Ask the Parenting Coach


Democratic Parenting: What is it really?

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. The best way to describe democratic parenting is to first look at authoritative parenting. In an authoritarian home, parents rule and children are expected to obey. Parents have "the power" and assume that children will obey 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 in both the school environment and the workplace environment. But, today things have dramatically changed. The workplace uses a 'team' approach, and on the home front, parents do much the same. Children are treated as equals, which is the basis of the democratic system. This does not mean that children should be allowed to do what adults do. It does mean that children have the right to be treated equally with respect and dignity. In a democratic system children are given choices and held responsible for those choices, even when the consequences are unpleasant. In a democratic home parents put consequences, that are both acceptable and appropriate, into place, but never ones that cause harm or pain.

However, many parents do not know how to parent effectively using a democratic system. Many have not taken the time to learn and implement the necessary skills and boundaries of a democratic parenting system. To use this system effectively requires a good deal of skill, knowledge and support. Unfortunately many parents are using half measures, in the belief that they're being democratic. For democratic parenting to be effective it must be used properly, consistently and with solid follow-up. When parents fail to use this system effectively, either because of a lack of knowledge or unawareness, they often end up with kids that are spoiled, manipulative and undisciplined. We sometimes act as if parenting is not very difficult or important because in our society every other job that is difficult and important gets some kind of training. Yet, when it comes to parenting, truly the most difficult of jobs, few people take the time or spend the money to learn how to parent effectively for today's world. Parents need to listen to their intuition. If it feels like things aren't working, it may be that they're not, and it's time to upgrade their skills and knowledge.

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The parenting information on is for educational purposes only and not a substitute for professional counseling or medical advice.
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