The Dangers Of Indulgent Parenting

Updated March 28, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

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

Indulgent parenting, or permissive parenting, is a parenting style marked by very high expressions of warmth paired with very low control. While warmth is typically a beneficial parenting trait, when combined with low control, it creates a dysfunctional style of parenting that is typically harmful to the parent and the child. Permissive parents may be very attentive, but they often allow their children to do whatever they want without boundaries, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.

An indulgent parenting style can be harmful to kids

Parenting styles

Psychologists use the four parenting styles to analyze various ways of raising children and the results of those methods. Each parenting style is made up of a set of practices. If most of your parenting practices fall into a particular type, that is the parenting style you most identify with. You don’t necessarily need to follow every method associated with a specific style to associate with that parenting style. Of course, each parent raises their children slightly differently 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

Permissive parenting

In the permissive parenting style, the parent rarely enforces rules and tends to let the children act without consequence. These parents often seem more like friends with their kids rather than parents. Indulgent parents are often highly responsive to their children, distinguishing them from uninvolved parents. It’s not that indulgent parents ignore their children; they simply allow them to get away with a lot. Indulgent parents often view themselves as good parents because of how deeply they love their kids and want them to be happy. 

Examples of permissive parenting:

  • No specific rules are established for children’s behavior.
  • Rules are inconsistent, situational, or only upheld when the parent is tired or for some other arbitrary reason.
  • The parent is loving and nurturing but may overpraise the child, making it difficult for them to understand which behaviors are good or exceed expectations.
  • The parent acts like their child’s friend more than a parent.
  • 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 expectations for age-appropriate responsibilities.
  • The parents put priority on giving the child freedom over teaching responsibility.
  • The parents ask their children for an opinion on significant decisions rather than helping them cope with decisions that the adults make.
  • The child rarely faces any consequences enforced by the parents.

Consequences of indulgent parenting

Many issues arise from indulgent parenting because children are not usually prepared to make good decisions for themselves. They need parents to intervene at times and set rules. These consequences are not just psychological- children of indulgent parents are more likely to have health problems, such as those associated with obesity, because the parents do not enforce healthy habits.

Other adverse consequences of a permissive parenting style include:


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 in the name of being supportive. When they always expect to have every need and want to be met without effort, it sets up a false reality for the child in the future.

You may not want your child to suffer by feeling a desire that goes unfulfilled, but this is an essential lesson for life. Additionally, children who are praised too often for minor achievements feel like they deserve praise for minimal effort. This results in adults who put in minimal effort and complain when they don’t get the results they want. They may blame others for their problems, despite their reluctance to make an effort to solve them.

Poor impulse control

Young children cannot set boundaries on how they use their time or what they indulge in. Parents who set boundaries teach their children self-discipline to eventually make good decisions about things like time management and limit themselves with behaviors like screen time or eating junk food.

Since children of permissive parents are seldom given expectations, they are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including underage drinking and drug use, because they have no fear of discipline.

They are also more likely to have issues with school behaviors due to a lack of guidance and structure at home. They are usually unaccustomed to listening to an adult in authority. That makes it difficult for them to follow school rules because they become resentful when school becomes challenging.

Difficulties with delayed gratification

Delayed gratification is a necessary skill for activities like saving money for a particular expense or staying in shape by following good eating habits and exercising routinely. The problems that children with permissive parents face often carry over into adulthood. 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

Not all, but some children raised with an indulgent parenting style face challenges due to difficulties managing aggression and emotional understanding when dealing with others. Some are delayed or don’t fully learn to control their emotions in productive ways because they are used to getting whatever they want. Interacting with the adult world requires compromising with others and not always getting your way. That makes adult relationships and career achievements potentially difficult.

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 less engaged than other children their age, doing only what interests them rather than taking responsibility for what they need to do. 

Low self-esteem

It may seem like a common outcome that children who are loved and get everything they want should feel good about themselves. Children of indulgent parents aren’t as likely to develop the ability to handle challenges, so when they reach an age where they need to do things independently, they often don’t know how to. They have no internal motivation to succeed because they don’t usually need to do things for themselves. They end up anxious, unprepared, and unable to meet the demands of being an adult. 

Other children, by contrast, have had to work through struggles because their parents don’t take care of their responsibilities for them. They learn motivation and self-determination. This is precisely what builds self-confidence. Those children learn that they are capable and can overcome obstacles.

An indulgent parenting style can be harmful to kids

Correcting parenting behavior

Indulgent parents can take steps now to correct the problematic behavior that results from a permissive parenting style. The steps are simple, though you may feel uncomfortable with enforcing them at first. Try to persevere and keep in mind that it will be a change for you and your child for the better, with long-term benefits for both of you. 

Establish rules

You can start with just a few basic expectations and limits, but establishing rules is essential to correcting behavior. 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, or use a picture list. 

Have clear consequences

Try to make it clear 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

It’s imperative to follow through with rules and consequences for your child to understand the results of their actions. Remember that being firm does not mean you don’t love your child. You are providing structure precisely because you love them, and you want them to grow up to be self-sufficient and successful.  

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 exceptionally 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.

Find the parenting style that works for you with an online therapist's support

Making significant change isn’t everyone’s strong suit, and some parents (particularly those with an indulgent parenting style) may struggle with disciplining more than others. Or they may need help communicating between parents and kids or resolving their own issues from their parent’s parenting styles. It may be time to contact a family therapist for help in such cases. 

Despite the advantages of family therapy, only some seek help. Some families have difficulty finding the time to schedule and attend appointments during the busy work/school week. Accessibility issues are common where families don’t have access to a professional in their area or have no way to commute to and from appointments. Still, others assume they can’t afford therapy or feel uncomfortable speaking with a therapist in person. 

Online therapy is an excellent solution to these obstacles and more. With platforms like Regain, you can find a licensed, accredited therapist with experience helping families. You can schedule your appointments when convenient and attend from the comfort of home. Teletherapy is often more affordable than conventional therapy without insurance coverage. Extensive research indicates that online therapy is as effective as traditional counseling in helping families communicate and cultivate healthier relationships. 

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. 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.”


If you’ve come to terms with the need to change your parenting style, you’re already on the road to success. It may not be easy initially, but it’s well worth it for your child’s happiness and well-being.  

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