is one of the hardest things that I personally had to accept. I had to see that my son could be right about some things and that I could actually be wrong. An example of unconditional parenting is when a parent can truly accept the fact that they too can learn from the child.

4. Strategies

Again, conditional parenting focuses on rewards and punishments. This is part of what’s called a strategy to change the child. It can also be seen as a form of control, despite the desire of good intentions. A conditional parent may offer money as an incentive for a child to follow a set rule.

A parent may also threaten to take funding for college away when her son starts to make bad grades. These are strategies that the parent hopes will make their child improve. Sometimes it works for them and sometimes it backfires.

Parents who show unconditional love don’t require good behavior from their children in order to give them good things. This same son attending college can keep receiving funds even when his grades are slipping. The view is that strategies don’t have to be forceful and can actually become the collaborative effort of both the parents and the child. Maybe both parties can work together to improve their kid’s grades.

How can you become a more unconditional parent?

If unconditional love is your goal, then it will take time. Unlearning what our parents taught us long ago is difficult because it’s deeply ingrained in our minds. Most people were taught to live according to the rules and regulations of the home, and not allowed much freedom.

As we’ve grown, we’ve adopted many of the same styles. However, unconditional parenting can be learned and here’s how:

Just love them

This is one of the most difficult aspects of developing conditional parenting. I am sure that you love your children, but do you hold back affection when they act in negative ways? This is the first flaw that can be detrimental to the child’s future.

Take small steps and learn to show love even when you feel unhappy toward your child. Keeping consistency will help you to show love when times get hard.

Develop healthy strategies

Instead of using the reward and punishment strategy, try a more collaborative effort. Ask your child why they are acting in the way they are. Explain to them the consequences of the world instead of the consequences from your punishments.

This helps the child understand why their behavior can be detrimental to them now or in the future. Also, listen to your child and hear their side of the situation. Learn to develop a good strategy together instead of imposing harsh rules and criticism.

Developing your child’s image

One other thing that you should practice when moving towards a more unconditional style of parenting is seeing your child for who they are and not what they do. We all have done negative things, but it doesn’t make us who we are.

A child is trying to discover themselves and should be allowed to make mistakes. Try to learn who your children are by talking with them and spending time with them instead of basing this knowledge on what they do.

Let’s learn together

While I do see both negative and positive aspects in both styles, I think unconditional parenting has more potential for the future. We must remember that our children are practicing for adulthood and they must be confident that, as tough as adulthood is, that they will still find forgiveness in some situations.

Yes, they must be taught to have a realistic view of life, but they should take care not to become bitter. I have noticed a bit of bitterness inside myself, and yes, my parents were conditional toward me.

Sometimes I do see the world as my enemy and I have to behave in a certain way to avoid the world’s wrath. Is this a fear you wish to instill in your own children? Here are a few ways to cultivate a more unconditional approach to parenting.


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