Laissez-faire parenting can mean a lot of different things. But for me I found this definition helpful – "a permissive style in which parents avoid providing guidance and discipline, make no demands for maturity, and impose few controls on their child's behavior. Permissive parents allow their children to make their own decisions regarding matters such as mealtimes, bedtimes, and watching television."
Laissez-faire parents feel that setting limits on a child's behavior will stifle a child’s creativity or keep them from developing and pursuing their own interests. These parents also feel that by giving their children more freedom, they are raising stronger and more independent children.
There are many reasons that parents choose this style of parenting.
- a conscious decision is made to parent this way based on reading and research, or on political or philosophical beliefs
- a reaction to an overly strict or abusive childhood
- an attempt to compensate for an overbearing or overly strict spouse
- “giving up” – a response to a difficult child or home situation
- path of least resistance – if a new parent isn’t sure what to do or doesn’t have someone to help guide him or her, a hands-off approach can be easy to follow
- a tendency toward non-confrontational behavior – the parent doesn’t like confrontation and will do anything to appease
Over the last 50 years, Diana Baumrind, a research psychologist at the University of Berkeley, California, Institute of Human Development, has performed numerous studies of parenting styles and techniques. Her research indicates that laissez-faire parenting results in a number of developmental difficulties for the children.
Children have more behavioral problems, including less self-control, more impulsiveness, poorer academic performance, and greater dependence on adults. Children lack the ability to calm themselves down or control themselves, have a harder time concentrating or learning new concepts and ideas, and find it more difficult to make and keep friends.
Other researchers confirm these findings but also discovered that laissez-faire parenting leads to lower self-respect, higher rates of depression, and an increase in high-risk behavior like drug and alcohol abuse. In addition, laissez-faire parents often complained of disobedient, out of control, rude, and even abusive children.
Fortunately, there are some very simple ways to correct this. Unfortunately, it involves discipline and self-control – words that haven’t been en vogue for several years, but that are very important. Discipline is not a bad word and doesn’t simply mean physical punishment.
To survive as an adult in society, our children will need to know the following:
- how to work
- how to get to work on time
- how to get along with others
- how to stay with a task until it is finished
- how to submit to proper authority – think, bosses at work or police
In order to achieve all of these things, children need discipline – particularly self-discipline. And self-discipline is learned from the parents.