Is democratic parenting good?
I love democracy. In fact, I’m a huge fan. I cannot imagine not having any input in what goes on around me, even though that input seems to effect less social change over time. So I’m going to start off today with the question, is democratic parenting good?
Well, to answer that question, let me start with the fact that I love democracy. You’d think perhaps because I like democracy that I’d also be a huge fan of democratic parenting.
So is democratic parenting good? Is the idea that all members of a family have a voice and have input in to decision making that affects 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 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’s experience, you simply can’t make a choice and by making your parenting democratic you are effectively giving a vote to someone that has no understanding of the parameters you’re faced with.
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.
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 what happens if you don’t put yourself in a position to burn them. You know and understand the perils of isolation on 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 found out not to touch a hot stove because likely your parents said don’t touch 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 an idea what you’re talking about, but as they grow and as their understanding of the issues mature, 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 grown ups are a democracy and I certainly don’t want to squelch other peoples 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.