Before delving into what is permissive parenting, let’s start with the basics. Decades of extensive research on parenting and parent-child relationships have resulted in establishing the concept of parenting styles.
Yes, you heard that right. To understand what is permissive parenting, let’s begin with understanding the meaning of parenting styles. Parenting styles are used to define the pattern you follow when raising your child or children.
There are three major styles of parenting in the modern-day and age that have been described by various theorists and psychologists- authoritative style, authoritarian style, and permissive parenting style.
Each parenting style has its unique characteristics, developmental outcomes, and effects on a child. To learn more about what is permissive parenting, read on.
This parenting style involves a high degree of responsiveness coupled with very low demands from the parents towards their child.
This means that a permissive parent has low expectations or demands regarding expected behavior from their child. At the same time, such parents are quick to fulfill their child’s needs, demands, and desires.
This parenting style is on the highly lenient end of the spectrum of parenting styles. On the other end of the spectrum is the authoritarian parenting style. Authoritative parenting is the very opposite of permissive parenting.
10 Main characteristics of the permissive style of parenting
To have a clear understanding of what is permissive parenting, you must understand the essential characteristics of this parenting style. This will also help you identify if you follow this style of parenting.
Consider the following characteristics to understand what is permissive parenting:
1. You are very nurturing and loving by nature towards your child
If you are a parent who is very protective of your child’s safety and well-being, and sometimes, even a little too protective and caring towards your child, it is a characteristic of this parenting style.
2. You’re very friendly and informal with your child
Parents who have a highly permissive parenting style often share a close, friend-like bond with their kids.
These kids seldom see their parents as authority figures.
3. There is little to no discipline, structure, and order
Such parents do not prefer their children to have definitive schedules like bedtime, bath time, meal times, etc. They like to go with the flow of what their child feels like doing.
Children of permissive parents are seldom given any household responsibilities too. There’s often no limit on pocket money or any curfew.
4. Conflicts or confrontations with the children is rare
In this parenting style, as the demandingness is very low, there are no expectations on the parents’ behalf of acceptable behavior.
So, if the child behaves in unacceptable ways, the parents rarely confront or scold their kids. These kids are seldom grounded or corrected for their wrong behavior.
5. Parents are highly responsive to what their child wants
Do you find yourself often giving in to whatever your child demands from you, whether it’s an Xbox or restaurant food for dinner?
Very often, lenient parents are highly responsive to whatever their children desire.
6. No negative consequences for bad behavior
As mentioned earlier, parents who prefer the permissive parenting style want their kids to see them as buddies or friends.
Owing to the unwillingness to confront their kids, such parents often shy away from providing any negative consequences to their children for unacceptable behavior.
7. Too many rewards and reinforcements
A big reason why permissive parenting is often called indulgent parenting is due to this characteristic. Parents who are very permissive are also very responsive. Therefore, they like to overindulge their kids whenever they can.
Children of such parents are showered with rewards, often without even doing something to deserve that reward.
8. Too much screen time
Extensive research on the impact of excessive screen time on children has shown that if children are allowed to watch too much TV or spend hours on their phones, it can be harmful to development.
However, parents often allow their kids to spend hours in front of a screen in this parenting style due to the lack of a proper schedule or structure.
9. Bribery on the parents’ behalf to get things done by their kids
Owing to the lack of any standard of acceptable behavior, children of permissive parents tend to be relatively non-compliant.
To make them do something that their parents want them to do, whether it’s homework or a chore, they’re often bribed by their parents with gifts or money.
10. Children’s freedom is more important than their sense of responsibility
A big part of raising kids is to successfully instill a strong sense of responsibility to grow up to be responsible, reliable, and independent.
But owing to the very low demandingness of indulgent parents, their child’s freedom is more important than their sense of responsibility.
11. Unregulated diets
This characteristic to understand what is permissive parenting goes hand-in-hand with excessive screen time. The lack of structure or discipline is also seen when it comes to the diets of such children.
Children love sugar, chocolates, and junk food. That’s what they want to have all the time. If you’re pretty permissive in your parenting style, you may find yourself giving in to your child’s demands about what they want to eat for their mealtimes and snacks.
12. Parents have a very high need of pleasing their kids
This is a significant characteristic of this lenient parenting style. A high need to please loved ones and keep them happy forms the basis of this parenting style.
These parents may be more focused on being liked and accepted by their children over everything else.
