What is Laissez Faire Parenting? Is it bad? 

Laissez Faire parenting, otherwise known as permissive parenting, is when parents have few family rules or boundaries for their kids as they grow up. Have you ever wondered what kind of parenting style you are using? In this article, we’ll be focusing on what it means to be a Lassiez Faire parent and whether it can be helpful or harmful to your kids.


What is Laissez Faire parenting, and is it bad? First, we’ll dissect what it means to be a Lassiez Faire parent and then we’ll delve into the pros and cons of such a parenting style. Perhaps you already know what type of parenting style you employ, or perhaps it’s not so cut and dry and your parenting style meshes together multiple techniques. Though you may not be a Lassiez Faire parent, some of the tactics you use as a parent may fall under that category. Whether that is good or bad, we’ll discuss in this article.

What does Laissez Faire mean?

What is Lassiez Faire? According to Merriam-Webster, “the French term laissez-faire literally means ‘allow to do,’ with the idea being ‘let people do as they choose.’” The Laissez Faire term was first used in a political sense in regards to government and the economy. However, it has since been adapted in other ways and “used in broader contexts in which a “hands-off” or “anything-goes” policy or attitude is adopted.” This is where Lassiez Faire parenting comes in.

What is Laissez Faire Parenting?

Laissez Faire parenting, otherwise known as permissive parenting, “is a style which is characterized by placing low demands on a child while offering a high degree of responsiveness in return.” If you are a Laissez Faire parent, you set very few family rules, guidelines, or boundaries for your child. It’s more of a free-for-all, figure-it-out-as-you-go type of structure. In all the research read in regard to this type of parenting style, the consensus is that a Laissez Faire parent provides a very loving and nurturing home. This is all well and good, but other critical needs of the child may not be met, such as by providing discipline, boundaries and guidance.

Again, most research agrees on the same pros and cons of Laissez Faire parenting. Sylvia Smith, author of the article “Controversial Pros and Cons of Permissive Parenting,” discusses some pros and cons, as does healthresearchfunding.org.

laissez faire parenting
Laissez Faire parenting is also known as permissive parenting and refers to having very few rules or boundaries in place

Pros can include:

  • The relationship between child and parent is a priority
  • There is minimal conflict between child and parent
  • Creativity is highly encouraged
  • Creates more conversation in the home
  • Includes the child in family decisions
  • Teaches negotiation skills

Cons include:

  • A power struggle between child and parent
  • Clashes between wants and needs of a child
  • Lack of motivation especially as the child grows older
  • Critical compromises occur with the parents losing
  • Lack of the child’s self-discipline
  • Blurring of child/parent relationship
  • Poor self control in kids

What are the other parenting styles?

Other than Laissez Faire (more widely-known as permissive parenting style), there are several other parenting styles. The three most commonly noted are authoritative, neglectful, and authoritarian. However, Marygrace Taylor, author of “Different Types of Parenting Styles,” includes attachment parenting and free-range parenting.


Attachment parenting

Attachment parenting is the need to keep your child physically close and shower them with affection. This is especially focused on the baby and toddler years when you hold, cradle, and rock your child in times of comfort and rest.

Free-range parenting

Free-range parenting sounds the same as permissive parenting by its title, but the difference is that free-range parents guide their children toward independence rather than hoping they’ll find it on their own.

Authoritative parenting style

Authoritative parenting, not to be confused with authoritarian “solves problems together with the child, sets clear rules and expectations, has open communication and natural consequences.” Authoritative parents tend not to be too lenient, or too strict, and parents set reasonable limits for their kids, while being warm and responsive.

Authoritarian parenting style

Authoritarian parenting is “parent-driven, sets strict rules and punishment, and has one-way communication with little consideration of child’s social-emotional and behavioral needs.” – Francyne Zeltser – CNBC.com.

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Neglectful parenting

Neglectful parenting is, you guessed it, neglectful. It can also be known as uninvolved or disengaged. Neglectful parenting is so much more than us saying “no” to playing another board game after we’ve already played three. Many of us parents feel we’ve neglected our child if we aren’t playing with them or engaging with them on a constant basis. However, this is simply our guilt taking over.

What we must realize and remind ourselves is that kids need independent play just as much as they need someone to play with, to really reach their full potential for child development. Neglectful parenting is when parents don’t communicate, engage, nurture, or guide their children as they grow.

