In the Western Hemisphere, where we reside, the authoritarian style of parenting (“do as I say”) and the permissive style of parenting (“anything goes”) are extremes that have moved in and out of favor over the decades.
At the present time, democratic parenting is definitely favored among educated people. The premise is that in our complex world, it is important to empower our children with negotiation skills and to give them choices that carry clear-cut consequences. Such children will become the self-reliant, empowered adults who can take responsibility for their choices and actions and become the leaders of tomorrow.
How do you do promote self-reliance? You do so through empowerment. That is, you involve children in decisions pertaining to them and foster and expand their negotiation skills. They will learn that their choices and actions have consequences and will take responsibility for them.
When assigning chores to your children, allow them to have a say in which ones they take responsibility for or what time of day they take care of them. You can tell your child which chores need to be taken care of on a particular day and let your son or daughter decide whether to complete the chores right after school or after dinner instead of watching television, for example. You can allow multiple children to sort out among themselves who will take of what tasks, so long as everything gets done.
You can start at a very early age with little things. No task is too small for a child to experience the joy of mastery. Let your small children learn to dress and feed themselves. Starting with these small tasks early sets the stage for more difficult tasks later.
I know, I know. You have a million things to do on any given day. It is much faster for you to pick out clothes and dress your toddler. Letting her feed herself takes more time and leads to a bigger mess for you to clean up. Think of it this way. You are investing a little extra time now in order to save yourself a great deal later!
Won’t it be great when your child can help you out in a meaningful way with the household chores? Having those extra hands on deck for the cleaning and organizing and tidying up of the house will save you loads of time later, not to mention you will be teaching essential skills to your young ones. (For more on the benefits of sharing these responsibilities, see my previous post on running a household.)
The most precious gift parents can bestow upon their children is to steer them toward self-reliance. Do not do for a child what the child can do for himself or herself—age appropriately, of course. Doing so instills a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, which are lessons to last a lifetime.
You can also see me thoughts on raising children in this video. Thanks!
-Dr. Erica Miller