Democratic Parenting Style

The "Democratic Parenting Style" strives to:

  • be mutually respectful of the dignity and needs of both parents and children. Parents are considered the family "executive" in that they have more learning and, therefore, responsibility for guidance and setting limits.

  • recognize that all behavior has a purpose, and it is easier to work to correct a behavior if you understand what is behind the behavior-- the child's mistaken belief, if you will. Democratic parenting states that "a misbehaving child is a discouraged child."

  • recognize that with increased freedoms comes increased responsibility. Children are conscientiously taught to begin making choices from a very early age (eg., do you want to wear your red pyjamas or your blue pyjamas to bed?) so that they become skilled at making increasingly more complex decisions as they grow older.

  • recognize the needs of the family's harmony must be met before the needs of the individuals. Children have 'jobs'--contribute-- to further family unity. Effort is considered of primary importance. A child who is working to improve her-/himself, or to benefit the family, class, or community is commended for efforts and not 'praised' for self-serving achievements.

  • recognize the important role that parents have in leading out in community actions that involve their children. Parents are the 'child-rearing experts' and appropriate advocates for children and deserve to be upheld as such.

  • recognize that punishment externalizes the locus of control from the punished person... "positive discipline", on the other hand, promotes the locus of control to be internalized. If children learn early on to accept responsibility for their misbehaviors and to 'problem solve' these skills will result in enhanced self worth and feelings of encouragement. Democratic parenting makes efforts to emphasize that "mistakes are opportunities to learn" and that "mistakes make teachable moments".

  • uphold the respectful and harmonious parent-child-family relationship as too valuable to sacrifice to fear tactics that might simulate temporary 'respect'-like characteristics but which are ultimately hurtful to the parent-child relationship over time. Democratic parenting eschews any punitive, forceful actions such as spanking and other corporal punishment, and other 'techniques' that the child perceives as being a punishment (such as a "time-out without a deadline" that is set up to 'make' him/her 'smarten up').

  • uphold 'family meetings' as an opportunity for all family members, regardless of 'position' in the family, to take part in the overall planning and governance of family rules and activities.
  • Democratic parenting has grown up out of the child-raising philosophies of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, early child psychologists who brought their wisdom with them from pre-WW II Europe in the form of parent guidance clinics and parent study groups. Many of us had at least a glancing involvement with some form of democratic parenting while raising our own children, quite often as a reaction to the sort of authoritarian styles (children-are-seen-and-not-heard/ do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do) style of parenting that we were raised with.

    Often there is a perception by grandparents that "Democratic Parenting" is synonymous with "Permissive Parenting". Sometimes there will be a bit of skew in leadership and responsibility that will result in the kids having less respect for 'the rules' than works well for harmony. Parents who are working hard to keep the family afloat are often over-extended and will sometimes let the kids 'take over'. This is sometimes an opportunity for sensitive grandparents to step in and provide the support to get things balanced back to where they should be. If you feel comfortable about doing so-- ask if your child or grandchild thinks it would be useful to have you attend one of their family meetings.

    There might also be a perception that "Democratic Parenting" is a kind of God-less type of parenting... that it is contrary to the teachings of Christianity or other major religions. The fact is that the base values are predominantly ones that fit with traditional responsible parenting. Parents from orthodox backgrounds and parents recovering from addictions have found democratic parenting helps them to develop loving, effective family relationships.

    Questions? Comments?

    The Grandparents' Role in Democratic Parenting

    My suggestions are what works for me-- you are free to take away what works for YOU:

  • do your own research. Read widely. Get a good handle on what your kids and grandchildren believe are their rights and responsibilities. I am familiar with the work of the Saskatoon Adlerian Society and feel that they represent the general quality of commitment that most parents seek to reflect in their interactions with their kids. There is likely a similar democratic parenting association in your city.

  • If you are in a position to offer positive contributions (with your adult child's approval and permission, of course)then you look at encouraging in appropriate ways: pass along skills such as cooking, reading, map-making and your passion for genealogy with a child interested in his roots. If you have strong spiritual beliefs, share testimonies of importance with your grandchild.

  • Look for opportunities to encourage your adult children in their various roles and pursuits. Avoid taking on responsibilities that are not yours. Look for opportunities to problem-solve with your children and grandchildren, and celebrate breakthroughs for the 'whole family'.

  • Practice the difference between PRAISE and ENCOURAGEMENT. Praise is a sort of hollow form of up-building that can result in people-pleasing and the resulting frustration and resentments. Encouragement really builds the heart of the person who receives it, giving them the courage to move forward.

  • Practice ways of modeling love and concern for all God's creatures. This will be one of your important legacies for your grandchildren.
  • Other links you might want to check out include:

    Natural Christian Parenting

    Attachment Parenting

    Grandparenting Resources

    15 Suggestions for Avoiding Power Struggles With Your Preschool Grandkids

    Webby the Tortoise
    by Kate from