What Is Permissive Parenting, Its Effects, Pros And Cons

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Being too strict with your children robs them of the little joys of childhood that they can cherish for the rest of their lives. If you were raised by strict parents, you might not want your children to go through the ordeal of following your orders and would rather try out the permissive parenting style.

Permissive parents are not demanding and treat their children as equals. They are against the idea of exerting control over their children and believe in nurturing them by being emotionally supportive and responsive. Read this post as we discuss permissive parenting and the pros and cons of this parenting style.

In This Article

What Is Permissive Parenting?

Permissive parenting, otherwise known as ‘indulgent parenting’ or ‘lenient parenting,’ is one of the parenting styles identified by Diana Baumrind (1).

Permissive parents are highly responsive towards their children’s needs and nurture their talents and personality. But they are least demanding because they have low expectations on discipline and self-regulation from their children.

You can understand the concept better with a few examples.

Examples Of Permissive Parenting

Here is how a permissive parent reacts to various typical scenarios:

Example #1: You are at the grocery store, your son asks you for ice cream, despite already having two during the day. You don’t want to upset your child, so you say, “Fine, you’ve been good today, so I’ll buy you one.”

Example #2: You don’t specify timings for play, study, or sleep. Even when you know your child has to wake up early the next day for school, you don’t remind her to sleep early.

Example #3: You have been saving up to buy an expensive smartphone for yourself. But your child demands a PlayStation. He would not listen to you or understand that you are longing to buy a phone. So, you prioritize his want over yours and buy whatever he wants.

Example #4: You tell your teenager to study as the exams are round the corner. But she has two late night parties to attend in the next two days. You do not object to it but allow her to go and have fun, while the studies take a backseat.

Example #5: “Can you wind up your toys after you are done playing? You don’t have to dear if you are tired.”

So, do you belong to this type? Read on to know.

Characteristics Of Permissive Parents

A permissive parent is more of a friend than a parent to the child

Image: IStock

Some of the typical traits of permissive parents include:

  • Loving and nurturing, but without rules and boundaries.
  • Emotionally supportive, highly responsive, and less demanding.
  • More of a friend than a parent to the child.
  • Offer minimal structure, order, or schedule.
  • Avoid conflicts and confrontations with the child.
  • Want to be liked instead of upsetting the children.
  • Provide no consequences for their child’s negative behavior.
  • Have minimal routines or schedules for children and the few that they may have, are inconsistent and often broken to give in to the child’s demands.
  • Excessively use rewards to get things done.
  • Allow too much screen time and junk food.
  • Use toys and gifts to motivate their child behave well.
  • Focus on the child’s freedom at the expense of learning to accept limits.

protip_icon Point to consider
Other signs of a permissive parent include taking all blame under challenging situations, having little or no expectations, and pleading with children to cooperate (6).

When the parents are this lenient, then the children develop some easy-going traits. What are they?

Permissive Parenting: Typical Traits In Children

Rebellious is a typical trait of children

Image: IStock

Children may love the non-authoritarian parenting style as it gives them the maximum freedom without any strings attached. But it could be problematic in the long-run.

Here are the traits of children raised by permissive parents:

  • Trouble regulating emotions.
  • Rebellious when their demands are challenged.
  • Have little self-control or self-regulation.
  • Have difficulty in following the rules.
  • Lack discipline and oppose authority.
  • May not take responsibility for their behavior.
  • Studies indicate an association between permissive parenting style and behavioral problems and substance abuse in teenagers (2).
  • They may be demanding and have difficulty sharing.
  • Lack of boundaries results in insecurity in children.Permissive parenting does more harm than good to the children. However, it has a few advantages too.

Pros And Cons Of Permissive Parenting

Here we tell you about how permissive parenting can be good as well as bad.

Benefits:

Children can unleash their latent creativity

Image: IStock

As this parenting style focuses on being a friend to a child rather than a parent, the parents understand their children better, and communication becomes easy as they grow old.

Here are some more benefits of permissive parenting:

  1. Highly nurturing and loving: Permissive parents make children their priority and go to great lengths to keep them happy. This can be the result of their own unhappy parent-child relationship. Hence, they don’t want their children to go through the same experience and provide everything they were deprived of in their childhood.
  1. Minimal conflict with children: They do not want to upset their child, hence, give in to the child’s demands. So, there are no conflicts, and the relationship is peaceful and relaxed.
  1. The creative side of the children is tapped: Permissive parents allow freedom and place no limitation on their children; hence, they explore everything and unleash their latent creativity.

