Is Being a Chill Parent Worth It? Here’s What to Know About Permissive Parenting
There is no one easy-to-follow guide on parenting, and most of us are trying to do the best we can with what we know at the time. Some parents opt to have a similar parenting style to what they grew up with, while others find a path that works better for them.
On TikTok, the term “permissive parenting” has been getting some attention, but experts say it’s often confused with “gentle parenting.” And although there are a few overlapping similarities, there are key differences between the two parenting philosophies.
What Is Permissive Parenting?
Amy Morin, LCSW, psychotherapist, and author of “13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do,” tells POPSUGAR permissive parenting is “defined by having little discipline but also showing love and affection for kids,” and it’s characterized by a unique blend of love and indulgence toward children.
“Unlike neglectful parents who don’t give kids enough attention, permissive parents give attention but don’t intervene when kids misbehave,” Morin says. With this parenting philosophy, parents “may place few demands” on the kids, and they “aren’t likely to give consequences or have many rules to begin with.”
What Does Permissive Parenting Look Like?
Kimberly King, parenting expert, founder of Tough Topics Mom, and author of “Body Safety For Young Children: Empowering Caring Adults,” tells POPSUGAR that there are several key traits someone who gravitates to permissive parenting may have.
“Parents adopting this style tend to be indulgent and nurturing, demonstrating a high level of warmth and affection towards their children,” she says. Parents also have a “lax approach to rules and boundaries” and instead would avoid conflict or confrontation and take on more of the role as “their child’s friend rather than an authority figure.”
King explains that a real-life example of how a parent who practices permissive parenting might approach a common parenting situation can play out during bedtime battles.
“When our little warriors declare, ‘I’m not sleepy!,’ instead of a firm rule like, ‘It’s 9 p.m., off with electronics, light off, head to bed,’ a permissive parent might opt [to say] something like, ‘You look tired; maybe you need to get to sleep?’ or ‘I think you should get to bed. OK?'”
When it comes to chores, homework, or screen time, the permissive parent also tends to take a lax approach. “A child might consistently avoid chores or homework without facing consequences,” King explains, “or parents might allow excessive screen time without setting limits,” which she says can ultimately negatively impact the child’s academic performance and social skills.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Permissive Parenting?
According to Morin and King, the permissive-parenting philosophy has some great benefits. For example, “permissive parents show their kids a lot of love and attention, which is great for kids’ overall well-being,” Morin shares. “Kids who grow up with permissive parents tend to have high self-esteem.”
King says in addition to a “strong parent-child bond” that comes with this parenting philosophy because of the “high levels of nurturance and warmth,” kids also develop “positive self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and confidence.”
But there are some disadvantages, too, according to the experts. Having a “lack of structure and routine” creates anxiety for some children and could lead to the development of some behavioral issues.
“Kids want to know that they don’t have to be in charge and to trust that an adult is capable of managing things and keeping them safe,” Morin says. King also explains that a lack of discipline growing up may lead to a lack of self-discipline later on into adulthood.
Without consistent boundaries and expectations, permissive parenting can also create underachievers and unhealthy habits, like watching too much TV or eating too much junk food, which may take a toll on their mental and physical health in the long run, King warns.
How Does Permissive Parenting Differ From Gentle Parenting?
Gentle parenting is a parenting philosophy that’s gotten a lot of attention over the years, and it’s recently seen a resurgence through TikTok. There are some similarities between permissive parenting and gentle parenting, but they’re not the same.
“Both permissive parenting and gentle parenting show respect for a child’s feelings and involve affectionate relationships,” Morin shares. “But gentle parenting requires setting boundaries and having a clearer hierarchy. Gentle parents may show patience and empathy for a child who is upset by a parent’s decision, but they aren’t likely to give in simply because the child is upset.”
Morin explains that the big difference between the two philosophies comes with hierarchy and boundaries. “Permissive parents lack that clear hierarchy, and often, parents are not the ultimate decision-makers,” she notes.
King expands on this, sharing that the big difference between the two philosophies comes from important boundary setting. “Gentle parenting places more emphasis on setting boundaries with empathy and respect, while permissive parenting often lacks this crucial aspect,” she says. This difference means that in permissive parenting, kids are given “excessive freedom without adequate guidance,” which can be negative.
“While permissive parenting can foster a strong emotional connection, integrating boundaries and guidance is essential for a child’s long-term well-being and overall safety,” King says.
Ultimately, when it comes to how you raise your kids, it’s essential to go with what works best for your family, as long as the best interest of your kids is always top of mind. While there are some warnings and potential downsides to permissive parenting, the reality is that we’re not one-size-fits-all when it comes to parenting. We often fall somewhere between several different parenting styles. Ultimately, it’s essential to find what fits your family best.