What Is Permissive Parenting and How Does It Work?

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Tifa Ong
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Daughter taking picture of parents and younger sibling
Table of Contents
Highlights: Identify whether you engage in the permissive parenting style and learn more about whether this parenting style is well suited to your children.

If you allow your children to indulge too much, you have the permissive parenting style, also known as indulgent parenting.

Some parents think it’s necessary to be permissive, yet others believe it’s too lenient. But how much is too much?

One thing we know for a fact is that your parenting style directly influences your child’s well-being. So it’s paramount to ensure you support your children’s authentic development and growth.

Here’s a list of things that will help you identify if you are a permissive parent and learn how to make the best out of it:

By learning more about yourself as a parent, you can become a better parent and create deeper connections between you and your child.

What Are the 4 Types of Parenting Styles?

Diana Baumrind, a German clinical and developmental psychologist identified several distinctive parenting styles. Today, they’re known as the Baumrind parenting styles.

She categorized each style based on 2 dimensions: responsiveness and demandingness. 

Responsiveness is the degree of parents’ acceptance and sensitivity to the children’s needs. Demandingness is the degree of control over their children’s behavior. 

The 4 Baumrind’s parenting styles are:

  1. Authoritative parenting. Authoritative parents have high responsiveness and high demandingness. They have strict guidelines yet are warm and loving.
  2. Authoritarian parenting. Authoritarian parents have low responsiveness but high demandingness. They demand obedience and don’t allow children to make decisions.
  3. Permissive parenting. Permissive parents have high responsiveness but low demandingness. They set low standards of behavior but are super supportive of their children’s needs.
  4. Neglectful parenting. Neglectful parents (uninvolved parents) have low responsiveness and low demandingness. They believe in the hands-off approach and are less involved in their children’s development.
Mother and child playing

What Is the Permissive Parenting Definition?

Permissive parenting is one of Baumrind’s parenting styles. It defines permissive parents as parents with high responsiveness but low demands on the child.

It is also known as indulgent parenting. Permissive parents are sensitive to their children’s emotional needs and impose very few rules or guidelines on their children.

And more often than not, they give in to their children’s needs quickly and offer them a great deal of autonomy. Their children are free to explore, play, and learn from their mistakes. 

This type of parent’s mindset is best exemplified by the phrase: “kids will be kids.

What are the two permissive parenting styles?

Psychologists Maccoby and Martin expanded Baumrind’s permissive parenting style into 2 different types: permissive parenting and neglectful parenting.

While both permissive parents and neglectful parents have low demands on their children, permissive parents are highly responsive, whereas neglectful parents are less responsive.

Neglectful parents believe that parental interference will deter their children’s growth; so, they prefer not to get involved in their children’s lives.

What is an example of permissive parenting?

Imagine Vernon and Petunia Dursley from Harry Potter who treats their son, Dudley, like a king.

Vernon and Petunia are the perfect examples of indulgent parents. 

Permissive parents are warm, nurturing, and loving. They’d be the first to jump in as soon as the child cries and quickly give in to any of their child’s needs.

Permissive parents rarely say ‘no’ to their children because they want their children to be happy all the time. One of the biggest reasons is to avoid conflict with the child

Permissive parents are also lenient.

They don’t set standards of behavior, and if they do, those few standards are not applied consistently.

Permissive parents prefer to place themselves as their child’s friend rather than a high-authority figure.

Parents using permissive parenting while playing with child

Why Is Permissive Parenting Good?

A study published in the Journal of American College Health examined 524 undergraduates to assess the effects of different parenting behaviors

The study discovered that students experiencing stress felt a higher sense of protection and acceptance from their permissive parents. Female students, specifically, were more independent, outgoing, and confident in taking charge of situations.

Another study conducted on teenagers in Spain by Garcia and Gracia has revealed that teenagers from indulgent families have higher self-esteem, are better able to cope with the demands of the ‘real world,’ and are less likely to have behavioral problems such as aggressive behaviors, theft, and substance abuse.

What Are Permissive Parenting Drawbacks?

The same study published in the Journal of American College Health also revealed several drawbacks of permissive parenting — namely,  the child’s sense of entitlement.

Children of permissive parents may:

  • Have a higher sense of entitlement.
  • Exhibit more depressive symptoms.
  • Have poorer psychological well-being.
  • Less open to new experiences.
  • Lack of life purpose.
Parents allowing their child to play with a gadget using permissive parenting

3 Challenges Permissive Parents Face

You may not be an indulgent parent by choice. Sometimes your child gets out of control, and you simply know nothing better than to give in. 

You can learn how to manage similar situations and even prevent them from occurring.

But the first step is to identify the patterns that you are currently experiencing.

Identify if your parenting style is permissive by looking at the typical challenges most permissive parents are dealing with. 

Parenting is the most sacred act we can ever endeavor. This journey with our child has the potential to awaken us like no other journey, but we’re not prepared for it.

— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest

1. Inability to confront

As an indulgent parent, you want to say “yes” to your child all the time. Turning down your child is the last thing you want to do because you’re afraid of conflict and worse, you fear that your child may not love you anymore.

As Hank Davis, a professor at the University of Guelph, Canada, says,

Why is the passive no so widespread? One benefit it provides is that everyone is saved from the dreaded ‘C word’—Conflict.

2. Raised by authoritarian parents

Having tasted what it’s like to be raised by an authoritarian parent, you promised that you will never, ever raise your child the same way you were raised.

Sound familiar?

Like many others, you might have swung all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum because of your own childhood experiences.

Your parents controlled you 24/7 and you never had a say; so you want your child to be free, happy, and heard.

3. Unsure of the ‘best’ way

You give in to your child’s demands whenever the child tantrums simply because you don’t know what else to do.

You’ve tried a thousand approaches but none of them work. 

In the midst of your defeat, you find yourself saying yes more and more often, simply to keep the tantrums at bay.

How to create an ideal parenting environment

Permissive parenting is an archetype. It doesn’t define who you are, nor it should limit your potential as a parent. These are simply guiding points to help you understand yourself better as a person so that you can raise brilliant children.

It’s not about finding the best parenting style — what truly matters is to find an honest answer to the following question:

Are you creating an environment where your child can bloom into their most authentic self?

Tifa Ong

Tifa Ong

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