Permissive parenting is one of four key parenting styles, or methods by which parents or caregivers interact with and guide their children as they grow up. A parenting style typically covers elements like responsibilities, freedom, limits, and affection. According to extensive research over the years, there are pros and cons to different parenting styles. If you’re considering using permissive parenting for your child, it can be helpful to understand this style and its potential effects on a deeper level.
What Are Parenting Styles?
Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind first introduced the concept of parenting styles in the early 1970s. Her aim was to categorize the different ways parents socialize their children in order to study the effects of each one. The parenting styles she outlined generally have to do with the emotional climate a parent(s) or caregiver(s) creates in a family dynamic, typically measured by how responsive and demanding they are.
Responsiveness refers to how sensitive and open parents are to their child’s needs. It may take the form of interest in the child’s daily activities, the level of affection shown, and the willingness to respect the child’s perspective. The level of control parents exhibit over their child’s behavior determines how demanding they are. Examples could include how much the parent monitors the child’s activities, how much structure they set up for the child’s daily life, and how much input they allow the child to have in decision-making.
The 4 Main Parenting Styles
Baumrind originally outlined three parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. The fourth—uninvolved or neglectful parenting—was added by Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin in the 1980s. Certain parental behaviors and typical child responses categorize each style. Parents generally fall into one category, but may also display traits from other styles.
Those with an authoritarian style tend to engage in one-way communication with their children, presenting strict rules that the child is expected to obey. Children are given little to no room for negotiations, rules are often not explained, and children are expected to obey authority figures without question. Authoritarian parents often expect children to uphold their high standards without mistakes, and missteps are usually met with punishment.
Children with authoritarian parents are typically well-behaved because they know the consequences of misbehavior. However, this parenting style can also result in increased aggression, shyness, social ineptitude, and an inability to make decisions. Other typical child behavior resulting from authoritarian parenting can include difficulty managing anger, poor self-esteem, and rebellious tendencies as the child grows older. Rebellion can last into middle and late adulthood and result in alienation from one’s parents.
Parents with an authoritative style typically develop a close, nurturing relationship with their children. Authoritative parents usually offer clear guidelines and explanations for their expectations as well as consequences the child can expect if they break the rules. Children are likely to be more involved in decisions and discussions on these topics at an age-appropriate level; communication between the parent and child is typically frequent. Finally, discipline is often used as a tool to support the child’s growth and learning rather than strictly as a punishment.
In child psychology, authoritative parenting is considered to be an optimum parenting style. Generally, this approach is associated with high adolescent competence, producing self-assured, responsible, and capable children who can manage negative emotions effectively. Because independence is encouraged, children can accomplish goals on their own and often have a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Caregivers with a permissive parenting based approach often build warm, nurturing relationships with their children, typically relating to them more on a friendly level than a traditionally parental level. They tend to put forth minimal or no expectations for their child’s behavior and impose few rules. They’re likely to keep lines of communication open, but generally allow their children to figure things out for themselves.
Limited rules, discipline, and structure can lead to unhealthy eating habits and sleeping patterns, excessive screen time, and future health problems. Without much parental guidance or moderation, children of permissive parents are often impulsive, demanding, selfish, and lacking in self-regulation and self-control.
Parents with an uninvolved style typically give their children a lot of freedom with little to no guidance. The child’s basic needs are fulfilled, but the parents generally remain detached from their life. Uninvolved parents don’t usually use any particular discipline style and maintain limited communication with their children, who receive little nurturing and few expectations from their parents.
The lack of parental support and guidance can make children of uninvolved parents more resilient and self-sufficient. However, these children may also have trouble controlling their emotions, experience more academic challenges, and have difficulty maintaining healthy social relationships.
Other Common Parenting Styles
Chinese Parenting Style
The traditional Chinese parenting style is sometimes considered to be an authoritarian parenting style. As in the authoritarian approach, this is a parenting style characterized by a high degree of parental control. Chinese parents traditionally provide and strictly enforce rules, set high standards, and punish children who fail to obey. However, recent research has suggested that there is more to understanding Chinese parenting, including components that fall outside of the Western notions of authoritarian and authoritative styles. Namely, researchers have defined five additional dimensions of Chinese parenting: encouragement of modest behavior, protection from harm, shaming, directiveness, and maternal involvement.
Of note, the Chinese parenting style is associated with high academic achievement, fewer behavior problems, and positive child outcomes, whereas the Western authoritarian parenting approach is associated with negative child outcomes such as aggressive behavior, increase in risky behavior, and low self-esteem.
Gentle Parenting Style
The gentle parenting approach is an evidence-based style that also falls into the category of authoritative parenting. This parenting approach emphasizes creating a strong connection between parent and child through four main components: empathy, respect, understanding, and clear boundaries. Educational psychology has explored the effects of parenting style on academic success. One helpful report found that styles like gentle parenting, in which caregivers display both high demandingness and high responsiveness, are associated with higher academic achievement than other approaches.
In addition to doing well in school, kids raised with gentle parenting may be able to manage their emotions effectively. One other helpful report on early childhood also demonstrated that gentle parenting can help shy toddlers overcome behavioral inhibition.
Which Parenting Style Is Best?
Is Permissive Parenting Right For Your Family?
Permissive parenting can look different from family to family, since each one is unique. In general however, it’s usually marked by some or all of the following characteristics:
- Frequently expressing warmth and love to the child
- Responding to the child’s needs and providing support
- Rarely saying “no” to the child
- Not offering a structure or routine
- Offering few or no rules or expectations for the child
- Not enforcing any established rules
- Not enforcing consequences for bad behavior
- Not offering guidance for the child’s decisions
- Focusing on being a friend rather than an authority figure
For some, it means creating a warm, emotionally responsive environment where children are free to make choices for themselves. However, permissive parenting can also be seen in a negative light if the lack of limits and responsibility leads to adverse behaviors.
Potential Benefits Of Permissive Parenting
Permissive parenting provides a sensitive, responsive environment for a child, which can result in several potential benefits. For instance, children raised by permissive parents can often be more self-assured because they’ve been encouraged to express themselves freely. This parenting style also offers children more freedom, giving them the assurance to explore and try new things. The relaxed limits of a permissive parenting style can also make it easier for a child to tap into their creativity and passions. They’re likely to have good social skills and high self-esteem overall.
Potential Drawbacks Of Permissive Parenting
Using a permissive parenting style can also result in potential drawbacks. Without established limits and responsibility, a child may adopt disruptive behaviors such as impulsivity and aggression. They may be more likely to develop unhealthy habits in relation to sleeping, eating, screen time, and schoolwork, since they’re likely to not have rules about these things. Children of permissive parents may also be more likely to exhibit demanding and selfish behaviors and to experience symptoms of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
Tips For Shifting Your Parenting Style
While some aspects of the permissive parenting style can be beneficial, others can potentially have a negative impact on the child. If you’re concerned that some elements of your parenting style may be too permissive, the tips below may help you shift them to find a more balanced approach:
- Set rules for your child to follow—and enforce them. Rules teach children what is expected of them and how to behave appropriately.
- Reward good behavior and stick to the consequences for bad behavior.
- Guide your children through making good decisions in an effort to teach them how to do so themselves as they grow.
- Try implementing routines in terms of bedtimes, meals, schoolwork, and household responsibilities to give your child a sense of structure and help them learn healthy habits.
- Establish clear parent/child roles and maintain parental authority.
How Therapy Can Be Helpful For Parents
Parenting can be both a challenging and rewarding experience for those who choose to undertake it. Getting support along the way can help parents handle the challenges so that they can remain healthy while providing their children with a positive upbringing. Building a connected social circle of other parents can be helpful, as can joining local parenting groups or classes. Meeting with a qualified therapist can also be useful if you’re looking to learn how remembered parenting styles from your childhood may influence your current parenting approach. Therapy may also provide emotional support when times are tough, and help you find out more about modeling healthy behaviors for your kids.
Many busy parents find it difficult to travel to an office for usual in-person appointments with a therapist. In cases like these, online therapy is another option to consider. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, for instance, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing. Research suggests that both methods can offer similar benefits in many cases, meaning that most parents can choose the format that works best for them. One study in particular found that “web-based parenting intervention” correlated with “a high level of satisfaction”.
What are the pros of permissive parenting?
Permissive parenting is a parenting style characterized by a lenient and indulgent approach toward children. While it's important to maintain a balanced parenting approach that takes into account the child's developmental needs and the context, permissive parenting can have some potential benefits in certain situations. Here are some potential pros of permissive parenting:
- Warm and Nurturing Environment: Permissive parents often create a warm and loving atmosphere where children feel comfortable expressing themselves and seeking emotional support and they may grow a strong parent-child bond.
- High Self-Esteem: Children raised in a permissive parenting environment may develop high self-esteem and confidence, as they are encouraged to make decisions and express their opinions.
- Autonomy and Independence: Permissive parenting can foster a sense of independence and autonomy in children, as they are given opportunities to explore and make choices and experience natural consequences.
- Creativity and Innovation: With the freedom to explore and experiment, children might develop greater creativity and innovative thinking.
- Open Communication: The open and non-authoritative nature of permissive parenting can lead to open communication between parents and children, allowing children to discuss their thoughts and feelings more freely.
