What Is Permissive Parenting?

teach our kids empathy as well as self-confidence and worth. When you practice permissive parenting, you touch on some of these traits while other traits tend to lack a certain focus.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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permissive parenting

Permissive parenting is one of the four main parenting styles, as categorized by psychologists. As parents, we want to raise our children in a kind and loving household. We want to teach our kids empathy as well as self-confidence and worth. When you practice permissive parenting, you touch on some of these traits while other traits tend to lack a certain focus.

Giving gifts and bribery to keep a child in check is a primary tool used by permissive parents, rather than boundaries or expectations. Saying “no” is an afterthought as a permissive parent would rather avoid all confrontation. Punishment for wronging doing is non-existent.

A permissive parenting style, which is oftentimes called an “indulgent parenting style”, can lead to some unintended consequences. “Rules and respect are intimately connected; one cannot exist without the other,” says Jeff Nalin, an award-winning licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Paradigm Treatment Centers, via Parents. “Parents who fail to implement certain restrictions also fail to teach their children to respect themselves and others, which can negatively impact the way they interact with teachers, peers, and authoritative figures.”

Aside from permissive parenting, the other three main types of parenting are…

  • Authoritative parenting offers a wonderful combination of styles. The parent solves problems with their child. They set clear and concise rules as well as expectations for the child. They keep communication open but also allow for consequences for a misbehaving child.
  • In Authoritarian parenting, very high expectations are placed on the child. As a parent using this style, your focus is more on discipline, obedience, and control rather than the nurturing of your children. If a child makes a mistake, the punishment is harsh. If a child requires feedback, it is more than likely going to be negative.
  • The Neglectful parenting style sees the parent uninvolved or even absent from the child. There is little to no guidance and the parent is often indifferent to the child’s needs emotionally or behaviorally.

Of the four parenting styles – Permissive, Neglectful, Authoritative, and Authoritarian – permissive parenting requires little direction. Instead, a permissive parent lets the child decide the hows, the wheres, and the whys.


Are you a permissive parent? Some traits to recognize would be giving your child very few, if any, rules. If you do give rules, the ones you do give are inconsistent. You may also choose to be more of a friend than an authority figure toward your child.

When large decisions are on the table, you consider the child’s opinion more than your own. Freedom is stressed rather than responsibility. If there are consequences to be had, you let them take their natural course instead of the ones you could impose. In that same vein, safety is not a major concern of yours. You see situations that pose risk as learning opportunities more than anything else.


Permissive parenting has become more popular recently as a new form of it, called “free-range” parenting, has begun to gain traction. Free-range parenting has a lot in common with permissive parenting, including learned independence, natural consequences, and resourcefulness. Although free-range doesn’t fully mirror permissive parenting, when using either style on the right child and implemented with care, it can positive outcomes. Here are a few…

  • Self-assurance. When “free expression” is encouraged in a child’s behavior, they become much more confident and are willing to try new things without pause. The key to this is unconditional love, which is the hallmark of a permissive parent.
  • Exploration. Children are allowed to have much more freedom by a permissive parent. From this, they get inspiration to take on new adventures with much more confidence.
  • Creativity. One of the more positive traits to come out of permissive parenting would be the child’s creativity. When there are fewer limits set on a child, you will see them experiment freely with all types of passions and hobbies. Children who grow up in a less rigid environment have an easier time tapping into their creative nature.


Being buddy-buddy with your offspring instead of taking an authority figure role can have dire consequences in their development. While some feel and think that the “no rules” approach to parenting is a great way to allow your child to express themselves, rules and boundaries also let your child know that real life is full of rules and boundaries.

“Without a set of precise boundaries, children have no real sense of what is right or wrong. As a result, they will often test the waters to gauge how their parents will react, sometimes seeking attention from them,” says psychologist Jeff Nalin.

Here are some of the negative consequences experts say may result from using permissive parenting…

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  • Risk-prone temperament. Children are oftentimes left to fend for themselves if they aren’t given proper boundaries. Without proper boundaries, children may take on certain situations without fear or thought of the consequences. This heightens the chance that as these children grow, they will be more tempted to engage in risky behavior which sometimes leads to substance abuse.
  • Rebelliousness. When kids are permitted to “rule themselves” they begin to believe that this type of behavior is just as good outside the home as it is inside it. Far from it being the right attitude to have, the rebellious nature they learn inside the home leads them to have a challenging and rebellious attitude toward others, which could cause many problems for your child as an adult.
  • Behavioral inhibition. According to some studies, children who are raised in a permissive parenting environment are much more prone to depression and anxiety. Many cases have shown that these children are often learn to keep their problems to themselves, since they don’t have an authority figure to help them and look out for them. This ultimately causes them to withdraw.


So what does permissive parenting look like at ground level? Below we detail a few examples of how a permissive household might look on a day to day basis…

  • Instead of setting limits to television or game time, they will allow virtually unlimited access to both. Allowing a child to set their own ground rules may be a detriment to them as they grow.
  • Following that line of thought, if a child wishes to have a friend come over for a visit (aka play date) but there are no set rules that the child’s room must be clean before allowing friends to stop by, then the kid is unable to learn how to deal with consequences.
  • Keeping the kitchen open at all times for the child can lead to extremely bad eating habits. We all know kids love their sweets. An open-door kitchen policy could eventually lead to very unhealthy children, especially if they also have no limits on TV and gaming screen time.


There are pros and cons to any parenting style. For instance, permissive parenting will likely require a lot less work than other parenting styles. If you don’t have rules to enforce, your kids are pretty much left to their own devices and so are you. You’ll have more free time. In the short term, it may feel like your kids love you more too, since you’re giving them whatever they want.

We all want our children to love us but experts seem to agree that it’s also critical for children to respect their parents as authority figures. That kind of respect will never happen in a permissive parenting environment.

Given the increased risk of things like depression and substance abuse for children raised in a permissive household, there’s a strong case to be made that choosing a permissive parenting style is a bad idea. The long-term costs of making your child your best friend can be high, both for you and them.