All posts tagged Democratic Parenting

Parenting Style: Can you Identify yours?

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When we speak about parenting styles we identify three types.

1. The first is Permissive, and this is generally described as freedom without order. The parent will often times give into the child to avoid a temper tantrum, a pushback, or a meltdown. They often times use bribes as a way to get their kids to do what they want.

2. On the flip side is an Authoritarian style of parenting where the child really has very few choices in life and parents use threats and consequences and demands when they hit road bumps with their children. This is often described as order without freedom.

In both cases, the kids miss the opportunity to learn some really valuable skills. One, how to cooperate with parents. Two, how to take responsibility for the things in their lives.

3. The third alternative that is available to parents is what’s called the Democratic approach. And this balances freedom with order. Order is respectful to the parent, and freedom is respectful to the child.

When you implement this type of parenting style, what you create is a respectful, peaceful, balanced life with your kids. Here’s an example – your daughter is throwing Cheerios off the table. In a permissive household, the parents would just pick it up and say, “oh honey, we don’t do that.” And the child would do it day after day after day and the parents would just keep picking it up.

In an authoritarian it might sound like if you throw those Cheerios down again, you’re not getting anything till lunch. And they might remove the child and send them on their way. But 10 minutes later when the child is crying that he is hungry, the parent will indeed feed him.

In a Democratic approach what you’d say is you look like you’re through. Because when people throw food off the table, it indicates they’re done eating. I’ll see you at lunchtime. They key is that you follow through with what you say. The child leaves the table, but he approaches you in 10 minutes saying “My tummy is hungry, please feed me.” And you say, “You made a choice. You threw the food. That indicates you’re done. The next meal is at noon.”  This is a win-win for everybody.

Here is Why your Parenting Style Matters

There is loads of talk today about parenting styles and parenting techniques and parenting preferences. All the way from Velcro and Helicopter parenting to CTFD parenting. Truthfully, I agree there is a whole lot of focus and advice smathering cyberspace and I can completely understand why many parents are becoming deaf to any type of talk about this subject.

In most cases I agree – I have two sayings 1. Just because you can write a blog about parenting does not mean you should, and 2. we are all doing the best we can with the information we have. My job is to offer quality information for parents to sift through and decide if they would like to make changes in the way they parent and the relationship they are fostering with their children.

When I discuss parenting styles, I discuss three types.

Authoritarian parenting style which categorizes  parents with clearly defined rules that they expect their children to follow without question or even discussion. Often known as the really strict parents, authoritarian parents hold high expectations for their children and believe that parents are, and should be, in complete control.  These parents “shape, control and evaluate the behavior and attitudes of the child in accordance with a set of standards of conduct, usually an absolute standard[which] values obedience as a virtue and favors punitive, forceful measures to curb self-will” (p. 890).

Permissive parenting style refers to parents who place few, if any demands on their children, allowing children “complete freedom to make life decisions without referring to parents for advice . . .” (Hickman, Bartholomae, & McKenry, 2000, p. 42). Permissive parents allow the “child to regulate his own activities as much as possible, avoid the exercise of control” (Baumrind, 1966, p. 889)  Often these parents view themselves as their children’s friends or peers more than providing the boundaries of the parent-child relationship.

Democratic parenting style is an integration of the other two parenting styles, where parents set clear rules and expectations but also encourage discussion and give-and-take,  especially as their children get older and are able to take more responsibility for themselves. These parents “remain receptive to the child’s views but take responsibility for firmly guiding the child’s actions, emphasizing reasoning, communication, and rational discussion in interactions that are friendly as well as tutorial and disciplinary” (Baumrind, 1996, p. 410).

I find it as no surprise that there are big differences in the ways we approach parenting. Our culture, our situations and even the way our parents raised us influences how we decide what constitutes the right way or wrong way to parent.

What is surprising is the consistent findings about how these different styles of parenting impact our children’s development. The way you parent can influence how your children do in school, relate to others, and whether or not they develop the personal strengths which help them to thrive and how to best deal with life’s stresses.

Having spent years studying parenting and resiliency, research shows that children raised by Democratic parents have higher self-esteem, do better in school, relate better to their peers in large part because they had greater self-confidence and self control.

On the other hand, families with Authoritarian or Permissive parenting tend to have children who can struggle in school, have lower self-efficacy, less self-control, and lower self-esteem, placing these children more at risk when dealing with life’s adversities.

Here are 3 tips to support a Democratic Parenting Style

1.  Include children in the decision making process.  This begins by giving toddlers choices between two things.  Over time, they become skilled decision makers.  Increase their participating by inviting them to help create family policies around bedtime, homework, extra-curricular activities.

2.  Practice being Firm and Kind in both your words, actions and attitudes.  Firm shows the respect you have for yourself and Kind shows the respect you have for the child.  As an example:

Situation:  You have asked your child a number of times to choose which shoes to wear to the store but he refuses and he decides instead to run around.      

Firm: Showing respect for yourself means that you will refuse to fight with the child, manhandle the child or give in to the child.  You understand that when your child refuses to choose, he is abdicating his position in the conversation.  In other words, the child is choosing to have you make the choice.

Kind:  Make the choice for the child in a calm, respectful and friendly manner.  You can maintain a healthy connection with the child and still be in a position of authority.  It might mean that you carry the sneakers to the car to be put on later and his socks get wet as a result or that you leave him home with dad while you run the errands, or you cancel the trip to the hobby shop and go another day.  

Because the situation did not deteriorate into a power struggle, the child is free to learn that by not choosing, he is indeed making a choice.  You have modeled behavior you wish your child to model as he grows and matures and you can continue with your day with little interruption and without feeling resentful.

3.  Create rhythms that support everyone in the home.  Some children like a limited time in the morning to get ready for school while others prefer to wake up with time to spare.  The same is true for bedtime and homework routines and and other routines typically found in busy families.  If you take the time to identify the natural rhythms in your children, you can support them and avoid unnecessary power struggles.  This support is in line with a democratic model which allows everyone in the family to design rhythms that best support who they are without forcing anyone to conform to one persons routines or giving in to the demands of a child.  

The Democratic Parenting Style has benefits for everyone in the family.  

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Podcast: Family Meetings

In this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, founder of Parenting on Track, we talk about Family Meetings. The family meeting is perhaps the most important tool in developing a healthy family. This episode explains why family meetings are so helpful and includes tips on running more effective family meetings.

Listen to learn more. Have you held Family Meetings in the past with your children? How is this version different? What do you like about this new Family Meeting style.

Register for our online Family Meetings Course here: