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Permissive Parenting

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Permissive Parenting

Parenting is probably the biggest and most important jobs that any of us will ever do. Just as in an office job, we have to make hundreds of decisions each day about how best to achieve what we have set out do to, and how to deal with issues as they arise. Should I give in to the tantrum in the supermarket queue? What time should I tell my teenager to be home? Is it OK to allow my child to refuse to eat their dinner? The way we handle these sorts of issues forms our basic parenting style. All of us are different, and many of us use different styles in different situations. One of the styles of parenting which has attracted most criticism is that of permissive parenting.

What exactly is permissive parenting?

In a nutshell, permissive parenting is parenting without boundaries

The dictionary definition of permissive is "allowing or characterised by great or excessive freedom of behaviour". In a nutshell, permissive parenting is parenting without boundaries. Children are allowed to set their own boundaries such as when they will go to bed, what they will eat and whether or not they will do their homework. Equating permissive parenting with a lack of love or interest in children though is not correct, and families who parent in this manner are generally very loving and caring towards their children. One of the best words to use to describe this sort of parenting is indulgent, although outsiders may see the parents as spoiling their children and trying to be their friend rather than a parent.


For small children, boundaries are necessary. A child needs to feel safe and secure, and a parent setting effective boundaries can help with this. Conversely, a permissive parent who allows their child to set their own limits could experience problems when their child goes into an environment where boundaries are enforced such as playgroup or school. Children who have been parented in this manner find social skills such as playing in groups or sharing difficult, and may have trouble making friends. 

Advantages of Permissive Parenting

Relating to your child more as a friend than a parent can give a Mum or dad a greater understanding of what makes their child tick and as they get older, communication can be easier. Being positive about what children are doing and saying can raise levels of self-esteem and give them the knowledge that their parents will accept them and love them whatever they say or do.

Disadvantages of Permissive Parenting

Children of permissive parents have no boundaries, and as discussed above find it difficult in situations where they have to do as they are told. This can lead to them being dependent on others to do things for them, and studies have shown that children of parents who never said the word "No" are more likely to get into trouble with the Police, drink or drugs when they are older. Children who are used to having things their own way can also become very frustrated and aggressive when rules are enforced.


Permissive parenting isn't a conscious choice that many parents make; they are simply doing what they think is for the best. However, it's essential to recognise that being a parent is more about giving boundaries and making rules than it is about being your child's best friend.

About the author

Article by Morag Peers, a mother of 3 from Glasgow

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