- Flexibility: Permissive parents often adapt to their child's preferences and interests, allowing for flexibility in routines and activities.
- Less Stress and Anxiety: In a less controlling environment, children might experience less stress and anxiety related to strict rules and expectations.
- Positive Parent-Child Relationship: A permissive approach can help build a positive and trusting parent-child relationship, as children feel supported and heard.
While permissive parenting has potential benefits, it also has its challenges and potential downsides. Permissive parents tend to have a lack of boundaries and discipline which might lead to issues with behavior, responsibility, and understanding limits. Striking a balance between warmth and guidance is often recommended for optimal child development and it is important to think about the big picture and consider the permissive parenting pros and cons.
What are the disadvantages of permissive parenting style?
While permissive parenting can have some benefits, it also comes with several disadvantages that can impact children's development and overall well-being. A permissive parent may allow their children freedom when it comes to choosing snacks, screentime, and bedtime. This style of parenting may cause negative consequences down the line as children may have too much freedom to choose unhealthy snacks, struggle with excessive screen time, or develop unhealthy sleeping patterns.
Research also shows some other cons of permissive parenting, including narcissistic tendencies, social irresponsibility, and self-centered motivation. This may be due to the fact that permissive parents may rarely set limits or dictate acceptable behavior for children.
Is it good to be a permissive parent?
Being a permissive parent can have both negative and positive outcomes, and the appropriateness of this parenting style depends on various factors, including your child's temperament, your family dynamics, cultural influences, and individual values. It may be challenging for permissive parents to establish clear rules which may make it more difficult for kids emotionally as they grow up and attend school. On the other hand, permissive parents may help to cultivate a warm and loving environment and foster independence and creativity.
In deciding whether to adopt a permissive parenting style, it's essential to strike a balance between providing emotional support and guidance. Many parenting experts recommend adopting an authoritative parenting approach, which is a popular parenting style that combines warmth and support with high expectations and clear boundaries. This approach allows children to feel loved and valued while also learning essential life skills, responsibilities, and understanding appropriate behavior.
How does permissive parenting affect relationships?
How permissive parents manage their child’s behavior may lead to an open and trusting relationship between the child and the parent. This may be due to the lack of clear rules and the emphasis on allowing the child to openly and honestly communicate feelings.
While permissive parenting may lead to a closer parent-child relationship, it may make fostering friendships and interacting socially more difficult later on. Children that grow up with permissive parents may struggle with conflict resolution later on when their wants clash with another’s. It also may make schooling more difficult when the child may struggle to respect boundaries and rules set by the school. Research has also shown that permissive parenting may lead to an increase in adolescent substance abuse.
What effect does permissive have on children?
Permissive parenting can have both positive and negative effects on children's development, behavior, and overall well-being. Permissive parenting is characterized by a lenient and indulgent approach, where parents are less likely to set strict rules and boundaries. While there are potential benefits, there are also significant drawbacks to this parenting style. Here are some effects of permissive parenting on children:
Negative Effects of Permissive Parenting:
- Lack of Boundaries and Discipline: One of the main drawbacks of permissive parenting is the lack of clear rules and boundaries. Children may struggle to understand appropriate behavior and may experience confusion when it comes to expectations.
- Behavioral Challenges: Children raised in permissive environments might exhibit challenging behaviors due to the absence of consistent consequences for their actions. They might not understand the concept of limits.
- Impulsivity and Entitlement: Children might develop a sense of entitlement and impulsivity, as they are not accustomed to delayed gratification and may expect to have their desires met immediately.
- Dependency on Adults: Without guidance on decision-making and problem-solving, children might become overly dependent on adults for direction, affecting their ability to develop independence.
- Academic Difficulties: Permissive parenting may lead to challenges with focus, self-discipline, and motivation, which can impact academic performance.
- Social Challenges: Children may struggle with understanding social norms and interacting with peers, as they may not have learned proper boundaries and cooperation.
- Emotional Regulation Issues: A lack of guidance in managing emotions and behaviors might result in difficulties in regulating emotions, leading to tantrums and frustration.
Positive Effects of Permissive Parenting:
- Emotional Connection: Permissive parenting can lead to emotional closeness between parents and children due to the nurturing and supportive environment.
- Autonomy and Independence: Children might develop a sense of autonomy and independence as they are allowed to make decisions and express themselves freely.
- Open Communication: The lack of strict rules can encourage open and honest communication between parents and children, fostering a trusting relationship.
- Positive Self-Esteem: Children may experience high self-esteem and confidence when they are encouraged to express themselves and make decisions.
- Creativity and Exploration: The lack of rigid rules can provide opportunities for children to explore and be creative without fear of judgment.
What is permissive vs positive parenting?
Permissive parenting and positive parenting are two distinct parenting styles that involve different approaches to raising children. While both styles emphasize certain positive aspects, they differ in their overall approach to discipline, boundaries, and expectations.
Permissive parenting generally relies on little to know guidance from parents in terms of setting rules or expectations. An example of permissive parenting could be allowing a child to choose their own snack or decide when they would like to go to bed. While this may foster independence the child is unlikely to make a choice that is in their best interest overall. It also may lead to the child choosing self-centered options without regard for others.
Positive parenting, on the other hand, allows children to explore and make choices but with more guidance from the parent. The parent may offer two snacks that are healthy and allow the child to choose, or explain why having an apple is a better option than having a candy bar. A positive parent has rules and expectations, however these are delivered through reasoning and discussing choices and their impact on others is a key component of positive parenting.
How does permissive parenting affect child's self-esteem?
Permissive parenting can have both positive and negative effects on a child's self-esteem, which is their overall sense of self-worth and confidence. While permissive parenting might initially seem to promote high self-esteem due to its emphasis on autonomy and expression, there are potential drawbacks that can impact a child's self-esteem in the long run. As the child grows up they may experience difficulty coping with failure, dependance on other’s approval, and uncertainty in decision-making. All of these factors may have a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem.
What do permissive parents lack?
Permissive parents lack a strong emphasis on setting clear boundaries, providing consistent discipline, and establishing expectations for their children's behavior. While permissive parenting can have some positive aspects, such as emotional closeness and open communication, it often falls short in several key areas. Here's what permissive parents may lack:
- Clear Boundaries and Limits: Permissive parents tend to lack well-defined boundaries and limits for their children's behavior. This can lead to confusion for children about what is acceptable and what isn't.
- Consistent Discipline: Permissive parents often struggle with providing consistent consequences for their children's actions. This can result in uncertainty for children regarding the outcomes of their behavior.
- Structure and Routine: Permissive parenting might lack a consistent daily routine and structure, which can be important for children's overall sense of stability and reliability.
- Expectations and Responsibility: Permissive parents may not set clear expectations for their children's responsibilities, chores, and tasks. This can hinder the development of a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility.
- Delayed Gratification: Children might struggle to understand the concept of delayed gratification and the importance of working toward goals over time, as permissive parenting often focuses on immediate desires.
- Problem-Solving Skills: Without consistent guidance, children might lack opportunities to develop effective problem-solving skills and learn how to navigate challenges.
- Understanding Consequences: Permissive parents may not adequately teach their children about the consequences of their actions, making it difficult for children to understand the impact of their behavior on themselves and others.
- Independence and Autonomy: While permissive parenting allows for autonomy, it might lack guidance on how to make responsible decisions and navigate the complexities of independence.
- Understanding Limits: Children raised in permissive environments might not fully grasp the concept of limits and may struggle with understanding appropriate boundaries in various contexts.
- Respect for Authority: A lack of clear boundaries and discipline might lead to challenges in understanding and respecting authority figures, which can impact children's interactions in various settings.
- Behavioral Regulation: Without consistent boundaries and consequences, children might struggle to regulate their behavior and emotions, leading to behavioral challenges.
What is permissive parenting in real life examples?
Here are three examples of permissive parenting behaviors:
Lack of Discipline for Negative Behavior: A permissive parent might avoid disciplining their child when they exhibit negative behavior. For example, if a child throws a tantrum in a store, a permissive parent might give in to the child's demands rather than addressing the behavior with appropriate consequences.
Unrestricted Freedom of Choice: Permissive parents might allow their children to make decisions without offering guidance or setting limits. For instance, if a child wants to watch TV instead of doing homework, a permissive parent might allow the child to choose without discussing the importance of completing assignments first.
Avoiding Setting Rules: Permissive parents may avoid establishing clear rules or expectations for their children's behavior. For instance, a permissive parent might not set a curfew for a teenager, allowing them to come and go as they please without discussing the importance of responsible behavior and communication.
It's important to note that these examples don't cover all aspects of permissive parenting, and parenting behaviors can vary. While permissive parenting can promote emotional closeness and freedom of expression, it's essential to strike a balance between nurturing and providing appropriate guidance and boundaries to ensure healthy child development.
What is the best parenting style?
The "best" parenting style depends on various factors, including the unique needs of your child, your family dynamics, cultural influences, and personal values. Different parenting styles have their own strengths and weaknesses, and what works best for one family might not be suitable for another. However, research suggests that an authoritative parenting style is often considered one of the most effective and beneficial approaches.
An authoritative parenting style combines warmth, support, and clear expectations with consistent discipline and guidance. This allows children to develop and grow independently while learning structures within society.
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