Permissive parenting

Social worker, Sandri Appelgryn.

Dear Herald readers.

There are three major parenting styles used to explain the different ways in which parents interact with their children.

Previously authoritative parenting was marked as the parenting style that holds the most positive outcomes according to research.

Authoritative parents are responsive to their children’s needs and offer emotional security in their relationships with their children by establishing firm boundaries for their children’s conduct.

Permissive parenting is another parenting style that is important to consider. According to literature and research, permissive parents can be identified as care givers that usually give in to their children’s desires.

In itself, this does not sound harmful, but parents practising this parenting style tend to neglect shaping their children’s behaviours through parental direction.

This implies that their children are allowed to regulate their own activities without holding them responsible to external standards of conduct. Children are often left to their own devices with little or no adult supervision. They are also not taught to be accountable for their actions. These children often find it very difficult to understand that every action has a reaction as they are seldom hold responsible for their behaviour.

One of the biggest disadvantages of parenting in this way is that children are often exposed to circumstances that are not age-appropriate.

For example, if an eight-year-old child insists on watching an age-restricted movie with his or her parents, and it is then allowed, this child might be exposed to information considered harmful for a child of that age.

Children of different ages have different cognitive abilities to process and comprehend information. When they are exposed to age-inappropriate social media, this might impact very negatively on the way they perceive the world. This in turn can influence their ability to form healthy, interpersonal relationships.

The safety of children is also a big concern when permissive parenting is practised. When children are allowed to follow their desires, they might not be mature enough to handle certain situations that could potentially place them in compromising positions.

For example, allowing a young child access to social events where alcohol and drugs are easily accessible is considered a risk to a child’s safety if he or she is without supervision of a responsible adult.

Children require boundaries and direction within a loving context of parenting and it has been proven over decades of research that when this is not available, a child feels insecure and can potentially suffer serious developmental difficulties.

The secret seems to be allowing children freedom to make choices over their own conduct that they are developmentally ready for.

Please offer your views on permissive parenting by sending me an email at

• Sandri Appelgryn writes:

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