Permissive parents are loving, devoted individuals whose main goal is to keep their children happy. In order not to make their children feel controlled, they grant their child’s wishes, and do not enforce boundaries. At first glance, this may seem wonderful. After all, who wouldn’t love to have fewer rules? Who wouldn’t love to have candy and toys whenever they are desired, or stay out with friends all night with their parents’ blessing? The parents don’t have to waste time feeling guilty for depriving their children of the things they want, and the child is ultimately happy, too. Right? Unfortunately, that’s not the way it usually works out.
Children whose parents always give in to their demanding behavior grow accustomed to this precedent. When the child asks for something and the parent says no, the child is often angry and becomes determined to override their parents’ decision. They may cry, whine, or throw a wild tantrum. Often, permissive parents give in, for fear of upsetting their child, or because they wish to end their own feelings of irritation or public embarrassment as quickly as possible.
However, parents may want to consider a few reasons why giving in to their child’s unruly behavior is not going to benefit themselves or their child in the long run. First of all, when a child whines and cries for fifteen minutes before their parent caves in to their demands, they’ve learned the exact amount of time they need to whine and cry to get their parents to cooperate. Next time, they’ll keep up the undesirable behavior for at least that long. Children are, in essence, being trained to protest longer and with more intensity in order to get what they want. This only serves to create frustration in both the children and the parents.
Secondly, children do not automatically grow out of this behavior. Letting children have whatever they want when they’re little, and believing that somewhere along the way, they’ll figure out how to behave well on their own is a rationalization that is simply untrue.
Lastly, children who always get their way will never learn to cope with frustration and loss effectively. It’s sometimes easy to forget that we are raising our young children to be the next adults in society. And it is our job to make sure they enter adulthood with the proper skills to help them cope with everyday living. The reality is that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. We have to face a myriad of problems from job loss to marital issues and even death of loved ones. We all need to be able to cope with our feelings when these things happen, and in order to do that successfully, we need to start practicing in childhood. Depriving a child of the skills to handle the regular disappointments we all encounter in life does them a great disservice. We need to teach children that they simply won’t always get what they want all the time. Most importantly, we need to teach them that that’s okay, and validate their feelings of disappointment without trying to make those feelings disappear.
It is not our job as parents to make sure our children are happy all the time. It is our job to make sure they know that they are loved and safe, that they have the knowledge and skills to handle the times they are unhappy, and to trust that things will go their way again soon.