Sep 25

Q&A: Patient vs. Permissive Parenting

2013 at 1:25 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Motherhood | Parenting Young Children | Q&A

Hi all—sorry for the brief hiatus from posting. We were traveling and unexpectedly found ourselves without Internet access. Home now and ready to resume our regularly scheduled posts with a new Q&A. Have a great Wednesday!


A few weeks ago, in a Facebook comment on our post answering the question “How Do You Stay Patient with Young Children?” Michelle asked a great follow-up:

“I sometimes have a hard time discerning between patience and permissiveness. It seems that some days I’m feeling ‘patient’ and so I don’t pick on certain issues as much, so is it patience or permissiveness?”

I threw this question out to Mom and here are a few of her thoughts:

This is an insightful question, Michelle, because we as parents often confuse godly patience with sinful permissiveness. But the two are not the same.

Patient parenting means we are “slow to anger” in the face of provocation or disobedience from our children (Ex. 34:6, James 1:19). It does not mean we don’t bring appropriate discipline, but that we discipline in love.

As Jerry Bridges explains, patience “seeks the ultimate good of [our child] rather than the immediate satisfaction of our own aroused emotions.”

Permissive parenting often masquerades as patience, but has different motives underlying it. Sinfully permissive parenting is often based on our emotions—whether or not we feel like correcting our children’s sin or whether or not we want to deal with this right now—rather than a commitment to teach our children to submit to our loving authority for their good and God’s glory.

In fact, permissiveness in parenting can be an abdication of our God-given, lovingly exercised authority. Permissive parenting may unintentionally put the kids in charge, which is the opposite of what God has ordained.

In short, permissive parenting is often about how we feel or what we want; patient parenting is about what would please God and help our children to grow in Christ-like character.

For example, it is not patient to instruct our children to do something but then give in to them when they beg off. It’s permissive.

It is not being patient to tell our children not to do something, and then fail to follow through or merely repeat our instructions when they ignore our commands or whine or argue. It’s permissive.

It is not patient parenting to look the other way when our children sin or to neglect to train them to overcome patterns of sin. It’s permissive

It is not being patient to satisfy our child’s every desire and give into his every demand, even if it feels patient because it requires sacrifice on our part. It’s permissive.

Ironically, sometimes the easiest way to tell if we have slipped into permissive parenting is if we are tempted to be impatient. I remember that when I used to get impatient with my children it was usually a sign that I had been growing lax and permissive in my parenting. Because I wasn’t faithful to give clear commands and bring appropriate and loving discipline when they disobeyed, my children’s behavior would grow more unruly and I would respond more impatiently.

Permissive parenting is one of the easiest traps for us to fall into as a mom. Sadly, I can recall many times when I was more permissive than patient in my parenting. But our Heavenly Father is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and patience toward us. He does not ignore our sins of laziness and impatience, but rather he sent his Son to pay for them at the cross. And the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts, training us to obey God’s Word and grow in Christ-like patience toward our children.

So how does God help us to avoid becoming permissive and impatient in our parenting?

We’ll tackle that question in our next post.