As a child, we had to live where our parents lived, eat what they ate, and live with whomever they chose to live with. We didn’t get many choices on our birthday or Christmas presents, where we went to school, or which kids we had to be around at school or daycare. We can all agree there was a pretty large chunk of our lives that we had zero control of, and it was something we just had to live with. It was also a very important lesson for us, even if we didn’t know it at the time. We can’t always be in control of everything in our lives, nor will we always know what’s best for us. Sometimes it’s better to allow someone else to guide us along because, believe it or not, we don’t always know what we’re doing.
There seems to be a popular form of parenting floating around that pretty much takes this concept, crumples it into a tiny ball, and slam-dunks it directly into an incinerator. It’s called “permissive parenting.”
- Have few rules or standards of behavior
- When there are rules, they are often very inconsistent
- Are usually very nurturing and loving towards their kids
- Often seem more like a friend, rather than a parent
- May use bribery such as toys, gifts and food as a means to get child to behave
- Provide little in the way of a schedule or structure
- Emphasize their children’s freedom rather than responsibility
- Ask their children’s opinions on major decisions
- Rarely enforce any type of consequences
So the idea is that you have a child, never teach it any rules, validate all of their feelings, be their best friend, let them decide when they’ll do things, give them complete freedom, let them control the household, and never make them face any consequences. Got it? What could go wrong?
I don’t know where this idea came from that children are capable of regulating themselves. If you asked my 4 year old daughter right now what we should have for dinner, she’d probably say cupcakes, and if I gave her control of our food decisions long-term, we’d all have type 2 diabetes in a month. If I didn’t have any form of consequences for my 6 year old, her tendency to be an attitudinal bossy-pants would spiral out of control, and we’d all be her slaves faster than you could say “yes massa.”
I guess this is where we start to recognize those kids in the gas station who want a candy bar and it kinda goes like this:
“I WANT CANDY!” says a red faced little boy.
“But honey, we’re going to have dinner soon, and we don’t want to spoil your appetite,” says mom, trying to keep calm.
“I WANT IT!” The little shit is getting out of control now.
“How about after dinner I can give you some dessert?” she pleads.
“NO! I WANT IT NOW!” the child replies, stamping their feet.
“Okay honey, but only one,” says the mom, close to tears now.
“I WANT SIX!”
“Okay baby, but next time I’m not going to let you get anything if you act like this again,” she replies softly, not meaning a damn word of what she just said.
“Thank you mommy!” and the kid grabs 6 candy bars, 4 bags of chips, and a 2 liter of soda and takes it all to the register, where his mom pays for it all without saying anything.
We’ve all seen this, We’ve all felt sympathy for the mom, while also secretly despising her because we’re going to have to deal with the results of her parenting after the child is grown. That kid is going to be a part of society, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Science says that the results of this style of parenting are demonstrably TERRIBLE. The article I cited above says this: “Children raised by permissive parents tend to lack self-discipline, possess poor social skills, may be self-involved and demanding, and may feel insecure due to the lack of boundaries and guidance.” It goes on to talk about how they achieve less, have more aggression, struggle with problem-solving, have more issues with substance abuse, and are likely to become lazy and fat.
There’s a list of studies that Gwen Dewar, Ph.D included in her article on Parentingscience.com that show these kids suck at executing plans, managing their moods, and are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.
All of this makes total sense. How can a child find any direction in their lives when they haven’t ever been guided? How can they know the right move to make when they’ve never seen any bad results from their decisions? How can they be expected to reach for the stars when they haven’t ever done it before or experienced the intrinsic happiness that comes from it? It would only make sense that these kids would suffer from anxiety and depression; anxiety because they’ve never had expectations placed on them, and depression because they were never prepared for harsh reality, the real world. I don’t think many of these parents understand the “culture shock” feeling these kids experience after they’ve lived in a fake protective bubble for most of their childhood, essentially casting an illusion that reality is different from what it really is. Then suddenly they’re expected to be a well-rounded, independent, productive member of society.
So to all the parents who want to be their kids’ friend more than they want to actually parent them, do everyone (mostly your kids) a favor and buck up. You’re doing a major disservice to your children. I know it’s not intentional, but you need to look inside yourself and find a way to balance it out. We all have our parenting flaws, but it’s important that we recognize them and make the necessary changes.
Have any thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments!