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.