Do you consider yourself the “cool” mom or dad? Do you like to think of yourself as more of a friend to your kids than a parent? If so, you may have a permissive parenting style.
A Laid-Back Approach to Parenting
Psychologist Diana Baurmind identified permissive parenting as one of three major parenting styles (the others being authoritative and authoritarian) in a 1967 study. Permissive parenting is characterized by parents who don’t set very many rules, guidelines or standards of behavior for their kids. These types of parents tend to be very warm and responsive to their children, to the point where they make little or no attempt to discipline them when they misbehave.
The Downsides of Chilling Out
While having a warm, friendly rapport with your child is undoubtedly positive, permissive parents run the risk of their children missing out on important opportunities for growth and development. Without any standards of behavior, academic performance, or other elements in this vein, kids have less reason to strive for achievement.
According to some research, children raised by permissive parents are more at risk for social difficulties and deficiencies. One study from Brigham Young University found children of permissive parents are more likely to drink heavily in adolescence, while another from Arizona State University found they’re more prone to internalize negative feelings.
Children of permissive parents are also more likely to develop attitudes of entitlement, particularly in academic areas, according to research from East Tennessee State University. In other words, they might feel they deserve to succeed without trying hard. These feelings of entitlement can lead to aggression when kids don’t get their way.
There are worse things than being a permissive parent. Psychologists Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin identified a troubling subgroup of permissive parents called uninvolved parents. Like permissive parents, uninvolved parents place little to no emphasis on rules and boundaries. However, where a permissive parent is warm and receptive, an uninvolved parent is cold and distant. They might take care of food, shelter, and other basic needs for their children, but leave everything else for kids to figure out, including emotional support.
Providing Structure and Support
According to author and educator Kendra Cherry, the crucial missing ingredients from both permissive and uninvolved parenting are clear guidelines and consistent enforcement.
“Because there are few rules, expectations, and demands,” Cherry wrote for VeryWellMind.com, “children raised by permissive parents tend to struggle with self-regulation and self-control.”
Cherry urged parents to establish explicit rules, set clear punishments for breaking them, and clear rewards for following them: “If you tend to more of a permissive parent, think of ways you can help your children understand your expectations and guidelines and be consistent about your enforcement of these rules.”
Permissive Parenting — Sources
Continuity and Change in Social and Physical Aggression from Middle Childhood through Early Adolescence
Impact of Behavioral Inhibition and Parenting Style on Internalizing and Externalizing Problems from Early Childhood through Adolescence
Parenting style, religiosity, peer alcohol use, and adolescent heavy drinking.
Permissive parenting and mental health in college students: Mediating effects of academic entitlement.
What Is Permissive Parenting?
Why Parenting Styles Matter When Raising Children