Permissive Parenting: Its Approach and Impact on Child Development  

Permissive parenting

Low demands and strong responsiveness are traits of permissive parenting. Warm and receptive to their children’s emotional needs are characteristics of permissive parents. However, they don’t always impose boundaries or define norms. Parents that adopt a lenient approach are highly sensitive to their kids’ emotions. These parents seldom ever refuse requests. Because parents who practice permissive parenting frequently cave in to their children’s requests, it is sometimes referred to as indulgent parenting. Loving parents don’t like to be in charge of their kids. These parents don’t enforce any rules; instead, they let their kids grow up organically. Children’s conduct is therefore neither directed nor observed.

Rather than being an active force in influencing their children’s conduct, parents see themselves as a resource. Children are given the freedom to make important decisions on their own that are often left to adults. Additionally, these kids don’t have a lot of responsibilities, like schoolwork or housework. Rather of acting as authorities, permissive parents prefer to be their kids’ friends. It’s characterized by a deficiency of structure, consistency and limitations when it comes to discipline, including very little interference between children and their parents’ side.

Also Read: Different Parenting Styles: How it Affects the Development of the Child

Early Research on Permissive Parenting

Three main parenting philosophies were identified by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind based on her studies with preschool-aged children. Subsequently, scholars carried out further study on the various parenting philosophies and even proposed a fourth. One of the first parenting philosophies that Baumrind discussed was permissive parenting. Indulgent parenting is another name for permissive parenting. This type of parent has comparatively low expectations for their kids. Discipline is rare because these parents have low standards for maturity and self-control.

  • Baumrind claims that parents who are tolerant “are more responsive than they are demanding.” They are nonconformist and forgiving, do not demand responsible conduct, permit a great deal of self-control, and shun conflict.”
  • Permissive parenting has been linked to increased levels of violence in certain situations. For instance, if their dads were lenient, 8-year-old girls with high levels of negative emotionality were more likely to exhibit violent conduct (Pascual-Sagastizabal et al 2021). Additionally, research indicates that children with permissive parents are more likely than those with authoritarian parents to experience “externalizing” issues (such as hostility and disruptive conduct) (Pinquart 2017)
  • Permissive parenting, in contrast to authoritative parenting, has also been connected to somewhat lower levels of academic achievement and higher childhood BMIs (Sokol et al., 2017; Sleddens et al., 2011), albeit the impact is most likely quite tiny (Pinquart 2016)
  • Permissiveness has been linked in several research to greater rates of school misbehavior and increased alcohol consumption among teens (e.g., Jackson et al 2021; Reimuller et al 2011; Weiss and Schwartz 1996; Lamborn et al 1991).
Other findings:
  • Children from households with more latitude tend to watch television for longer, according to studies. For instance, a research conducted in the United Kingdom on children aged 10 and 11 revealed that children who had permissive parents were five times more likely to watch more than four hours of television per day (Jago et al 2011). Additionally, researchers in New Zealand found that 2-year-olds with permissive moms watched television for longer than those with authoritative mothers (Howe et al 2017).
  • Additionally, there is evidence linking permissiveness to sleep issues. Toddlers and early schoolchildren were more likely to experience sleep issues if their parents were “lax or permissive,” according to a recent assessment of the research on children’s sleep issues (Newton et al 2020). Routines for bedtime have been shown to aid in children’s development of sound sleep habits. It is also known that youngsters who use screen right before bed are more likely to experience sleep problems. It is so easy to see how a lack of guidance or monitoring might cause children to develop bad sleeping patterns
  • Granted, it’s not indisputable that authoritative parenting always outperforms permissive parenting. There are no differences between teens raised by permissive parents and those reared by authoritarian parents, according to several research done in Spain and Latin America (e.g., Garcia and Gracia 2009)
  • However, a healthy emotional state isn’t usually associated with indulgent, lenient parenting. Boys with permissive parents were more likely to experience anxiety, despair, and low self-esteem, according to a research done on Palestinian Arab boys (Drairy 2004)
  • Similarly, a research that followed, American children for more than a decade discovered that preschoolers who exhibited behavioral inhibition were more likely to experience anxiety and sadness if their parents were lenient (Williams et al 2009).

The Effects of Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents’ excessively lenient parenting styles have been linked to a range of unfavorable effects, according to research. Because they don’t have boundaries or direction, kids raised by permissive parents often lack self-control, have poor social skills, are self-absorbed and demanding, and feel insecure. Although loving and caring parents who are permissive tend to have their kids’ best interests at heart, they may hinder some critical developing abilities in their kids by failing to set limits and enforce restrictions.

Studies reveal that kids with permissive parents are more likely to grow up with unhealthy eating habits, which can lead to other health issues. Additionally, they are less likely to follow set schedules for getting enough sleep, finishing their homework, and using screens, which might result in less-than-ideal habits and life skills. Offspring brought up with this parenting approach may experience poor self-esteem and display hostile conduct. They could seem conceited, challenging, and impulsive, and their capacity for self-control may be compromised.

Although some studies have revealed that children of permissive parents have social skills that are relatively favorable, other studies have found that these children’s social skills are not always well-developed. For instance, a research that was published in the journal Aggressive Behavior discovered that children raised in this manner frequently grow up to have relationships that are characterized by social aggressiveness and that the consequences of having less discipline as a child can have a long-term impact on forming constructive connections.

