Permissive parenting pros and cons

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Are you more of a best friend than a parent?

There are many parenting styles out there. Some are highly recommended by experts, and others — usually the more authoritarian/punishment-based ones — are thought to have detrimental effects on a child’s development. In this article in our series of parenting styles, we’ll discuss a parenting method that at first glance seems to favour the child positively. But is it really so? Let’s find out about permissive parenting pros and cons — and how to improve this parenting style. 

Permissive parenting pros and cons: What Is Permissive Parenting?

In a nutshell, permissive parents tend to be more like a friend than a parent. They are very loving, and they care for their children. However they don’t discipline them, or make them learn about responsibility.

Diana Baumrind was a developmental psychologist who conducted a study on the parenting styles of the predominantly white, middle class in the 1960s. 

She was the first person who coined traditional parenting styles now widely studied in psychology, including permissive parenting. Ms Baumrind’s original definition, when paraphrased in simple terms, defines a permissive parent as someone who:

“…does not punish their children, and instead submits positively to their urges. These parents tend to ask their children on how to make important decisions. While they do explain rules, they don’t enforce them, especially on being responsible or maintaining discipline.

Permissive parents also portray themselves as something their children can use as they see fit. These parents also don’t act as a good role model to follow, nor do they educate on how to behave properly now or later in life. 

Furthermore, they do reason and use tactics to influence their children’s actions, but they don’t use their authority as parents to enforce discipline. As a result of this lack of control, children have to regulate what they do on their own almost all the time, as they are not taught to follow standards set externally.”

Does this definition sound familiar? Or does it seem like you can improve your current parenting skills by adopting this style? We present to you permissive parenting pros and cons so you can make a more informed decision on how to parent your children. 

Permissive Parenting Pros and Cons

The Pros

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Permissive parenting pros and cons: One good thing about permissive parenting is that there are hardly any conflicts. | Source: stock photo

  • Children raised by permissive parents have high self esteem, good social skills and are more resourceful than those with overly strict parents. 
  • Permissive parents are emotionally supportive and respond when interacting with their kids. They genuinely place a huge emphasis on their relationship with their kids, and wholeheartedly want to maximise their happiness. Parents might do this to prevent the distant relationship between them and their parents from repeating again. 
  • Conflicts or arguments rarely happen (if at all) since permissive parents do not regulate their child’s needs.  
  • Giving children freedom gives them space to nurture their creative juices and innovative thoughts without being scared of setbacks from limitations.

The Cons

Ineffective Parenting Skills 

Although permissive parents do openly love and care for their children, they can be too easygoing compared to parents who employ traditional parenting styles. Specifically, there are some traits that are characteristic of permissive parents which aren’t helpful in children’s development.

  • Permissive parents don’t fix rules to discipline kids. Even if they do, they do not consistently enforce them.
  • They tend to bribe children with things (food, gifts, toys) so that they will behave.
 
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Permissive parenting pros and cons: Bribing children with gifts robs them of a critical chance to learn responsibility when young. | Source: stock photo

  • They prioritise their child’s freedom over developing responsibility. They expect kids “to just be kids,” seeing them as immature and unable to execute responsibilities requiring self-control. 
  • Permissive parents hardly punish their children accordingly. 
  • They have very little expectations for their children, allowing them to navigate life on their own.
  • They ask their children for judgement on major decisions.

Research has shown that permissive parenting cons can have detrimental effects on children as they grow up. Here’s what past studies have unveiled about the effects of permissive parenting.

Effects of Permissive Parenting: What Scientific Research Says

While children of permissive parents have it easy, they miss out on critical periods of developing important skills, such as responsibility. As a result, there are many negative effects of this parenting style towards the child, including:

  • Lack of etiquette — Children do not need to have good manners or carry responsibility at home.
  • Unregulated behaviour — Children are free in regards to bedtimes, homework, mealtimes and television watching. Television watching can last as much as four hours daily, and overconsumption of snacks can risk obesity.
  • Uninformed dangers of making bad decisions — The children decide what to do on their own without consulting parents or caregivers.
  • Emotional issues due to lack of boundaries — They exhibit impulsiveness, aggression, dependency, a shortage of personal responsibility, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Attitude problems — Despite the pros, permissive parenting also results in demanding and selfish children. 
 
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Permissive parenting pros and cons: Children of permissive parents tend to engage in risky behaviour such as alcoholism when they grow up. | Source: stock photo

  • Increased alcoholism (as discussed in a previous article), unethical behaviour in school and reduced academic performance.  
  • Poor mental health, depression, anxiety, stress and academic entitlement in University students — Students of permissive parents are generally not prepared for independence in University and have an artificial inflation of self esteem (as detailed by this study from the Journal of American College Health). This makes sense, considering University is all about one’s own self regulation, and is also reflected in other studies

Why Permissive Parenting Doesn’t Work

When parents don’t stand up for rules and punishments, the only thing that children will know is that you do not mean what you say. Hence, they dominate your authority as a parent. Furthermore, the same kids are too comfortable and so are discouraged to act independently. They depend on parents, which impedes them from maturing and developing responsibility and self-control. 

