Education Blog

What Parents Need to Know About Permissive Parenting

September 20, 2021

Permissive Parenting, this just might be the parenting style you had been looking for. A majority of people would feel comfortable if they knew a permissive parent. These are moms and fathers who are permissive but warm, according to American Psychological Association. Children who are unable to establish firm boundaries, monitor their children closely, or demand mature behavior from them, tend to be rebellious and aimless, domineering, aggressive, and impulsive. This is a result of children who don’t like praise or punishment and lack respect.

Is permissive parenting really so bad? The truth is that permissive parenting can be made healthier for everyone.

The Origins of Permissive Parenting

Contrary to pop-culture parenting styles (see: helicopters, tigers, lawnmowers), permissive parenting was established by the University of California at Berkeley psychologist Diana Baumrind. Based on how much care and demand a parent gives their child, she classified parenting as authoritarian, permissive and authoritative in her 1960s research.

Authoritative parenting strikes all the right notes. They have high expectations and take into consideration each child’s needs. Autoritarian parents expect a lot from their children, but they don’t take into consideration the child’s needs. They often threaten punishment with their expectations. What about permissive parents? They are flexible and responsive to their children’s needs, but they don’t demand much.

Dr. Leela R.Magavi is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist and Regional Medical Director of Community Psychiatry + MindPath Care Centers. She explains that permissive parenting may reorient the parent-child relationship to more like peer interaction. She explains that children may view permissive parents like friends and might be more inclined to confide in them. I have seen parents become more permissive in the face of pandemic because they fear that their children will lose normalcy and be depressed.

While Baumrind’s research was grounded in academic research it should be noted that her insights were almost entirely based on observations of Berkley parents. She would later expand her research into other communities as she progressed in her career. Researchers who build on her work can continue to expand their efforts. Academics agree that her psychological styles are fairly consistent in terms of their outcomes.

Positive Traits of the Permissive Parent

Although permissive parenting may not foster the best traits in children, it does not mean that they aren’t trying. Magavi argues that permissive parents can have positive underlying characteristics.

She says that permissive parents are more compassionate and empathetic than their children. They identify their child’s emotions and try to address them. They are more likely than permissive parents to validate their child’s feelings and to address their needs.

These are qualities that every parent should try to emulate. They provide structure for parents who are open to allowing their children to have a better relationship. Focusing on the positive qualities of parents and how they can benefit children can help them to stay positive while they adjust to new parenting styles.

Magavi states, “I recommend parents to practice daily self compassion and remind themselves that perfectionism could lead to their children seeing every failure as a failure. This may cause them to have long-lasting self-esteem concerns.”

She also noted that parents might find it beneficial to limit their social media use to increase their self-compassion. “Everyone looks perfect on social media. It is possible to reduce catastrophizing, rumination by changing your thinking and identifying the positive and negative aspects of each person and their behavior.

How Can a Permissive Parent Add Structure to Their Parenting?

It is difficult for everyone to adjust to the new structure. Children will sometimes take time to understand that these changes are to keep them safe, healthy, and happy. Children may react negatively to more structure and rules as an assertion of power.

Here is where permissive parents’ strengths of empathy and compassion and active listening are most useful. Magavi recommends that you take advantage of opportunities to provide verbal support. She says, “It is important to show love and support and encourage open discussion while also maintaining safety protocols and house rules.” I advise parents to establish family rules and expectations. Parents should also include positive reinforcement and validation.

It is important to get on the same page as a parent or partner. Children will be more successful if they are able to see the big picture and work together. Magavi states that it is important for parents to share any changes in rules and regulations. This will ensure consistency and children don’t see one parent as the good cop’ or – or vice versa.

Helping Kids Adjust to Changes

While it is good for the long-term, a move away from permissive parenthood can be difficult for children. Also, they are used to being treated well. They will be annoyed or even feel abandoned if their parents expect them to do it all for them.

Magavi advises parents to explain to their children the benefits of following certain rules and regulations. This allows children to think differently and see the benefits of following rules. She says it’s helpful to talk about family rules and the reasons behind them. It is also important to discuss the consequences of breaking rules. Parents who used to be permissive might find their children less accepting of them. It may take some time for children to understand and follow rules and routines.

As powerful as words may be, the power of showing is more powerful than telling. Parents must adhere to all new rules, house tasks and structures, no matter how complex or appropriate. Do you want your child to put away their clothes? It’s easier for them to put their clothes away if they don’t see any of their parents clothes scattered around the room.

The move away from permissive parental behavior is fundamentally a move towards accountability. Accountability works best when it is a two-way street.