Parenting: Democracy or Dictatorship?
I know some really good parents, and I know some really bad parents. I’m not naming names; you know who you are.
Or maybe you don’t. Maybe, like Amy Chua, you think forcing your child to practice the piano for hours each day is your idea of a loving relationship. You’re thinking, they’ll thank me in the long run. Forcing them to bring home A’s, even bribing them into doing so, is your idea of caring. Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reads more like an exercise in child abuse rather than a useful parenting tool.
There has been a huge backlash since Chua’s parenting memoir was released in January. For a truly chilling account of her parenting style, click on this article by Chua which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, which details why she would never let her child go on a play date, receive a grade less than an A, or let them play any instrument other than the piano or the violin. It is all shocking, but she attributes these methods to the reason Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful children.
It would be easy to attack someone who mandates their children practice their instrument for three hours a day (the first hour is the easy part, Chua says, it’s hours two and three that get difficult). Rather than climb aboard the growing anti-Chua train that is snaking its way across North America, I thought I’d write about an entirely opposite parenting movement that is gaining popularity in my neighborhood that embraces a much gentler and respectful style.
A growing group of parents I know actually go to a parenting group. They meet on a monthly basis and discuss their issues with the help of a counselor.
Many of these people start their sentences with, “Jim Skinner says…”, Jim Skinner being their therapist/guru/demi-god. Skinner uses the Adler approach to parenting, which emphasizes the freedom to be creative while making decisions within a respectful and responsible family structure. My interest piqued by all this Skinner-disciple talk, I decided to check him out when he lectured at our school.
Almost everything he touched on made intuitive sense to me, and seemed to take into account both the wishes of the parent and the child. Here are some of the highlights from the one lecture I attended:
- Parenting with a hands joined in a democratic arrangement is by far the most successful of parenting styles, judging from his twenty years of helping families. Military style parents: throw your whips out with the garbage. To summarize, in a democratic house, when misbehavior occurs, you and your child come up with consequences together. This gives the child a voice and some control over the situation, rather than being rendered a helpless deer caught in the headlights, awaiting the blow of whatever punishment the parent deems worthy.
- Pampering and spoiling children does them a disservice; this includes overindulging, being over permissive, over dominating, and being over protective.
- The best parenting style is one that fosters and develops a child’s self-esteem through encouragement.
- Think of successful sports teams: they are co-operative, and work together as a team to produce great results, as opposed to a team with a few individual stars on its roster. A family should also be set up in a co-operative way; minimize competition, maximize working together to achieve goals.
- People don’t change, they simply become more or less of who they are from the beginning. It is the role of the parent to help invent a child’s future by determining their unique strengths.
- Help children learn from their mistakes, rather than simply chastising them.
If this parenting style catches your fancy more than Chua’s, ignore her controversial book and instead pick up Honey I Wrecked the Kids, by Alyson Schafer. Your children will thank you, and Child Services won’t come knocking.