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How Does Less is More Parenting Differ from Permissive Parenting?

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Featured on
8 March, 2018

When parents hear me advocate for using duct tape to control their words and actions as parents, they naturally ask me:

What’s the difference between a Less is More Approach and Permissive Parenting?

In simple terms – Permissive Parenting offers no boundaries while Less is More Parenting balances boundaries (order) with the freedom to make mistakes and learn from experience.

Children raised in a permissive household tend to have difficulty with any kind of boundary or structure outside of the home. They’ve been indulged since they were toddlers; Mom and Dad have done everything they can to avoid any kind of meltdown, temper tantrum, disruption, sadness, or anger. This includes giving into the child’s demands, “doing-for” the kids when they show frustration doing something themselves, lack of follow-through with discipline strategies, and solving problems in the moment with quick fixes instead of parenting for the long haul.

Children raised by permissive parents miss out on the chance to develop skills that help them live in a much different world, one that doesn’t take into account they’ve been pampered and spoiled and not expected to take care of themselves or recover from any kind of upsets.

Less is More Parenting is a parenting approach based on a respect for the parent and the child. Order is respectful to the parent and freedom within the boundaries of that order is respectful to the child.

When you implement this type of parenting style, you create a mindful, peaceful, balanced life with your kids. You’re focused on respecting the individuality of your child while giving them the structure necessary to thrive in the real world when they leave your house at 18-years old.

Less is More parents allow their kids to live their own experiences without over engineering their success. They support, love and respect by making time to be emotionally available instead of nagging, lecturing and engaging in power struggles. They focus on the relationship over controlling the details and outcomes.

What ‘order’ is incorporated into Less is More Parenting?

The order I refer to is not order in the sense of authoritarian parenting (ie. Because I said so!). Order comes in the form of regular family meetings, systematic problem solving, natural consequences, family agreements, saying what you mean and meaning what you say, and simplifying parenting by using strategies that work when kids are 3, 13 or 23.

Less is More is not permissive parenting. It invites your children into the process of living, making decisions, making mistakes, and developing necessary life skills within a designated set of boundaries, that grow as they do – to come out on the other side with the mental muscle, courage, and resilience it takes to navigate life as a healthy adult.

If you’d like more information on how to implement a Less is More approach to parenting, I encourage you to get your hands on a copy of my first book, Duct Tape Parenting. If your local library doesn’t have it – suggest it!

**You can also join the Duct Tape Parenting tribe by subscribing to my email list above. I only send my best tips, insights and stories on how to stay true to your parenting values and raise resilient, confident kiddos.**

6 Comments
  1. Sara Quetta says:

    Great post Vicki. Reading this makes me see how unnecessarily hard I am on myself. I do these things and my child responds and loves her life and her independence. But most of all, she loves us for being her beacon of light and pillars of strength. Much appreciation for the phone conversation a couple nights ago. I AM a great Mom, who is learning, growing and killin it! Glad to be part of this parenting tribe. Much love!

  2. Heather Fitzgerald says:

    We are aiming for this and have been since our first workshop with you way back in…2010? And our 10 year-old is capable and has lots of skills and character traits I know are important. But he’s also looking around at (a selective number of) his friends’ parents, comparing, and interpreting our lack of lunch-making, plastic toy-buying-upon-demand (he gets $10/week after family mtg to do whatever he wishes with), etc. as evidence that we don’t love him as much. The values we’re working so hard to practice (for example we don’t have a smart phone or bring much processed food home) provide further evidence of our lack of love. I’m not talking about in-the-moment attempts to influence us, I’m talking about an enduring narrative that he seems to feel pretty deeply. We’ve discussed these things endlessly and he knows why we want him to practice making his own lunch/managing his own money/not spending too much screen time and have done our best to listen to his desires and involve him in making/purchasing snacks he likes, have a screen time policy we can all live with, etc. but we seem to be at an impasse. I would summarize by saying he regularly prefers not to take responsibility and we regularly get resentful, and that he doesn’t appreciate some of our values. I feel a bit stuck here and would appreciate additional insight!

  3. vicki says:

    Ah, Sara. Thank you so much for sharing this. It made me smile from ear to ear.

  4. VickiHoefle says:

    Hi Heather – Clever kid you have there. No worries. This is normal. My best suggestion may seem a bit wacky, but it can often work to bring things back into balance. Give in. Give him exactly what he thinks he wants. Make his lunch – and put what YOU want in the lunch. This goes for every other area of life. Stop with the allowance and then fight with him at the store like all of his friends do with their parents and see how he likes that. Tell him what to do, when to do it and how to do it. In other words, give him what he THINKS he wants and watch him change his mind. Sometimes we need to experience something in order to really understand what’s going on. Let me know if you need me to say more about this.

  5. Heather says:

    Thanks Vicki. I think my response to your suggestion tells me what I need to know about where I need to look. I thought, oh, I could just tell I mean threaten to do that and he would walk it back real quick. So…I think it means I need to make sure I say what I mean, mean what I say. xo

    1. VickiHoefle says:

      You got it. Good luck and keep me posted.

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