What Is Permissive Parenting? We Weigh the Pros and Cons

Updated 05/18/18

We've said it before, but we'll say it again: There is not one successful approach to parenting. In fact, you may even want to find a hybrid of styles that work for you and your little one. You've probably already noticed that we've given you the rundown on attachment, authoritative, and even gentle parenting, but now it's time for us to focus on permissive parenting.

Although permissive parenting sometimes gets a bad reputation, there are parts of this style (as well as situations) in which it can be quite effective. According to clinical psychologist Diana Baumrind, permissive parents are "more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation." In this type of parenting, the child does not have a bevy of rules; in fact, parents tend to be pretty hands off and even act like more of a big sister or brother rather than as a traditional mom or dad.

While these children usually end up growing up independent, there are also cons like not having enough rules and challenging authority.

Below, let us walk you through permissive parenting—all the pros, cons and even the in-betweens.

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THE CHARACTERISTICS

Like authoritarian parents, permissive parents are very responsive to their children. However, the difference becomes apparent when it comes to limitations and rules. Authoritarian parents are strict and set boundaries; permissive parents do not enforce rules (or sometimes even set them in the first place). 

THE PROS

Communication can be more of a two-way street since parents and child both have a say and children do not feel nervous speaking their minds.

Because children know their parents will love them unconditionally—no matter if they mess up or not—their self-esteem may be higher than other children's.

Children are often encouraged to be creative, which can lead to the development of more hobbies and can spark a sense of imagination.

Conflict is minimized since parents tend to work around their child and their wants and needs.

THE CONS

Some studies have found that this type of parenting technique can lead to risky behavior in older children, especially pertaining to alcohol use. "A permissive parenting style and beer drinking are risk factors for alcohol abuse among late adolescents and young adults," one study says.

It can also cause kids to internalize their feelings rather than letting them out. A study found that it can affect children as young as age four. 

Kids can have no real sense of boundaries since their parents react to their actions rather than impose sanctions in advance. 

They don't always understand the concept of respect since they tend not to defer to their parents or treat them with more reverence. This can especially become difficult in school, work, and other social settings.

They're not used to hearing "no," so they can sometimes lash out when they hear so from authority or elders outside of their home.

THE TAKEAWAY

There are pros and cons to every parenting style, and what works for one family may not work for another. It's also reasonable to say that some parents may be authoritative in some instances and permissive in others. What's worth considering is that a study in Spain found that adolescents who were brought up with a permissive (aka indulgent) parenting technique scored equal to or better than those whose parents followed an authoritative style. So when it comes to bringing up your children, perhaps it's worth considering being a little less strict once in a while (maybe even just with smaller things like TV consumption or snacking).

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