The Pitfalls of Permissive Parenting

One of the thorny tests of parenting is striking a balance between strictness and permissiveness. Those of us who err too far in either direction suffer various consequences. These include overly rebellious kids or family life lacking boundaries between generations. Despite the obvious long term costs, legions of well-to-do parents struggle with saying "no" due to the immediate unpleasant repercussions. But as time marches on, permissiveness leaves its footprint in the imprudent actions of children's life path. The resulting angst and heartache leads many parents to ruminate over how they should have been more strict when it counted.
Parents who often find themselves befuddled by these opposing pulls of parenting may wish to keep the following coaching tips in mind:

As corny as it sounds, consider the parenting mantra, "No Helps You To Grow."
If children are to develop sufficient frustration tolerance, anger management, and other vital self-control and social skills, they need plenty of experience with reasonable limits and successful recovery. Parents provide the necessary scaffolding of rules, expectations, and consequences within which children erect their character and competencies. Parents may offer, "One of our jobs is to get you prepared to accept 'no' outside the home. Kids who hear too much yes may not grow as strong in their abilities to deal with life's unfairness and disappointments."

Shed the role of emotional scapegoat.
One red flag that permissiveness is afoot within the family is the dreadful pattern of blaming the parent. Typically, overindulged children are unprepared to accept the inevitability of disappointment and responsibility for errors, so they project blame upon the permissive parent with greatest care-taking role. In most families, this means the mother. Unfortunately, some moms implicitly accept blame due to childhood legacy or present circumstances. Astute children easily pick up upon their guilt, "defensive over-explanations", or "sweetening away unhappiness," resulting in the secondary pattern of manipulation . Resolve to free yourself from the scapegoat role by pointing it out to your child and mentally preparing for a purposeful demeanor: "I notice how often you blame me for life's disappointments. I think we need to discuss why you do this and how you can grow to accept the uncontrollable."

Overindulged children need clarity and consistency to adjust to new standards.
When "no" is the answer, parents should offer it with comfort not consternation. Prepare for the emotional fall-out but don't send signals that it is expected. Instead, display a calm attitude suggesting your confidence that they will accommodate to your answer. When children respond with familiar refrain, "You're so mean!" download new software into their repertoire by verbally stating the response you wish to hear: "Mom, I understand that I can't always get what I want." When they stare at you as if aliens have taken over your body, explain that you are coaching them in how to think and react when no is the answer in life.

As children grow older, the penalties of permissiveness are more pronounced.
Although teens need room to explore their world and themselves, parents must not confuse independence with permissiveness. Being a certain age does not connote capacity for mature decision-making. Parents must continue to supervise, question, and inspect; three jobs that tend to receive too little attention by permissive parents. Invest in your teen's psychological future by allocating resources of time and attention to these three vital parenting responsibilities. The investment will undoubtedly pay off in high dividends.