The Dangers Of Indulgent Parenting

By Ashley Brown

Updated February 11, 2020

Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC

Do you suspect you or someone you know may be engaging in indulgent parenting? Are you worried that indulgent parenting may be harmful to your child or someone else's? You should be.

If you are like many parents, you probably wonder what the best way to parent your children is. Maybe you've even wondered if there are known techniques that do or don't work when it comes to raising well-adjusted human beings. The truth is that there are nearly as many parenting strategies as there are parents, and there's conflicting advice on what works best. However, there are a few established categories of parenting behavior, and research has shown that some styles are better than others.

That's why we've uncovered all the latest research about indulgent parenting, and what we discovered is that it's one of the worst things you can do for your child.


Then you should read on to find out the details of what indulgent parenting means and why it's a danger to children's development.

Wondering About The Effects of Indulgent Parenting?
A Board-Certified Therapist Can Help. Talk to A Parenting Expert Online Now.


What Is Indulgent Parenting?

Let's start with talking about parenting styles. Parenting style is a category used by psychologists to analyze various ways of raising children and the results of those methods. There are several different standard parenting styles, which are most commonly divided into four different styles.

Each parenting style is made up of a set of practices. If the majority of your parenting practices fall into a particular style, then you could say that is the parenting style you use most often. You don't necessarily need to follow every practice associated with a particular style to associate with that parenting style. Of course, each parent raises their children slightly different from others. Therefore, these styles and practices can have many variations.

The four commonly named styles are:

  • Authoritarian parenting
  • Authoritative parenting
  • Uninvolved parenting
  • Indulgent/permissive parenting

Keep in mind that even if you lean towards one style, you may not always act like that style. Parents can sometimes switch between styles depending on factors, like how tired they are, or their tolerance levels for certain behaviors, as well as other factors.


Permissive Parenting

Indulgent parenting is also known as permissive parenting. In this parenting style, the parent rarely enforces any rules and tends to let children act however they want. These parents often seem more like friends with their kids, rather than parents.

Indulgent parents are often highly responsive to their children, which distinguishes them from uninvolved parents. It's not that indulgent parents are ignoring their children; they simply allow them to get away with a lot.

Indulgent parents probably feel like really good parents. They love their kids and want them to be happy. What they may not realize is that their low expectations for their kids translate to the kids themselves, resulting in children (and future adults) with low expectations for themselves.

Examples Of Indulgent Parenting

So far, you have a general idea of what indulgent parenting entails. Here are some specific behaviors associated with indulgent parenting.

  • No specific rules are established for children's behavior.
  • Rules are inconsistent and situational, or only upheld when the parent is tired or some other arbitrary reason.
  • The parent is loving and nurturing but may over praise the child, making it difficult for the child to understand which behaviors are good or exceeding expectations.
  • The parent acts like their child's friend.
  • Parents bribe the child with gifts, toys, or food to get them to behave rather than establishing expectations.
  • The child is given little structure or schedule, lacking a daily routine or daily expectations for age-appropriate responsibilities.
  • The parents put the priority of giving the child freedom over teaching responsibility.
  • The parents ask their children for an opinion on major decisions, rather than helping the child to cope with decisions that are made by the adults.
  • The child rarely faces any consequences enforced by the parents.

Results Of Indulgent Parenting

Many issues arise from indulgent parenting because children are not prepared to make good decisions for themselves. They need parents to intervene at times and set rules. These consequences are not just psychological either. Children of indulgent parents are more likely to have a slew of health problems because the parents do not enforce hygiene or healthy habits.


Life is such that we don't always get what we want. However, indulgent parents will try to give their children all they need or want, thinking they are being supportive. The problem with this is it sets up a false reality for the child, going forward in life. They expect that they will always have every need and want met, without any effort on their part.

You may not want your child to suffer by feeling a desire that goes unfulfilled, but this is an important lesson for life.

Additionally, children who are praised too often for minor achievements feel like they deserve praise for very little effort. This results in adults who put in the minimal effort and complain when they don't get the results they want. They may blame others for their problems, despite putting in the needed energy to solve their problems.