How to Modify Parenting That Is Permissive

If you find it difficult to enforce rules or are a pushover, think about finding strategies to become a more authoritative parent. This can be challenging at times since it frequently requires enforcing rules, growing more severe, and learning how to handle your child’s tantrums. Here are some tactics to think about:

  • Make a list of fundamental guidelines for the home: Your children need to know exactly what your expectations are in order for them to know how to behave.
  • Carry out: For permissive parents, this may be the hardest thing to do, but it’s crucial. Strive to be nice but yet tough and consistent. Give your children enough praise and explanations to help them grasp the importance of these rules, but don’t forget to enforce penalties.
  • Ensure: Ensure that your children are aware of the consequences of disobeying the rules. Guidelines are pointless unless there is some form of punishment for failing to follow them. It makes sense that disobeying the rules in the home would result in time-outs and the loss of privileges.
  • Give praise for appropriate behavior: Make an effort to see your kids acting well, and give them extra credit when they do.

Pros of Permissive Parenting:

Thanks to “free-range” parenting, which is a concept that closely resembles permissive parenting, this parenting approach has witnessed a comeback in favor in recent years. The principles of free-range parenting encompass ingenuity, natural consequences, and learnt independence. Even though they are not the same, these comparable parenting philosophies can be beneficial when used carefully and with the appropriate kind of child.

There are benefits to liberal parenting even if it may not be the most common approach.

  • Self assurance: Children who are allowed to express themselves freely will grow more self-assured and open to trying new things, no matter what the outcome. The secret to raising a child who appreciates himself or herself is to provide unconditional affection.
  • Exploration: Children raised by parents who practice permissive parenting are given more flexibility and are therefore more inclined to take on new challenges with confidence.
  • Creativity: Children are free to explore a wide range of interests and pastimes when there are few restrictions. In less regimented environments, youngsters find it easier to express their natural inventiveness.

Cons of Permissive Parenting

Nevertheless, before you go all buddy-buddy with your child, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Even while it can sound contradictory—don’t kids want to be free to do as they please?—know that limits and rules make children feel safe and secure, regardless of how much they may occasionally push back.

Children lack a true sense of good and wrong in the absence of clear limits. Because of this, they frequently experiment to see how their parents would respond, occasionally looking for their attention. Taking permissive parenting too far might trigger a number of additional unfavorable outcomes, especially attention-seeking behavior.

  • Risk-prone temperament: When children lack appropriate boundaries, they are left to fend for themselves and may approach certain circumstances without hesitation or fear. This might make them more likely to engage in dangerous conduct, such substance misuse.
  • Behavioral inhibition: Research has indicated that kids raised by permissive parents are more likely to experience anxiety and despair. Encouragers frequently urge these kids to keep their troubles to themselves, leading them to tend to retreat.
  • Rebellion: Kids who are allowed to “rule themselves” think that this kind of behavior is acceptable outside the house, which might result in a confrontational and disobedient attitude toward other people.

Examples of Permissive Parenting

These are some examples of how permissive parents could respond in real-world circumstances.

  • Screen time: Permissive parents can let their kids to use screens for as long as they like, without any daily or weekly restrictions.
  • Play dates: Partial parents may enforce the rule on certain days but not others, rather than enforcing it strictly, such as no play dates until the kids’ rooms are tidy.
  • Food and treats: The majority of permissive parents leave their kitchen “open at all times,” letting their children eat anything and whenever they like.

Permissive Vs. Other Parenting Styles

Based on the findings of a Stanford study team and child psychologist Diana Baumrind, there are four main parenting philosophies.They observed that children raised with each of these parenting philosophies had a variety of behaviors and personality traits. They emphasized authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and negligent parenting philosophies.

Permissive Parenting Vs. Authoritarian Parenting

Very child-driven are parents who are permissive. They find it difficult to enforce restrictions on their kids. They also make an effort to keep their marriages peaceful. Their main priorities are to offer their kids warmth, acceptance, and love. Parents who exercise authority are more parent-driven. Certain laws and regulations, which are strictly enforced and must be followed, are formulated by them. They use penalties and discipline in combination to keep things under control.

Permissive Parenting Vs. Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting and permissive parenting are quite different from one another.Parents who are authoritative combine a nurturing and encouraging approach with high standards for success and output. They talk to their kids about the reasoning behind the regulations they establish and uphold.

Permissive Parenting Vs. Uninvolved Parenting

Neglectful or uninvolved parents are cold and unresponsive to their children’s needs, in contrast to warm and loving permissive parents. They provide little to no emotional support or advice. Offspring of these parents typically face greater difficulties in their relationships and throughout life. They have greater rates of drug abuse and mental health problems and are unable to control their emotions. Additionally, they may exhibit increased degrees of delinquency and behavioral issues.

If you see these indications of permissiveness in your own parenting, it pays to intentionally strive to use a more authoritative approach since permissive parenting may result in a lot of issues. If your parenting style leans more toward permissiveness, consider strategies to assist your kids comprehend your standards and expectations and be consistent in upholding them. You can make sure your children have the life skills they need as they grow up by giving them the proper amount of structure and support.


Ehrenreich S, Beron K, Brinkley D, Marion K. Underwood. Family predictors of continuity and change in social and physical aggression from ages 9 to 18. Aggressive Behav. 2014;40(5):421-439. doi:10.1002/ab.21535

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