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Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs
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The Big Answer

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Discipline That Works

a book by Thomas Gordon

(our site's book review)

In this book, Gordon competently tackles the following issues: discipline, logical vs. natural consequences, punishments and rewards, self-discipline, the hazards of authority and autocratic parenting, excess controlling of children, revenge or how overcontrolled kids strike back, overcontrol and crime, overcontrol and health, ways to change kids’ behavior without controlling, problem ownership, P.E.T. applied to families and classrooms, conflict resolution, I-statements, active listening, and democratic parenting.

The author helps us see how democratic parenting is the method that science, research, studies, and everyday experiences of democratically oriented parents have validated for several decades. Parenting experts like Dreikurs, Gordon, Dinkmeyer, Hart, Adler, Ginott, Nelsen, Kvols, Critzer, Popkin and others have confirmed how well democratic relationships work, year after year for decades. Researchers like the dozens cited in Gordon’s Discipline That Works book have confirmed how effective democratic parenting is compared to autocratic parenting, how parent-empowered self-control in kids promotes autonomy and self-actualization better than parental controls, and how authoritative parenting in general outshines all other methods in all ways.

In Toffler-speak, one could say that Gordon’s books show how the Second Wave tactics of coercion and control (lower quality power) have been rendered obsolete by the Third Wave strategy of applying the most scientifically effective and successful parenting knowledge (highest quality power). The Tofflers would define such situations as the contrast between surplus order and socially necessary order. The former is Second Wave, authoritarian parenting, while the latter is Third Wave, democratic parenting. The Tofflers see surplus order as morally and therefore strategically illegitimate in the Third Wave faction of our trisected First/Second/Third Wave world.

If parents have the knowledge to apply socially necessary order but choose to apply surplus order methods like force (authoritarian) and bribes (permissive) and other invalid parenting methods, they are indulging in living in the past, making the same mistakes their parents made, and erroneously concluding that knowledge has nothing to do with parenting since we’re all born with hard-wired parenting instincts and knowledge. (Actually, all humans actually have is procreative instincts—the rest must be learned.) Such people should read the books of Slater, Gordon, Dreikurs and Dinkmeyer (or check out the Alfred Adler Institute web site) to see why in our Third Wave democracy, we cannot afford to fall back on obsolete parenting methods, since our character structure will undermine democracy if we are autocratically raised, whereas it will nurture democracy if we are democratically raised.

If we wish to preserve democracy and prevent more tyrants rising to the top like they did in the 20th century (we all recall with revulsion their horrific social engineering experiments), we must nurture and empower democracy. It doesn’t just happen, as Eberly, Lappé, Slater, Dreikurs and Adler and dozens of others have been telling us for years. The Toffler slant on this is that we cannot hold on to Second Wave methods, ideas and mindsets and keep democracy healthy now that we’re deeply into Third Wave reality—we need to replace autocratic methods, mindsets, and institutions with knowledge-based, democratic methods, mindsets, and institutions. Various countries around the world need to also do this on the national, political level. One can imagine what a horror the 21st century will turn out to be if countries turn to force, terror and war-forms rather than communication, knowledge, relationship and peace-forms in their associations with each other. Knowledge leads to relationships that are smart, enlightened, friendly, informed and cooperative rather than hostile, biased, suspicious, envious and uncooperative, which is what the old, coercion-and-threat-based relationships led to. And where does the foundation for either benign (win-win) or malign (win-lose) relationship styles get laid down? The vast majority of it comes from the parenting styles we are raised with. Democratic parenting and P.E.T. are the epitome of a win-win parenting style.

Gordon’s book is the most comprehensive report yet on the foibles of authoritarian and permissive parenting, the advantages of authoritative and/or harmonious (P.E.T.), democratic parenting, and the way mental health and IQ is positively affected by democratic parenting.