Permissive parenting: What is it?

Permissive parents, like authoritative parents, are loving, kind, and emotionally responsive to their children’s needs and wishes. Both parenting types discuss with their children important decisions and the rules within the family system.

Studies link Parental warmth and sensitive, responsive parenting with secure attachments and fewer behavioural problems.

However, the offical psychological definition of permissiveness concerns parental control, rather than the soft, empathetic nature associated with emotionally responsive parenting.

Permissive parenting is often referred to as indulgent parenting. These parents have low expectations for self-control, emotional regulation, and maturity. They are non-traditional, lenient, and rarely discipline their children.

Because there are few rules, expectations and demands, children raised by permissive parents tend to struggle with self-regulation and control.

These parents present themselves to the child as a friend rather than an authority figure. They avoid direct confrontation, or asserting overt power – and they prefer to use methods of reasoning and manipulation to get what they want from their child.

Positive elements:

  • Children tend to have higher self-esteem, and feel more securely attached in the care of the permissive parent, more-so than children raised by parents practicing the authoritarian parenting method.

Characteristics of the permissive parenting style

  • Have few rules or standards
  • When there are rules, they are often very inconsistent
  • Are usually very nurturing and loving towards their kids
  • Often seem more like a friend than a parent

May use bribery, such as toys, gifts and food as a means of getting the child to behave.

Effects of permissive parenting

Children raised by permissive parents:

  • May lack a strong sense of self-discipline
  • Sometimes have poor social skills
  • May be self-involved, indulgent and demanding
  • May have poor emotional regulation skills
  • May feel insecure due to the lack of boundaries and guidance
  • May under-age drink
  • May exhibit risky behaviour and drug use
  • May lack some basic life skills
  • May not have a fear of repercussions
  • May not take responsibility for their behaviour

Understanding permissive parenting

Permissive parenting is characterised by a lack of demands and expectations. This means that children coming from these environments may be less academically motivated than their peers, may find it difficult to adhere to rules, and may struggle with authority figures.

Children with permissive parents do not have consistent boundaries. Sometimes the parent will give into the child’s desire, and on other occasions they won’t. This lack of consistency leaves the child confused and lacking in boundaries.

Children with permissive parents often lack good social skills. They may be confident in conversing with other people. However, they may struggle with indifference, confrontation, sharing, or being corrected by other children. If a child has never been challenged on their behaviour by their parent, it is unlikely they will take well to being challenged by their peers in their childhood, or adult life.



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