Drawbacks:

They can have difficulty regulating their emotions

Image: IStock

Giving excessive leniency may have significant negative consequences. Let’s see what the drawbacks of permissive parenting are:

  1. A conflict between needs and wants: As children grow older, they might demand a lot of things  and have unrealistic and unreasonable expectations. They need guidance and limit setting from their parents.

Since permissive parents do not want to upset their children, they give their children everything they ask for. The child does not learn the difference between needs and wants.

  1. Lack of time management: In the absence of rules and structure at home, these children may not learn the value of time. They might spend too much time watching television or unreasonable expectations
  1. Lack of parental control: In permissive parenting, the child may come to feel that they are in charge rather than their parents, and experience that can generate significant anxiety.
  1. Emotional imbalance: Children who do not have limits set on their behavior can have difficulty regulating their emotions, especially when their needs are not met.

The drawbacks are not limited to the day-to-day schedule of the children but have a long-term effect on their psyche.

Effects Of Permissive Parenting

Children love freedom, but when they misuse it or when there are no boundaries to check their behavior, the effects can be unpleasant.

Here are some behavioral problems that may result from permissive parenting:

  1. Impulsive: The children become impulsive, and do things without thinking them through. Moreover, they may refuse to take responsibility for their acts.
  1. Bullying: As these children lack experience with the rules and consequences, they may not have a fear of punishment. This may lead to bullying of the other children who do not follow their instructions during play in they may be more likely to break the rules at school or other places.
  1. Behavioral problems: Permissive parents often justify their children’s misbehavior with a “kids will be kids” statement. Hence, these children may be less likely to take responsibility for their behavior and to acknowledge when they make mistakes.
  1. Poor performance in school: Studies have found that permissive parenting is linked to lower academic performance in children (3). As parents have low expectations and do not make demands, children may lack motivation to work towards a goal.
  1. Difficulty making decisions: When the time comes for them to make crucial decisions pertaining to their career or resolve problems in their life, they may struggle due to lack of experience with this type of situation. Their parents may not have made them face any hardships before.
  1. Aggressive behavior: These children may have little experience with rejection. When faced with a “no” response beyond the confines of their immediate family they may behave in an aggressive manner. Therefore, it’s essential to teach these children how to be tolerant of others’ opinions and responses, which will help them navigate social situations in a healthy and productive way.
  1. Poor social skills: If parents don’t teach the child appropriate behavior, they may lack social skills such as sharing, caring, and empathy.

Afnan Alwan, a blogger, recalls how the permissive parenting style of his parents influenced his behavior. He says, “In the absence of a higher authority figure since I was young, I’m not used to compromising. I always feel dominant or at least equal to the people around me, including my own parents. Because of that, I often had problems with other people in college, especially my peers. When there’s a problem, I’m not used to empathizing or at least trying to see things from their perspective. As a result, I became unfriendly. I love confrontation. I easily voice my opinion, and maybe there will be parties who don’t like it, etc. The point is that at that time, I felt I was an arrogant person, and it was difficult to respect other people’s feelings (i).”

  1. Emotional inadequacy: One of the biggest fears of permissive parents is that they might upset their children when they say or do something. So, they do everything to meet their demands and make them happy. As a result, children do not feel safe with normal negative emotions such as anger.

If you have been a permissive parenting but now want to change your style, then it is never too late.

What Can You Do If You Are A Permissive Parent?

It is time you incorporated the below strategies into your parenting style:

  1. Define ground and family rules. You need to let your kids know what you are expecting from them by setting rules.
  1. Enforce the consequences. For your rules to be effective, you need to let your child know the consequences of breaking the rules. Set some simple consequences for simple rules, and serious consequences for serious faults like cheating or stealing.
  1. Be firm and consistent: This can be challenging especially when parents have been lenient towards their kids. Be firm yet loving towards them. Make them understand the importance of following the rules while also being consistent in applying the consequences.
  1. Praise: When your child behaves well, praise them. That will motivate them to do well. Small concrete rewards can also be helpful at times, but a liberal amount of praise and positive feedback is usually more effective in reinforcing good behavior.
  1. Be mindful: Observe what your child’s behavior is communicating. For example, a meltdown may occur because a child is tired or hungry or stressed by a new baby in the home or  a move. There may be bigger issues such as marital conflict or illness in a parent. It is important to set limits and rules while recognizing the meaning of the child’s behavior.
protip_icon Quick tip
Allow your child to choose their favorite pastime in exchange for every good behavior. For instance, you may allow 30 minutes of television in exchange for cleaning the dishes or the laundry (7).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is permissive parenting neglectful?

