How a Lax Parenting Strategy Can Jeopardize Your Teen’s Future

Being a parent is exhausting work. Between your family, career, and other commitments, you have all sorts of demands on you. Sometimes, parents find it easier to take a more relaxed approach to parenting. Because they already have so much on their minds, perhaps they are too mentally and physically taxed to parent more actively. Or, maybe they're just laid-back people who don't see the harm in a more permissive approach.

While it's important to let kids experience failures and endure the naturally-occurring consequences for their actions, a parenting style that's too relaxed (or conversely, too strict) can have a negative long-term impact on the success of kids and teens. Having relatively few rules and demands in place may mean they'll have to learn about grownup responsibilities the hard way -- from the "school of hard knocks."

Potential Effects of Lax or Permissive Parenting

Kids and teens raised by parents who are too relaxed or overly permissive often experience negative outcomes. These effects are displayed not only while growing up, but later in life when they find themselves in the "real world."

  • Lack of self-discipline -- They may lack the ability to drive themselves toward goals or limit their own behavior
  • Poor social skills -- They tend to be more difficult to get along with, and be hesitant to share
  • Selfishness -- A tendency toward being self-involved and more demanding of others to meet their needs
  • Insecurity -- A lack of boundaries and guidance often leads to feeling less secure about oneself
  • Poor decision-making -- Difficulty solving their own problems and making wise choices
  • Low achievement -- Growing up without having to meet parental expectations, they may not be motivated to set and achieve goals in school and life
  • Poor self-management -- Lack of structure doesn't allow for learning limits and boundaries. They may waste hours watching TV, overeat, or miss appointments
  • Delinquency -- Higher likelihood of misconduct in school and work, leading to higher risk of breaking the law
  • Aggressive behavior -- Inability to handle emotions constructively or effectively. Lower emotional intelligence in dealing with feelings of themselves and others.
  • Substance abuse -- Higher likelihood of abusing alcohol and / or drugs as kids, teens, and adults

How to Prevent Lax Parenting

If you're worried that your parenting style may be too relaxed or permissive, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have basic household rules, and do you enforce them consistently?
  • Are consequences, both natural and applied, appropriate for the infraction?
  • Do you follow through with punishments in a firm, but loving way? Do you help your kids understand the relationship between their behavior and the punishment?
  • Do you enforce curfews?
  • Are your kids expected to meet certain standards in schoolwork?
  • Do you reward your kids for their good behavior, and let them know you notice?

If you see symptoms of permissive parenting in your own family, try to implement some changes -- one rule at a time. Make your expectations clear, and let your kids know what consequences will follow if rules are broken. Above all, be consistent, and do everything you can to support your teens in living by the rules. If you're having trouble with a teen who constantly acts out, or you fear he or she needs additional help, reach out.

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