Why Permissive Parenting Might Be Harmful to Your Child

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Permissive parenting, also known as indulgent parenting, is a type of parenting where parents are very tolerant and lenient towards their children’s behavior. They give in to their children’s wants without much hesitation.

It is one of the three major parenting styles, as defined by Diana Baumrind in the 1960s, which was later expanded by Maccoby and Martin (1983) into four.

Characteristics of a permissive parent

Permissive parents believe that “kids will be kids; they are too young to understand anything.” They are warm and loving and set little to no rules for their children to follow. In other words, they don’t spend much effort disciplining their children.

In their view, disciplining their children will displease them. They are too afraid to make their children unhappy. They don’t see disciplining as a means of training and improving the child’s overall well-being. They allow their children to have most, if not all, of the freedom to make their own decisions.

Children are the ones who are in control, not the parents. Parents function more like a friend rather than someone with authority. For instance, rather than telling the children that they should brush their teeth before going to bed, they might say, “Don’t you want to brush your teeth before bed?” And that’s what friends do; they suggest or request, not instruct.

Effects of permissive parenting

Every parenting style has its effects, whether positive or negative. It’s no doubt that permissive parenting has more negative effects than positive.

1. Poor achievement in various areas

Studies have linked permissive parenting to low achievement. With little to no expectations from their parents, these children have nothing to strive towards. This results in the children not being motivated to excel at whatever they do. They may do very poorly in their studies.

2. Unable to make good decisions

Since young, permissive parents do not help their children make the right decisions. This leads to their children making poor life choices. The child grows up without learning any problem-solving or decision-making skills.

3. Less able to self-regulate their emotions

We aren’t born knowing how to regulate our emotions. Emotional regulation is an essential skill we learn as we grow and progress in life, especially for young children.

Children of permissive parents aren’t taught the skills to monitor and modulate their emotions or how they experience and express them. They are always left to regulate their activities, behavior, and feelings, resulting in them struggling to self-regulate. They may even be at a higher risk of depression and anxiety in later years.

4. More prone to aggressive behavior

Because of the inability to self-regulate, children of permissive parents are more prone to aggressive behavior. Since these children always get what they want, they will never know how to behave appropriately when faced with stressful or emotionally challenging situations. They may get very angry or frustrated when things don’t go their way. This will also then lead to impaired social skills.

5. Poor social skills

They have less or no empathy. They don’t know how to behave well in front of people. When things turn out to be the opposite of what they expect, they withdraw themselves and become anti-social. People will find it challenging to communicate and connect with them as well.

6. More prone to delinquency, substance abuse, and alcohol abuse

Studies have also found that children raised by permissive parents are more likely to engage in crimes, substance abuse, and alcohol abuse. This is because they have become very impulsive.

What does the Bible say about permissive parenting?

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

The Bible clearly commands parents to do their part in developing and nurturing their children in the right way.

What is the meaning of train? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, train means to form by instruction, discipline, or drill. Hence, training up a child means instructing, disciplining, or drilling him in the way he should go. In other words, instructions and disciplining are part of parenting. Now that we know the definition, we ask ourselves, is permissive parenting the way to go?

Eli and his sons

A permissive parent that can be found in the Bible is Eli, the priest of the Jewish people. Eli’s sons were wicked. They did horrible things that were displeasing in the eyes of the Lord. They had no respect for the Lord (1 Samuel 2:12-13). What made matters worst was Eli was aware of their wrongdoings. Eli merely scolded them and took no further action when his sons chose to ignore his words (1 Samuel 2:23-25).

God later warned Eli that judgment would come to him and his family. Nevertheless, Eli permitted his sons to continue engaging in misconduct, resulting in their deaths (1 Samuel 2:29-34; 1 Samuel 3:11-14). If Eli had taken heed of the warning from God and disciplined his sons, things might turn out differently for him and his family.

This story greatly emphasizes the need for parents to train, discipline, correct, and guide their children. Being permissive as a parent contradicts what the Bible commands. Like Eli’s sons, children without discipline will lack respect for authority.

I’m a permissive parent. What can I do to change?

You realize now that you are a permissive parent. As a permissive parent, you have learned and understood the consequences. You then ask yourself, “Is it too late to change? How can I be better?”

Do not worry. Don’t lose heart. There’s still hope. Recognizing your own parenting style is the first step to change.

Below are some suggestions on how you can change your permissive parenting style.

1. Set clear boundaries and give instructions

Develop and then communicate to your children the house rules, the do’s and don’ts, that are easily understood. You can even involve them in setting the boundaries. If what they suggest isn’t appropriate, talk to them about it. Once communicated, enforce them consistently so that your children will see that you are serious about it.

2. Establish a routine

It’s good to let your children get used to a daily routine. It helps you as a parent to manage better and for your children to learn discipline. Having a daily routine will help them realize that some tasks need to be completed without question, and each activity has a specific time—for example, mealtime.

You ought to set the mealtime for your children so that they understand each meal is to be taken at an appropriate time and not at their own desired time. Another example would be hygiene, such as bath time and brushing teeth. They need to know that bathing and brushing their teeth is a daily routine. It isn’t up to them if they want to take a bath or brush their teeth.

3. Be consistent and follow-through

This is one of the most critical aspects of disciplining children.

Take a football match as an example. Each competing team has its own goalpost. Imagine if the goalposts constantly shift. It will make it confusing, not just for the goalkeepers but also for the players, referees, coaches, and even the audience watching the game. At some point, everyone will get frustrated and lose interest in the game.

Likewise, you need to be consistent and stay on track. When your children exhibit challenging behavior, stay calm and remind them again of the rules you have set for them. Don’t be tempted to loosen the rules and give in. It will only make matters worse. You would be wasting your initial efforts in setting boundaries and routines.

So, is a permissive parenting style harmful to your children?

To judge if a parenting style is good or bad, we ought to see if it brings more negative consequences than benefits in the long run. There is no doubt that a permissive parenting style can lead to several problems.

If you tend to be a permissive parent, it’s still not too late to change by adopting some of the suggestions above.

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