It’s important to remember the signs of neglect as a Child Protection issue as well. You can read my article on Child Protection HERE and the signs of neglect as a form of child abuse.

laissez faire parenting
Neglectful parenting may not be the same as Laissez Faire parenting but it is important that children’s health and safety is not placed at risk

Is Laissez Faire parenting neglectful?

Though Laissez Faire parenting may seem similar to neglectful parenting, the two are not the same. Laissez Faire parenting is nurturing and loving even without rules and guidelines. Neglectful parents don’t provide the comfort and emotional stability their children need, while Laissez Faire parents probably do.

Having said that, Laissez Faire parenting could be seen as neglectful if the child’s emotions are not supported or if the child’s health needs are at risk. As permissive parents tend to place very few rules and limits in place, if a child is choosing to spend hours in front of screens and help themselves to unlimited unhealthy snacks for example, this could be seen as an unhealthy lifestyle practice. There is also the risk that children whose emotional needs are not supported may not develop self-regulation skills.

What is the most damaging parenting style?

The most damaging parenting style is difficult to pinpoint. The traits of a bad parent aren’t hard to identify, however. These include being physically and emotionally unattached as well as neglecting your child. Every child needs physical comfort, words of encouragement, boundaries (some may argue this isn’t necessary), and a safe place to eat and sleep. If a specific parenting style had to be pinpointed as the most damaging, neglectful and Lassiez Faire would be top of the list. These two don’t seem to provide the well-rounded upbringing that a child needs to thrive.

What are some Laissez Faire Parenting examples?

Some examples of Laissez Faire parenting may be:

  • Allowing excessive screen time
  • Encouraging children to solve problems for themselves
  • Not monitoring intake of food and treats
  • Discussing natural consequences of particular actions or behaviours
  • Giving in to destruction of household items/furniture/other items
  • Asking the child to assist/contribute to household decisions
  • Allowing free play time and not insisting on completion of chores
  • Encouraging deep discussion/negotiation and explanation of actions and behaviours with analysis and encouragement of choices
  • Allowing any type of language, not teaching respectful conversation, not correcting rude behaviour/language or bad manners

How do you know what parenting style is best for your kids?

The parenting style that is best for your kids is the one that fits both you and your child. Taylor from WhattoExpect.com emphasizes, “as long as your little one is safe and getting the support she needs to thrive, there’s no right or wrong way to parent.”

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What are your values and beliefs? How do you want to communicate those to your child? The best parenting style for you and your kids is one that leaves all members of the family in a loving, supportive relationship that allows you to help your child thrive as they grow, and learn important life lessons.

laissez faire parenting
Usually parents take a little from each parenting style and make changes to suit their child and their family

Which parenting style has the best outcomes for children?

If a specific parenting style had to be pinpointed as the best, research suggests that authoritative parents are more likely to raise independent, self-reliant and socially competent kids.”

Jodie Benveniste, psychologist and author, titles this parenting style “Supportive”. She explains “It’s a style where you are warm and loving and you’re affectionate but you also create structure and boundaries for your children, and you guide their behaviour. You don’t focus on punishment, you focus on guiding, teaching and helping them to learn good behaviour.” Kids who had authoritative parents seemed to have the most academically competent children with higher levels of emotional intelligence.

As parents, we can’t expect children to know how to behave in certain situations without guidance, or we can’t expect them to manage negative emotions without some kind of discussion about feelings and how to manage them.

Personally, I employ an authoritative parenting style with my son, Andy. I put reasonable limits, rules and boundaries in place but I also guide him to develop his independence skills and I respect his thoughts and opinions on various topics. I encourage him to solve problems on his own (depending on the context) and I talk to him about his emotions and responses to various situations and incidents, meaning he has quite a high level of emotional intelligence for his age.

When he was much younger, there were tantrums and protests, but as he grew he learned why the rules were put into place and grew to respect these boundaries and respect the limits I put into place (most of the time).


Are you a Laissez Faire, permissive style parent? If not, what do you believe your parenting style is? Perhaps you lean more toward authoritarian, authoritative/supportive, uninvolved, or free-range parenting. In reality, the consensus is that parents tend to take bits and pieces from each style. But I think we might be asking the wrong question. Instead of asking what parenting styles you implement, ask yourself this: Is my child safe, supported, and loved? That’s where you’ll find your answer if you’re on track.

And chances are that if you’re reading this article, you’re a parent that is interested in how you raise your child, so you’re already headed in the right direction.

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