Styles of Parenting: Life&Style: Democratic
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This week on newsstands everywhere, Life&Style Weekly enlisted Dr. Vicki as their parenting expert to comment on the styles of parenting of several celeb parents.
When Willow Smith, 10, joined a social networking site after mom JADA PINKETT SMITH had forbidden it, “I was mad,” says Jada. “I said to her, ‘What do you think I should do?’ Willow said, ‘Mom, take my computer away.'”
Parenting style: Appropriate. “Asking kids what they think the consequences should be can be very effective,” says (child psychologist Vicki) Panaccione.
Dr. Vicki’s complete response:
Scenario: Jada Pinkett Smith says, “We don’t have rules. We come up with agreements,” Jada explains to Style magazine. “Kids are little people, and we’re in life to guide them. Trying to rule someone is always an illusion, and it’s no different with children.” When Willow signed up at a social networking site against mom’s wishes: “I told her not to, so I was so mad. I said, ‘What do you think I should do now?’ So Willow said, ‘Mom, take my computer away.’ And I said, ‘How long for?’ She said a month. So it’s negotiations. I’m not saying it’s always perfect. I have my bloops and my blunders. But I’m doing my best.”
There are many different styles of parenting; I actually agree with this one in theory. Kids are people and parents’ job is to guide them, not rule or control. There really are rules in this family; it sounds more as though there are no set in stone consequences. There’s a big difference between the two. In many homes, there are consequences laid out up front…if you do this, then this will happen. There are pros and cons to this way of parenting. In the first place, it really suggests that parents expect this behavior to occur, in which case they are ready to impose the consequence. I prefer having rewards in place for desired behavior—this sets up expectations not of messing up…but of living up to high expectations. On the positive side, having set consequences ahead of time and having parents follow-through with them, gives kids a clear understanding of what’s OK and not OK and that their behavior has consequences that are clearly defined and predictable.
On the other hand, styles of parenting that have the no ‘rules’ method sets a positive tone. It basically conveys a belief that these parents are not anticipating the need for consequences; should that need arise, they will deal with it at the time. This doesn’t mean there are no rules. There’s a family code of expectations, and the understanding that if something goes wrong, then we’ll have to make an agreement to address it. For instance, in Willow’s case, the rule is to listen to her parents. She didn’t. So, there’s a consequence for breaking the rule. Mom told her no, and she did it anyway. If there were no rules, there wouldn’t be any need for a consequence…she would be just allowed to do whatever she pleases. But she wasn’t…she had to take responsibility for her actions.
Of all the styles of parentingthey could choose, I like the idea of having negotiations and agreements. It’s quite democratic, with parents still having the final say. Willow and Jaden are both old enough to be help accountable for their actions. Asking kids what they think their consequence should be can be very effective. It forces the child to evaluate the infraction and come up with something that they feel will make an impact. I have seen time and time again that kids actually come up with harsher consequences than the parents would have decided to do.
Now, with this method—obviously it’s a matter of having the consequence fit the situation. If Willow had told her mother that there shouldn’t be any consequence, or came up with something really mild, my guess is that Jada wouldn’t have gone along with it and would have made Willow think harder and longer about what she had done and why Jada was taking it so seriously. It would have been a good time to discuss the issue of trust, and expecting her to listen to what her parents tell her to do or not to do.
In this case, I think that Willow’s suggestion of what Jada should do was very much in line with what she did. Now that it is her idea and decision, it is much less likely that she will be begging mom to let her back on the computer sooner…after all, it wasn’t Jada’s decision, it was Willow’s. Mom just agreed to it. Great strategy for the right kind of kids…ones who are willing to take responsibility for their actions and work out solutions with their parents.
What do you think of this parenting style?