Has there  been a negative impact on society due to permissiveness in child rearing?Has there  been a negative impact on society due to permissiveness in child rearing?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Post #11 makes an excellent point. How do we define "permissive"? Parenting styles differ, but probably we can agree that permissive parents fail to set standards for acceptable social behavior and do not establish and enforce boundaries for their children's behavior. And why would they not? Generally, I think, adults parent as they were parented. Parents who do not set standards and enforce boundaries may fail to do so because they did not experience for themselves responsible parenting. One recent study I've read also suggests that many parents act out of guilt in dealing with their children; feeling guilty for working long hours away from home, they often indulge their children and fail to correct their children's behavior because they are simply too tired for confrontation. I've known parents, also, who failed to confront their children's unacceptable behavior because they were afraid of their children or afraid for them. "If I make him mind," I was once told, "he will run away."

Whatever the reasons for permissive parenting, those who suffer the most, of course, are kids who grow up without emotional security. Children, whether they realize it or not, crave the security of enforced boundaries as they make their way into the world. Telling a child "no" and making it stick is often difficult and unpleasant; it is an act of unselfish parental love, and on some level children realize it. Children of permissive parents often find themselves at war with the world at large, a place where boundaries of behavior are set and ultimately enforced. It comes as a shock for them when they hit that bottom line, at school or in jail.

Negative impact on society? Certainly, and it is recorded in a wide variety of statistics: school drop outs, juvenile crime and violence, drug overdoses, teen alcoholism, and the alarming rise in depression in young people. Society at large is left to pick up the pieces when parents fail to parent.


Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question assumes a fact not in evidence, and it uses a term, "permissive," that we might not all agree upon.  What does it mean to be "permissive," or "too permissive"?  Can we agree that parents are more permissive than they used to be? If so, is that too permissive?

One example that comes to mind is spanking.  Are parents too permissive if they do not spank their children?  Is it too permissive or just plain common sense to not model behavior, hitting, which you do not want your children to engage in?

Another example is control. Is it permissive to allow children to decide what to wear to school, or is it a good way to help them learn how to make decisions for themselves and learn about the consequences of those decisions. A family is not a complete democracy, to be sure, but in areas in which children can make some fairly low-risk choices, is it too permissive to allow them to do so?

I am 61 years old, and apparently, I was raised in a permissive household, à la Dr. Spock.  My brother and I were never spanked, were entitled to express our opinions about things, allowed to make our own choices, and so far, we both seem to be sound citizens, married, employed, with our own children raised in exactly the same way.

Is the behavior of some children (and adults) appalling?  Of course it is! But there are so many other changes in our world today, a paucity of two-parent families, children having children, mass media that broadcast the misbehavior of celebrities around the world in one second flat, a greater gap between the haves and have-nots, and plenty more.  If we are permissive, or too permissive, that might be the least of our problems.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Personally, I believe that inadequate child rearing practices have most certainly had a negative impact on our society. It starts harming the child and continues to have an adverse effect as they grow up. When parents have not taken the time to teach their children ethics and values, as well as good manners and interpersonal skills, it makes education for the struggling child and other children difficult, and makes it hard for these kids to be accepted by other children who have been reared in a more positive manner.

Students who don't have the benefit of a caring and supportive home environment will look for a sense of community in other places that do not always serve the best needs of the young person or society, in general. Involvement with gangs, drugs, prostitution, crime, etc., not only harm society, but become baggage that the young person may carry for the rest of his or her life. Finding work or being able to afford going into college or both can become unattainable if a young person has a police record, dependence upon drugs, a family to support…or any combination of these.

It is unfair to assume that these needful persons come from poor, uneducated families. Many come from well-to-do homes where there is little or no attention given to the children. Time is exchanged for "things," and little is learned on the part of the child except that "stuff" should make us happy. There are parents everywhere who do their best: kids don't come with guidebooks or instruction manuals. However, a child left to his own devices has a much harder road ahead of him or her—the condition of the members of a society impact the society.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two responses have stuck out to me here:

It's not so much that I wish more parents had control over their children, but rather that more parents helped their children take control of their own lives.

I couldn't agree more.  It isn't a matter of controlling kids, but a matter of raising kids to be independent thinkers and adults.  This, to me, starts in the pre-school years (maybe younger) with parents who are afraid to allow their children to entertain themselves, afraid to let kids cry or self-sooth to sleep, and who feel guilty about being "bad parents" for providing small boundaries.

those who suffer the most, of course, are kids who grow up without emotional security.

And this, yes!  As teachers, our classrooms are making up for the lack of emotional security many students have faced their entire lives.  But again, as a high school teacher, I run my classroom with the boundaries of a pre-school room.  That is to say, tight.  And kids respond.  The age-appropriate response should be that by high school the given boundaries are not as tight because the students have learned how to live within them.  But all public school teachers know this simply isn't realistic with most classes.

Another huge problem is the inconsistency not in parenting but in who are the parents at any given time.  The average family today is what would be considered by an older generation a "broken" family.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a highly debatable question because child rearing alone is not responsible for social change. There are many more factors involved in the process of human development, and child rearing is only one fraction of the nurturing process, granted, a very important one.

