5 Problems with Being a Pushover Parent

Giving in to kids can do more harm than good.
  Steve Debenport / E+ / Getty Images

Do you ever give in when your child pesters and begs? Do you take away a toy or a privilege for misbehavior only to give it back right away because your child promises to be good? These are just a few examples of what it means to be a pushover parent. 

Being a pushover makes parenting easier in the short-term. You can make your child happy, escape a meltdown, and get through the day without a battle. But in the long-term, backing down and giving in will cause problems for both you and your child.

1. Your Child Won’t Take You Seriously

If you make empty threats or you go back on your word, your child won't take you seriously. He'll learn to tune out what you say because your behavior isn't in line with your words. 

It's important for kids to know that you mean what you say and you say what you mean. Otherwise, your child won't view you as a credible, competent authority figure. 

2. Bad Behavior is Reinforced

When your child cries because you said he can’t have another cookie, and you give in, you’ve taught him that crying is an excellent way to get what he wants. Each time you give in to your child—whether it’s because you feel guilty or because you want to avoid a complete meltdown—you reinforce misbehavior. 

It’s important for kids to realize that misbehavior isn’t effective. Otherwise, bad behavior will only get worse. Show your child that you won’t give in to temper tantrumswhining, or declarations that, “You’re the meanest Mom ever!”

3. Good Cop/Bad Cop Scenarios

Often, when one parent is the pushover, the other parent compensates by becoming overly strict. This can set you up for one parent being the good cop and the other being the bad cop. It's a toxic parenting habit that can lead to lots of confusion and frustration for kids. 

Work together with your partner to parent as a team. It’s important for your child to see that both of you are backing one another up and reinforcing the rules in a similar fashion.

4. Your Child May Experience Serious Consequences

Kids who grow up with overindulgent or permissive parents are more likely to exhibit behavioral issues. They may also be more likely to experience health issues, ranging from obesity to dental cavities.

Kids need authoritative parents who can set limits and stick to them. So whether you are insisting your child brush his teeth or you refuse to let him eat one more helping, refusing to be a pushover will improve your child's health and well-being.

5. Kids Don’t Want to Be in Charge

Although your child may behave bossy, and he may say he wants to make the rules, kids don’t actually want to be in charge. In fact, kids who don’t feel like their parents have everything under control are likely to experience anxiety. And when you can’t set clear limits and healthy boundaries, your child will question your ability to keep him safe.

Show your child that when you set a limit, like, “No riding your bike past that tree,” that you’ll make sure he follows that rule. If you constantly bend the rules, or don’t provide consequences when those rules get broken, your child may lack confidence that you’ll take the necessary steps to keep him safe.

Break the Cycle of Being a Pushover Parent

It's never too late to change your parenting style. Deciding that you're going to become less permissive and more authoritative, will be better for you and your child. 

If you’re used to being a pushover, however, it can be hard to break the cycle. Behavior problems are likely to get worse before they get better. 

When you try to stand your ground, your child will call your bluff at first, so you’ll need to be prepared to stand firm. Develop a plan to help you deal with behavior problems that are likely to arise when you don’t give in.

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