Poor Impulse Control

Young children are not yet capable of setting boundaries on how they use their time or how much of a favorite thing they indulge in. Parents who set boundaries teach their children self-discipline, so that the child can eventually make good decisions about time management and limiting themselves with behaviors, like screen time or eating junk food.

Since these children are given no expectations, they are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including underage drinking and drug use. They have no fear of their parents disciplining them for such behaviors.

They are also more likely to have conduct issues at school. The reason for this is the lack of guidance and structure at home. They are unaccustomed to listening to an adult in authority. That makes it difficult for them to follow school rules because they become resentful of the situation at school.

With school behaviors, in particular, the child may seem like a student who is eager to please most of the time and only has discipline issues when a particular rule aggravates the child. That's typical because the indulgent parents have made the child accustomed to being often praised, and the child will seek this behavior from teachers and other adults, behaving as long as it is convenient.

The further result of this is your child growing into an adult with continued unhealthy habits and poor motivation to do well at work or other priorities. This can lead to obesity and poor health, as well as a poor financial outlook.

Wondering About The Effects of Indulgent Parenting?
A Board-Certified Therapist Can Help. Talk to A Parenting Expert Online Now.


The Difficulty With A Delay Of Gratification

Related to entitlement behavior is a difficulty with a delay of gratification. Delaying gratification is a necessary skill. It's required for activities like saving money for a particular expense or staying in shape by following good eating habits and exercising regularly. You do not get a fit body instantly. Moreover, you cannot afford everything without saving sometimes. When you get everything you want exactly when you want it, you do not learn this skill, and your quality of life suffers.

Impulsive Anger And Frustration

These children can become adults that are aggressive and lack a normal amount of emotional understanding when dealing with others. They haven't learned to control their emotions in productive ways because they are used to getting whatever they want. Unfortunately, interacting with the adult world requires compromising with others and not always getting your way. That makes adult relationships and career achievements difficult for them.

Difficulty Handling Money

In addition to having a hard time succeeding financially, children of indulgent parents also have a hard time holding onto money once they get it. Their impulsiveness makes them prone to spending money as soon as they have any. This sets them up for future financial difficulties.

Age-Inappropriate Reactions (Lesser Maturity Compared To Peers)

Children who are entitled and get what they want all the time are also more likely to throw tantrums beyond the usual age for such behavior. They are likely to be lazier than other children their age, doing only the things that interest them rather than taking responsibility for the things they need to do. It's easy to see how this causes trouble in adulthood. We all have many responsibilities that we don't necessarily want to do, but must.

In the short-term, this is seen in schoolwork. The children of indulgent parents are more likely to procrastinate on homework and school projects. They don't feel like doing the work, so they put it off, and their grades suffer.

Low Self-Esteem

It may seem like children who are loved and get everything they want should feel good about themselves. What tends to happen is that they never develop the skills to handle problems, and when they reach an age where they need to do things on their own, they have no idea how to. They have no internal motivation to succeed. They end up anxious and unable to meet the demands of being an adult. They may even feel unprepared.

Other children, by contrast, have had to work through struggles. They learn motivation and self-determination. This is precisely what builds self-confidence. Those children learn that they are capable and can overcome obstacles.

Comparing Other Parenting Styles

Here's the big problem with indulgent parenting. By not creating and enforcing rules, you are not teaching your child basic coping skills. We all have to follow the rules and accept the consequences of our actions.

Other parenting styles have different results. Authoritarian parenting also does not teach children to cope with adulthood, but for different reasons. The authoritarian parent has strict rules, to the point that children never learn to make any decisions for themselves. Their children may fear punishment, but they do not learn to make better choices from their mistakes. Children may even cope with the authoritarian parenting style by becoming excellent liars to avoid punishments.

Uninvolved or neglectful parenting is when the parents pay little to no attention to the child. There are no rules because the parent is not paying attention to what the kid is doing anyway. Unlike indulgent parenting, these children get neither rules nor loving attention. They are on their own to navigate childhood and life. These children tend to have low-self esteem, poor academic performance, and are unhappy.