Although permissive parenting appears beneficial, these parents may emotionally neglect their children. The laissez-faire attitude toward their children’s upbringing can make children dependent on themselves. They moreover struggle to set boundaries and limits for themselves when they grow into adults (4).

2. Is permissive parenting gentle parenting?

No. While both parenting styles sound similar, permissive parenting involves having little control over their children and less involvement in their lives. These parents give their children freedom and frequently say “no” to them. On the other hand, gentle parenting allows children to make their own decisions and exercise willingness rather than simply obeying orders. This parenting style involves parents being involved in their children’s lives and creating firm boundaries (5).

3. What are some common mistakes that permissive parents make?

Permissive parenting, also known as indulgent or lax parenting, is characterized by low demands and high responsiveness. Permissive parents often fail to establish clear rules, boundaries, and expectations for their children. They may be overly generous with material possessions or provide excessive privileges to their children. While it’s natural to want to provide for your child, excessive indulgence can lead to entitlement and a lack of appreciation for the value of things. By shielding the children from consequences, these parents may hinder their development of responsibility, resilience, and problem-solving skills.

4. What are the alternatives to permissive parenting?

Alternatives to permissive parenting include authoritarian parenting, characterized by strict rules and high expectations. Uninvolved parenting is characterized by a lack of emotional involvement and responsiveness. However, these parents may be neglectful or preoccupied with their own lives, leaving the child to fend for themselves. Positive or authoritative parenting focuses on building a strong parent-child relationship through empathy, respect, and positive reinforcement.

Permissive parenting is when the parent is more like a friend than a parental figure. These parenting styles have only limited rules, and they tend to be very loving. They may have low demand and high responsiveness. Although parents are encouraging and supportive, a lack of rules and guidelines can cause behavioral problems in children. This may cause problems in children when their demands are not met, and they often lack discipline. Communication can be good and easy in permissive parenting, and there can be minimal conflicts.

Infographic: Some Unique Parenting Methods From Around The World

There are also several unique parenting cultures and styles you may find specific to a country or region. Take a look at this infographic for details on the unique parenting styles of some countries.

permissive parenting (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Permissive parenting, also known as indulgent or lenient parenting, treats children as equals and is not demanding.
  • Permissive parents nurture their children’s talents and personality while being highly responsive to their needs.
  • Permissive parenting involves emotional support and a friendly approach to parenting, with no consequences for the child’s behavior.
  • It can lead to children struggling to differentiate between needs and wants, manage time, and maintain emotional balance.
  • It may result in behavioral problems, including impulsivity, bullying, poor academic performance, aggressive behavior, and poor social skills.
permissive parenting_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Diana Baumrind; (1966); Prototypical Descriptions of 3 Parenting Styles.
    http://www.devpsy.org/teaching/parent/baumrind_parenting_styles.pdf
  2. Donna Hancock Hoskins; (2014); Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes.
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307786647_Consequences_of_Parenting_on_Adolescent_Outcomes
  3. Erlanger A. Turner et al. (2009); The Influence of Parenting Styles Achievement Motivation and Self-Efficacy on Academic Performance in College Students.
    http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2009_TurnerChandleretal_JCSD.pdf
  4. How to Recognize and Overcome Childhood Emotional Neglect.
    https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-recognize-overcome-childhood-emotional-neglect-0218165
  5. I Tried It: Gentle Parenting.
    https://thewell.northwell.edu/parenting/gentle-parenting-review
  6. The most effective parenting style for discipline that works.
    https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/discipline-topics/effective-parenting-style-discipline-works/
  7. Permissive parenting style.
    https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/permissive_parenting_style#:~:text=Children%20make%20their%20own%20decisions,symptoms%20of%20anxiety%20and%20depression
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Claudia M. Gold is a pediatrician and writer who practiced pediatrics for over 20 years and currently specializes in infant-parent mental health. She is on the faculty of the Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship Program at University of Massachusetts Boston, the Brazelton Institute at Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Berkshire Psychoanalytic Institute.

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Rebecca is a pregnancy writer and editor with a passion for delivering research-based and engaging content in areas of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and post-pregnancy. She did her graduation in Biotechnology and Genetics from Loyola Academy, Osmania University and obtained a certification in ‘Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy’ from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU).

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