by Shirley King
Parents want to get away from the autocratic, authoritarian style of parenting that their parents used in raising them. Parents a vowing and trying to not spank; to not use threats; to not humiliate; and to not punish their children. Unfortunately, they often think that not punishing means going 180 degrees in the other direction to being to lax, to laissez faire, to permissive.
This switching from punitive to permissive and back again occurs frequently in many homes today. Often parents are reacting from fear and anger. In anger we yell, hit, threaten, spank, and punish. We then see the effects of the anger on our children and begin to feel fear of losing their love. As we fall back to permissiveness we give in, pleading with our children, in hopes of pleasing them; to regain their love. They then “drive us crazy: and we feel angry again. This vacillation in parenting styles can be disastrous for families causing disrespectful, spoiled, rebellious, impudent children. There is a middle ground.
The middle ground is called democratic parenting. It is not autocratic and it is not permissive: it’s a style of parenting that is both firm and kind at the same time. Firm, meaning respectful of my rights and limits. Kind, meaning respectful of my child’s rights and limit. Democratic parenting is based on mutual respect. Respecting our children is a way to teach them to respect others. If we want our children to knock on our doors, for example, we knock on their doors.
Democratic parents give choices – not orders. Orders teach a child submission, resentment, and rebellion. Appropriate and acceptable choices on the other hand, teach children they do have personal power in their lives to make their life the way they want it to be. These children grow into adults who when faced with a problem will know and see all the options available to them. Democratic parenting involves using natural and logical consequences. Natural consequences result from going against the laws of nature: The child who forgets his coat gets cold. Logical consequences are not as simple, and require parental intervention. Logical consequences are consequences that are logically related to the situation and teach the child responsibility. For example, if your child is rough with the puppy it would not be logical to take away TV watching. It would be logical to kindly and firmly remove the puppy. Natural and logical consequences teach children to learn from the situation thus encouraging self-control and self-discipline.
Democratic parenting also involves open and honest communication. Reflective listening is listening with the heart to what the child is feeling. It is listening with quiet curiosity and then reflecting back to the child in fresh words what he has shared. Reflective listening is giving your full attention to your child and acknowledging what you are hearing. It is not commanding, advising, lecturing, judging, moralizing, or solving. Reflective listening is a wonderful opportunity to show your child your love
Democratic parenting helps a child feel significant, worthwhile, and loved. Autocratic and permissive parents create children who have low self-esteem and will misbehave to find their place. Democratic parenting helps children learn to be happy, contributing, capable. self-reliant people.