Permissive parenting, as the name suggests, is when parents permit their children to do pretty much whatever they want to do. In short, there are very few, if any, limits or boundaries with this kind of parenting. Parents who are permissive may not even realize that they are, because in many cases their motives are good in wanting to have a close and conflict-free relationship with their child. But as time goes by and the child starts growing up, the evidences of permissiveness begin to show.
Permissive parenting is indeed a controversial topic, and the cons certainly seem to outweigh the pros. Firstly, we will look at some of the pros and then the cons. If you recognize any of these features in your own parenting style or in your child’s behaviour, then perhaps it is time to take note and think about what changes you may need to make.
Pros of permissive parenting
1. The relationship is a priority
Many permissive parents genuinely prioritize their relationship with their children and seek to make them as happy as possible. This may be as a compensatory reaction to their own unhappy or distant relationship with their parents when they were growing up. They don’t want to see their children suffering or deprived the way they were, so they swing over to the other extreme.
2. There is minimal conflict
The permissive parent tends to avoid conflict at all costs, so they will give in to whatever the child wants. On the surface this may appear to be a fairly peaceful relationship with minimal conflict.
3. Creativity is encouraged
Some permissive parents believe that by allowing their children free reign they will encourage their creativity. They want their children to be free-thinking, without the drawbacks and hindrances of any limitations.
Cons of permissive parenting
1. The power struggle
The big question when it comes to permissive parenting is “who is in charge – the parent or the child?”
The older the child gets, the more apparent it will become that in fact the child is to a large extent in charge. The child learns that the parent wants to avoid conflict, so the minute there is any sign of a tantrum or strong argument, the parent will give in to whatever the child wants or demands. If the parent tries to put their foot down in some area, it may result in a tremendous power struggle as the child has now become used to calling the shots and getting what they want.
2. The clash between wants and needs
When babies are born their wants and needs are very simple and in fact they are identical. All babies want and need is food, sleep, cleaning, affection and safety. As they grow older, however, a divide begins to take place between the wants and the needs. A young toddler may want to eat sweets and ice-creams all day long, but in fact they need healthy nutrition. They need someone older and wiser to guide them and provide the appropriate nutrition. This applies across the board with all other areas. That is why it is dangerous to allow all the child’s wants to determine and dictate their behaviour, because often there is an unhealthy clash between wants and needs.
3. Lack of motivation
When a child grows up with very few limits or boundaries they can often feel unmotivated, as if they are drifting in a vast ocean of random opportunity. However, if the parent sets some clear boundaries and expectations, it allows the child to have realistic goals within those parameters. Even if they seek to push the boundaries or choose to work outside of them, it will still provide a valuable reference point for the child. Children with permissive parents may sometimes feel that nobody cares enough to give them some guidelines.
4. Critical compromises
Permissive parents may find that they constantly have to make compromises about things that are really important to them. They may allow their child to be rude and disrespectful towards them for the sake of not making a scene. Or they may let the child spend too much time on the internet, watching distasteful movies, rather than doing their schoolwork. Although the parent highly values good grades, that would have to be sacrificed as a result of allowing the child to make their own choices, even if those choices are unwise and ultimately harmful to the child.
5. Lack of self-discipline
Because permissive parents do not effectively discipline their child, it is difficult for the child to learn self-discipline. A child raised in such an environment is also likely to struggle with respecting any kind of discipline, whether at school or later in the workplace. Unlike their parents, their teachers and bosses are not going to tolerate their lack of discipline and unruly attitude. Permissive parenting often means that a child does not learn at an early age the basic principle of cause and effect, and how society is structured on certain rules and regulations.
6. Blurred lines between parent and child
It is a good and wonderful desire to be a friend to your child, but at the same time they need to understand that you are still the parent and as such you have a different role than the child. Your role is to set a firm and secure structure within which your child can develop and reach maturity within a loving and safe environment. When there are no limits the child will tend to act out to try and find where the boundaries are. Ultimately trust and respect is undermined and corroded on both sides and the permissive parent’s aim of having a close relationship with their child can backfire and turn sour.