The Problems with Permissive Parenting

mom with watering can over daughter

Hands-off parenting, or permissive parenting, is when parents do not prefer to enforce any rules or authority over children. Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist who studied the science of parenting methods in the 1960s, describes three main types of parenting, including authoritarian or strict parenting, and authoritative parenting, a middle ground combining high standards with responsive nurturing.

Understanding Permissive Parenting

Parents who embrace permissive parenting styles in child-rearing often express the emphasis they want to place on the child’s freedom. The problems this can cause, however, often include the opposite of their intentions, placing undue burdens on a child needlessly. Giving children reasonable freedom of choice and decisions, based on their age, will raise self-reliant, confident children. However, a lack of boundaries and consistency can rob them of their freedom.

When children don’t know where their limits are, the weight of finding those boundaries themselves is overwhelming. It adds weight to their shoulders they don’t need in life yet. Because their mental development is incapable of processing long-term or bigger-picture consequences, children often suffer from immature circumstances and desires. It gives them responsibility they are not ready to own.

mom with daughter underneath playing

Parents can and should find the middle ground of nurturing their child’s growth, encouraging independence, and maintaining predictable rhythms of expectations. Healthy routines and balanced structure help children build self-discipline, cooperation, responsibility, and can help eliminate child anxiety. The comfort of dependability is vital to child development. When kids have predictable rhythms, it gives them a sense of security and independence.

The inconsistency of the permissive parenting style often leaves well-meaning parents feeling regretful or guilt-laden. Being hands-off and lenient may temporarily solve relationship tension, but it leads to mistakes, resentment, and important oversights in character development. When the permissive parent takes a tolerant, accepting attitude toward the child's wants and impulses, even when their conduct is negative or unacceptable, they are neglecting to demonstrate proper social constructs to their child. Ultimately, they are doing a disservice to both the child and surrounding citizenship.

stressed out mom sitting on couch while toddler makes a mess

Creating a Healthy Environment

Relationships and daily living in the home flourish when families operate as a team, playing by the same rulebook. When guidelines are consistent and the management of time, resources, and expectations are handled responsibly, nurturing and integrity go hand in hand. Your child can learn flexibility and manners at the same time. It doesn’t mean that children cannot have a say in family decisions or independence. But studies show that families embracing too permissive and lenient of a lifestyle leads to children stressed with impulse issues and aggressive behavior. Lack of boundaries produces insecurity in kids and lends them to be consistently more demanding and selfish. When children think the world revolves around what they want and desire without consequence, they become less loving and supportive and more self-absorbed and arduous. They may have high self-esteem, but to an unhealthy degree, where they esteem themselves above others. They often have a lower sense of accountability for their actions.

Balance is the key to successful parenting. Baumrind’s studies found that the middle ground, authoritative parenting, is the best of both worlds—strict and relaxed—and it turns out the most successful kids.

Nurturing relationships with firm standards is the winning combination. Don’t be afraid to put limits and boundaries up; it gives them the freedom to simply be kids.