By Forrest Gathercoal
Judicious Parenting is a parenting style and philosophy based on the synthesis of ethics, good educational practice, and human rights. This book brings together for parents the fundamental principles of our nation's civil morality, as a framework to help them teach their children a rational, responsible approach to living in a family community.
A democratic family community, however, does not necessarily mean that the family votes on everything, or that the majority rules. On the contrary, it is a family in which parents teach and use principles of civility as a foundation for personal growth and interaction among its members. It is also a family in which individual differences are respected and children feel they have permanent value. Our nation's democratic principles of freedom, justice, and equality, balanced with the welfare needs of others, can be judiciously woven into the traditional and cultural family values which adults have historically passed along to their children.
A move toward a democratic family community is not always an easy thing to undertake. Most of us probably grew up in autocratic homes, being raised by well-meaning parents doing what they believed to be their best under their varying respective circumstances. For many of us who are parents today, this was our only model of how to raise children. When we became parents ourselves, and autocratic or "boss" approach is how we honestly believed children should be raised. We occasionally are heard rationalizing to our own children, "If it was good enough for me, it is certainly good enough for you." It is very hard to get beyond this kind of thinking, even though many of us say we want something better for our own children.
In order to share their authority, parents must learn to move away from the appearance of either a self-imposed "hard-line" method or the opposite permissive approach, to a democratic and education mindset emphasizing the skills and abilities of teaching and mentoring. This does not imply, however, that parents cannot be firm and hold to well-thought-out and reasonably imposed expectations for children's conduct. The real issue here is a "judicious parenting attitude," and how a judicious and democratic style influences children to perceive that they have a valued place in the family community. Children are far more likely to develop a conscientious attitude and become personally accountable to others when they are provided an opportunity to share authority as they actively participate in a democratic living environment.
By teaching children about our nation's civil morality, and by providing them with an opportunity to experience individual liberties and learn from their responsibilities, we are authorizing children to think and act responsibly for themselves. Parents have always believed that teaching citizenship is an important aspect of raising their children. Judicious Parenting, however, takes that belief one step further -- for parents to create an environment which acknowledges and accepts their children as "family citizens." This democratic environment for family living is designed to serve as a model for the same system of rules and responsibilities under which children will live when they leave home.