Now that you’ve gone through the characteristics of this lenient parenting style, let’s take a look at some examples of permissive parenting to understand better what is permissive parenting:
Imagine you’ve gone to your local grocery store with your kid. You’ve made a list of all the things you have to buy. Suddenly you and your child come across the candy and chocolate aisle.
Your child says that they want to eat candy right now. You know your child has already had quite a few sweet treats earlier that day. But you still say yes and buy them candy because you don’t want your child to be upset with you.
You’re at home with your kid, and it’s the afternoon. You and your child have just had lunch where you got to know that your kid has a test tomorrow at school.
After lunch, your kid tells you that he wants to watch a movie on the iPad. You know that your kid has a test tomorrow and should probably study for that, but you say yes to the movie anyway.
You have a young teen daughter who’s started making many friends and wants to hang out with them all the time. She comes to you and tells you that she’s going out to have dinner with her friends.
You’ve already made dinner for everyone. You weren’t informed about her dinner plans, so the food will probably go to waste. But you still say yes to her.
When you keep requesting your kid to clean up their room but also say that they can do it whenever they want to and if they’re not tired.
Say you’ve been saving your money for a few weeks to buy something to treat yourself or buy something you need (e.g., a new laptop for work). Suddenly, your child comes up to you and tells you that they want an Xbox.
You say yes to the new Xbox, although you know you won’t be able to afford your laptop if you buy the Xbox.
These are some clear examples to understand what is permissive parenting.
Check out this video that compiles permissive parenting examples from movies:
5 Negative Effects of Permissive Parenting on Children
Unfortunately, the negative permissive parenting child outcomes outweigh the few positive results of this parenting style.
Decades of research on parenting effects on child development has reported the following negative results of this indulgent style of parenting:
1. Low academic achievement
Studies conducted on the academic outcomes of children with lenient and indulgent parents have shown that such children do not do well in academics.
This happens because parents who are very permissive have low demandingness. Therefore, they have low expectations from their child.
2. Weak decision-making skills
Another one of the permissive parenting effectsis that their children struggle with making decisions and solving problems. This happens because such parents focus on their child’s freedom over their sense of responsibility.
3. Poor time-management skills and poor habits
Children who have been brought up in an indulgent manner lack impulse control. So, they may develop poor eating habits and other habits related to self-discipline.
Time management is another skill they may be deficient in owing to being brought up without any schedule or structure.
4. Children may be to delinquent behavior prone substance abuse
These two things can happen because of poor impulse control and lack of boundaries and discipline during childhood.
5. Poor emotional regulation
Children who have been brought up permissively get very used to having all their desires fulfilled. They always get what they want. But that doesn’t happen in the real world when they grow up.
This is when they find themselves in situations where they can’t deal with their feelings when they don’t get what they want.
What to do if you or your spouse is a permissive parent?
No style of parenting is perfect. Every style comes with a list of pros and cons. However, now that you know what is permissive parenting and the major negative outcomes of the same, you may consider making a change.
When it comes to parenting styles, the first thing is understanding the best way to go about modifying your lenient parenting style.
For this, it’s best to start by acknowledging that you and your spouse may have been a bit too lenient with your child. It’s okay. Consider being on the same page with your partner about this.
Please discuss with your kids and let them know that things are going to change around the household. Acceptance and gradual change are the best way to go.
As a parent, you may start by accepting that it’s okay for your child to be upset with you sometimes. You do not have to please your child at all times.
To learn more about how to modify your parenting style, read the next section.
How to change permissive parenting?
For facilitating some positive effects of parenting styles on child growth and development, it’s best to modify your parenting style to an authoritative approach.
The authoritative parenting style is like a wonderful middle ground of permissive and authoritarian parenting. Research has shown that it is a very effective parenting style.
Here are some changes you may consider implementing:
1. Establish some solid household rules
Setting some rules about responsibilities around the house, a rough schedule for structured days, implementing curfew rules, screen times rules, etc., is a great way to start.
2. Follow the rules
Setting these guidelines isn’t enough. It’s also important to follow these rules.
It would help if you spoke to your children in a loving yet strict manner about the importance of following the rules you’ve set.
3. Implementing consequences for breaking household rules
Be kind and patient while explaining to your kids that structure and discipline are important for them. It will help them become good human beings.
Explain to them that they will face negative consequences if they break these rules.
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