Permissive Parenting: Exploring the Effects of Indulgence

To prevent any misunderstandings, it is important to note that being too permissive as a parent can lead to negative outcomes.

According to Very Well Mind, research proves that permissive parenting can lead to poor self-discipline, a lack of social skills, and feelings of insecurity in children.

Children may also become demanding and selfish and lack an understanding of boundaries and consequences. For most parents, these are not the desired outcomes of their parenting efforts.

The good news is that you can learn more about permissive parenting and choose to make changes for a healthier parenting outcome.

This article highlights the possible negative effects of an indulgent parenting approach.

Permissive parenting imposes few demands on children. Permissive parents provide constant love and acceptance but there are few rules, expectations, and responsibilities given. As a result, children have poor self-regulation, lack self-control, and have no concept of consequences.

If you’re worried that you’re being a permissive parent or want to learn more about this parenting style, keep reading.

Permissive Parenting Definition

Michigan State University defines permissive parenting as a parenting style that is nurturing and warm but reluctant to impose boundaries.

They also state that the permissive parenting approach rejects the idea of controlling children. Permissive parents don’t demand maturity and responsibility from their children.

Permissive Parenting Characteristics

Permissive parents:

  • Warm and nurturing toward their children at all times.
  • Don’t impose structure or schedules.
  • Are more of a friend to the child than a parent.
  • Prioritize a child’s freedom over responsibility.
  • Allow children’s opinions to affect major decisions.
  • Impose very few rules, and the rules that are in place are inconsistent.
  • If rules are broken, there are little to no consequences.
  • Encourage children to behave by bribing them with treats and toys.

Is There Discipline With Permissive Parenting?

According to Healthline, permissive parents are lax instead of setting strict guidelines in place, often not setting any rules or expectations in place for their child.

As a result, children aren’t expected to be obedient, and if they misbehave, there is no form of discipline in place and they are not taught about consequences.

At first glance, permissive parenting can seem loving and warm, but children with no boundaries cannot develop and mature in a balanced way.

Permissive Parenting Examples

Below are a few examples of what permissive parenting might look like:

  • A child who’s allowed to stay up very late at night even if they have school the next day or need to be up early for an event.
  • Protecting a child from ever feeling disappointment by appeasing them at every turn.
  • When the child does something wrong (say, biting another child at school), the parents don’t approach the problem but let it slide.
  • Never assigning any chores or responsibilities to the child.
  • Making excuses when the child does something wrong.
A young couple and their two children lounging in a big bed together.

Permissive Parenting vs. Gentle Parenting

It’s sometimes easy to confuse permissive parenting and gentle parenting, but they are quite different.

When permissive parenting plays out, the decision-making power is fully in the hands of the child.

Gentle parenting will consider the child’s feelings and opinions while implementing boundaries.

Gentle parents use respect and empathy to ensure boundaries are understood and upheld. Permissive parenting doesn’t impose boundaries. 

Permissive Parenting vs. Uninvolved Parenting

Permissive parenting and uninvolved parenting have one similarity, and that’s that there are no standards or rules/boundaries in place.

However, the similarities end here.

Permissive parents are nurturing and warm. In contrast, uninvolved parents only provide children with the basics for survival, such as food, clothing, and shelter.

Is Permissive Parenting Always Intentional?

Permissive parenting may be intentional, but there is no hard evidence to prove that it is always intentional on the parent’s part.

Moreover, parents are human too and can sometimes make mistakes or errors in their parenting approach.

A parent may believe that they’re showing their child love by being permissive without realizing the potential negative effects.

Do Experts Recommend Permissive Parenting?

The most recommended parenting style is authoritative parenting. Many studies have found that permissive parenting can result in problems in children that can transfer to adult life.

Some studies have even found that 4-year-old children can internalize problems more when they have permissive parents.

Does Permissive Parenting Work?

In some areas, permissive parenting works for parents who want their children to experience warmth and affection.

Some children can develop good self-esteem and feel more open to exploring hobbies and interests than others.

That said, the negative results of permissive parenting can outweigh the positives. 

Is Permissive Parenting Harmful?

Research has shown that permissive parenting can be harmful to children in several ways. Children can lack self-discipline, develop poor social skills, and become insecure and demanding.

Other findings show that children may become low achievers because there is little expected of them, and they may make poor decisions because they have no one guiding them or teaching them how to make good decisions.

Children may dabble in substance abuse, become aggressive, and lack emotional understanding as they age. Time management and self-control might also become problems.

Permissive Parenting Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to all parenting styles, even permissive parenting. Below are a few snippets of the pros and cons associated with permissive parenting:

Pros:

  • Children experience loving and warm parenting.
  • Children feel free to explore and investigate their creative side (hobbies, art, interests, etc.).
  • Some children may feel confident in handling situations themselves.

Cons:

  • Children may become aggressive.
  • Some children are prone to substance abuse.
  • Poor decision-making skills in most children.
  • Some children can lack self-control.

Permissive Parenting Effects

Permissive parenting has immediate or short-term effects on a child as well as long-term effects as follows:

Short-Term Effects

Children of permissive parents may feel overwhelmed with a sense of freedom and make poor decisions as children.

They may be self-involved and even become aggressive when things don’t go their way in the real world.

As a result, many children of permissive parents don’t perform well in their school studies. 

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of permissive parenting are those that may extend into adulthood.

Children of permissive parents may struggle to maintain healthy, balanced relationships because they’re not used to expectations or responsibility.

They may also go on to abuse substances or be selfish and socially inept in later years.

Importance of Boundaries in Parenting

Boundaries help children feel safe. In fact, children with healthy boundaries during childhood develop into confident, respectful adults.

One of the biggest benefits of setting boundaries for children is that they learn that boundaries are important, and they can set their own boundaries in the future to ensure they have self-discipline and don’t accept being mistreated later on in life.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re worried that you’re a permissive parent and it might negatively impact your child’s development, it’s never too late to change your parenting approach.

You can start to turn around your parenting style and have a more positive impact on your child.

Suppose you’ve chosen the permissive route because you want your child to explore their creative side and develop their individuality freely.

In that case, there are other ways you can do that while practicing a healthier parenting style, such as authoritative parenting.