Do you practice democratic parenting? Or perhaps a different parenting style? Whether you know it or not, you have a parenting style – every parent does – and that style influences your relationship with your child.
It influences how you communicate with them, react to their behavior and the extent to which you let them participate in your everyday family life.
Science says that democratic parenting is one of the most effective parenting styles, and this article will look at how you can adopt this style in your home. It will focus on:
- The origins of democratic parenting
- The characteristics of the democratic parenting style
- Examples of democratic parenting
The origins of parenting styles
Democratic parenting is also known as authoritative parenting. In the 1960s, Diane Baumrind set out to analyze parent-child relationships. Her objective was to determine whether it was possible to identify similar parenting strategies shared by different parents.
Following her studies, she identified three parenting styles:
- Authoritarian parents exerted control over their children and expected them to “do as they were told”.
- Permissive parents took a laid-back approach to parenting and avoided setting rules and limits.
- Authoritative parents had high expectations but were responsive to their children’s needs.
Baumrind found that children raised by authoritative parents had better social and academic outcomes and were more independent and self-reliant.
Ever since her studies, other researchers who have taken an interest in parenting styles have come to similar conclusions. This is what they say:
- A single authoritative parent can make a huge difference is a child’s social and educational outcomes.
- Kids raised by authoritative parents are more likely to fit in socially and to make friends easily.
- They are also more likely to display fewer behavioral and psychological issues such as delinquency or depression. While several studies have found that children with authoritarian parents are generally well-behaved because of their fear of consequences, those with authoritative parents behave just as well.
- Children raised by authoritative parents are more competent, less likely to engage in drug-use, more self-reliant, and less aggressive.
The studies have shown that even today, this parenting style increases the chances of raising happy, independent and well-balanced children. But what does this style of parenting really look like?
Democratic parenting style definition
Democratic parenting is a parenting style that shares similar characteristics. Children are:
- Encouraged to participate in family decisions
- Expected to respect the set family rules. Parents who adopt this style of parenting consistently enforce boundaries.
- Held accountable for their behavior.
- Treated with respect.
- Trusted to make the right decisions.
- Perceived as independent individuals in their own right.
This parenting style privileges communication and focuses on building strong parent-child relationships. Children are expected to live by certain standards, but they receive clear explanations about those standards and about the consequences that they will face for inappropriate behavior.
These parents are neither permissive nor strict. Three overall characteristics that can describe democratic parenting are:
1) Clear rules and limits
Children have clear rules and they are expected to abide to those rules. Authoritative parenting encourages greater communication. While parents with this parenting style set strict boundaries, they are willing to adjust them to better respond to specific situations.
2) Clear consequences
Children are held accountable for their behavior and know the consequences of that behavior.
3) Warmth and responsiveness
Democratic parents encourage discussion and explain their decisions. These parents adopt positive discipline approaches rather than approaches that seek to shame or humiliate their children. They are willing to listen to their points of view, even if this will not make a difference in their final decision.
Now that we have looked at several characteristics of responsive parenting, here are a few practical examples of what this parenting style looks like.
The benefits of a democratic style of parenting
This parenting style is one of the best parenting styles for several reasons:
- It strengthens your parent-child bond and the strong relationship that you develop with your child is more likely to last throughout the childhood years and beyond.
- It favors open communication channels and increases the chances that your child will confide in you.
- It gives clear guidelines to your child about the boundaries that they are expected to respect.
- It makes your child know that you are available when they need you.
Democratic parenting examples
Knowing exactly how to adopt a democratic parenting style can be difficult. Here are a few examples of what these parents do:
- Parents with this parenting style explain rules to their children. They let their children know why those rules are important and why they are expected to respect them.
- These parents have high expectations of their children, but these expectations are linked to their children’s capacities and development. In other words, they expect them to put in the necessary effort to perform to the best of their abilities.
- Authoritative parents expect their children to participate in family life. It is not uncommon for these children to have age-appropriate chores on a regular basis, and to have consequences for unfinished chores.
- They understand that emotions drive their children’s behavior are believe that it is important to strengthen their emotion regulation skills.
- They take the entire situation into account before deciding on how they should react to their children’s behavior. In other words, even though they have high expectations, they are flexible if they feel that the situation warrants more flexibility.
- Parents with a democratic parenting style expect their children to voice their opinions. That said, children are expected to express themselves respectfully and to understand that they have a right to their opinion, but that other people may have different opinions.
- They help their children focus on the future. For example, when they do something wrong, they explain to them why their behavior is unacceptable and outline the consequences if that behavior is repeated in the future.
Is this parenting style really worth adopting?
Many positive benefits are associated with a democratic parenting style, but this style can also be difficult to incorporate, especially if you consider that it can make you lose control by giving too much decision-making power to your child.
Some parents may be reluctant to give their kids chores and to hold them accountable for their completion.
Also, your cultural or social background may influence your behavioral expectations. While some cultures still expect children to “do as they are told” and to avoid questioning parents or rules, others encourage them to express their opinion on all things and parents find that it helps to explain rather than impose opinions.
In other words, while some parents may feel that this parenting style is a perfect fit for their family, others may hesitate about certain issues. But here’s the thing: parenting styles are simply a guide, not a set standard that every parent should live by.
This means that you should only adopt whatever feels right for you and your family and let go of the rest. This could look like:
- Determining how much control you would like your child to have – can they participate in all decision-making (for example, can they participate in choosing the consequences of their behavior?)
- Deciding on whether or not you want them to participate in household chores and how often
Remember that the right parenting style is whatever feels right for you and your family and takes your family values into account.
Final thoughts on democratic parenting
Here’s a recap of easy things you can do to adopt the democratic parenting style.
Share your expectations. Science suggests that sharing your expectations with your child increases the chances that those expectations are met. Setting high expectations that are guided by your child’s actual capacities and expecting your child to meet them increases the chances that they will.
Be “democratic”. Allow your children to express their opinions, even when you don’t agree with them.
Be flexible. Be willing to examine the reasons behind your decisions and adjust them if need be.
Be clear about limits and consequences. The limits and consequences you set guide your child’s behavior. What type of child are you trying to raise? What values are important to you and your family? What do you consider negotiable and non-negotiable? Having a clear response to these questions will help you set meaningful boundaries.
Foster independence. Treat your child as an individual in their own right and as a person who has their own views and their own desires. Be willing to listen to their opinions even if they differ from yours.
Strengthen your family bond. Put your family on your priority list by making time to spend together. Family traditions are a fun and easy way that will strengthen your child’s sense of identity and help your family bond. Here are 35 fun family traditions your family will love.
Another easy way is to schedule 15 minutes every day to hang out together. Download the 30-minute challenge below and get started today!