Is democratic parenting good?
Today we’re going to ask the question, “Is democratic parenting good?” Well, I love democracy. In fact, I’m a huge fan. I cannot imagine not having any input into what goes on around me, even though that input seems to effect less social change over time.
Well, to answer that question, let me start with the fact that I love democracy. You’d think that because I like democracy, I’d also like democratic parenting.
So, is democratic parenting good? Is the idea that all members of a family have a voice and input in making decisions that affect them a good one? Well, democratic parenting is defined by having lots of choice available, but choice, as I’ve suggested many times, is fraught with difficulty, particularly if it’s introduced too early or if it’s the wrong sort of choice.
To exercise choice you need experience.
That’s because there’s lots of choice, and the democratic parenting style that’s based on it has to be anchored by experience. If you don’t have any life experience, you simply can’t make a choice, and by making your parenting democratic, you are effectively giving a vote to someone who has no understanding of the parameters you’re faced with.
Is democratic parenting good? Here’s how it works.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you want your children to watch less TV. You sit down and have a democratic meeting with everyone and explain to your three- and four-year-olds that you want them to watch less TV. You explain why watching less TV is a good idea. You tell them they’ll get fat if they sit down all day, that they won’t have fun with their friends or develop their imaginations.
Is democratic parenting good? Kids are kids.
They nod at you, and because they want to please you, they seem enthusiastic about all the other things they’ll do instead, and so you conclude the meeting seemingly having enjoyed their buy-in as they “voted” in your favour.
Fast forward to the next day when you actually turn off the TV and they howl, kick their feet, stamp, and have a meltdown that’s large enough to give you an instant migraine. That’s because you made the mistake of thinking that their “vote” was based on a fundamental understanding of the nature of the problem. You can be forgiven for thinking that they’d “got it.”
It’s obvious to you but not to them.
At the time, it all made perfect sense to you. You know that if you sit in front of a TV all day, you will get fat, and you know why that is. You understand, for instance, that unused calories are likely to gather around your middle and cause a spare tire. You know what happens to the calories you ingest, and equally, you know what happens if you don’t put yourself in a position to burn them. You know and understand the perils of isolation for the human psyche and the effects of a stagnant imagination.
Decisions come after learning not the other way around.
You know all these things because you are an adult who has learned through experience. You learned not to touch a hot stove because your parents probably told you not to and you did anyway. You learned to be careful going around corners on your bike because you went too fast, and then found out why everyone had been droning about “slowing down” for a very long time. You learned the benefit of going to bed when you were tired because you spent time not going to bed and feeling awful and then having to drag yourself through the day holding your eyes open with toothpicks.
Yes, they will learn eventually.
Parenting is all about trying to teach these truths to your children. To begin with, and for many years, they won’t have any idea what you’re talking about, but as they grow and as their understanding of the issues matures, one day the light will go on, dim at first but getting ever brighter. Then you’ll know they’ve taken the solid foundation you’ve provided, and their experience is finally backing up your wise words.
Could anything be better? I don’t think so.
Having said that, we grownups are a democracy, and I certainly don’t want to squelch other people’s ideas. This is my opinion. So I’ll leave the ultimate question up to you: is democratic parenting good? For more thoughts on how to create happy little people, try this article, A parent’s guide to building resilience.
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