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Permissive Parenting – Why Indulgent Parenting Is Bad For Your Child

What Is Permissive Parenting?

Permissive parenting, also known as the indulgent parenting style, is a parenting style characterized by high responsiveness and low demandingness. Permissive-indulgent parents are very responsive to their child’s emotional needs. But they don’t set limits or are very inconsistent in enforcing boundaries.

A man and child in capes play together, the man swinging the child by his arms.

Permissive Parenting Examples

Here are the characteristics and examples of permissive parenting style.

  • Responsive
    Permissive parents are responsive to their children’s needs.
  • Indulgent parenting
    Permissive indulgent parents rarely say no to their children’s demands. They may also use toys or food as bribe to get their children to behave.
  • Lenient parents
    Permissive parents are lenient and overly lax. They dislike control and authority over their children. They do not monitor or guide their children’s behavior. They have very few rules and standards of behavior. When there are rules, they are not consistently enforced.
  • Treat their kids more like peers or friends than children
    Permissive parents want their children to see them as friends rather than authority figures.
  • Children’s freedom over responsibility
    Permissive parents place very little responsibility, such as chores or homework, on their children.
  • Let children make major decisions generally reserved for adult guardians without guidance.
Permissive Parenting definition, sometimes called passive parenting meaning when mom and dad waits on the child

Effects Of Permissive Parenting

Child development experts recognize that permissive parenting is one of the worst styles of parenting among the four Diana Baumrind’s parenting styles.

Permissive parents generally do not monitor or regulate their children.

As a result, studies have found that children of permissive parents tend to struggle with self-control, which leads to a variety of bad outcomes.

Here are some of the negative effects of permissive parenting.

  • Worse academic performance
    Lax parents do not monitor their children’s studying habits. So their children have less self-discipline. Permissive parents also do not demand their children to perform or set a goal for their children to strive for. Studies show that children of permissive parents tend to have lower academic achievement.
  • More impulsive and aggressive
    Permissive parents do not control or regulate their children’s behavior. So their children are less aware of the limits of acceptable behavior. They also exhibit worse impulse control and have more behavioral problems. When facing stressful situations, they are more likely to resort to using aggression.
  • More prone to delinquency, substance abuse and alcohol abuse
    Studies have found that children of permissive parents are more likely to be associated with crimes, substance abuse and alcohol-related issues because they have worse impulse control.
  • Less able to self-regulate
    Emotional regulation is not something we are born with. It is a learned skill. Because children of permissive parents are left to regulate their own activities, behavior and emotions at a young age, they tend to have more difficulties self-regulating.
  • Worse social skills
    Studies have found that children raised by permissive disengaged parents tend to have less empathy leading to worse social skills. They generally display more anti-social behavior.
  • More likely to be overweight
    Permissive parents do not regulate their children’s eating. These children are twice as likely to be overweight compared to children raised by authoritative parents.
kid draws an airplane on wall

Are You A Permissive Parent?

If you fit some of the descriptions in the Permissive Parenting Examples above, you may be a permissive parent.

Or you may not.

The devil is in the details.

On the surface, the authoritative style and permissive style have a similar approach in raising children.

They are both warm and responsive, and they give children lots of freedom and autonomy.

Therefore, authoritative parents are often accused of being permissive by authoritarian parents.

Even though the two parenting styles share some similarities, there are subtle differences between them.

Permissive ParentingAuthoritative Parenting
Always say yes to their children’s demandsSay yes to their children’s demands when they are reasonable
Dislike control over their children. They do not monitor or guide their children’s behavior.Dislike control over their children, but they monitor and guide their children’s behavior
Have very few rules and standards of behavior. When there are rules, they are not consistently enforced.Have some rules and standards of behavior. They are consistently enforced.
Let children make major decisions generally reserved for adult guardians without guidance.Let children participate in making major decisions with guidance.
Place very little responsibility on their childrenPlace sensible amount of responsibility on their children
Two parents speaking sternly to their young daughter.

What To Do If You Are A Permissive Parent

Permissive indulgent parenting can lead to a number of bad outcomes in kids.

Here are some strategies you can use to turn things around.

  1. Announce it
    Let your kids (and spouse / co-parent) know that you will adopt an authoritative parenting style from now on. Assure them that you will still be warm and responsive to their needs like before, but now there are rules and limits you will enforce.
  2. Involve children in making rules
    Hold a family meeting to discuss what rules are needed. Ask their opinions and discuss the pros and cons. But you have the final say.
  3. Decide consequences for breaking rules
    There needs to be clear and reasonable consequences for kids for breaking the rules. Remember to use natural consequence to discipline (not to punish).
  4. Follow through
    This is the area many permissive parents lapse when they try to dislodge their permissive habits. If you are used to being the “nice” parent, it can be a struggle not only for your kids, but also for you.

    That is another reason why using natural consequence is so important. You don’t need to to be unkind or be the “bad” guy. You are simply teaching your kids new behavior by letting them experience the natural consequence. The goal is to teach, not to punish.

    Remember, being consistent is one of the most crucial aspect of authoritative parenting allowing for the best outcomes in your children’s upbringing.

Also See: Laissez Parenting Style

boy with slingshot one of the baumrind parenting styles

What To Do If Your Spouse / Co-parent Is Permissive?

Having two authoritative parents is ideal.

However, we can’t always count on changing others.

If your partner is permissive and you’ve tried but didn’t succeed in changing him/her, the best thing to do for your child is to maintain authoritative parenting habits yourself.

Research shows that children turn out better if they have at least one parent using authoritative discipline than if they have none.

A young boy and father face each other arguing.

The Opposite Of Permissive Parenting

Some parents who fear the outcomes of permissive parenting want to do everything to avoid it.

However, do not overcompensate.

Because permissive parenting is responsive and not demanding, some parents believe that the exact opposite, i.e. not responsive and highly demanding, is good.

It is not.

Because when this happens, you are using an authoritarian parenting style, which can lead to a similar set of bad outcomes in children.

Also See: Overindulgent Parenting

Permissive parenting infographic with indulgent parenting definition


Updated on September 28th, 2023 by Pamela Li

Pamela Li is an author, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more


    * All information on is for educational purposes only. Parenting For Brain does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician. *

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