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.
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 (also known as permissive 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 permissive parenting means and why it’s a danger to children’s development.
What Is Parenting That’s Indulgent?
Let’s start by 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 most of your parenting practices fall into a particular style, 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 differently from others. Therefore, these styles and practices can have many variations.
The four commonly named styles are:
Remember 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 and other factors.
Indulgent parenting is also known as permissive parenting. In this parenting style, the parent rarely enforces any rules and tends to let children act. 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 ignore their children; they 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. They may not realize that their kids’ low expectations translate to the kids themselves, resulting in children (and future adults) with low expectations.
Examples Of Parenting That’s Indulgent
So far, you have a general idea of what an indulgent parent entails. Here are some specific behaviors associated with parenting that are indulgent.
Results Of Parenting That’s Indulgent
Many issues arise from parenting that’s indulgent 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 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 to be met without any effort.
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 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 cannot set 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 to eventually make good decisions about time management and limit 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 school situation.
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 indulgent parents have made the child accustomed to being often praised. The child will seek this behavior from teachers and other adults, behaving as long as 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.
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 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 parents who are indulgent 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.
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 parenting that’s indulgent. 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 parenting that’s indulgent, 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 and 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 perspectives.
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 Parenting Behavior
If you’ve been an indulgent parent 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.
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.
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 love them, and you want them to have a good future. You can also talk to your children and understand the rules and why they are in place.
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 cannot be easy. 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. 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 assist you in setting up firm rules, figuring out how to discipline your kids correctly, and providing 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.
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“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 parenting behavior or improve your skills, a licensed professional has the expertise to help you get there. No matter what you or your children are experiencing, you can build a parenting style that protects your children’s health and future prosperity with the right tools and help. Take the first step.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Is Indulgent Parenting?
Indulgent parenting is a type of parenting style that involves very high warmth paired with very low control. While the former may sound positive, this, combined with low control, actually creates one of the worst parenting styles. An indulgent parenting style should not be confused with uninvolved parenting; uninvolved parenting, one of the four types of parenting styles, means that the parents aren’t very attentive to their children, while indulgent or permissive parents are very attentive but allow their children to do essentially whatever they want, whether good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.
What Are The Four Parenting Styles?
Diana Baumrind is credited with recognizing three primary parenting styles, known as Baumrind’s parenting styles. These parenting styles include the authoritarian parenting style, authoritative parenting style, and the indulgent parenting style. Another parenting style, uninvolved parenting, has since been recognized as well. According to Baumrind’s parenting styles, the authoritative parenting style produces the healthiest and most stable parent-child relationship, as there is both high warmth and high control. Authoritarian parenting involves low warmth and high control and can be quite damaging to the child’s development long-term. Permissive parents provide high warmth but very low control, which can also be very damaging for long-term development. Uninvolved parenting has low warmth and low control, as the parent or parents are largely absent from the child’s life, either emotionally, physically, or both.
It’s not uncommon for parents to utilize, whether they intend to or not, multiple types of parenting styles or a mixture of all types of parenting styles rather than strictly just one. This can be useful at times but could also be damaging and confusing to the child, particularly if a parent alternates between very strict and authoritarian parenting and then randomly mixes in the warmth of the authoritative parenting style or the complete cold absence of uninvolved parenting style. The type of parenting you choose really shapes your children and the type of adult they will become.
What Parenting Style Is The Best?
As mentioned above, of the four parenting styles (authoritative parenting, authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting, and uninvolved parenting), the authoritative parenting style is regarded as the best parenting style. Diana Baumrind’s original 1966 research paper on Baumrind’s parenting styles found that authoritative parenting tended to produce children with the following qualities: “lively and happy disposition, self-confident about the ability to master tasks, well-developed emotion regulation, developed social skills, less rigid about gender-typed traits (sensitivity in boys and independence in girls).” This is likely because authoritative parents value openness and warmth while not compromising, providing structure and boundaries for their children. A study conducted by Michigan State University found that the authoritative parenting style tended to have parents with, as the article states, “close, nurturing relationships with their children as they provide clear, firm and consistent guidelines…Parents are highly responsive, expect age-appropriate behavior and boundaries are clear and firm. Therefore, children are assertive, socially responsible, self-regulated and cooperative.”
