What Is Permissive Parenting? Definition, Pros, And Cons

By Corrina Horne

Updated August 30, 2019

Reviewer Lauren Guilbeault

Becoming a parent is simultaneously the best thing you'll ever do and the terrifying thing you'll ever do. Although the responsibility of holding a child's life in your hands is a wonderful one, it is also filled with the potential to make mistakes, hurt the person you love, and come out the other side more confused than ever. So what do you do?

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Many parents, upon finding they are expecting, immediately turn to the wisdom of parenting books, magazines, and articles, in the hope that they will stumble upon seeds of wisdom so magnificent that they will be able to raise healthy, well-rounded children amid a world filled with chaos and sup-bar parenting. Much of this is done with the best possible intentions in mind: parents want to be the best they can be for their children, and frequently second-guess their instincts, or give way to feelings of frustration and anger brought on by the confusion and overwhelm inherent to being a parent.

There are innumerable types of parenting approaches, some of them far closer to indulgent parenting than anything else, some of them far closer to drill sergeants than anything else. What, then, is the best form of parenting? Baumrind's parenting styles offer insight into the world of parenting and all of its pitfalls.

The Four Parenting Styles According To Baumrind

The four parenting styles defined by Diana Baumrind, a psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, describe a set of parenting techniques commonly come across in Baumrind's practice. Baumrind developed the four parenting styles in the 1960s. Each of the four styles is rated according to two measures: parental warmth and demanding behavior. The four parenting styles demonstrate the different marriages of each of these measures.

Baumrind believed that parenting style was a powerful determiner of whether or not a child grew up to succeed in life. She believed that measuring different types of parenting would provide keys to the best form of parenting, and would help families discover how to effectively interact with one another to create peace and comfort within the family home. Her ideas were further expounded upon and broadened twenty years later, by a team of psychologists, who changed what was previously called "neglectful" parenting to what is now known as "uninvolved" parenting. Each of these parenting styles has its drawbacks and lures for parents and children.

What Exactly Is The Permissive Parenting Style?

The permissive parenting style, also called indulgent parenting, is just what its name suggests: a manner of parenting in which permission is far more common than anything else. Permissive parenting is characterized by loose boundaries, few consequences or enforced rules, and an inability (or great reluctance) to say "no." Parents who use this style might create rules, but fail or struggle to enforce them, and are likely to want to be their child's friend, versus acting as a distinct, consistent authority figure. These parents might allow their children to dictate bedtimes, meal choices, clothing, and family trips, among other things, and may suffer from exhaustion, burnout, and resentment as a result.

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Children from households with permissive parents often exhibit distinct behaviors, including poor self-control, egocentricity, difficulty in relationships, and difficulty adhering to expected rules and norms. These children might suffer from anxiety and an inflated sense of self, and may have trouble in school and other situations where adherence to strict rules is mandated.

Although this particular style of parenting is often depicted as ideal in television shows, movies, and other forms of media, in practice, it is detrimental to both parents and children. Parents engaged in this form of parenting often become burnt out on parenting, and may even grow to resent their children, as their children may become entitled and demanding of them. Children are also harmed in this version of parenting, as they may not receive the safety and confidence that comes from having clearly-outlined boundaries and rules.

Benefits Of Each 4 Parenting Styles

Each of the four parenting styles has benefits for both parents and children, though these benefits are not always healthy. Children, for instance, might derive immense pleasure through a parenting style that is not healthy, while parents might find satisfaction in engaging a parenting style that is far too dictatorial. Benefits include pleasure, but do not necessarily indicate that the parenting style itself is beneficial to either party.

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The first of the four parenting styles is Authoritarian parenting, which ranks high on demanding behavior and low on responsiveness. This means that parents place high demands on children while failing to respond effectively and consistently to children's wants and needs. This is the style of parenting most often associated with military-like demands and precision and is arguably one of the more common parenting styles employed today. The parental benefits of this parenting style are clear: many children respond to the fear and uncertainty inherent in this form of parenting, and respond to demands with prompt obedience and do not act out. These are both of value to many parents who choose to enlist this form of parenting, though few children experience benefits.

Authoritative parenting is the next type of parenting and is known for having both high demands and high responsiveness. This form of parenting places substantial expectations on children, while also listening closely to what children want and need, to create a demanding, but the healthy environment for children. Parents utilizing this philosophy usually experience more satisfaction in their parenting efforts, as they cannot only see the results of their demands but also enjoy a close relationship with their children, with open lines of communication.

Permissive parenting is the next form of parenting and, as discussed previously, this parenting style is known for its low demands and high responsiveness. This means that children are given few demands, but are given plenty of opportunities for expression and offering input. Many children find this form of parenting at least initially enjoyable, as parents do not place a lot of demands on them, and they are largely able to get their way. Parents might also experience initial benefits, as they can have more of a friendly relationship with their children than in any of the other parenting styles.

Uninvolved parenting marries low demands and low responsiveness. The possible benefit of uninvolved parenting for parents is the ability to treat children as though they have taken a backseat, with parenting being a low priority. Children might also initially feel freedom or satisfaction through being able to do whatever they want to, with little intervention, consequence, or interference.

Drawbacks Of The 4 Types of Parenting

Each of the parenting styles has its unique drawbacks. Authoritarian parenting can place far too many demands on children, which can leave children feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, and unloved. These children may grow up with large-scale ambition, but this ambition may be rooted in feelings of fear and inadequacy, and a deep-seated belief that they are not good enough. Parents who engage this style might also suffer from its use, as constantly making demands and keeping up strict behavior requirements can grow tiring and, if children do not meet the demands, can result in large amounts of anger and resentment.

Authoritative parenting may be considered too lax by some. This type of parenting can also be difficult, as it requires parents to invest time and energy not just in the demands they place, but also in the experiences and needs of their children. Keeping a proper balance in this form of parenting can prove difficult for children and parents alike. Children might also struggle to communicate openly with parents in this parenting style, as they may not have developed the trust required for such a relationship, or may feel they need more independence.

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Permissive parenting is likely to demonstrate issues for parents and children both, as parents can begin to feel resentful of children making a lot of demands and never giving back, while children may begin to resent parents for not creating a clearer delineation between "parent" and "child," and may even feel like they step into the role of parent sometimes. These types of relationships can also have a negative impact on children later in life, creating feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about relationships and boundaries.

Uninvolved parenting is likely to have the greatest number of drawbacks. Parents who are not involved in their children's lives are more likely to be distant from their children later in life and might have to witness their children making unwise choices and following similar behavioral patterns to their own. This is especially difficult in cases where uninvolved parenting comes as a direct result of substance abuse or another form of addiction that causes parents to check out of their parenting responsibilities essentially. Children in these homes often grow up to have dysfunctional relationships and are more likely to have anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Which Of The 4 Styles Of Parenting Is Best?

Authoritative parenting is typically considered the ideal parenting style of the four types. This type of parenting encourages parents to set boundaries and encourage children to do and be their best but also takes children's feelings and experiences into account. Authoritative parenting delineates the parent's role and the child's role while making room for open, clear communication to facilitate an appropriate adult-child relationship and encourage decision-making and confidence in children well into adulthood.

Positive Parenting And Outcomes

Implementing positive parenting techniques can be difficult, particularly if they are being implemented after engaging ineffective or destructive techniques beforehand. There is no reason to avoid implementing a better parenting approach, however, as long as you step into your new role with patience, and the reasonable expectation that creating new habits takes time and a significant amount of effort.

If you find yourself engaging a new parenting technique and you are experiencing difficulty adjusting, or your child is experiencing difficulty adjusting, speaking with a qualified mental health professional can help; some therapists offer family therapies designed to create more effective family dynamics and communication styles, in order to provide more stability and acceptance within family structures. If engaging a new parenting technique seems daunting, or is a source of anxiety, know this: it will be difficult. But with perseverance, determination, and-if needed-a little bit of help, you and your family can adopt a new way of looking at life and each other, and improve your relationships step by step.


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