Parenting

What Is Permissive Parenting?

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Every parent is different, and the same is true for every child. However, parenting styles are often characterized into one by the following: Authoritative parenting, authoritarian parenting, uninvolved or neglectful parenting, and permissive parenting. Each of these styles of parenting has specific traits and has been researched to determine the impacts of the parenting style on the children or child.

In this article, I’ll outline what permissive parenting is, its characteristics, and its effects. Lastly, we will discuss the other types of parenting styles, the ways that the traits of these parenting styles impact child development, and what you can do if you want to change your own parenting style.

What Is Permissive Parenting?

Permissive parenting is one of four primary parenting types or styles. It is also sometimes called “indulgent parenting.” Each parenting type has distinct characteristics.

Examples of Permissive Parenting

There are positive and negative characteristics of permissive parenting.

The positive traits of permissive parenting include:

  • Responsiveness and warmth towards their children
  • Coming to help when they cry
  • Validating and discussing their feelings

The negative traits that characterize permissive parenting include:

  • Little to no standards of behavior, consequences, or rules for the child.
  • Inconsistent follow-through on rules and consequences. For example, if a parent does set a standard and the child pushes back, the parent is likely to give in.
  • Little to no parent-imposed structure or schedule.

A permissive parent may be likely to act more as a friend than as a parent and may use bribery. It is possible to implement positive traits, such as being warm, nurturing, attentive, responsive, and loving as a parent, without the negative aspects - inconsistency, little structure, and lack of expectation or efforts toward behavior modification when needed.

Effects of Permissive Parenting

Parenting style isn’t the only thing that can influence emotional regulation or bad behavior, but it makes a notable impact. The way that someone parents a child has an influence on how the child exists in the world both internally and externally, shaping high responsiveness how they feel inside and how they act on the outside as well.

Effects of permissive parenting tend to include:

  • Challenges with emotional and self-regulation.
  • Trouble managing habits or time.
  • Entitlement.
  • Potential lower academic achievement.  

These aren’t necessarily a consequence of the positive traits such as warmth, but rather the lack of guidance in the parent-child relationship and regulation provided by a parent, leading to these challenges.

Different Types of Parenting

There are three other main types of parenting outside of permissive parenting. These different types of parenting include authoritarian, authoritative, and uninvolved or neglectful parenting. Each parenting style can have different effects on children.

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian Parenting is what some may think of as the “old way” when it comes to parenting. With this parenting style, parents do not tend to a child’s emotional needs. Instead, they are strict, using harsh rules and punishments in the household while offering little in terms of support.

Authoritarian parents may expect high academic performance and shame children when high expectations aren’t met but offer little praise when they are. This parenting style is associated with negative outcomes such as mental health problems, including higher levels of depression and anxiety, emotional suppression and trouble managing or expressing emotions, fear of failure, lower self-esteem, and behavioral problems.

Authoritative Parenting

Despite the similarities in the name, authoritative parenting is very different from authoritarian parenting. Authoritative parenting is the parenting style associated with the most positive outcomes for a child. Similar to permissive parenting, authoritative parents are receptive, warm, and responsive.

They nurture their child emotionally and otherwise, listening to their point of view even if they don’t agree with it. However, with authoritative parenting, a parent sets healthy boundaries and limits for a child - they both set rules and explain them so that a child understands why the rules are important, and they follow through on consequences. This parenting style is associated with secure attachment,  fewer behavioral concerns, and positive social relationships.

Uninvolved Parenting

Sometimes called neglectful parenting, uninvolved parenting is somewhat self-explanatory. This parenting style is characterized by a lack of responsiveness to a child’s needs. With this parenting style, a parent makes few demands on the child.

There aren’t many expectations, nor guidance or support; even if unintentionally, the parent is hands-off. This can lead to insecure attachment, difficulties with emotional regulation, an increased risk of mental health concerns such as depression, and lower achievement.

Is it Possible to Change Parenting Styles?

A parent may not intentionally engage in the parenting style they do; positive intentions can meet poor execution, after all, and the way a parent was raised themselves could have an impact in addition to other factors. If you identify that you want to change your parenting style to one that’s more adaptive for your child or children, it’s possible to do this.

The best way to do this is to pinpoint what you want to change and how you’ll change it, and then stick to it. Ensure that your words and actions are consistent. For example, if you tend toward a permissive parenting style, that might mean you have a tough time implementing consequences for a child’s actions.

Maybe you try to set boundaries or rules but don’t stick to them. To change it, you would think of a consequence that you can stick to next time it is necessary, state that consequence to the child, and follow through by putting that consequence into action.

It can be tough to do this at first, a child that isn’t used to the follow-through might push back or might not believe that you’ll go through with it. It is crucial to be persistent. In time, kids will learn that you mean what you say. As this can be a rocky shift, the support of a therapist or another mental health professional may be advantageous for you as a parent while you work to change your parenting style.

Takeaway

Varying ways of parenting, called parenting styles, can influence a child’s behavior and how they feel about themselves. Permissive parenting is one of four main parenting styles, and it’s characterized by positive traits such as nurturing as well as negative traits, such as a lack of consequences.

It’s possible to be a parent who is warm and responsive without the negative elements of permissive parenting; this would generally be associated with authoritative parenting. Parents can change their current approach if they choose.