What is Permissive Parenting? Is it Right For You?

Last Updated on May 6, 2021 by Michele Tripple

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Permissive Parenting is a type of parenting that combines low demands with high levels of warmth from parents. Learn all about the pros and cons of this parenting style and see if your current style fits in!

Permissive Parenting

Everyone thinks they will be the perfect parent… until they have kids. Let’s face it, when we see those sweet, innocent faces staring up at us for the first time, it’s hard to picture them ever doing anything wrong. 

Of course, we all wish that we could find a perfect balance between showing love and disciplining our kids effectively. None of us want to make mistakes as parents. But that is easier said than done.

If you’re anything like me, as your kids have gotten older, all you want is for them to be happy. It’s hard to see your kids unhappy. Sometimes this means that dishing out consequences can break our hearts as parents. After all, practicing conscious parenting is not always the easiest when it means allowing our kids to be unhappy at times.

Do you find it difficult to discipline your kids? Do your kids see you more as a “best friend” and less as an authority figure? Do you struggle with allowing your kids to be unhappy about anything? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you may be what is called a permissive parent. 

What is Permissive Parenting?

Permissive parenting is one of the main parenting styles (the others are authoritative parenting, authoritarian parenting, and uninvolved parenting). It is normally characterized by low expectations and high responsiveness. Parents who practice this parenting style are very loving toward their kids. While they excel in nurturing, they tend to lack in providing rules and boundaries for their kids.

We’ve all heard the term “helicopter parent.” Permissive parents tend to be on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. While helicopter parents hover over their kid’s every move, permissive parents tend to do exactly the opposite. These are the parents whose attitudes are typically that of “kids will be kids.” Little to no attempt at disciplining is usually employed.  

Permissive parenting may not sound like the best option for raising self-disciplined and mature kids, but it does have some perks for sure!

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Key points of Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents are very responsive to the needs of their kids, often sacrificing traditional discipline in the process. But there is so much more to this parenting style than just that.

  • Permissive parents show an abundance of love toward their kids. They praise their kids often and in a way believe that their kids can do no wrong.
  • Kids are often included in making major decisions.
  • Freedom for the kids is usually emphasized over the need to be responsible. 
  • Rules (if there are any) tend to be inconsistent and under-enforced.
  • Consequences are rarely enforced and bribery is often used as a means to get kids to comply with parental wishes.
  • Permissive parents are more like friends, rather than parents, to their kids.

Pros of Permissive Parenting

Overall, permissive parenting tends to have a negative stigma attached to it. But, used appropriately and on the right kids, there are some great things that can come of it.

  • Permissive parenting can in some ways encourage autonomy, as kids are used to doing many things on their own. 
  • Kids of permissive parents may also be more resourceful than their age-mates who were raised by authoritative or authoritarian parents.
  • Creativity and exploration are two key outcomes of kids who are raised using a permissive style. These kids may feel less tied down to “rules” which allows them to better express their creativity and more open to experiencing “adventure.”

Cons of Permissive Parenting

You may already see some faults in this parenting style, but we wanted to highlight some of the downsides to permissive parenting.

  • Kids raised by permissive parents may lack self-discipline, which can be hard to develop later in their lives.
  • Social skills may be lacking in kids of permissive parents because their parents have worked to protect their kids from any unnecessary pain.
  • These kids may also become very demanding and bossy over time because they are used to getting what they want. They are also used to being free to do what they want when they want, which can make time-management an issue later on in life.
  • Because permissive parents have low expectations, their kids may struggle to achieve things in a variety of areas in their lives. After all, if nobody ever expected you to excel, don’t you think you’d struggle to strive for anything?

What Permissive Parenting Looks Like In Action

Even with all of this information, it might still be hard to know whether you truly are a permissive parent. Compare these examples of permissive parenting with your parenting style to figure out if it fits!  

  • Permissive parents do not limit the screen time that their kids enjoy. While this does not necessarily mean that the TV is on all the time, it does mean that there is no schedule or limit placed on screen time. The kids are usually in charge of when and for how long they use screens.
  • Typically play dates are not monitored by permissive parents. They usually don’t set any kind of rules about when kids can play with their friends and oftentimes they may not be aware of exactly where their kids are playing.
  • The pantry and fridge are usually a “free-for-all” in the permissive parent’s house. Few limits (if any) are put on snacking throughout the day. Meals are flexible and permissive parents may find themselves preparing a variety of different meals because their kids all want different things.

How To Change Your Parenting Style

Do you believe you are a permissive parent? You may be comfortable with this parenting style and the outcomes associated with it. If you’re not, and you are wanting to change your style, we have a few tips for getting started! It is never too late to improve your parenting skills!

  • Set up boundaries and expectations for your kids. Include the kids in coming up with some “house rules.” Make sure they understand what the expectations are and what will happen when they break the rules. Start small – there is no reason to change everything all at once. Your kids are likely to respond better when you add in rules a little at a time.
  • Follow through on the consequences! This is possibly the hardest change for permissive parents to make. When your kids break a rule, there needs to be a consequence. Wherever possible, allow the “punishment to fit the crime” by providing a natural consequence.
  • Recognize good behavior. When your kids follow a rule or they do something great, acknowledge that! No matter how small their success, show them how proud you are of them.

Do you practice permissive parenting? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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