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Permissive Parenting: A Comprehensive Guide

In the vast landscape of parenting styles, “Permissive Parenting” stands out as a unique approach. This style, characterized by high warmth and low demands, has sparked numerous discussions among parents and experts alike.

Understanding Permissive Parents

permissive parenting - a child painting the wall

Low demands and high responsiveness characterize permissive or indulgent parenting. Parents who follow this style are typically nurturing and warm, often acting more like a friend than a parental figure. They set few rules and boundaries and rarely enforce them, allowing their children to navigate their paths with minimal interference.

This style contrasts sharply with other parenting styles, such as authoritarian, authoritative, and uninvolved. Overbearing and authoritarian parents are strict and controlling, authoritative parents balance demands with responsiveness, and uninvolved parents are neglectful and unresponsive.

For instance, permissive parents tend to allow their child to stay up late on a school night to finish watching a movie, valuing the child’s immediate happiness over the potential consequences of lack of sleep.

Permissive Parenting vs. Authoritative Parenting

Parenting styles significantly influence a child’s development; among the various styles, the effects of permissive parenting style and authoritative parenting often spark considerable debate. Understanding these styles can help parents make informed decisions that best support their children’s growth.

Permissive parenting is often characterized by high responsiveness but low demands. Permissive parents often act more like friends than authority figures, setting few rules and rarely enforcing them.

They are highly nurturing and responsive to their child’s needs, often going out of their way to ensure their child’s happiness. However, this lack of structure and discipline can lead to children struggling with self-regulation, having low self-esteem, and developing a sense of entitlement.

On the other hand, authoritative parenting strikes a balance between demands and responsiveness. Authoritative parents set clear rules and expectations but also show understanding and flexibility.

They encourage open communication, allowing their children to express their thoughts and feelings freely. This parenting style is often associated with positive outcomes, including higher academic achievement, better emotional intelligence, and improved social skills.

The critical difference between permissive and authoritative parenting is balancing freedom and structure. While permissive parents avoid conflict and allow their children to make decisions without much guidance, authoritative parents provide a supportive environment where rules and boundaries are clearly defined and enforced.

However, it’s important to note that no parenting style is one-size-fits-all. The effectiveness of a parenting style can depend on various factors, including the child’s personality, mental health, the family’s cultural background, and specific circumstances. Therefore, parents should strive to adapt their parenting style to meet their child’s unique needs and circumstances.

The Impact of Permissive Parenting

Positive Impacts

Permissive parenting can foster child development in a warm and nurturing environment. Children raised by permissive parents often feel free to express their thoughts and emotions, knowing they will be met with understanding and support. This can lead to strong parent-child relationships and high self-esteem in children.

Negative Impacts

However, the lack of structure and discipline in permissive parenting can also lead to several adverse outcomes. Children may struggle with self-regulation and self-discipline, as they are not used to having boundaries set limits or consequences for their actions. They may also develop a sense of entitlement, expecting to get their way without considering the needs or feelings of others.

Research has shown that children raised by permissive parents may struggle academically, have poor social skills and emotional intelligence, and are more prone to delinquency and substance abuse.

However, it’s important to note that outcomes can vary depending on individual child characteristics and other environmental factors.

Are You A Permissive Parent?

Remember, while these characteristics are typical of permissive parenting, not all parents who exhibit these behaviours are permissive. Parenting styles can be complex and vary greatly depending on various factors.

  1. Lack of Rules or Boundaries: Permissive parents often have few or no rules for their children. They allow their children to do what they want without any restrictions.
  2. High Responsiveness: They are highly responsive to their child’s needs and desires, often ensuring their child is happy and content.
  3. Avoids Confrontation: Permissive parents avoid confrontation or conflict with their children. They rarely enforce discipline and may give in to their child’s demands to avoid arguments.
  4. Acts Like a Friend: Instead of acting as an authority figure, permissive parents often behave more like a friend to their child. They may prioritize being liked by their child over setting boundaries and enforcing rules.
  5. Lack of Expectations: They have low expectations regarding their child’s behaviour or responsibilities. This could include not expecting their child to do chores, do homework, or follow a routine.
  6. Rarely Says “No”: Permissive parents rarely use the word “no” and often let their children get their way. They may give in to their child’s demands or requests, even if they are unreasonable.
  7. Doesn’t Enforce Consequences: Even when rules are set, permissive parents often fail to enforce consequences when those rules are broken. This can lead to the child not taking the rules seriously.
  8. Highly Nurturing and Warm: They are often very loving, warm, and nurturing. They show a lot of affection and are very involved in their child’s life.

