Democratic Parenting: What Is It And How To Practice?

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Democratic parenting is a style of parenting that has its unique features and appeal. It allows more room for instilling independence and autonomy in the child. While it’s certainly debatable whether this is the best form of parenting that exists, it’s worth learning a few great ways to understand how to inculcate self-discipline and self-regulation in children at a tender age. If you go by intuition and don’t look at the larger picture of your actions, words, and their repercussions on your child, it could be counterproductive to their development. Strict discipline is important, but unless you learn to mold yourself to the child’s capabilities and circumstances, it’s difficult to raise them into responsible citizens. If this got you curious to learn about democratic parenting already, we are here to help you explore what it stands for.

In This Article

Understanding Democratic Parenting

Democratic parenting involves kids in decision making

Image: IStock

Democratic parenting is a style of parenting that prioritizes empowerment, empathy, and democracy. This approach 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.

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.
Democratic parenting involves motivating children

Image: IStock

  1. Equality and positivity: As the parents treat the child as an equal, they do not force their opinions on them. Instead, they demonstrate open-mindedness and have a discussion as 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.

Do remember
Try to connect with your children as often as possible. Learning their interests, habits, and personalities can help you engage with them productively.

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:

If your child dislikes veggies, explain why they are good for them

Image: IStock

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.

Point to consider
Try exploring your children’s friend circles. It can help you understand their behavior when you are not around.

Benefits And Drawbacks Of Democratic Parenting

Parents and children have mutual respect in democratic parenting

Image: IStock

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 the right choice and negative consequences when they make the wrong choice. Hence, children develop a sense of accountability.
  • Parents and children have mutual trust and respect as parents value their children’s perspectives. This develops pleasantness between them.
  • Parents and children discuss their issues freely and negotiate issues rather than sorting the matter through argument or debate. This leads to building an effective relationship by strengthening the child’s connection with all the family members.
  • As the children’s opinions are valued, they develop self-expression and 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 this parenting style develops self-actualization and self-motivation in children.
  • As democratic parents explain the behaviors that are ‘fine’ and ‘not fine’ and the logic behind them, it promotes self-awareness and reasoning skills in children and helps them in making reasonable choices. This approach also leaves room for self-reflection and self-improvement.
  • Develops the traits of altruism, conscience and moral reasoning.

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 their teenage. The children may take advantage of the parents’ practice of involving them in decisions.
  • Democratic parents have to be good role models for their children to follow them.
  • This parenting style requires perseverance. The parents need to be consistent, committed and patient.
  • Both parents have to agree on this parenting style, or 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.

Be watchful
Democratic parenting requires a sustained effort from both parents as your children constantly look up to your actions.

Tips For Democratic Parenting

Keep communication open in democratic parenting

Image: IStock

Here is what you can do to practice democratic parenting:

  1. Respect and love your children, whether or not they meet your expectations.
  1. Collaboration between you and your spouse is essential to ensure that you are both on the same page and follow the style religiously.
  1. Give children freedom and flexibility 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. Bring about a change in your beliefs. It takes time to learn new things. Give adequate time to children to allow and practice good behavior, easing the process of democratic parenting.
  1. Holding family meetings to discuss issues freely can help foster connection among family members.
  1. Focus on listening attentively and be prepared to negotiate to reach a solution rather than arguments.
  1. Encourage independent decision-making in your child, but be there for them to offer guidance and support.
  1. Do not dictate terms. Balance your role by being your child’s friend and a parent as well.
  1. Take care of yourself because self-care is of utmost importance in emotional regulation.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I balance my child’s needs with my own as a democratic parent?

Since democratic parenting treats children as equals, you may involve your child in decisions but set some boundaries to balance out your and your child’s needs. Also, establish open and clear communication with your children to speak their minds and opinions.

2. How can I handle conflicts with my child in a democratic way?

Handling conflicts in democratic parenting requires active listening, knowing your children’s perspectives, and respecting their decisions. Also, work together with your child to resolve the issue and come to an agreement that satisfies all.

3. How can I handle disagreements with my partner or co-parent when it comes to democratic parenting?

It is important to have open and honest communication and identify the cause of disagreement with your partner or co-parent. Both of you should be on the same page when it involves matters concerning your children and work together to find a compromise.

Democratic parenting involves children in decision-making and gives them enough freedom in making choices. This parenting style develops independence in children and improves their self-confidence and self-esteem. But since democratic parenting gives children complete autonomy in making choices, parents may unknowingly become permissive. Thus, maintaining a balanced approach to parenting is necessary. Giving children autonomy based on their age and mental development and drawing a line between discipline and free will are a few steps you can take to make democratic parenting effective.

Infographic: Impact Of Democratic Parenting On Children

In today’s age of equality, democratic parenting is just another addition to the mix! Equal rights for children in the family may sound good, but this approach also has its drawbacks. So, let’s look at the infographic below to learn the possible positives and negatives of democratic parenting.

pro and cons of democratic parenting on children (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Democratic parenting treats children as equals, giving them choices and responsibility for decisions.
  • Characteristics of democratic parenting include rule focus, choice encouragement, positive reinforcement, love, warmth, and understanding.
  • Benefits of democratic parenting are improved independence, self-confidence, self-esteem, and better school performance.
  • Drawbacks of democratic parenting are the need for perseverance, risk of permissiveness, and consequences of wrong choices.
  • Tips for democratic parenting include setting boundaries between discipline and free will, keeping communication open, and involving children in rule-making.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Kustiah Sunarty and Gufran Darma Dirawan; (2015); Development Parenting Model to Increase the Independence of Children.
    https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1077692.pdf
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