Permissive Parenting is described as being emotionally connected to a child but not providing clear structure and boundaries. Boundaries are viewed as supportive, even essential, to a child’s development and self-regulation. On the continuum of parenting styles, it takes a democratic stance of equal voice for parent and child, opposite authoritarian parenting which demands blind obedience.
In my experience, Permissive Parenting is also used by non-research-based observers as a label, a criticism, or a verdict. Whenever I hear someone refer to parents as permissive, I can feel the judgment oozing from their lips. It is almost as if they were judging the kids and the parents as “bad”.
It reminds me of a story where a father boards a subway with seven children who are all acting out. When a person asks him to control his children, he apologizes and explains that they are on their way back from the hospital where their mother just died. Would you characterize this father as being a permissive parent?
Whoever is blameless, cast the first stone. Have you ever been too tired correct? Too discouraged to explain? Too angry to respond with empathy? Too sick to help? I have. Before you cast a stone at me, consider how you are in private as well as in public. Things can change very quickly when you don’t have prying eyes to impress.
Still, we as parents bear the responsibility of protection and guidance of our offspring. The boundaries we hold are in three arenas: safety, societal limits, and family values. We click them into their carseats, dress them a certain way, and feed them green smoothies out of love and the most honorable intentions. When we consistently maintain these supportive boundaries and explain why, we also teach our kids to do the same.
Permissive Parenting is a style. If you find that your parenting style is not giving you the results you want, for you or your child, notice where you can be more firm while remaining loving, connected, and kind. The style that incorporates both connection and boundaries is Authoritative Parenting. Being a Authoritative Present Parent means being loving and firm at the same time, as well as being willing to learn and grow to achieve the results you want.
Whatever your parenting style, remember that you have the power to change and create the experience you desire from your role as a parent. May you experience more joy and fulfillment in your parenting journey.