Conversely, the authoritarian parenting style, more often than not, produces children who are “anxious, withdrawn,” more likely to give up or become hostile when something is difficult for them, but who do well in school. The permissive parenting style tends to result in children who, in the both short and long-term, are not good at regulating their emotions or understanding them, become “rebellious and defiant” when their wants are not provided for, or they are somehow “challenged,” and who tend to be antisocial or have unhealthy social behaviors and groups. They are also more likely to develop unhealthy and harmful parenting styles if they have children. In short, authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting, and uninvolved parenting are the types of parenting styles that often result in children growing into adults who aren’t well-adapted to handling day-to-day life or relationships in a healthy manner. Authoritative parenting more often results in children who develop into well-adjusted adults.
How Can I Be A Less Permissive Parent?
As discussed in this article, there are several steps that you can take to be a less permissive parent and to adopt a healthier parenting style, like the authoritative style. First, establish rules and limits. Outline these clearly in a written list or via pictures if your child cannot read, and place the list where you and your child can both easily see it daily. These don’t have to be super strict or in-depth and can be things like, “brush your teeth each morning and night” or “clean your room every Sunday.” They can be simple and easy and will serve as setting the foundation for not only a healthy relationship with your child but a healthy life for them into adulthood while also helping you get used to and comfortable with a more authoritative parenting style rather than a permissive parenting style.
You should also reward these positive behaviors once they’re completed. For example, each completed task results in 20 minutes of extra screen time on the TV or a video game for that day. Conversely, failure to complete these set things should have a downfall, such as 20 minutes less screen time that day for each missed task. You must be consistent and firm, but not mean or strict. Listen to your child and empathize with them if they’re having a rough day, but do not make excuses for them. Do your best to distinguish when they should have a mental health break or when they need some tough love. Adopting this authoritative parenting style will benefit them as adults in figuring out when to cut themselves some slack and prioritize their mental health and make excuses for themselves, and need to buckle down. Conversely, permissive parenting styles can result in adults who do whatever they want whenever they want with little regard for consequences. In contrast, authoritarian parenting styles can result in adults who have issues with self-esteem, anxiety and can’t cut themselves any slack. The authoritative style is the best of both worlds, combining high warmth with high control to result in both parent and child being happy.
Can Yelling At A Child Be Harmful?
In short, yes – yelling at a child can absolutely be harmful! Typically, yelling, especially if employed often, is an example of the authoritarian parenting style, not to be confused with the authoritative parenting style. Authoritarian parents strongly value control but don’t utilize healthy ways to gain it and often yell, punish frequently and aggressively, and manipulate to get their children to do what they want. This parenting style doesn’t often listen to children, offer emotional support, or allow for any wiggle room no matter what. There are little warmth and little positive reinforcement for good behaviors, but undesired behaviors are very readily punished, often via yelling. This is incredibly damaging to children and results in anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, anti-social behaviors, and difficulty creating or maintaining healthy relationships in adulthood. Unlike authoritative parenting styles, this parenting style can make children hyper-vigilant to the emotions and negativity of others and may result in the form of PTSD whenever they hear raised voices, whether belonging to their parent or someone else. While you don’t want to adopt any indulgent parenting styles, nor do you want to go too far in the other direction with overly rigid parenting styles.
You should be very mindful of all of the different parenting styles, their possible consequences, and how to best interact with your child. While every family dynamic is different and every person is different, in general, the authoritative parenting style greatly trumps the other parenting styles in producing healthy relationships between parent and child and well-adjusted children that become well-adjusted and confident adults.
Yelling can, at times, have a place in any parenting style but should generally be reserved for when necessary (for example, your child has run into the street, and a car is coming). Yelling often is a parenting style that rarely yields positive results for your child, you, or your relationship long-term and can be very harmful to children and their emotional development. This has long-term consequences for your child’s relationships into adulthood, too – a child who was yelled at often may not do well with handling confrontation (even healthy confrontation) in adulthood and may struggle to hold onto healthy relationships for this reason.