Psychologists Baumrind, Maccoby and Martin quoted the four main parenting styles based on the degree to which parents are responsive and set limits to their children.  

These four parenting styles(1) are: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Neglectful.  

Authoritative parenting is the gold standard of parenting. In contrast, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful parenting are not that good for children. 

In this article we are going to explore permissive parenting and how it relates to children’s development.  

What is permissive parenting? 

Permissive parenting(2) (also known as indulgent parenting) refers to those parents who are affectionate, warm, and responsive towards their children but do not demand much of them.  

Permissive parents want to be their children’s friends. They avoid conflict. They do not monitor their children, nor they provide guidance and structure.  

They are very responsive to their children’s needs, to the point that they are considered to be at their children’s beck and call.  

Their discipline style is inconsistent. One day they may punish their children for misbehaving at school, whereas another day the same behaviour may go unpunished.  

Children raised by permissive parents are more likely to: 

  • Be impulsive.  

  • Not have a good academic achievement.  

  • Have lower levels of emotional competence.  

  • Show higher rates of school misconduct. 

  • Show delinquent behaviour during adolescence. 

  • Show deviant peer relations during adolescence. 

  • Show internalizing (e.g., anxiety) and externalizing behaviours (e.g., aggression). 

  • However, not everything is negative for children of permissive parents. They tend to have good self-esteem and good social skills(3)

How to know if you are a permissive parent? 

You are permissive if you tend to: 

  • Let your child figure things out by themselves. 

  • Let your child do chores whenever they feel like it.  

  • Not know where your child is or who they are out with. 

  • Let your child decide when to go to bed, how much screen time to have, or eat snacks whenever they want.  

  • Do whatever your child asks you to do. From driving them to places even if it is inconvenient for you to buying them whatever they ask for.   

  • Give in so they stop crying or complaining.  

Why do children of permissive parents struggle to regulate themselves? 

Permissive parents do not tend to set clear rules and expectations, nor do they discipline their children consistently. This means that children have fewer opportunities to practice their regulation skills(4) because they rarely experience frustration, disappointment, or anger.   

As parents, it is normal that we want to protect our children from experiencing negative events. But we must remember that they need to have opportunities to experience frustration, stress, and failure so they can learn to deal with them.   

Why is permissive parenting linked with delinquent behaviour? 

Permissive parents do not monitor their children well or not at all. Monitoring means to watch, supervise and be aware of our children’s activities. Children whose parents fail to monitor them are more likely to engage with the ‘wrong’ crowd and to engage in delinquent behaviour. Monitoring our children well is important, particularly during the teenage years(5)

The goal is to know what is going in your child’s life. If you are unsure about what monitoring your child means, think of it as: “Ask who, ask where, ask when.”  

Is it true that when parents are stressed, they become more permissive?  

Parents’ stress(6) influences their parenting. Stressed parents are more likely to become authoritarian or permissive. When you are juggling many balls, sometimes something has got to give. That may mean relaxing your parenting and becoming more permissive. For other parents, stress means that they have a shorter ‘leash’ and they become more authoritarian. 

Parents who can regulate their emotions when feeling stressed, are more likely to stay authoritative. In contrast, those parents who cannot regulate their emotions well, are more likely to become authoritarian or permissive when feeling stressed. 

This means that it is especially important for parents to be aware of their own emotional state and reflect on how it may be influencing their parenting, and their children.  

Does permissive parenting work in some cultures? 

Extensive research shows that across cultures, the style that works best is authoritative. However, it is important to remember that there are cultural differences in parenting. There is some research suggesting that in Spain(7), permissive parenting may be as good as authoritative parenting. However, it is not clear if these findings reflect real differences or if they are due to methodological differences in the research.  

I am a permissive parent: How can I become more authoritative? 

The good news for permissive parents is that you are already warm and caring, you just need to work on learning to set and keep rules and expectations. 

Here are four tips: 

  • Create a set of rules: Think of the three rules that you consider most important. Explain them to your children and establish what the consequences are if they don’t follow them. 

  • Set expectations: What are the values that you would like your children to have? Tell them what you expect of them and set expectations. 

  • Let go of fear: Sometimes parents don’t want to set rules or high expectations because they are afraid that their children will stop loving them or that they won’t like them. Children need limits.

  • Your child will never stop loving you because you set some limits and rules. They may not like you for a bit, but they will love you. We need to be our children’s parents as opposed to their friends. Our role is to guide our children and monitor them until they are ready to fly the nest.  

  • Do not try to change everything at the same time: You do not need to set up a hundred strict rules overnight. Make realistic and attainable adjustments and keep going.  

  • Seeking professional may be advisable. Our REC Parenting therapists are ready to support you in this journey. Get in touch here. It’s never too late to become the parent you want to be.  

