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Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs
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The Big Answer


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Parents Are Blamed, But Never Trained

an article by Tom Prinz

(our site's article review)

This article was published in the May ’96 Positive Parenting On-line Newsletter, volume 1.8. Mr. Prinz is an educational psychologist and a marriage, family and child counselor. He has run Positive Parenting classes and written parenting books. His article reminds us of the unique challenges (both parents working, the Internet, cell phones, rotten media influences) that parents encounter in our modern age that were not faced by parents many decades ago. Examples to emulate have disintegrated from heroes and teachers to rap groups, Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. Culture used to support parenting; now it undermines parenting.

Examples to emulate have disintegrated from heroes and teachers to rap groups, etc.
Examples to emulate have disintegrated from heroes and teachers to rap groups, etc.

The fact of ubiquitous media culture influences makes a great case for MCs: isolated parents can do little to modify the “culture” around their young and around themselves, but an MC can do much in this area. See Why Register for an MC?.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match


Parents are not blessed with inborn parenting knowledge
Parents are not blessed with inborn parenting knowledge

His main point is that all parents bring childhood baggage to their parenting roles that seriously interferes with their parenting abilities, and parents need serious training in order to learn how to be effective parents. The conservative Right loves believing nostalgically that people are born with parenting instincts and that’s all they need. The incredible cultural symptomatology statistics—especially the ones that prove how troubled our young are—show just how foolish and naïve such a belief is. Why the Right continues to hold on to such beliefs in the face of such evidence boggles the minds of the rest of us. An instinct to procreate is hardly the same thing as inborn parenting knowledge. The latter simply doesn’t exist. Even monkeys have to train one another via examples to emulate—experiments prove they also lack inborn parenting knowledge. Ants seem to have it, however—although it's more the instincts about feeding queens and caring for eggs than it is knowledge.

Ants are born knowing how to care for their young. People? Not so much!
Ants are born knowing how to care for their young. People? Not so much!

Prinz is hardly alone in his positive parenting advocacy: Among the P.E.T.-like parenting methods is a collection of them loosely called Positive Parenting. We use the term to refer to any Dreikurs-styled authoritative parenting method that is not any of the methods mentioned below (although, generically, all of the methods below can be considered positive parenting). Many positive parenting instructors are teachers, trainers, counselors, etc., who have no special name for their methods, courses and presentations of authoritative parenting wisdom other than positive parenting, a catch-all term that’s useful in that no one can trademark it and use it exclusively since it’s too generic and eclectic, which means anyone can use it. Prinz is merely one of the many proponents of this method.

Positive Parenting differs from P.E.T. in that it includes logical consequences in its parenting toolbox, as do STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting), Active Parenting, Winning Family Lifeskills, Positive Discipline, Redirecting Children’s Behavior, and Positive Parenting.

Positive Parenting relies on wisdom from the likes of Alfred Adler, Rudolf Dreikurs, Abraham Maslow, and Haim G. Ginott, to greater or lesser degrees. All of these methods advocate natural consequences and nonpunitive logical consequences and can be called authoritative parenting methods (which discourage all permissive and authoritarian tactics) and democratic parenting (since they believe in equality, rights, win-win and avoidance of power trips from anyone). P.E.T. is also authoritative and democratic, but it tries to avoid even the slightest taint of punitive strategies by rejecting logical consequences—which all these other methods find necessary, even though they accept logical consequences only of the nonpunitive variety.

P.E.T. tries to avoid even the slightest taint of punitive strategies by rejecting logical consequences
P.E.T. tries to avoid even the slightest taint of punitive strategies by rejecting logical consequences

Aware Parenting, Connection Parenting, Discipline Without Distress, Nonviolent Communication (N.V.C.), and Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting, all reject logical consequences, like P.E.T.

For more details on the eclectic parenting method known as positive parenting, see the Positive Parenting On-line website by Deborah Critzer.

For a fuller discussion on logical vs. natural consequences, see the comments on the book Happy Children by Rudolf Dreikurs.

To find discussions of punitive vs. nonpunitive authoritative parenting, check out comments on Diana Baumrind’s works. Her ideas about “firm control” define the conservative end of the authoritative parenting continuum, while Gordon’s ideas on avoiding logical consequences and relying on natural consequences to provide all consequences training define the liberal (or Carl Rogers) end of that continuum.