Friends to a fault?

Though parenting is emotional and facilitated by love, trust and esteem, parents are supposed to be a strong support for children by playing a functional role.


This functional role for an infant involves carrying, bathing, feeding, changing diapers and generally providing for the child.

For an eight-year-old, it includes ensuring they are bathing and brushing their teeth as expected.  

For a teenager, it means ensuring homework is done and the child is studying well.

Emotional, functional

Both emotional and functional parenting roles are important. Optimal parenting requires a fine balance between the two.

Parenting often goes awry when a false balance is created between the two.

If a mother, for instance, loves and nurtures her child in an indulging manner at the expense of the functional role, that child is at risk of becoming an immature and irresponsible adult.

Unfortunately, some parents view their children as their friends rather than vulnerable ones who need direction from them.

They become so friendly with their children while neglecting their duty to set limits for acceptable behaviour.

They tend to be amused by their child’s misbehaviour and find certain unacceptable behaviours cute when they are at a young age.

These parents are so nurturing that they tend to give so much freedom to their children while neglecting to help them set healthy boundaries.

By allowing few to no restrictions and encouraging overindulgence, some parents presume that they are showing love to their children.

They end up discovering a bit too late, most of the time, that they did their child a disservice when they start to reap the fruits of the seeds sown.

In such homes, the children are allowed to make their own decisions on a lot of issues, without guidance.

There is no consequence for misbehaviour, and parents are very lenient.

Much is usually not expected from the child academically, and parents go to lengths and breadths to meet every whim of the child. 

Permissive parents rarely say no to their children's demands.

They apologise profusely (even when the child is wrong) and may also use toys or food to bribe the children to get them to behave well.

Permissive parents end up raising children who dislike control and authority over them.

Because there are few rules, expectations and demands, these children tend to struggle with self-regulation and self-control.


As teenagers, such children can be a pain to their parents as they usually struggle to understand and control their emotions.

They end up violent and aggressive and can be totally out of control.

Their inability to appreciate and set boundaries makes it difficult to build healthy relationships whether in school or at home.

The lack of demands on them makes them less motivated to study, thereby performing academically poorly.


The lack of structure and rules in the home leads to children watching too much television and learning bad habits, spending a lot of time playing computer games or staying up late to interact on social media. 

Bad choices

These bad choices and decisions they are allowed to make can lead to unhealthy habits such as lack of adequate sleep, inability to focus, short attention span and even depression.

Parents who identify themselves as permissive must re-consider their parenting strategies to save themselves, their children and the family from later consequences such as child delinquency, substance abuse, negative peer pressure and, in serious cases, brushes with the law.

Children must be helped to understand boundaries, expectations and consequences of unacceptable behaviour.


Parents must be courageous to show consistency in the enforcement of family rules and boundaries.

By establishing the right balance of structure and support, parents can ensure that their children are growing up with the right attitude and skills they need to succeed in life.

The writer is a Child Development Expert/ Fellow at Zero-to-three Academy, USA.

E-mail: [email protected]

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