What about parents of neurodivergent kids? 

Unsurprisingly, parenting neurodiverse children is more stressful(8) than parenting typically developing children. Parents of neurodivergent children are more likely to face extra challenges, such as financial pressure, difficult child behaviour, health problems, and unpredictable schedules (Neece & Chan, 2017). As a result, parents of neurodiverse children find it more difficult to be authoritative(9). They are more likely to become permissive or authoritarian (Woolfson & Grant, 2006). 

What is the take-home message? 

Permissive parenting is not the best way to parent our children. Instead, try to be authoritative as much as you can. You are already a warm and caring parent. Focus on providing more guidance and structure to your child. At REC Parenting we are here to help with a wealth of resources and one-to-one support.   

Finally, remember that the perfect parent doesn’t exist! We need to try to get it right as often as we can. 

I hope you find this useful. If you have any queries or comments, drop me an email or leave a comment below. We love hearing from you! 

Much love,


Dr Ana Aznar


(1) Kuppens, S., Ceulemans, E. Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. J Child Fam Stud 28, 168–181 (2019). 

(2)Wischerth, G. A., Mulvaney, M. K., Brackett, M. A., & Perkins, D. (2016). The Adverse Influence of Permissive Parenting on Personal Growth and the Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 177(5), 185–189. 

(3) Rose, J., Roman, N., Mwaba, K., & Ismail, K. (2018). The relationship between parenting and internalizing behaviours of children: A systematic review. Early Child Development and Care, 188(10), 1468-1486. 

(4)Wischerth, G. A., Mulvaney, M. K., Brackett, M. A., & Perkins, D. (2016). The Adverse Influence of Permissive Parenting on Personal Growth and the Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 177(5), 185–189. 

(5)Hinnant, J.B., Erath, S.A., Tu, K.M. et al. Permissive Parenting, Deviant Peer Affiliations, and Delinquent Behavior in Adolescence: the Moderating Role of Sympathetic Nervous System Reactivity. J Abnorm Child Psychol 44, 1071–1081 (2016). 

(6)Aznar, A., Sowden, P., Bayless, S., Ross, K., Warhurst, A., & Pachi, D. (2021). Home-schooling during COVID-19 lockdown: Effects of coping style, home space, and everyday creativity on stress and home-schooling outcomes. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 10(4), 294–312. 

(7)Garcia, F., & Gracia, E. (2009). Is always authoritative the optimum parenting style? Evidence from Spanish families. Adolescence, 44(173), 101-131. 

(8)Neece, C.L., Chan, N. (2017). The Stress of Parenting Children with Developmental Disabilities. In: Deater-Deckard, K., Panneton, R. (eds) Parental Stress and Early Child Development. Springer, Cham. 

(9)Woolfson, L., & Grant, E. (2006). Authoritative parenting and parental stress in parents of pre‐school and older children with developmental disabilities. Child: care, health and development, 32(2), 177-184. 

Authoritarian parenting style is, with authoritative, permissive, and neglectful, one of the four traditional parenting styles. These four parenting styles were first quoted by psychologists Baumrid, Maccoby, and Martin, after observing thousands of parents and children.  

Authoritative parenting is the gold standard of parenting. In contrast, authoritarian, permissive and neglectful parenting are not that good for children.  

Let’s have a look at authoritarian parenting and how it relates to children’s development.  

Authoritarian parenting  

Authoritarian (1) parents are cold and demanding. Parents expect their children to do as they are told. Good behavior is always expected. Rules are strict, non-negotiable, and not clearly explained. They do not encourage intimacy nor trust. Children’s opinions and desires are not considered.  

When authoritarian parents discipline (2) their children, they don’t explain to their child why their behaviour was wrong. They use punishments and may get physical. They tend to be harsh and coercive. Parents may tell their children that they won’t love then anymore if they misbehave.  

Children raised by authoritarian parents are more likely to: 

  • Have mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. 

  • Have low self-esteem. 

  • Have poor social skills. 

  • Show behavioral problems. 

  • Do poorly at school. 

  • Be hostile and rebellious towards their parents. (3) 

How to know if you are an authoritarian parent? 

You are authoritarian if you tend to: 

  • Yell at your child when they misbehave.  

  • Grab your child when they are being disobedient. 

  • Scold and critize your child when their behavior doesn’t meet your expectations. 

  • Say something like “because I say so” or “I am your parent and I want you to”, when your child challenges a rule. 

  • Punish your child by taking privileges away (e.g., “You can’t have your phone for a week!”) with little or no explanation. 

  • Not allow your child to have a say about family rules. 

I recognize myself in many of the things you have just mentioned. What’s the problem? 

