Strict vs. Permissive Parenting

Parenting is a highly individualized task. Your own childhood, your beliefs about parenting, your child’s temperament and your family dynamics heavily influence your day to day parenting decisions 1. However, all parents can be loosely categorized into one of four parenting styles. Authoritarian and authoritative parents are considered strict, while permissive and uninvolved parents are less so.


Authoritarian parents are sometimes considered old-fashioned by today’s standards. If you are authoritarian, you believe in setting strict rules that leave no room for debate. Consequences are absolute, with no gray area, and are often harsh relative to the circumstances.

A study at Cornell University showed that the children of authoritarian parents learn that their independent thoughts and behaviors are not welcome. Consequently, some become secretive and rebellious, following the rules when absolutely required but living separate lives that their parents know nothing about. Children who are more submissive by nature do not learn to individuate, remaining highly dependent on their parents throughout adolescence.


In an article for Great Schools, Carol Lloyd explains that authoritative parents are often nearly as strict as authoritarian parents. The key difference is that authoritative parents involve their children in discussions and are willing to explain why a rule is in place. As children mature, authoritarian parents give them a voice, and rules are renegotiated.

The Cornell study found that authoritative parents often achieve the best results. Their children learn self-confidence, debate skills and responsibility. They are able to express their viewpoints, navigate complex social situations and operate autonomously.


Permissive parents are warm and loving. They want their children to be happy and well-adjusted, so they tend to give in to their children’s desires. They act as a resource for advice or support when their children ask, but allow them to make important decisions alone.

According to the Cornell study, the children of permissive parents often feel entitled to do whatever they want. Without clear boundaries and consequences, they may become egocentric and struggle with self-control.


Uninvolved parents take a hands-off approach to their children’s lives. Wrapped up in their own problems and worries, they expect their children to manage their own affairs. Some uninvolved parents are neglectful and unconcerned about their children’s welfare. Others believe that a hands-off style promotes independence.

The Cornell study makes it clear that the reasons behind uninvolved parenting do not affect the outcome. Children in these families feel unimportant and overwhelmed by the tasks of daily life. They have a tendency to act impulsively and struggle to regulate their own behaviors.