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Here's How To Tell If You're A Permissive Parent, & What To Do About It

by Lindsay E. Mack

Parents don't get a guidebook with the arrival of a new kid, so how do you know that the whole parenting thing is going well? Reflecting on your particular approach to discipline is one way to take stock. Here's how to know if you're a permissive parent, and what exactly that means for your relationship with the kiddo. There's always time to make some adjustments if you feel like they're necessary.

First, it's helpful to understand more about what permissive parenting means, exactly. "From a technical perspective, a ‘permissive’ parent is one who is very accommodating of the child, but doesn’t ask them to change their behavior to meet the needs of others," Nancy Darling, Ph.D., Chair of Psychology at Oberlin College, tells Romper. It isn't just about being a laid-back, chill parent, either. "Permissive parents often are described as those who have very relaxed rules in the home or minimal expectations regarding their child’s behavior. They also often engage in little monitoring of the child’s activities and may place few demands on the child," Erlanger Turner, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University, tells Romper.

Permissive parenting is often examined in relation to three other parenting styles to put it into context. "Research has identified four different parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved," as Azmaira Maker, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist, explains to Romper. Determining your own discipline style with kids can provide some insight into your approach to parenting overall.


So how can you tell whether you're a permissive parent? Well, it might not be as simple as filling out an online quiz. "It is difficult to self-assess one’s own parenting style accurately," says Dr. Maker, who also notes that online screeners might not be reliable. Instead, Dr. Maker recommends consulting with a psychologist who has expertise in child development and parenting to take The Parenting Styles and Dimensions Questionnaire or BASC-3 Parenting Relationship Questionnaire. Some self-reflection can also offer insight about your parenting approach. "If you’re wondering about your parenting style, you may be using a permissive parenting style if you don’t place any demands on your child, you allow your child to do what they want or they are always allowed to get their way, you don’t punish your child when they break rules at school, and you allow your child to make all of their decisions without guidance," says Dr. Turner.

To be fair, many moms and dads fall into more than one category when it comes to parenting styles, and there isn't a single approach to parenting that's ideal for all children and caretakers in every situation. (If only!) "There are pros and cons to every parenting style," says Dr. Maker. As such, permissive parenting has some potentially positive traits as well, including a parent-child relationship that's close, warm, and open, as Dr. Maker further explains.

However, experts also cautioned against the potential drawbacks to a permissive parenting approach. "Permissive too often reflects the desire to be liked, which is often at odds with being respected, setting appropriate boundaries, and fostering independence," Jane Adams Ph.D., a social psychologist and author, tells Romper. "In my opinion, permissive parents face the danger of raising children who have difficulty with the world around them. They don’t expect children to be polite or respectful of the needs of others," says Dr. Darling. In the end, a permissive approach to parenting may have some serious downsides for the kid. "Simultaneously, research has demonstrated that children of permissive parents may be less likely to be socially competent, be less self-reliant, and have poorer frustration tolerance," says Dr. Maker.

With that in mind, don't fret if your parenting style is tending toward the more permissive side of things. Becoming more aware of what your child is doing, as well as setting clear and reasonable rules and boundaries, can help you move away from a permissive parenting style, as Dr. Turner explains. In time, you'll find the approach to parenting that works best in your family.


Jane Adams Ph.D., author of 13 books

Nancy Darling, Ph.D., Professor & Chair of Psychology at Oberlin College and founder of

Azmaira Maker, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and the founding director of Aspiring Families

Erlanger Turner, PhD, licensed psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University