Lacking discipline from an absence of rules or expectations leads to feelings of insecurity, which lead to the aforementioned attitude and emotional problems. Also, when parents seem more like friends, kids have no one to look up to for advice, and will act out out of frustration and confusion.

Parenting Styles Need to be a Mix

Other than permissive parenting, there are other parenting styles, too. The two best documented in literature are authoritarian parenting and authoritative parenting. While these are good models to follow, they are outdated and difficult for permissive parents to follow.

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Permissive parenting pros and cons: If your parents adopted an authoritarian style, remember to not pass it on to your children. | Source: stock photo

In general, it seems that authoritative parenting causes the least negative effects, as outlined by certain studies. However, even though research puts it in black and white terms, reality is not so simple:

  • Parents don’t usually use one style over the other; they use a blend of styles.
  • Not all children are the same: One style might work for one child but not the other.
  • There are different levels of permissive parenting styles, but the subject that parents are permissive on also matter (for example, it can be okay to be permissive with cotton candy, but not for skipping punishments when rules are broken).
  • Race, culture, income, social class (as explained by this NTU study) and education all play a role in the different types of parenting styles as well. 

What all this suggests is that a different mix of parenting styles can be beneficial for parents in educating their children about the world. Here, we provide four contemporary, positive parenting styles which can help permissive parents improve how they teach their children. These styles keep the love and care which permissive parents are used to, but aim to teach children how to devleop responsibility and self-discipline 

Contemporary Alternatives When Discussing Permissive Parenting Pros And Cons

1. Positive Parenting

Positive parenting has its roots in positive psychology. This branch of psychology aims at moving forward and embracing the future. Practically, this means acknowledging the bad experiences of the past (but not ignoring them) and focusing on what can happen in future. People move on by realising their strengths, skills and desire, shaping them into goals and practising them well into the future. 

This form of post-restoration growth can also be applied to parenting, otherwise known as positive parenting. Here’s how: 

  • Having strict rules, nagging and scolding about dos and don’ts is NO part of positive parenting. 
  • Focus on steering children towards the right direction — forward. Parents can take the lead, mapping things out while thinking of ideas with their children. Doing so helps their children become more decisive, prioritising and considering possibilities, while being mindful that all actions have ramifications.
  • In the process of doing this, children become empowered. Parents, what you are essentially doing is supporting their interests without strings attached, which aids them in developing their capabilities. This form of support is a massive morale booster, allowing your children to be true to their authentic self and becoming prepared for life.

Attachment Parenting 

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Permissive parenting pros and cons: In attachment parenting, meeting your child’s emotional needs too early doesn’t make them spoiled. Rather, it sets them up for healthy independence. | Source: stock photo

The cornerstone of attachment parenting is to reinforce the intuitive, psychological and emotional bond between parents and their children. Research has pointed out that laying a good foundation to emotional and identity security is necessary for a child to mature healthily. Here’s why:

  • By being very close to your children, parents will have the opportunity to better understand their child, unravel any underlying issues, and hence to swiftly fulfill their emotional needs of children.
  • If this happens all the time, children are likelier to cultivate a positive outlook towards life. They will believe that they have parents who love them unconditionally, and that people mean well and can be trusted.

Unconditional Parenting 

According to Alfie Kohn, the author who first coined the term unconditional parenting, this style of parenting has the following characteristics:

  • Traditional parenting strategies with threats, penalties and compliments conditions children into thinking that parents will only care for them depending on how they act (i.e.conditional love). In essence, if you’re not naughty I love you, and if you are, I don’t. 
  • Praising a child for good behaviour also makes children liken their actions with their self worth. 
  • Instead,  parents should express their love unconditionally. This way, their children will learn that parents love them because of their identity as opposed to what they do
  • Thus unconditional parenting nurtures children to develop their natural character and not striving to become someone they’re not for the sake of feeling accepted and valued. This is important so that they can grow as much as possible and become the best versions of themselves.

Spiritual Parenting

Spiritual parenting, as the name suggests, originated from spiritual philosophy. These teachings place a huge emphasis on being conscious, accepting and identifying a deep relationship with the present “NOW.” There are a few golden rules about spiritual parenting:

  • Acknowledge and respect that your child has their own unique personality. Give them freedom to mature their own beliefs and values which stem from their distinct personality and potential.
  • Practice what you preach to raise children conscious of their reality, says Deepak ChopraDon’t teach role models or advise them with rules or strict guideline on how to act. Instead, become the role model which you expect your children to master, gain exposure to, and develop into.
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Permissive parenting pros and cons: Want your child to learn how to do chores? Why not do it with them? | Source: stock photo

Slow Parenting

This parenting style rebels against the fast pace and overprotective tendencies of modern life that parents face. Carl Honore, the author who initially spared the thought of slow parenting, clarifies that “slow” doesn’t mean sluggish. Rather, he says that doing everything at your own pace, with quality over quantity. This means developing meaningful human connections and being present in the current “now.” 

