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The Impact of Permissive Parenting on Child Development

Reading time: 9 minutes
Written by
| Updated on
April 22, 2024
Reviewed by parenting expert
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What you’ll learn

Discover the impact of permissive parenting on child development & well-being. Explore consequences & alternatives for a nurturing environment.

In the journey of parenting, various approaches and styles exist that parents adopt to raise their children. One such parenting style is permissive parenting, which is characterized by a lack of structure, rules, and discipline. While it may seem like a relaxed and easy-going approach, permissive parenting can have a significant impact on a child’s development and overall well-being.

Understanding the effects of permissive parenting is crucial for both parents and their children. By delving into the definition and traits of permissive parenting, we can gain insight into how this parenting style differs from others. Through illustrative examples, we can witness firsthand the consequences of overindulgent parenting and how it may hinder a child’s growth. By understanding its effects and exploring alternative approaches, parents can strive to create a nurturing and supportive environment.

Understanding Permissive Parenting

Learning the traits and definition of permissive parenting can help you understand all it entails.

Definition and Traits of Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting, often referred to as indulgent or lenient parenting, can be seen as a parenting style flavored with high levels of warmth and affection but low in setting limits and discipline. The key characteristic is the lack of rules and structure, where parents tend to take on a friend-like role rather than an authoritative figure in their child’s life.

Permissive parents are indulgent and equate love with leniency. They are generally nurturing and communicative, but they lack consistency in setting boundaries. They often avoid conflict and confrontation by adopting a laissez-faire approach, leaving children to manage their own activities and behaviors without much adult intervention or guidance.

Four young girls applying makeup to each other's faces, laughing and having fun together.

Credits: Pexels

The Permissive Parental Style vs. Other Parenting Styles

Comparatively, permissive parenting starkly contrasts with other primary parenting styles, such as authoritative and authoritarian parenting. Authoritative parents, for instance, strive to balance both warmth and discipline, setting consistent boundaries while also encouraging independence. They guide their children’s behavior, promoting rational and open discussions.

Authoritarian parents, on the other hand, employ high levels of discipline and control, with less focus on warmth and communication. They set strict rules and expect unchallenged obedience, differing from permissive parents, who provide more freedom and less direction.

Permissive parenting is unique in its focus on freewheeling self-expression and lack of structure. While nurturing friendship between parents and children, this style brings with it its own set of challenges and impacts.

Examples of Permissive Parenting

To illustrate the concept of permissive parenting and its impact more tangibly, let’s dive into some examples of permissive parenting in action:

• A common scenario might involve a school night when a child wants to stay up late to watch a movie. The permissive parent, unwilling to enforce a bedtime and incur their child’s dissatisfaction, allows them to watch the movie. They disregard the potential consequences, such as tardiness or grogginess at school the next day.

• Another example might be a situation where a child refuses to eat their vegetables at dinner. The permissive parent, not wanting to incite a battle of wills, doesn’t insist and lets the child skip their greens without consequence. In this situation, the child’s preference takes precedence over what might be nutritionally best for them.

• A third example could be a situation where a child spends numerous hours playing video games, essentially consuming their entire day. Instead of setting time limits or balancing the child’s day with other activities, the permissive parent allows the child to continue playing, effectively disregarding any potential impact on the child’s physical activity, academic progress, or even social interactions. This example reflects how, in desiring to keep their child content, a permissive parent might overlook the importance of cultivating healthy habits and a balanced lifestyle.

These examples shed light on different aspects of permissiveness. In each case, the parent is opting for immediate peace and avoiding potential conflict rather than enforcing rules or guidelines that might benefit the child in the long term.

👉 Curious if your child is spoiled? Dive into our article to uncover the signs and impacts of overindulgent parenting: ‘Signs of a spoiled child and how overindulging parenting may affect his life in the short and long term’.

A boy clings to his father's leg, not wanting him to leave.

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The Consequences of Overindulgent Parenting

Understanding the potential outcomes and effects of permissive parenting is critical for grasping its overall impact on child development.

1. The Disadvantages and Risks for the Child

Permissive parenting poses several risks and potential disadvantages for the child. While this style may promote openness and camaraderie between parent and child, it often fails to provide the structure and boundaries that children need for healthy development.