The first argument is: "YES. There has been a negative impact on society due to permissiveness in child rearing". If this were a fact, then it means that parents are supposed to be told how to raise their children, or they would have to stick to specific parameters, so that there is no negative impact in the society of the future.  Does that make complete sense, though? No. Something "else" must be missing in the formula. There is just no way that child rearing is the "be-all, end-all" of change.

The second argument is: "No. There is no negative impact on society due to permissiveness in child rearing." If this statement were true, we would have to ask ourselves: "Then how come so many young adults do not know how to accept consequences, why so many children disregard authority, and why there are so many discipline problems in schools today versus 50 years ago?"

Concisely, this question is open to debate and should be in the discussion posts. It all comes down to our own opinion of what should be the role of the parent as a disciplinarian. Other than that, it is all open to argument.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In the earlier parts of the 20th century, parents tried to mold their children to fill certain roles. A girl was groomed to be a good mother while a boy was taught how to be a productive bread winner. Somewhere in the mid-20th century, society began to rebel against this idea. It was thought that children should be raised with more freedom and a more laissez faire style of parenting was in order. Over the years, this changed the societal norms of parenting and what was expected of our children. With all of our efforts to protect and equalize our society, some aspects have been taken to the extreme. Now, many children don't respect authority. They have the idea that no one can tell them what to do. A parent who let their kid have whatever they want whenever they wanted it will be sending a disaster to school. Teachers are unable to curtail disruptive behavior and outbursts. Parents blame teachers and schools. Really, it is a fundamental shift in what society views as acceptable. Back in the early 20th century, a child wouldn't have even thought of contradicting or disrespecting an adult. Now, in the 21st century, teachers and other authority figures are frequently subjected to various degrees of verbal abuse and disrespect.
creativethinking eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with poster 4: "American culture is clearly too permissive." I think there are aspects both of parenting but also of our society in general which have changed expectations about what is considered acceptable behavior. Yes, parenting plays a role... but what about pop culture? What do you think people in the 1950s would have thought about The Hangover, one of our most popular films in recent years? Times have changed. And that's not all bad.

I am grateful for the fact that my parents never told me I was to be seen and not heard. And I am grateful that I was never held to any confining expectations based on my gender or age. I was blessed to have parents who allowed me to be independent, but encouraged me also to set high expectations for myself. I flourished in that environment. (And, for the record, only had detention once, in second grade!) 

For me as an educator, it's not so much that I wish more parents had control over their children, but rather that more parents helped their children take control of their own lives. This includes the ability to recognize and resist the laissez-faire expectations of our society at large.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I must express my wholehearted agreement with bullgatortail. I am now in my 63rd year, and am amazed at the permissiveness and decline in responsibility that one sees among students and young people. The most appropriate word to describe their upbringing is "enabling." Many parents were themselves the products of a strict upbringing and still bear some resentment to it. They have predetermined that they will not raise their children the same way. When their children are irresponsible, they externalize the causes. As with many teachers, I have parents who insist that "my child" would never do that. I have discovered that kids who cheat with abandon know ahead of time that parents will believe anything the kid says. The same applies to kids who are behavioral problems. They know there will be no consequences at home, and oftentimes flaunt the fact. The negative impact is that we are rearing a generation whose attitude is one of entitlement and in which responsibility is an alien concept. I fear for these young people when they leave the parental umbrella and must function in the real world which will not be so sympathetic. 

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The really frightening question, in my opinion, is where are today's children going to take society when they are in charge? When there is no one older to provide what they are "entitled" to, how will they cope with the situation? When they are the ones determining expectations of their employees, what kinds of work ethics and responsibilities will they demand? If children aren't learning to answer for their own actions and take responsibility for themselves, who will do so when parents are no longer available?

There are many really good kids, who are responsible and motivated and respectful, out there. Too often, however, they are overlooked by the unruly minority of undisciplined, disrespectful, mouthy students who make teaching somewhere between an extreme challenge and downright impossible. In the process, the good kids are not receiving the educational opportunities they have a right to expect, which is the real crime here and now. Our hope is that somehow, somewhere along the line, they will acquire the skills they need to wrest control of the future away from the loudmouths.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You only have to go as far as a normal public school classroom. Far too many students attend school for the social aspects, rather than to concentrate on receiving an education, and disciplinary problems with unruly students are often overwhelming. Far too often when I have meetings with parents, they tend to deflect the blame onto the teachers, and they end of defending their children's actions, many of which range from bad to reprehensible. More often than not, these children have not been taught how to behave properly in a social setting, and many disregard classroom and school rules as a matter of habit. It's obvious that too many parents try to be "best friends" with their children, refusing to say "no" for fear of alienating them.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm with Post #3.  I think that American culture is clearly too permissive.  I think that parents fail to set boundaries for their children and allow the children to think that their "happiness" is the ultimate goal.

I think that this atttitude has caused grave harm to our society.  For example, I would blame it in part for our political/economic problems.  We want to have low taxes and lots of government services.  We want everything given to us without having to sacrifice anything.  I think that this is an outgrowth of the idea (around at least since Dr. Spock) that the world revolves around us and we should seek our own desires rather than sublimating our desires to the good of the larger group.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am glad it is not just my school staff room where conversations like this are being had! It is interesting isn't it that although life in so many ways has gotten easier and better, it appears that our children are not receiving the benefit of that, as so many have an attitude of expectantcy as they have not had to fight or struggle or to really earn much in their lives compared to the way us wrinklies did. I do think that there is a need for boundaries and discipline and that this impacts negatively on education. I share the frustrations of #3 in the way that when I meet with parents there is little acceptance of their children's low educational performance. Instead it is so much easier to blame other things.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This conversation just took place at my part-time job over the weekend. My husband and I have tried raising our children with the same morals, standards, and work ethic with which we were raised. However, it's a different world that we're raising them in. Many parents feel that be friends with their children makes them good parents. Parents must first be PARENTS, and then they can be friends. Children are also being raised with more permissiveness without a lot of instruction on social appropriateness. these children go out into public with these flawed ideas, and then they raise children themselves.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I feel that this is an international issue, not just a US one. Having taught in the UK, I have been faced with the 'you can't do anything to me 'cos my dad will get you' attitude, and have found parents defending their children blindly. I think that some parents try to instil values much too late now: there is an attempt to spoil the infant and allow him/her to grow in terms of individuality and self-esteem, but then dawns a realisation that there are no boundaries established for either side to manage the teenage years

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a definite lack of parenting skills in our society today. We are seeing children enter kindergarten with absolutely no idea of right and wrong. They also have no understanding of consequences for their own actions. As someone else has mentioned a lot of times the parents will try to place blame on anyone other than themselves or their child.

truthseekah | Student

I'm with #17 and #20.  Societies' influence on children cannot be denied.  It's easy to blame the kids or the parents, but we are all influenced by our surroundings.  We are told what happiness is (or should be) through various media outlets, schools, malls, etc.

For those not as easily influenced by external forces, it seems logical to raise children with respect, integrity and love.  But you have to admit, it is a battle to keep your child on this path because they have friends who behave a certain way or get certain material things.

I believe the answer to this issue, as Ghandi so eloquently put it, is to "Be the change you want to see in the world".  Many see this as a daunting task, but it is so powerful.  If you live your live with honesty and integrity, you will make change whether in one life or in thousands of lives.  This couldn't be more true as an educator.  It may never be measurable what you do, but that doesn't mean it won't be significant.  It can't hurt to try.

krcavnar | Student

I don’t know if this is a black and white, yes or no question.  I do believe that our children today have less appreciation for hard work, less respect for authority and believe that “someone owes them something”.    Parents are in part to blame for this new generation, however, society standards, the media, and endless consumerism that is a part of our society is also to blame. 

What can we expect from a generation of children who are more involved in media, games, and texting but have lost the art of personal communication?  When children do not see communication and interaction they fail to learn proper conduct.  As a society we are at fault for this – look at the programming on television.  We have reality programs that idolize people behaving badly – we reward self-centeredness, obscenity, uncommitted sexual relationships and cheating.   We as a society have allowed our children to value music with lyrics that devalue women, glorify drugs and promote getting paid at any cost. 

As parents we too have become addicted to our computers, phones, work, and busy schedules.  We have stopped spending quantity time and now attempt to have “quality time”.  I think the quantity time is a better setting for raising a family. 

karimjessa | Student

You ask if there has been a negative impact to society. The answer is "yes" if, mind you, if, the negative impact is taken as being the breakdown of traditional morality, customs, culture, etc.

But the answer is "no" for that very reason! Society evolves, and must evolve. For too long every generation has presumed to be the caretaker and promulgator of traditions.

It is a messy business, but each generation has to learn to find its own values. I repeat, it's messy; it's disturbing; and it leaves a lot of broken pieces in it's wake. But it's preferable to raising yes-children.

frizzyperm | Student

While we all agree that many children and young adults fail to behave appropriately in various social situations, I think it is too easy to dump the blame parents and liberal values.

In the past, parents and school were the main sources of information and role models for children. Now however those roles are continuously undermined by television and other media. How many hundreds of thousands of adverts do children watch? Everyday they are encouraged by sophisticated corporate marketing to value shallow, short-term, materialistic goals.

Many adverts which are aimed at children portray school as awful and teachers as fun-killers. Many adverts imply that rejecting adult authority is cool and popular. Many products aimed at children are appallingly anti-social i.e. junk food, candy, sugar drinks.And the products of the entertainment corporations (music, films, computer games etc) all glorify violence, selfishness and destruction.

There is an African saying, "It takes the whole village to raise a child." Half the American 'village' are hacking away a social norms to make a quick buck off our kids.

yid | Student


Post #11 makes it sound that her parents had no impact on her upbringing what-so-ever. There must have been some guidance or plan involved. I can not believe that the conceive and pray method is a viable option to child rearing. They are your children,  not only do you have a responsibility to raise them with a sense of right and wrong but also to guide tem on  becoming a productive member of society.