Thus, this parenting style is aimed at seeing life as a journey of becoming who you were meant to be, and wandering through it in a loving manner. Parents are encouraged to give children the freedom to develop their own interests and mature into who they want to be. Here’s what parents can do to practise slow parenting skills.

  • Setting aside time for the family so everyone can be together, by themselves, or alone or depending on what is necessary.
  • Let children take risks and don’t interfere. Taking risks helps them to understand themselves better — what they can and can’t do.
  • Don’t have too many organised activities. Instead let the children use their own imagination while playing.
  • Let them play in natural areas, such as the woods or the garden.
  • Control the amount of television your children watch. It makes your children docile and isn’t as enriching as other activities, such as reading books.
  • Give your children toys, not smartphones or tablets. The simpler the toy, the likelier your child will spin their creativity while playing.

Balancing Parenting Skills Leading to Positive Parenting

Therefore, it is not whether one style works over the other, but rather an optimum balance of all parenting styles that parents should strive for. It might be difficult to make hard-and-fast rules about parenting, so it is best to utilise parenting styles with positive parenting in mind.

Fiona Werle-Schupp explains what this means clearly in her article. Put simply, the key points of positive parenting are: 

  • Guide your child in understanding moral values and having well-rounded beliefs. It is absolutely critical for parents to be united in their parenting decisions, problem solving and using a compatible language. Children can learn a lot by observing parents communicating in a positive manner, using their skills in solving issues while asking for their input. 
  • If parents have different styles, align the permissive parent towards the decisions of the authoritative or authoritarian parent to maintain this unity.
  • Find a balance between opinions of parents and children. Parents should explain their  perspectives so children will understand their viewpoint. This sort of understanding underlies a good foundation to the child’s values.
  • Show your children that you are vulnerable. Humans are never perfect — neither are parents, with their emotional baggage and flaws. You can’t stay patient or be positive forever. But showing your weak side will allow your children to understand that they are allowed to be human too. 
  • Balance mind, body, intuition, feeling, thought, which leads to balanced parenting. 

Other Pragmatic Parenting Tips

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Permissive parenting pros and cons: Sleep routines are a must for young kids! | Source: stock photo

Michigan State University also advises some pragmatic parenting tips:

  • Set household rules and explain to your children clearly how you expect them to behave.
  • Discuss with your child in advance what the consequences are for breaking the rules. Talking it through with them will hold them accountable.
  • Reward your child with the freedom of choosing a leisure activity every time they do something good, such as 30 minutes of television for doing laundry. 
  • Enforce limits. It may seem difficult initially, but eventually your kids will know you are serious. Over time, they will feel safe with a caring family that has limits for the children’s safety.

How Will I Know that I’m a Good Parent?

The best way to tell if you have been a good parent is to see if your children are healthy in mind and body. Here’s a rough checklist to gauge whether your parenting skills are successful:

  • Are your children willing to comply with healthy boundaries, yet feel protected knowing mum and dad care?
  • Do they know how to act properly in social environments?
  • Have they discovered their identity?
  • Are they close with each family member?
  • Is your child open and honest with you?
  • Do your children have a sense of belonging? Do they feel safe and loved unconditionally? Kids who are not afraid to express their feelings in a positive environment are guided in becoming better leaders and authentic individuals. 

Being open with family members means that they can converse with their inner self. This is key in self-regulating their actions — knowing that they did something bad, getting stressed and anxious, but learning from the experience. Children will understand that this is the pathway to becoming a healthy adult.

Permissive parenting pros and cons: To Conclude

Overall, a united family learns together, grows together but still allows each person to grow individually. Remember, parents, your job is to assist your child in trying again when they fail. The key is to instill good values, be a positive role model and practice mindful parenting.

We at theAsianparent hope that this article on permissive parenting pros and cons has been useful in guiding your parenting skills. Hopefully this will pave a better generation of adults.

Read more: 5 things we love about Diana Ser’s parenting style!

                       A stranger handed this mum a note about her parenting style 

                       Differences in Western vs Asian Parenting

Other Resources: The Parenting Project from Singapore’s Children Society, Children’s Society Singapore

                                 Why Gentle Parenting is Effective 

References

Healthline, Marriage, Michigan State University, Very Well Mind , Huffington Post, NTU, Psychology Today, Health Guidance, Journal of American College Health, Journal of Family Issues, BMC Geriartics,  Positive-Parenting-Ally, Developmental Pscyhology