Children raised by permissive parents may struggle with self-control and become impulsive since rules and consequences are often not enforced. They may also develop poor social skills, as they are not guided on how to respect boundaries and rules in social situations.

A lack of discipline and structure can lead to challenges in academic settings where the child is expected to adhere to rules and schedules. Additionally, these children might develop a sense of entitlement, expecting to get their way without understanding the need for compromise or negotiation.

2. Long-Term Effects on Children (Future Adult)

The impact of permissive parenting extends into adulthood. Adults raised in permissively parented households may struggle with self-discipline and responsibility, often having difficulty when faced with structuring their own lives. They may find it challenging to make decisions and set personal boundaries, as they were rarely exposed to such restrictions during their formative years.

Furthermore, they may struggle with maintaining relationships, having been raised in an environment where their needs and wants were always prioritized. As a result, the ability to compromise, empathize, and consider others’ needs—essential skills for any relationship—may be underdeveloped.

3. The Impact of Easy-Going Parenting on Parent-Children Relationships

When exploring the dynamics of permissive parenting, consider how this style shapes the parent-child relationship. While a friend-like bond may seem appealing, the lack of authoritative figures may blur the lines between parental guidance and peer-like friendship.

While this style can lead to open communication and trust, it often results in an imbalance of power, potentially causing instability and confusion. The lack of authority and guidance might also result in insecurity and anxiety for the child, who may crave more structure and predictability in their lives.

👉 Explore the 4 general parenting styles in our article and find out which one is recommended by experts for your child: ‘What are the different parenting styles?‘.

Transitioning from Permissive to Authoritative Parenting

If you’ve recognized that an overindulgent parenting style isn’t serving your child’s best interests, then taking steps towards authoritative parenting could be a game-changer.

1. Recognizing the Need for Change

Understanding when to shift parenting styles is crucial. Here are some signs that suggest a transition from permissive to authoritative parenting might be necessary:

  • Your child frequently disregards rules or commitments.
  • You feel more like a friend than a parent to your child.
  • Your child struggles with self-discipline and self-control.
  • There’s a pattern of entitlement or selfishness in your child’s behavior.
  • Your child has difficulty following rules or boundaries in social and academic settings.

If these signs resonate with your current situation, take heart. Shifting parenting styles is feasible, and it can especially be beneficial if you’re transitioning from permissive to authoritative parenting.

Mom working on her laptop while her daughter looks annoyed, trying to get her attention.

Credits: Pexels

2. Tips for Being a Balanced Parent

Transitioning to a more balanced style from permissive parenting might feel challenging initially, but it’s doable. Here are some practical tips:

Establish and Communicate Clear Expectations

Be explicit about what you expect from your child, whether it’s related to homework, chores, bedtime, or behavior toward others. This could involve setting a daily or weekly schedule that outlines when homework should be done, when bedtime is, and what chores are expected to be completed each day. You could also discuss and write down behavior expectations and refer back to them when necessary. This not only clarifies what you expect but also gives your child the chance to meet these expectations and feel a sense of achievement when they do.

Set Boundaries and Stick to Them

Children need boundaries to feel safe and learn responsibility. Uphold these boundaries consistently. For example, if you’ve decided that 8 p.m. is bedtime during school days, make sure this rule is consistently followed. Don’t give in to pleas or negotiate for a later bedtime. This teaches your child that you mean what you say, and there are specific rules to be followed. If they’ve completed their homework and chores on time, occasional exceptions can be made as rewards. This will also teach them about the importance of earning privileges.

Encourage Responsibility

Assign age-appropriate tasks and chores to your children, reinforcing their inherent capacities and promoting a sense of accomplishment once they’ve completed them. By encouraging responsibility, children learn the value of contributing to the household and their community. This may be something as simple as making their bed each morning, helping with meal preparation, or taking care of a pet. Not only does this involvement instill a sense of responsibility, but it also aids in developing other essential skills such as time management, problem-solving, and cooperation. Acknowledge their effort and accomplishment, which can boost their self-esteem and reinforce their understanding of responsibility.