Finally, there is authoritative parenting. This is not the same as authoritarian parenting. Authoritative parenting is the best style for raising well-developed, happy children with a good sense of boundaries.

Authoritative parents put effort into creating a loving relationship with their children, as well as establishing rules and expectations. They explain the reasons behind their rules rather than just expecting obedience. They allow their children to have opinions, but they don't necessarily give in to their children after listening to their point of view.

Some of the benefits of authoritative parenting are well-adjusted kids and a loving relationship between you and your children .These benefits happen because this parenting style is well balanced. While you may discipline your kids, you can also explain to them why they are being disciplined. Additionally, the lines of communication are always open between you and your offspring and they will be able to understand that they are loved and that their opinion is important.

Correcting Indulgent Parenting Behavior

If you've been engaging in indulgent parenting and have decided you don't want the type of future outlook it can lead to for your child, don't despair. You can start taking steps now to correct this behavior. The steps themselves are simple, though you may struggle with enforcing them. Just keep with it and understand that it will be a change for you and your child and that it will have long-term benefits for them.

Establish Rules

The first thing you need to do is establish rules for your home. You can start with just a few basic expectations and limits. What is equally important to having rules is making them clear to your child. If your children can read, hang a list of the rules somewhere they can see it. Or use a picture list.

Some possible rules that will be easy for them to follow are, brush your teeth after dinner, clean up your room each week, and do your homework. Just be sure to explain why they need to do these things. Make sure they understand the reasons why it is important to follow these rules.


Have Clear Consequences

You should try not to make up disciplinary actions as you go. These don't create a stable sense of consequences for behavior for your child. Instead, make it clear ahead of time what the consequences will be for breaking a rule. For young children, timeouts often work. For older kids, losing certain privileges for a while is a reasonable disciplinary action.

Be Consistent

You have to follow through with rules and consequences for your child to understand the results of their actions. You do not have to be mean. Remember that being firm does not mean you don't love your child.

You are providing structure precisely because you do love them, and you want them to have a good future. You can also talk to your children and help them to understand the rules, and why they are in place.

Provide Rewards

The best habits are established with a system of both discipline and rewards. In addition to correcting a child for breaking a rule, notice when they behave especially well. You can provide special privileges as a reward during these times. Avoid material rewards like candy or toys. One method is to take away screen time for bad behavior and reward additional screen time for good behavior.

Parenting Is Difficult For Everyone

If you need to adjust your parenting style, it can be difficult. However, you must do this for your child's future. You want them to be well-adjusted and know their worth. Of course, you don't have to go through this frustrating process alone. At times when a young child doesn't understand new rules or why they have to do something you tell them to do, you may want to throw in the towel. There is no reason to! You can work with a licensed counselor, who can help you alter your parenting techniques. They will be able to assist you when it comes to setting up firm rules, figure out how to correctly discipline your kids, and provide coping strategies for the trying times.

Parents and children can benefit from counseling by a licensed professional. They will be able to help you pinpoint issues and figure out how to solve them together. They may also help you fix behavioral or other problems early, before they turn into something large.

However, busy parents may not have the time to drive to an appointment during a counselor's office hours. This is where online counseling services like ReGain offer solutions. You can get the therapy you need whenever and wherever is convenient for you (such as the comfort of your own home). Below are some reviews of ReGain counselors, from parents experiencing a range of issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Denae has a strong background in child psychology. We came to her because we're figuring out how to navigate our first year with a newborn together. She understands couples dynamics, personality styles and is very knowledgeable on secure attachment and how to raise a child to feel seen, understood, safe and heard. I Highly recommend this counselor."

"Jessica has really helped us to work through some very difficult times after living through two category 5 hurricanes last year with two small children in our household. She has done an excellent job of helping us to identify our own attachment fears and giving us guidance on how to navigate some incredibly trying situations."


Parenting is hard at times; whether we admit it or not, everyone struggles. Whether you want to change your indulgent parenting behavior or just improve your skills, a licensed professional has the expertise to help you get there. No matter what you or your children are experiencing, with the right tools and help, you can build a parenting style that protects your children's health and future prosperity. Take the first step.

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