Passive Parenting

Michelle Blessing
Confused child with frustrated mother

Parenting might be the most difficult job you decide to take on in your lifetime. There are no instructions, no days off and some days it feels like you are teetering on the brink of insanity. You might be confused or uncertain about the type of parent you are or want to be. If your children's behavior is out of control, or you are trying to be your child's best friend, you may be a passive parent. While nothing is black or white when it comes to parenting, you may want to take a close look at your relationship with your child to help determine if you are a passive parent, and whether or not you truly want to be.

What Is Passive Parenting?

Passive parenting can be described as lackadaisical. A passive parent is flexible but to the extreme. Truly passive parents go with the flow to the point that their children don't have any boundaries. A little leeway and flexibility is necessary as a parent, since you never know what each day might bring. Passive parents however, fly by the seat of their pants on a daily basis, often with detrimental results. A passive parent is one who lets children make the rules or makes rules without enforcing consequences when the rules are broken.

Passive parents tend to make excuses for their children and their children's behavior. A passive parent may rationalize why their children misbehave, rather than discovering the cause of it. Passive parents allow their children many liberties, such as unlimited television viewing or text messaging plans. A passive parent may even expect others to raise his child while he goes about his daily life.

Examples of Passive Parenting

Passive parents generally try to be the best parents they can; however, they go about setting rules and boundaries without using the appropriate amount of structure. The passive parenting approach to rules is "hands off," meaning that the passive parent either isn't aware, or isn't involved in setting appropriate boundaries. You may be, or have certain traits of, passive parents if you notice yourself engaging in the following behaviors:

  • Allowing your child to set her own bedtime, regardless of the hour she chooses
  • Repeatedly telling your child "no," but never issuing any consequences for misbehavior
  • Accepting your child's misbehavior as "kids being kids," or curiosity
  • Letting your child watch another TV show after telling him no more television
  • Giving your child a reward or toy despite her screaming and yelling in a store
  • Allowing your child to break rules because she is having a bad day
  • Giving in to your child's temper tantrums after setting a rule or limit
  • Not following through on discipline or issuing redirection without consequences
  • Letting your child eat ice cream or candy for dinner because he refuses to eat vegetables
  • Allowing your child to hit another child because that child took a toy from her
  • Letting your child talk back or yell at you because he is angry

Consequences of Passive Behavior

Passive parenting, and being your child's friend rather than disciplinarian, has both negative and positive results. Children who grow up in permissive homes tend to believe that the rules do not apply to them. Therefore, they misbehave in school or at daycare since they are allowed to do so in their own home. Your child may perform poorly in school or have trouble forming positive relationships with other children and adults due to their behaviors. However, children from permissive homes tend to have better self-esteem and suffer from depression and anxiety less often than other children do.

Alternatives to Parenting Passively

While indulging your child occasionally is fine, repeated indulgence can lead to problems in the future. Children thrive on structure and limits, and permissive parents fail to implement these on a consistent basis. This sets the groundwork for an adolescent and young adult who engages in negative behaviors that can lead to major problems in adulthood, such as lack of responsibility or even criminal behavior. You would be much better off using a more democratic and structured approach to parenting your child. This will help him grow into a successful adult.

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Passive Parenting