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Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs
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The Big Answer

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Kids Are Worth It!

a book by Barbara Coloroso

(our site's book review)

Coloroso’s goal is to have kids become self-disciplined, responsible, resourceful, and resilient, and this is an excellent book to teach parents the kinder and gentler childraising method that’s very close to unconditional parenting, except that it employs logical consequences in the form of “reasonable consequences.” She subscribes to only nonpunitive logical consequences, and these are appropriate only if they meet the criteria of being reasonable, simple, purposeful, and a valuable learning tool.

Interestingly, if kids won’t do what they’ve agreed to do and she keeps reminding them but they walk away, rebelliously, she doesn’t do anything like restrain them or conjure up a punishment. Instead, she waits for them to return and reminds them repeatedly of their agreement or chore. She doesn’t believe in parents controlling kids, but she sure isn’t that adverse to nagging them, although she doesn’t call it that.

'Nag them enough and they just may comply'—Coloroso's questionable compliance-getting method
'Nag them enough and they just may comply'—Coloroso's questionable compliance-getting method

One would expect this past nun (she quit) to be more strict, but she's a very gentle soul. Like so many parenting authors, she’s really a stickler about the kids’ rooms and their neatness. She cannot stand unmade beds. This could be a holdover from convent life—who knows?

She likes family meetings and encouragement and win-win conflict resolution for her problem solving strategy. She says “If we praise children instead of putting them down, reward them for good deeds instead of hitting them for mistakes or mischief, replace the paddle with an offer of a trip to the park if they don't hit their brother, we must ask ourselves if we aren't still trying to control our children and ‘make’ them mind, just doing it in a ‘nicer’ way.” In other words, praise, bribes, threats, rewards and punishments are not good parenting methods, in her mind (and ours). She believes that we now have the tools to avoid such unhealthy, ineffective methods, but that most people keep using these obsolete tools because that’s how they were raised.

Verbally encouraging, which is bad for kids if it is done with You statements but good for kids if it is done with I statements
Verbally encouraging, which is bad for kids if it is done with You statements but good for kids if it is done with I statements ("I'm wondering how you felt when you drew that" or "I appreciate it when you help with dishes")

She thoroughly discusses the characteristics of permissive and authoritarian and authoritative families, as well as the results these parenting methods achieve.

She is a strong believer in encouragement. When you encourage, one of the six critical life messages will get through to the child:

  1. I believe in you.
  2. I trust you.
  3. I know you can handle this.
  4. You are listened to.
  5. You are cared for.
  6. You are very important to me.

Coloroso thinks of her parenting goal as encouraging kids to develop Inner Discipline, since praise, bribes, threats, rewards and punishments all tend to encourage kids to develop extrinsic discipline and become other-directed rather than autonomous.