Permissive Parenting Style: Characteristics & What it Means for Kids

Permissive Parenting Style: Characteristics & What it Means for Kids

"Permissive parents are warm and affectionate but fail to enforce structure, boundaries, discipline, or expectations."

Saying yes to every request, failing to enforce consequences, treating your child like a friend – these are all examples of permissive parenting, and they can get you into trouble down the line.

While most experts agree that permissive parents are warm and nurturing toward their children, they also agree that this parenting style can be problematic. Children of permissive parents often end up feeling entitled, performing poorly in school, and even acting aggressively. The good news is that it’s never too late to start establishing boundaries and undoing the bad behavior that may come as a result of permissive parenting. 

Read on to explore permissive parenting style examples, how it affects children, and how this style compares to other types of parenting

What is Permissive Parenting Style?

Also known as indulgent parenting, the permissive parenting style is characterized by high responsiveness and low demands. Permissive parents are warm and affectionate but fail to enforce structure, boundaries, discipline, or expectations. Seeing their child as an equal, they make little or no effort to control them. They will also go to great lengths to keep their child happy, sometimes spending excessive money or time. Permissive parents are often seen as the opposite of “helicopter parents.” Instead of hovering over their child’s every move, they allow their kids to make their own decisions without giving much direction or guidance.

Characteristics & Examples of Permissive Parenting 

Though nurturing and affectionate, a permissive parent will rarely set rules or expectations. They’re inconsistent with discipline and will often use bribery to get their child to behave. 

Explore more examples of the permissive parenting style below.

Responsiveness to Child’s Needs

Permissive parents are highly responsive to their children. They are often kind and loving, which helps the child to feel confident and supported. However, over time, this high responsiveness can have unintended consequences. If a child never hears “no,” they won’t be able to learn how to manage their feelings when things do not go their way in the future. 

Indulgent & Lenient Parenting

Permissive parents are often called indulgent, because they are quick to give in to their child’s demands. They are also lenient–they rarely dish out consequences when children misbehave, often taking on the motto, “Kids will be kids.” Not wanting to be controlling, a permissive parent will not monitor or guide their child, which can sometimes lead to risky behavior.

Treating Kids Like Peers

A permissive parent loves to see themselves as their child’s BFF. They’ll seek their opinion on large decisions and never force them to do something they don’t want to do. While this type of arrangement may build some closeness and trust, being best friends with your kid also means no one is in charge. And if no one is in charge, then no one can set boundaries, rules, or limits.

Placing Little Responsibility on Children

To stay in their child’s good graces and not have to deal with any pushback, a permissive parent will rarely put any responsibilities on their child. Don’t want to make your bed? No problem. Don’t want to do your homework? Skip it. Placing little responsibility on children means catering to their every whim. This sets them up for facing harsh realities in the future.    

Letting Kids Make Major Decisions without Guidance

A permissive parent believes their child should be entitled to make their own decisions. In lieu of enforcing consequences, they let their child encounter consequences organically. Instead of making them  study for their test so they don’t get a bad grade, they’ll let the bad grade be a lesson. Without proper guidance, children are left to fend for themselves, often leading to poor problem-solving skills.

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How Does Permissive Parenting Affect Children?

Studies have found that permissive parenting is negatively associated with children’s psychosocial development. Children of permissive parents tend to exhibit “narcissistic tendencies, social irresponsibility, and self-centered motivation.”1 

Low frustration tolerance, poor self-regulation,  feeling unable to manage their time or habits–these are just a few of the many negative consequences of permissive parenting. Explore more consequences of the permissive parenting style below.

Less Self-Regulation

Children of permissive parents are left to regulate their own behavior and emotions at a young age. But without guidance, they don’t learn to self-regulate in healthy ways. Other research has found that when parents were more permissive, their adolescents were more likely to engage in heavy binge drinking.2

Increased Impulsiveness & Aggressiveness 

According to the American Psychological Association, children of permissive parents tend to be impulsive, aggressive, and domineering, with low levels of self-control.3 Interestingly, some research shows that these consequences are even more pronounced for children who share the same gender as the permissive parent.4

Worse Academic Performance & Social Skills 

Permissive parents rarely place any expectations on their child, inadvertently hindering their child’s self-motivation. Some studies have linked permissive parenting to low academic achievement.5 Children of permissive parents can also have difficulties socializing because of their self-centering behavior. Research has shown that children may develop low self-esteem, a lack of emotional stability, poor self-concept, insecurity, and little regard for others.6

Weight Difficulties 

Because children of permissive parents have trouble with self-regulation and boundaries, their physical health is often at risk. Studies have found a significant association between this style of parenting and child obesity.7

How to Know if You’re a Permissive Parent

You may be a permissive parent if you answer yes to the following questions:

  • Do you have trouble saying “no” to your child?
  • Does your child quickly escalate to tantrums when they don’t get their way?
  • Do you have to use bribes to get your child to behave?
  • Do you give in to your child so that they’ll stop whining?
  • Are you inconsistent about consequences?
  • Does your child try to negotiate with you constantly?
  • Does your child struggle with transitions only when it wasn’t their idea?

Permissive Parenting vs Other Parenting Styles 

What are the parenting styles besides permissive? 

  • Authoritarian: High in control and low in warmth, an authoritarian parent demands obedience and is the ultimate disciplinarian. They are often critical and strict and offer little praise or affection. Children often fear the authoritarian parent.   
  • Authoritative: Considered the healthiest parenting style, authoritative parenting is high in warmth and control. Parents aim to provide a supportive and non-judgemental environment while guiding the child through boundaries and reasonable discipline.
  • Neglectful: Low in warmth and control, neglectful parents are mostly uninvolved and offer little support to their children. There is little structure at home and children eventually learn that they cannot count on their parents.

If you think you are a permissive parent, you can still turn things around. Some changes you can start making today include the following:

  • Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your child.
  • If the child whines or throws a tantrum, empathize with them, but don’t give in.
  • Refuse to negotiate with your child.
  • Involve your child in establishing house rules and consequences for breaking those rules.
  • Don’t make empty threats. If you mention a consequence, follow through.
  • Don’t use bribery to get your child to comply.
  • Start assigning responsibilities and age-appropriate chores.
  • Establish a daily routine to provide structure at home.
  • Enforce time limits on screens.

The permissive parenting style is said to be a strong predictor of anxiety and depression in children.8 As New York-based clinical psychologist Dr. Nanika Coor tells Choosing Therapy, “Children of permissive parents have more difficulty regulating their emotions, taking the perspective of others, and controlling their impulses. These kids are more likely to be overweight and also more likely to struggle socially and lack confidence in their abilities.”9

If you think your child is struggling with symptoms of anxiety, you may want to consider signing them up for therapy so they can get the support they need. You can also consider taking Brillia, a non-prescription medication for kids 5-18 that reduces stress and anxiety without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia’s unique methodology combines antibody science with behavioral science. Through our holistic 5 Pillars, you can learn how to support your child through healthy lifestyle habits like proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness

Learn more about what makes Brillia different and find more strategies on how to reduce anxiety, impulsivity, and restlessness at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

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References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
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