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Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs
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The Big Answer

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Confident Parents, Confident Children: Policy and Practice in Parent Education and Support

a book by Gillian Pugh and Erica De'Ath and Celia Smith and National Children's Bureau

(our site's book review)

The authors advocate universal parent education for all parents and prospective parents, in view of the fact that so many of society’s problems get traced back to ignorant and misguided parenting practices. However, “the stage is being set for a massive conflict between the right of self-determination of families who desire children and . . . the goals established by the state through family decisions for all children. Ultimately, conflict will be between the state’s need for a healthy and productive citizen and the family’s right of self-determination.” (This book is British—the clue was "National Children's Bureau.") Two of the main programs that have been utilized extensively in the U.K. are S.T.E.P. (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) and P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training). The former includes natural consequences and punishments (aversive consequences) in the form of logical consequences, and is mostly a clone of P.E.T. The latter has no logical consequences, but only natural consequences.

The authors swear by authoritative rather than authoritarian or permissive parenting. They also promote democratic rather than autocratic parenting, self-esteem, using the power of knowledge rather the lower-quality power of money (bribes) or force, supporting the awareness and expression of feelings in children, teaching by parents being examples to emulate, awareness of the cycle in which most parents parent the way they were parented and only knowledge and evolving new habits can break this cycle, encouraging rather than discouraging children—especially because negative communications get internalized by the young and they carry them with them into adulthood, win-win conflict resolution, giving kids good choices, improving communication skills (e.g., I-statements and active listening), time-outs rather than physical sanctions.

They say that isolation, loneliness and depression are key problems experienced by mothers with babies. Parent networking, social connectedness, and the availability of good day care turn out to be the most helpful problem mitigating factors in this area.

The most distressing finding for parent education advocates was that most parents would not attend parent education classes even if paid to do so. However, many did pick up parenting booklets if conspicuously available.

parent education seminar
parent education seminar

Parenting education figures prominently in the factors that are preventative in the areas of family breakdown and criminal behavior. The key is a much stronger commitment to preventative rather than remedial work: “. . . a fence at the top of the cliff is far more effective in human and financial terms than an ambulance at the bottom.”

A fence at the top of the cliff is far more effective in human and financial terms than an ambulance at the bottom
A fence at the top of the cliff is far more effective in human and financial terms than an ambulance at the bottom

The book stresses the problems that the right-wing religious radicals are causing for the parent education movement. They consider the family’s need for privacy and self-determination more important than the society’s need for healthy and productive citizens, although they are the first to condemn the criminals that result from the lack of preventative measures. This indicates that to avoid confrontations, the preventative measures need to be voluntary and without forced intervention (except when people cross the legal lines of abuse or criminality), focusing on parent education as an opportunity for increased personal growth, encouragement, self-confidence and self-esteem, and taking control over one’s life.