Examples Of Permissive Parenting

  1. Lack of Bedtime Routine: A permissive parent might allow their child to stay up as late as they want, even on school nights, leading to the child not getting enough sleep.
  2. No Set Meal Times: A child of permissive parents might be allowed to eat whenever they want, leading to irregular eating habits and potential health issues.
  3. Ignoring Bad Behavior: Permissive parents often overlook their child’s bad behaviour, such as throwing tantrums or not doing their homework, without setting consequences for these actions.


  1. Establish a Routine: Parents can set a consistent bedtime routine for their child. This ensures that the child gets enough sleep and teaches them the importance of discipline and routine.
  2. Set Meal Times: Parents should establish regular meal times. This ensures that the child eats healthy and instills a sense of discipline and routine.
  3. Set Consequences for Bad Behavior: Instead of ignoring bad behaviour, parents should set appropriate consequences. This could be as simple as taking away a privilege or setting a time-out. It’s important to explain to the child why their behaviour was wrong and what they can do differently next time.

How to Balance Permissive Parenting

While permissive parenting can foster a warm and nurturing environment, balancing this with structure and discipline is important. Here are a few tips:

  • Set clear rules and expectations: While giving your child freedom is important, they must also understand that their actions have consequences. Therefore, set clear rules and consistently enforce them.
  • Teach responsibility: Give your child age-appropriate tasks and responsibilities. This can help them develop a sense of accountability and understand the importance of household contributions.
  • Encourage open communication: While setting boundaries is important, allowing your child to express their feelings and concerns is equally important. Encourage open and honest communication in your household.

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Permissive parenting, like any parenting style, comes with its unique set of advantages and disadvantages. While it fosters a nurturing and responsive environment, lacking structure and discipline can lead to negative outcomes.

Parents must strike a balance, setting clear rules and expectations while being responsive to their child’s needs. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. The best parenting style meets your child’s needs while aligning with your values and circumstances.

All parents strive to raise happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children. However, understanding the impact of our parenting styles can help us make informed decisions that best support our children’s growth and development. Whether you identify as a permissive parent or not, the key is providing a nurturing, emotionally supportive environment where your child feels loved, supported, and guided as they navigate life.

Key Takeaways

  1. Permissive Parenting: This parenting style is characterized by high warmth and low demands. Permissive parents often act more like friends than authority figures, setting few rules and rarely enforcing them.
  2. Comparison with Other Styles: Permissive parenting contrasts with other styles such as authoritarian (strict and controlling), authoritative (balance of demands and responsiveness), and uninvolved (neglectful and unresponsive).
  3. Permissive vs. Authoritative Parenting: Permissive parenting is high in responsiveness but low in demands, while authoritative parenting balances demands and responsiveness. The critical difference is the balance between freedom and structure.
  4. Impact of Permissive Parenting: Positive impacts include a warm and nurturing environment, strong parent-child relationships, and high self-esteem in children. Negative impacts can include struggles with self-regulation, low self-esteem, a sense of entitlement, poor academic performance, and a higher likelihood of delinquency and substance abuse.
  5. Characteristics of Permissive Parents: These include a lack of rules or boundaries, high responsiveness, avoidance of confrontation, acting like a friend rather than an authority figure, low expectations, rarely saying “no”, failing to enforce consequences, and being highly nurturing and warm.
  6. Conclusion: Permissive parenting has its unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Parents need to strike a balance, setting clear rules and expectations while being responsive to their child’s needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

An example of permissive parenting could be allowing their child to skip school because they don't feel like going without any significant reason or consequence.
Permissive parenting can lead to children struggling with self-discipline, having low self-esteem, feeling entitled, and having poor academic performance.
Like any parenting style, permissive parenting has its pros and cons. For example, it can foster a close parent-child relationship, but lacking structure and discipline can lead to adverse outcomes.
No, permissive parenting is characterized by a lack of strict rules and discipline. Instead, permissive parents are lenient and rarely enforce rules or consequences.

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Picture of Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen’s career began in Behaviour Therapy, this is where she developed a passion for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches. Following a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology she pursued a Master of Counselling. Pareen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She specializes in CBT and Lifespan Integrations approaches to anxiety and trauma. She has been published on major online publications such as - Yahoo, MSN, AskMen, PsychCentral, Best Life Online, and more.

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