While kids naturally like unbridled and fun experiences, setting boundaries and having expectations is what will help them grow into well-balanced adults. Education experts think that well-intentioned permissive parents, who allow their children to do what they want without limits and consequences, can do them more harm than good in the long run.
According to Stephen Glicksman, a developmental psychologist at Makor Disability Services and Adjunct Associate Professor at Yeshiva University, even if it is important to "permit" kids to make choices, chart their own paths, and learn from their mistakes, permissive parents put them in charge of their own growth without giving them a secure base to return to when they may need support.
Usually, permissive parents - who are generally warm and loving people - have a good relationship with their kids who are allowed to behave as they like. "All parents want what's best for their children, but I think oftentimes people choose a permissive parenting style because they are afraid - afraid of their children not being happy or afraid of their children not being their 'friend'," Glicksman said.
To take two common examples, permissive parents may let their kids choose their own snack or bedtime as they wish, without requiring good manners and/or respect. This is often with good intentions, but it rarely does help the kids. Permissive parents don't realize that they are not supposed to be their kids' friends. Even if it's important to express love by respecting children's opinions and preferences, communicating clearly and setting boundaries tend to make them happier... in the future.
What are the negative consequences of permissive parenting? Well, it can make it difficult for kids to adjust to the boundaries and expectations they will be later exposed to at school, at work, and in their relationships. While in some studies some children of permissive parents may report being happy children, they are also more likely to be more dependent, moodier, and lacking social skills growing up.
Is it possible and easy to change our parenting style? Stephen Glicksman says it's never too late to start setting limits and expectations. He recommends applying a more authoritative parenting style, a strategy that many experts consider the best over the long term. "The goal is to say 'yes' often enough that your children learn that when you say 'no', it's probably for a good reason," said Glicksman. Parenting is playing the long game, in learning first to deal with disappointment and delayed gratification.
Picture: Young woman and child at the well, by Camille Pissarro (Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)