3. Promote Open Dialogue

Encourage your child to express their feelings or any concerns. This helps to foster mutual trust and respect. In these discussions, actively listen to your child’s thoughts and validate their emotions. When they feel heard, it can boost their confidence and encourage them to continue open communication. At the same time, these conversations provide you with insightful glimpses into your child’s world, helping you better understand their needs and experiences.

4. Practice Empathy

Show understanding for your child’s feelings while also guiding them towards better behavior or choices. For instance, if your child is upset because they are not allowed to watch television before completing their homework, empathize with their disappointment but explain the importance of prioritizing responsibilities. This approach not only acknowledges their feelings but also reinforces the need for discipline and responsible choices. It’s also critical to model empathetic behavior in your interactions with others, demonstrating how understanding and respect for others’ feelings contribute to positive and healthy relationships.

5. Be Patient and Flexible

Changing parenting styles isn’t an overnight process. Be gentle with yourself and your child as you navigate through this transition. You may not always get it right, and that’s okay. Remember, parenting is not about perfection but about creating a loving and nurturing environment for your child’s growth and development. Similarly, your child may need time to understand and adapt to the new rules and boundaries. They may resist or react, but with time and consistency, they will come to understand and appreciate the structure provided by your authoritative parenting style.

Implementing these strategies might be challenging at first, but remember that patience, consistency, and love are vital elements in authoritative parenting. By shifting gears and finding the right balance, we can steer our children towards becoming responsible, empathetic, and self-sufficient individuals.

Conclusion

The impact of permissive parenting on child development can be profound. While the laid-back approach may seem harmless at the onset, its long-term effects on a child’s character formation and life skills can be detrimental. It may hinder their ability to develop self-discipline, respect for rules, social skills, and even their capacity to form healthy relationships in adulthood.

However, recognizing the need for change is the first step towards fostering a healthier parenting style. Transitioning from permissive to authoritative parenting can be transformative, not only for the child but also for the parent-child relationship. This shift, while challenging, brings about a balance of warmth, communication, set boundaries, and consistent discipline that aids in nurturing well-rounded, responsible, and emotionally healthy children.

Understanding the effects of our parenting styles can pave the way for self-reflection and constructive change. As parents, our ultimate goal is to provide our children with a nurturing environment that aids their growth rather than hinders it. By adopting an authoritative parenting style, we can strike a balance between being approachable and being firm, between offering freedom and setting limits, and between loving our children and preparing them for the real world.

We invite all parents to reflect upon their parenting styles, understand their impacts, and take steps, if necessary, towards a more balanced approach that equips children with the skills to navigate life with confidence, empathy, and resilience. While parenting doesn’t come with a manual, being aware of our parenting style and its impact on our children can make a world of difference. Join our online parenting class, ‘How to Get Kids to Listen,’ and learn techniques to raise a balanced, confident child. Enroll now for expert guidance!

Ready for more parenting wisdom? Get personalized advice from Sophie, our intelligent AI assistant, and navigate your parenting journey with ease. Start now!

References

Coppola, G., Musso, P., Buonanno, C., Semeraro, C., Iacobellis, B., Cassibba, R., Levantini, V., Masi, G., Thomaes, S., & Muratori, P. (2020). The Apple of Daddy’s Eye: Parental Overvaluation Links the Narcissistic Traits of Father and Child. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(15), 5515. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155515

Doepke, M., & Zilibotti, F. (2017). Parenting with style: altruism and paternalism in intergenerational preference transmission. Econometrica, 85(5), 1331–1371. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44955167

Lippold, M.A., Davis, K.D., Lawson, K.M. & McHale, S.M. (2016). Day-to-day Consistency in Positive Parent–Child Interactions and Youth Well-Being. Journal of Child and Family Studies 25, 3584–3592. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0502-x

Radomir-Belitoiu, R. (2019). The Relationship between Parental Styles, Anger Management, and Cognitive-Emotional Coping Mechanisms in Adolescents. Journal of Experiential Psychotherapy, 22(4), 17–24.

Sanvictores, T. & Mendez, M. Types of Parenting Styles and Effects On Children. Stete Pearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK568743/

van Schie, C. C., Jarman, H. L., Huxley, E., & Grenyer, B. F. S. (2020). Narcissistic traits in young people: understanding the role of parenting and maltreatment. Borderline personality disorder and emotion dysregulation, 7, 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40479-020-00125-7

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