Parenting a young adult is so different from parenting a young child. Parents are encouraged to take a step back from their role as their child’s primary caregiver and encouraged to build a relationship on more mutual terms. What this looks like can be pretty blurry. Parents are encouraged to lower their expectations about what success means, respect that their child makes their own choices and follows their own rules and befriend them. At first glance, this may seem really healthy, especially if one’s parents have been stricter throughout adolescence. But, for young adults whose parents have always wanted to be their best friends, permissive parenting may cause them to struggle to launch into independence if they’ve developed unrealistic goals and have low motivation to start developing a routine. 

What is Permissive Parenting?

It can be difficult to determine whether permissive parenting leads to attachment issues, as many children with permissive parents have secure attachments. It is only as they get older and what they need from their parents changes that they may struggle with not having enough guidance. 

Some examples of permissive parenting may include:

  • No specific rules are established for children’s behavior.
  • Rules are inconsistent and depend on the situation
  • The parent is loving and nurturing but may over praise the child, making it difficult for the child to understand which behaviors are actually good or exceeding expectations
  • The parent acts like their child’s friend
  • Parents bribe the child with gifts, toys, or food to get them to behave rather than establishing expectations.
  • The child is given little structure or schedule, lacking a daily routine or daily expectations for age-appropriate responsibilities.
  • The parents put the priority of giving the child freedom over teaching responsibility
  • The parents ask their children for an opinion on major decisions, rather than helping the child to cope with decisions that are made by the adults
  • The child rarely faces any consequences enforced by the parents

Permissive Parenting in Young Adulthood

Parents whose primary concern is that their child likes and respects them are often lenient about rules at home and may set up a false reality about what it takes to succeed as an adult. As a result, their child may grow up and suddenly not know how to make decisions for themselves. Their college roommates are frustrated that they don’t seem to know how to clean. Their professors won’t offer them an extension on assignments and take points off for showing up late. Their significant other calls them out on the unhealthy decisions they make. 

Growing up in a household where they could do no wrong and received unconditional support, these scenarios can feel crushing to one’s self-esteem. These young adults are more likely to question other people’s loyalty than to look at their own role in interpersonal conflict. 

Long-term effects of permissive parenting might include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor motivation in work or school
  • Irritability
  • Trouble delaying gratification and risk taking
  • Difficulty budgeting
  • Insecure attachment
  • Lack of self-awareness

What Does Healthy Independence Look Like?

According to a study that investigated the effects of permissive parenting on young adults, self-regulation is the key to reducing emotional and behavioral problems, which is often not taught by permissive parents, who tend to be rescuers. In an ideal world, the protective bubble of childhood would last forever, but, ultimately, it is up to young adults to learn how to rescue themselves and to recognize their own red flags. Or, they learn how to advocate for help from others but not to expect other people to anticipate their needs. 

Wilderness therapy programs, like blueFire PulsaR, are designed to help young adults take charge of their lives. We understand that young adulthood is a difficult period for navigating relationships, particularly with family members. As young adults are in a transitional period in their life, they often struggle to understand what relationships should look like. College friends may feel like “party friends” or “temporary” friends and parent relationships may no longer seem as important. We remind the young adults we work with that there is a difference between doing things alone and actually being independent. 

Our focus is on teaching students life skills that will help them launch into independence, like communication, emotion regulation, and problem-solving. 

We also offer optional family therapy for young adults who want to work on setting boundaries with their family, making amends, and advocating for their needs. 

blueFire PulsaR Can Help 

blueFire PulsaR is a co-educational wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-28. This program addresses emotional, social, and behavioral problems in young adults who are experiencing “failure to launch” syndrome. Adventure therapy, wilderness ventures, equine therapy, academic opportunities and “family spark” are used to help students open up and look at their life. From there they are able to experience growth and adopt healthy self-management skills. This program is dedicated to helping students regain a better sense of the world around them while addressing their emotions and needs head on.

For more information about family therapy in wilderness programs, contact us at 1 (844) 413-1999. We can help your family today!


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