I’ve been writing about science-based parenting for over eight years now. While the research often praises the authoritative parenting style, I’ve found myself leaning more toward a permissive approach – warm, responsive with few rules, if any. But guess what? It’s working out pretty well for us.
I know, I know – there’s a lot of talk out there about permissive parenting being too soft or ineffective. I’ve heard it all: I’m too easygoing, I don’t have enough experience, or my kid will end up ruling the house. But my pre-teen is turning out to be a great kid. We get along well, and I can’t even remember the last time we had a real argument.
Yesterday, I saw the proof in the pudding. My kid vacuumed the house, cooked dinner, got her lunch ready for the next day, and did laundry – all in one day, without a single complaint.
So, what’s my secret?
The trick is we don’t punish. Yep, you read that right.
It doesn’t mean we don’t discipline. We just don’t use punishment to discipline.
Since my kid was little, I’ve always focused on explaining the ‘why’ behind things. I never just said, “Because I said so.” I gave real reasons for everything I asked her to do, no matter how many times she asked, “Why?”
And it’s not a one-way street – I always encourage her to explain her point of view if she doesn’t want to do something. It’s all about teaching her to think critically and understand the reasoning behind actions.
This approach is called inductive discipline.1 American psychologist Martin Hoffman identified three main types of child discipline: induction, power assertion, and love withdrawal. Of these, inductive discipline is the most effective, found in studies.2
In our house, we don’t have a laundry list of rules, nor do we enforce a strict chore schedule. Our main rule is pretty simple: don’t do harm to others. For everything else, it’s about understanding and empathy.
Take eating veggies, for instance. It’s not a demand but more of a nudge for health reasons – “Hey, veggies are important for you, let’s add some to your plate.”
Asking for help around the house isn’t about assigning chores. It’s about expressing a need and highlighting the value of family contributions. And here’s the cool part: my kid cares about our family and is often willing to help, even if chores aren’t her favorite.
The key to this approach is using reasoning as a teaching tool, creating an environment of mutual understanding and respect. And honestly, it’s making this whole parenting journey a lot smoother.
The catch? it did initially require a lot of explaining and answering questions. But that’s part of parenting, right? Teach your kid to understand the world and distinguish right from wrong. This method also requires patience. I never expected instant compliance when I first started using this approach. It took time for the reasons and logic to sink in and for her to internalize them. Now, chores are done effortlessly.
Another advantage of not forcing chores is that when there’s a need for her to do something out of urgency or safety, she willingly complies, understanding it’s a last resort and trusting that I don’t abuse that power.
The biggest win here is the critical thinking skills my child is developing. Plus, we’ve got this amazing relationship where she genuinely wants to contribute to our family life. So, while it may take a bit more effort and patience upfront, the payoff in terms of our child’s development and our family harmony is totally worth it.
- 1.Patrick RB, Gibbs JC. Inductive Discipline, Parental Expression of Disappointed Expectations, and Moral Identity in Adolescence. J Youth Adolescence. Published online July 29, 2011:973-983. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9698-7
- 2.Choe DE, Olson SL, Sameroff AJ. The interplay of externalizing problems and physical and inductive discipline during childhood. Developmental Psychology. Published online 2013:2029-2039. doi:10.1037/a0032054