If you are cold towards your child, they won’t feel loved. They may even feel rejected. It is important that children feel loved by their parents. This helps them develop a sense of self-worth, belonging, and safety. (4) 

Many parents say: “It’s my job to be tough with my child, but they know I love them.” There is no doubt that authoritarian parents love their children. But as parents we must realize that it is not enough that we love them. They must feel our love. It doesn’t matter that you see yourself as a loving parent if your child doesn’t feel the same.  

The second issue with authoritarian parents is that they don’t listen to their children. They don’t take their feelings and opinions into account. Therefore, children do not feel heard. They feel ignored. Their self-esteem may struggle because the message they are getting is that they are not worthy of being heard.  

I am not saying that you must always follow your children’s opinions. Families are a hierarchy, where parents are in charge. But it is important that our children feel valued and heard.   

I am an authoritarian parent but would like to become more authoritative. What can I do? 

The good news is that we can change and improve the way we parent. It is not easy, but it can be done.  Here are some tips: 

  • Try to be more authoritative:  The more authoritative you can be, the better for your child. Authoritative parents are warm and responsive. They encourage trust and intimacy. They set high expectations and clear rules. They take into consideration their children’s opinions and feelings. In turn, children tend to do well across all aspects of life (5).  

  • Change your discipline style: Instead of yelling and using harsh punishments, try using logical consequences (6). These are consequences that directly address the behavior that the child should change or stop doing. For example, if your child leaves their bike in the middle of the driveway, the bike gets put away for an hour. If your child never puts their laundry in their basket, their clothes won’t be washed unless in the basket. This approach works much better than enforcing random, unrelated punishments.  

  • Be mindful of your emotions: Very often when we become angry with our children is because we have lost our temper. Understand what your triggers are, so you can control how you respond to your child. Feeling angry towards your child is not a problem. The problem may be what we do with that anger.  

  • Reflect on how you were raised: Were your parents very harsh with you? Did they use corporal punishment? Did you feel heard? Consider how it made you feel as a child and whether you want to raise your child in a similar environment, or whether you want to change. 

  • Rather than trying to change everything at the same time, focus on changing specific behaviours 

  • Seeking professional advice may be a good idea. At REC Parenting we have a team of parenting experts, ready to support you and your family. Get in touch here! It’s never too late to become the parent you want to be.  

However, be mindful that the term ‘authoritarian’ doesn’t mean the same across all cultures. 

Parenting is influenced by the culture we live in. Authoritarian parenting is more common in non-Western cultures, and in ethnic minorities living in Western countries.  

Why? Because some non-Wester countries are collectivistic. Collectivistic cultures consider that the group is more important than the individual. An authoritarian parenting style seems to work better to get children to conform to values such as conformity, self-control, and humility, which are very important in collectivistic countries.  

Parents in these cultures may use guilt, shame and scolding to discipline their children. But contrary to what happens in the Western world, these practices are not linked with negative outcomes for children (7).  


Authoritarian parenting is not the best for our children. If this is your style, don’t despair. It is never too late to become more authoritative. You can achieve it with the proper guidance, work, and persistence. At REC Parenting we are here to help you. 

And remember, the perfect parent does not exist. As parents we need to get it right more often than not.

I hope you have find this article helpful. As always, do get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

Much love,


Dr Ana Aznar


  1. Camisasca, E., Miragoli, S., Di Blasio, P., & Feinberg, M. (2022). Pathways among negative co-parenting, parenting stress, authoritarian parenting style, and child adjustment: The Emotional Dysregulation Driven Model. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 31(11), 3085–3096. 
  1. Carroll, P. (2021). Effectiveness of positive discipline parenting program on parenting style, and child adaptive behavior. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 53(6), 1349–1358. 
  1. Smetana, J. G. (2017a). Current research on parenting styles, dimensions, and beliefs. Current Opinion in Psychology, 15, 19–25. 
  1. Smetana, J. G. (1994). Parenting styles and beliefs about Parental Authority. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 1994(66), 21–36. 
  1. Lavrič, M., & Naterer, A. (2020). The power of authoritative parenting: A cross-national study of effects of exposure to different parenting styles on Life Satisfaction. Children and Youth Services Review, 116, 105274. 
  1. Robichaud, J.-M., Mageau, G. A., Soenens, B., Mabbe, E., Kil, H., Frenette, J., & Roy, M. (2024). Should parents combine reasoning with firm control to nurture adolescent socialization? comparing logical consequences with mild punishments. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement. 
  1. Chao, R. K. (1994). Beyond Parental Control and authoritarian parenting style: Understanding Chinese parenting through the cultural notion of training. Child Development, 65(4), 1111–1119. 

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