Supportive Parents and Permissive Parents, What's the Difference?

Teaching children to be autonomous doesn't mean letting them do what they want or doing things for them. With that in mind, we'll help you understand the difference between supportive parents and permissive parents.
Supportive Parents and Permissive Parents, What's the Difference?

Last update: 07 September, 2021

Educating and raising children isn’t a simple task. The path of parenting has a wide palette of colors and rarely are parenting choices “black and white”. For example, in letting our child make their own experiences, we can be supportive or we can end up being permissive. So, do you know the difference between supportive parents and permissive parents?

Finding the middle ground between granting privileges and not granting privileges is more complex than it seems. Many times, our attitudes can favor or interfere with the child’s learning, so we need to be aware of them.

First of all, it’s important to know our child’s abilities and, based on these, determine if they can face a challenge on their own.

Secondly, we need to reflect on our behavior: Are we teaching our child how to solve a problem, or are we solving it for him? We’ll dive deeper into this idea further below.

What’s a child’s learning process like?

A mother teaching her daughter to ride a bike.

Learning varies from child to child and parents must function as skill coaches. We must help our children become more autonomous day by day. For some children, this can be very easy to achieve, while for others, it can be quite complicated.

When children face various difficulties in life, parents have to become the support and not the solution. But how can we know if we’re acting as one or the other?

To establish this difference, it’s important to know that when we support our children, we’re motivating them to advance in their autonomy. On the contrary, when we try to remove difficulties from their path, we’re not offering them any learning tools.

Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime

-Chinese proverb-.

It’s important to teach children to overcome obstacles on their own, to face their fears, and to improve their self-confidence.

The difference between supportive and permissive parents

Now that we have a general idea, let’s look at each of the differences between supportive parents and permissive parents.

What do supportive parents do with their children?

  • Are able to identify and recognize their child’s emotions and feelings
  • Can match their actions to the child’s mood
  • Provide affection and support in the face of unpleasant emotions
  • Understand the child’s learning difficulties and adapt to them
  • Establish appropriate rules and instill positive habits to model their child’s behavior
  • Promote healthy habits for dealing with frustration, anxiety, or anger
  • Discuss limits and house rules, as well as consequences when they’re not followed
  • Praise their child’s progress, regardless of the outcome
  • Encourage perseverance and the value of effort
  • Teach their kids to face problems and not to avoid them

What do permissive parents do?

Permissive parents try to protect their children from adversity and to avoid fear, anguish, failure, or shame. Some of their main characteristics are the following:

  • Aren’t consistent in following the rules at home, for fear that their child will become angry with them or stop loving them
  • Avoid any situation that may make the child uncomfortable
  • Assume the responsibilities that correspond to their child
  • Overreact to tantrums
  • Protect their children from the natural consequences of their actions
  • Intervene to avoid disappointing their children
  • Speak on behalf of their children instead of letting them express themselves
  • Don’t know how to say no and allow everything
  • Don’t motivate their children to do things on their own, for fear of failure
  • They always excuse their children’s mistakes, preventing them from taking responsibility for their actions
A mother running to help her daughter who's losing her balance on her bike.

Regarding the differences between supportive parents and permissive parents

As you’ve seen throughout this article, there are clear differences between the two parenting styles.

It’s important to identify your parenting stance to avoid being overly permissive.

Even if you know that your children won’t be able to cope with all the difficulties they face, you must cultivate self-confidence from an early age. This way, you’ll be providing them with the necessary tools to overcome any problem by their own means.

If you solve everything for them in order to avoid suffering, you won’t be helping them to grow. Parents should be their support and their guides, but it will be children themselves who will have to discover the way through the labyrinth of life.

It might interest you...
A New Perspective on Parental Authority
You are MomRead it in You are Mom
A New Perspective on Parental Authority

However, these days, we observe many examples of misbehavior on behalf of children. These are usually the result of a lack of parental authority.



  • López, S. P., Mesa, J. L., & Linares, M. C. C. G. (2002). Los estilos educativos de los padres y la competencia psicosocial de los adolescentes. Anuario de psicología/The UB Journal of psychology, 79-95.
  • García Bueno, M.P. (2018). Estilos educativos parentales. Gabinete de orientación infantil Colegio Villalkor.
  • Henao López, G.C. y cols. (2007). Las prácticas educativas familiares como facilitadoras del proceso de desarrollo en el niño y la niña. AGO. USB Medellin-Colombia. V7, nº2, Pag.199-385.