There are dangers to permissiveness.
Unfortunately, most people in America are under the impression that you have a choice between being punitive and being permissive. Those who don’t want to be permissive embrace a punitive style of parenting, and those who don’t want to be punitive typically embrace permissiveness
The reasons vary but some of the most popular reasons include having been parented with punishments and not wanting the same for their own children (which very much challenges the idea that children want to be punished), not being willing to spank and not knowing what else to do, not being comfortable with their child being unhappy and doing everything they can to keep them happy, and having been raised permissively themselves and not knowing what else to do.
Unfortunately, permissive parenting can be just as damaging to children as punitive parenting and, in the extreme it produces neglect. While children do not need punishments, they do need limits. Boundaries are what make a child feel safe in their life.
Many parents complain that when they stop punishing their children get out of control. A statement like this indicates that they have slipped into permissive parenting and have dropped the standard along with the punishments. This is not healthy for children or the family dynamic as a whole. When the standard is dropped children will feel insecure.
What typically happens, if the parents don’t work to get their tool box filled with GBD tools, is that they punish the child and the misbehavior stops. They mistakenly conclude at that point that it was the punishment that worked and GBD that didn’t, when what they were doing wasn’t GBD and it wasn’t the punishment that worked, but the firm boundary put on the child’s behavior.
Another common dynamic is for a permissive parent to get tired of everything being out of control in their home and they make a choice to adopt a punitive style of parenting, and it does result in better behaved children. This, again, is because a punishment puts a very firm boundary on the child and their behavior and that firm boundary helps them feel safe and when they feel safe they do stop pushing the boundaries.
The mistaken belief, however, is that punishments are the only way to provide that firm boundary. It must always be remembered that GBD is kind AND firm and it is not just Grace-based, but Grace-based DISCIPLINE!
The truth is that most parents are more permissive than punitive. They don’t want to punish so they do nothing until the get so fed up that they go overboard the other way and punish to try and make it stop. Typically this results in guilt on the part of the parent, who didn’t want to punish, and the response is to revert into more permissiveness to try and make it up to the child. This back and forth is confusing to a child and will actually cause them to act out more-again, looking for the firm boundary.
Sadly, this is the dynamic that many loving, gentle mothers find themselves in, and many attachment parents end up in this category. What begins as acknowledging that a babies wants are their needs does not mature as the child’s wants are no longer their needs and in an effort to provide for all of a childs wants and needs they end up catering to a child who doesn’t have limits put on them. This is unhealthy for the child who is aware that their wants are no longer their needs and yet is having all of them provided.
This is especially unhealthy if the parent attempts to say no and set limits only to cave on them when met with the child’s unhappy feelings. If a parent is afraid of their child’s negative feelings, and will do anything to make them stop, then the child is given the very clear message that through expressing your negative feelings you will get your way. While a toddler who is expressing their upset is not being manipulative, if the response to their upset is always to get their way, they will become the child who uses temper tantrums to manipulate. Manipulative tantrums are a learned behavior.
Thankfully, the choices aren’t punitive OR permissive. Thankfully, there is another way-a way that provides kindness and firmness. That way is Grace-Based Discipline, and my goal is to help equip you to use it in your home to allow you to be the kind and gentle parent you want to be, while providing the boundaries and lessons for your children that will help them feel safe and be well behaved.