Positive parenting or permissive parenting: what's your style?

Positive parenting or permissive parenting: what's your style?

Both styles involve plenty of love and gentleness when it comes to disciplining your child, but one sets boundaries and the other does not.

Discipline methods for our children are plenty, but which one do we choose? It can get quite confusing to say the least.

In Singapore, some parents swear by a more authoritarian approach to disciplining children. But at the same time, more and more parents are looking for gentler ways of correcting their little ones.

If you are such a parent, two alternative methods of discipline that you may have heard about are permissive parenting and positive parenting. But often, the two are confused.

In this article, you’ll find out exactly what each system of discipline is about, and which one is advocated more (and why) as the better way of disciplining a child.

Permissive parenting

Permissive parenting is one of the three parenting styles developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind defines, based on her research with preschoolers.

According to Baumrind “permissive parents are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behaviour, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation.”

Parents who adopt this extremely relaxed style of parenting (also known as “indulgent parenting”) are in general very warm, caring and nurturing (which is awesome).

They impose very few or no rules or boundaries when it comes to their children’s behaviour and attitudes (which is questionable). They often take on the role of friend rather than parent.

Because of this, critics of the permissive parenting approach believe that children who grow up in this parenting environment may be “self-involved and demanding” and “may feel insecure due to the lack of boundaries and guidance.”

positive parenting

A person following the permissive parenting approach would most likely ignore or give in to their child’s tantrum, rather delving into the root cause of the tantrum.


  • Being seen as a friend rather than a parent to your child can have its benefits when your child is older, in terms of making communication easier between you both.
  • Kids may grow up having higher levels of self-esteem in the face of complete positivity and lack of criticism, anger or judgement from their parents.
  • Children who are raised by permissive parents are often better communicators and more confident in general.


  • Children brought up in a permissive parenting environment may have increased alcohol use as teenagers as indicated by research.
  • Studies also point to higher rates of school misconduct and lower levels of academic achievement among children brought up in a permissive parenting environment. This is possibly because such children have no understanding of how to behave in an environment where certain rules need to be followed — such as in school.
  • Another study indicates the link between permissiveness and excessive TV use among children.

Positive parenting

According to the Council of Europe, “positive parentingrefers to parental behaviour that respects children’s best interests and their rights, as set forth in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – a convention which also takes into account parents’ needs and resources.”

This method of parenting is also called positive discipline, gentle guidance or loving guidance — and all for good reasons.

Parents following this method of child rearing nurture, guide and empower, while acknowledging their little ones as individuals and respecting their sense of independence.

This does not mean that boundaries are non-existent. Instead, they are set in a gentle way to teach kids to be gracious and considerate of those around them.

At the same time, those following this method of parenting believe that children should be treated with respect, not be shamed and brought up in a loving, caring environment.

positive parenting

A parent following positive parentingmethods will set gentle but firm disciplinary boundaries to keep any undesirable behaviour from their child in check.


  • Positive parenting focuses on building a child’s resilience and strengths, rather than highlighting weaknesses.
  • It is considered to be the most effective discipline method of stopping behaviour problems in children.
  • It gives a child the opportunity to calm down and think, rather than remain in a state of heightened emotion.
  • Positive parenting raises children to be compassionate, understanding and non-violent adults who are fully capable of controlling their emotions.

We did our research thoroughly, and there are truly no identifiable disadvantages to this method of parenting!

positive parenting

Time outs are not considered to be an effective way of disciplining a child among those who following the positive parentingmethod. This is because it isolates the child when she is emotionally vulnerable and may make her resent you even more.

The difference between positive and permissive parenting

You may not think there’s not that much of a difference between the two parenting methods — but there actually is and it is related to the way discipline issues are handled.

Take this example that is adapted from the website Positive Parents:

Your two year old has entered a hitting phase. At a friend’s house, she starts to hit another child who grabs her toy. In a situation like this, the permissive parent would ignore the hitting completely, or just say “We don’t hit” and leave it at that.

The positive parentingreaction would involve the parent going to her child immediately and first taking him away from the situation. She would then get down to the child’s level and say something like this: “You’re angry! She took your toy and you got mad! Hitting hurts. Sit here with me until you’re feeling better.”

What is happening here is that the parent is empathising with her child’s emotion, but at the same time, having removed her from the situation at once, is showing the child that hitting is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. With an older child, the parent could possibly ask him to reflect on what happened after he has calmed down.

It is quite apparent that positive parentingemerges as the more effective gentle discipline or parenting method in comparison to permissive parenting. But having said this, following a particular parenting style to a T is impossible.

What is important is that you choose and adapt the best features of any parenting style to suit your personal parenting philosophy and belief system, and most importantly, your child’s personality.

positive parenting

If all fails, give your child a hug and reassure him that you love him.

More tips on disciplining your child the gentle way

1. Lead by example

Children follow by example and will naturally act as you do. When you are a good role model to your kids, they will be able to conform to your moral practices, and be influenced in beneficial ways.

2. Differentiate between right and wrong

Your young toddler cannot differentiate between right and wrong. It is your duty to set boundaries and reinforce them.

3. Keep your composure

Do not let your feelings take control whenever you discipline your child. If you feel you are losing your temper, walk out of the room (of course leaving your partner or another responsible adult with your child) and take a deep breath or two to help you calm down.

4. Be reasonable

There are times when we forget how unreasonable we can be. Unlike adults, children do not think as we do, and measures that seem effective may be overly harsh to them. You want to still be able to let your child reach out to you.

5. Be understanding

As a parent, you ought to put yourself in your children’s perspective and let them know that you understand their feelings. Try words like these: “I know you are upset, but….” or “I know you are having fun, but…” and “You’re scared…”

6. Say “YES” instead of “no”

Instead of saying “No, stop playing!”, try saying  “Yes, let’s start cleaning up!” The word “Yes” carries positive connotations and this will help your child react positively too, to your instructions.

7. Dedicate time

Spending time is easier said than done. Many parents think they spend sufficient time with their children everyday. Truth be told, parents are usually distracted by chores and duties around the house or at work. Dedicate a good half an hour or longer to listen to them and find out about their day.

8. When all else fails, give them a big hug

Because children just want to be loved.

Mums, what’s your parenting philosophy and how do you discipline your children? Do share your mum-wisdom with us by leaving a comment below!

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