Ask The Parenting Coach
Written by Terry Carson
Q: I hear so much about democratic and positive parenting.
Are they the same thing and if not, what is democratic parenting?
A: Yes, democratic parenting is the same as positive parenting. A good way to understand democratic parenting is to first look at authoritarian parenting.
In an authoritative home, parents rule and children are expected to obey. Parents have the 'power' and assume that children will comply and do as they are told. Many parents today were raised in this type of family where dad was the boss, mom followed behind, and the children towed the line. Society supported and reinforced this hierarchical system, not just in the home, but in the workplace and school system as well. Children were expected to behave, and parents, extended family, neighbours, teachers, friends, etc. kept a watchful eye on them.
But today things have changed. Our culture has seen the adoption of 'democracy' in the workplace as evidenced, for example, by the implementation of the team approach and the concept of leaderless teams. At the school level parents have seen changes such as the elimination of corporal punishment. Marks have been replaced with anecdotal comments in the younger grades and children writing their own goals for the coming academic year. On the home front parents are looking to parent in a more democratic way, no longer satisfied with modeling their own parents' parenting styles.
The basis of the positive parenting system is that all members in the home are regarded as equal. This does not mean that children have equal rights to do what adults do. It does, however, mean that children have the equal right to be treated with dignity and respect. In a positive parenting system children are often given choices and held responsible for those choices. Children in this system have a good deal of freedom. With that freedom comes learning and growth. It is not an easy system for parents to use, but when implemented effectively with knowledge and skill, it results in self-reliant and confident children.
Unfortunately, in my private practice as a Parenting Coach I have seen that positive/ democratic parenting has been misused. Parents are allowing their children to make decisions without accountability. Parents are make excuses for their children's misbehaviours. I hear comments such as, 'He's going through a stage' or 'She didn't mean to do it.' Such excuses go unchecked and kids are getting away with unacceptable behaviours. Children are being given too much freedom and what may have started out as an attempt to be democratic, is in fact permissive.
In our society when a job is difficult or important it comes with some sort of training, yet parenting, the most difficult and important job one will ever have, does not. There are books on how parent democratically. Parent need to become educated if they want to raise responsible kids. I also offer parenting courses through telephone classes. Parents participate by joining my parenting club called It Takes a Village: A Club for Parents, www.ItTakesAVillageClub.com. Membership allows them to access a monthly class through a conference line plus they get parenting articles and book reviews.
For the more parenting stories, read the spring edition of Quality Of Life Omnimedia's Parents & Kids Magazine.