Are The Inmates Running The Asylum?
When parents learn some of the basic principles of Democratic Parenting, those with a background in more traditional “do as you’re told” parenting styles often think it sounds like I’m advocating that they give up complete control and let the kids do whatever they please. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As adults, we know that the world is filled with rules, and painful consequences for not following those rules. Our role as parents is to prepare our kids for adulthood and help them to grow into the best possible versions of themselves. So how does control and coercive parenting fit into this equation?
Ironically, research demonstrates that punitive parenting styles are related to more aggression in kids, not less. So the idea that hitting or punishing our kids will get their attention and teach them not to do what they’ve been doing, is actually misguided. If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s usually a response that we have to hurt back when our kids have pushed our buttons. Punishment usually just teaches kids to avoid punishment and that their parents are mean. If you think back to your own childhood, when you were sent to your room to “think about what you’d done”, did you actually think about what you’d done? Or did you stew over how unfair and awful your parents were, and justify your actions in your own mind by thinking about all the bad stuff they had done? Kids today are no different.
Discipline is about teaching and about developing a sense of integrity — knowing the difference between right and wrong, and doing what’s right, even if no one’s watching. Coercive, punitive discipline tactics are not generally effective in teaching that message. So even though it may feel a little like the inmates are running the asylum when you consider more democratic approaches, remember that true democratic parenting finds a balance between the needs of everyone in the house, is respectful of everyone, and allows for the true message you are trying to share to be heard and understood.