Democratic Parenting: What Is It And How To Practice?

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Consider these two examples of a parent talking to their child regarding poor performance at school:

Example 1 (yelling at the child): “Hey, why on earth can’t you just learn your lessons and save me the embarrassment. To hell with your excuses, I want you to study without bothering me.”

Example 2: “My dear, you haven’t performed up to the expectations, and I’m not happy about it. I’ll help you prepare a study plan and do well next time. What do you say?”

It’s needless to say that the second instance is pleasant both for the child and the parent. And that is democratic parenting. MomJunction helps you understand this parenting style, shares some examples and tells you why it can be good/ bad for you.

Understanding Democratic Parenting

Democratic parenting, as the name suggests, involves treating children as equals. Parents treat their kids with respect and dignity. Children are given choices and made responsible for their decisions.

However, it doesn’t mean that children can do everything an adult does in the family. Freedom should be given in accordance with their age.

Let’s understand this parenting better by knowing its features.

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Characteristics Of Democratic Parenting

Here are the main aspects of democratic parenting:

  1. Focuses on rules: Democratic parents discuss the rules with their children and explain the importance of having rules. The focus is on making the child understand the rules, instead of punishing them when they break the rules.
  1. Encourages choice: Democratic parenting style encourages the child to make choices in their daily life. These choices are followed up with consequences. Children thus associate the consequences with their choice.
  1. Positive reinforcement: Democratic parents reward the child’s positive behavior. They appreciate when they follow the rules and make a good choice. However, the punishment for breaking the rules is not harsh or harmful.
  1. Responsiveness and motivation: Parents are responsive to the child’s needs and motivate them to achieve their goals.
  1. Equality and positivity: As the parents treat the child as an equal, they do not force their opinions on them. Instead, they have a discussion like they do with an adult.
  1. Love, warmth, and understanding: The parents are affectionate and understanding and nurture their children with care.

Democratic parenting is similar to authoritative parenting style. Let’s see a few examples to understand the concept better.

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[ Read: Permissive Parenting ]

Examples Of Democratic Parenting

1. Your child dislikes veggies and refuses to eat them. You insist, and he questions you, ‘why should I eat?’ You tell him:

Vegetables have vitamins and minerals that are required for your body. You need to eat them to stay healthy. You should taste them and see. Which one do you want to try, carrots, capsicum, or peas?

2. Your girl comes with a reprimand letter from the school for her misbehavior. She had to meet the school counselor and explain. This is how you react to the letter:

I guess you had a bad day at school, can you tell me what went wrong? (You listen to your child without interrupting and judging her behavior, and then say) You shouldn’t have acted in the way you did because a reprimand letter is a big thing. If you have some problem in the class, talk to the teacher, but first, you should apologize for your behavior.

3. You tell your children to complete their homework before they go out to play or watch television. Your children do not do that. This is what you tell them:

As you have not completed your homework, you cannot go out to play. If you finish it now, you can watch television.

Democratic parenting makes parents behave with maturity; hence it has several advantages, but it has some disadvantages too.

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[ Read: Effects Of Uninvolved Parenting ]

Benefits And Drawbacks Of Democratic Parenting

Democratic parenting benefits the child in the following ways (1):

  • Develops independence as children are encouraged to make decisions.
  • Improves self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Children become responsible as they understand that there will be positive consequences when they make a right choice and negative consequences when they make a wrong choice.
  • Parents and children have mutual respect as parents value their children’s perspective. This develops pleasantness between them.
  • As the children’s opinions are valued, they develop a sense of control over their emotions and regulate them.
  • Parents and children love and care for each other as they understand each other well.
  • There is a better chance for the child to perform well in school.
  • As the democratic parents explain the behaviors that are ‘fine’ and ‘not fine’ and the logic behind them, it promotes reasoning skills in children and helps them in making reasonable choices.
  • Develops the traits of altruism, conscience and moral reasoning.

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Drawbacks Of Democratic Parenting

Every parenting style has its challenges and democratic parenting too has them:

  • The child may question the parents as they grow up, especially during the teenage. The children may take advantage of the parents’ practice of involving them in decisions.
  • The democratic parents have to be good role models for the child to follow them.
  • This parenting style requires perseverance. The parents need to be consistent, committed and patient.
  • Both the parents have to agree on this parenting style; else it might create confusion.
  • If the parents do not follow democratic parenting consistently or use it ineffectively due to insufficient knowledge, the children might turn out to be manipulative and undisciplined.
  • When children make wrong choices, the consequences can disturb them for a long time.
  • Parents might unknowingly become permissive parents where they accept everything that their child says.

If you are impressed with the benefits and want to practice democratic parenting, then we have some tips for you.

[ Read: Parenting Styles And Their Influence ]

Tips For Democratic Parenting

Here is what you can do to practice democratic parenting (2):

  1. Respect and love your children, whether or not they meet your expectations.
  1. You and your spouse must be on the same page and follow the style religiously.
  1. Give children freedom in sync with their age and mental development. Do not overwhelm the child with too much independence.
  1. Draw a line between discipline and free will of the child because treating children as equals doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they like.
  1. Keep your communication open and articulate the rules, choices, and consequences with clarity.
  1. Encourage independent decision making in your child, but be there to guide and help them.
  1. Do not dictate terms. Balance your role by being your child’s friend and a parent as well.

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Allowing children to be a part of rule-making is the first step towards democratic parenting.

Parenting is a challenging task, and you need to invest time and effort in it. You may want to follow democratic parenting, but you should review it regularly to make sure that you and the child are on the right track.

Remember that parenting styles are not rigid and you can change them depending on the situation and requirements.

What’s your style of parenting? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Shreshtha Dhar

(M.A, M.Phil )
Shreshtha Dhar is a licensed Clinical Psychologist running her private practice Thought Craft in Kolkata. She has special interest in the emotional and behavioral issues of both children and adults. Shreshtha has previosuly worked as a lecturer, published various research papers and contributed to magazines. She provides long distance teleconsultation in English, Hindi and Bengali.

Kalpana M

Kalpana Nadimpalli graduated in English Literature and Psychology. Her fascination for the corporate world made her do a Masters in Business Administration. Being a mother of two boys, she could naturally fit into the shoes of a writer at MomJunction. She wrote articles on new parenting and relationships. Previously, Kalpana worked as a product information specialist and technical writer. During her... more