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Permissive Parents

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Honey, we corrupted the kids!

You know what I got for Christmas this year? It was a banner fuckin' year at the old Bender family! I got a carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me and said, "Hey! Smoke up Johnny!"
Bender, The Breakfast Club

In film and TV, the words "fun parent" are usually oxymoronic. After all, most parents are overbearing to some degree. It's their job. They're the ones who decide what is and isn't okay for a kid to do, so usually, they appear too controlling, overprotective or smothering. In some cases, however, the parent is the complete inverse of these tropes.

The Permissive Parents trope is when a parent or parents actively encourage things discouraged for those underaged. It is often Played for Laughs and includes situations like allowing children to drive without a license, but can also permit to dangerous and harmful things like encouraging them to have sex with someone significantly older. In this respect, examples can drastically range from fun or embarrassing to blatant abuse. The lighter side of the trope supports the idea that teens should be permitted the freedom to make their own decisions, and that parents should recognise these inclinations as valid. The parents who allow or support certain behaviours are thus praised by their kids as being cool or down-to-earth. They may even be exposing their children to these things so that they aren't intimidated by them later on in life. That doesn't imply the kids always grow up to value their parents' leniency, in some cases, they come to resent them for exposing them to harmful elements of society.

Usually, only one of the parents is allowing the behaviour, and behind the other parent's back. Typically the fun Disneyland Dad tries to give their child experiences they had at that age like letting their sons drink beers or smoke, in contrast to the concerned mother who tries to implement values and boundaries. It can also vary depending on the gender of the child. Often, the son is allowed certain privileges, perhaps because boys are viewed as more rebellious than girls. Another usage of the trope is when the parents aren't involved, but rather a relative like a Cool Uncle or aunt. Generally, the trope supports the conception that Naughty Is Good and that teens devoid of rebelliousness have less fun in their journey to adulthood. The parent might not always agree with these ethics, however. They could be trying to be laid-back, or they could be a pushover who is too scared to say no. A sister trope to this is the Radish Cure, where a parent encourages their child to do something inappropriate (such as smoke) to punish them. This is occasionally subverted so that the parents are actually permissive rather than punishing. The trope is also similar to Hands-Off Parenting, but that applies to parents who don't care about their kids' illicit behavior, opposed to actively encouraging it.

Compare Open-Minded Parent, Hippie Parents, Parental Neglect. Contrast Think of the Children! and Moral Guardians.

As this is Truth in Television, No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Fan Works 
  • As Fate Would Have It: Nate's mother, upon finding her son and Yancy naked in bed the morning after they've had Their First Time, doesn't get mad at either of them for it. In fact, she lowkey encourages them to continue their relationship this way, knowing that they genuinely love one another.
  • In the Animorphs fanfic Back to the Future, Steve allows his son Tom to drink alcohol despite being underage because both of his sons have lived through more hell during their teenage years than most people do in their entire lifetimes.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure: The kids find a seemingly abandoned egg and decide to take care of it, even after it's revealed to be a sharptooth's offspring. At first, they believe that being a good parent means letting the child do whatever they want, but after the egg hatches, they realize that being a permissive parent is easier said than done.
  • The Simpsons Movie: Early in the film, Homer convinces Bart to skateboard naked through town.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Breakfast Club: Bender tells the group about his abusive father, and how he gifted Bender a carton of cigarettes for Christmas.
  • The Loved Ones: Lola's father, "Daddy", helped her to kidnap and murder multiple young men via lobotomy and indulges her in her dream/nightmare prom fantasy. It's implied to be because of the huge Incest Subtext between them.
  • Mean Girls: Regina's mother is very fun-loving, offering her daughter and her daughter's friends condoms or alcohol if they need them.
    Mrs. George: (walking in on Regina and her boyfriend making out on Regina's bed): Do you guys need anything? Some snacks? A condom?
  • Midsommar: Having just reached womanhood, Maja begins a courtship with Christian. In the film's third act, Christian is inducted into an intercourse ceremony, where all the women surround him and Maja. Under the influence of drugs, he begins having sex with Maja, and her mother sits by encouraging and supporting them. The mother even holds Christian's face and draws his attention to her so he can achieve an orgasm.
  • Snowtown: After discovering their neighbour is a paedophile, John encourages the boys to liquidate a dead kangaroo in a bucket and dump it on the man's front door. He has them write profanities like "fag" on the windows in blood. In another scene, John demands Jamie (his girlfriend's young son) use his gun to shoot John's dog. He later inducts Jamie as an accomplice to the serial killings.

  • Brokeback Mountain: Ennis tells Jack a story of his father taking him and his brother to see a dead body. The corpse belonged to a man who lived with his male lover and was beaten to death with a tyre iron by town locals for it. Showing them the macabre sight is a way for the father to encourage his sons to revere homosexuality.
  • Danny, the Champion of the World: Danny's father allows him to drive the cars in the workshop. This is a rare example of a caring parent falling into this trope, and it ends up coming in handy when Danny drives a Baby Austin to save his father when he's ended up stranded in a pit in the forest.
  • In the Roald Dahl book The Magic Finger, Mr. Gregg allows his sons (who are eight and eleven years old) to hunt with him. After they turn into birds, however, they give up their hunting ways.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: At his remission party, Walt grows jealous of Hank's bond with Walter Junior. He encourages them both to take shots with him but overestimates how much his son (a teenager) can drink. Walt Jr., having had far too much to drink, vomits in the swimming pool.
  • Reconstructed in Dexter. When Harry found out that Dexter was killing animals, he gave him Harry's Code, which insisted that Dexter only go after predators whose victims the justice system had failed. What was initially portrayed as a heroic Take a Third Option (the others being having him become a full-fledged Serial Killer or being institutionalized for life) is discussed more throughout the series, with the suggestion that it perhaps wasn't inevitable that Dexter would move on to killing people, but that he did because Harry had encouraged him.
  • iCarly: Downplayed. Spencer isn't Carly's dad, but he was Promoted to Parent when said dad left to travel the world as a military officer. In one episode, their grandfather thinks he's an unfitting guardian and wants Carly to move in with him. Carly tries to make Spencer freak out by walking into the apartment as a goth and claiming it was time for a new look... but Spencer only digs the hole deeper by encouraging it. Their grandfather protests and Spencer claims that he thinks it's good for Carly to experiment and have phases like that.
  • MADtv (1995): Parodied in a sketch subverting the typical sex education ad. Avril Lavigne plays a teenage girl who tries to save herself for marriage, but it turns out her parents are actually very disappointed in her for doing so. They did the same but now feel that they wasted their life, so they encourage her to bring over 3 or 4 boys a night, do cocaine, and never use condoms.
  • Never Have I Ever: Ben's parents leave town on his birthday, but encourage him to use the house for a party, contrasting the trope of teens throwing a party without the parents' permission.
  • New Girl: In an episode where everyone reveals how they lost their virginities, Nick and Winston share a particularly unsettling story. While staying at a hotel, Nick's dad (played by Dennis Farina) hired two sex workers to take Nick and Winston's virginities. The two were only teenagers at the time and the workers were about twenty years their senior. Nick is unable to follow through with it, but Winston is. It's all Played for Laughs and done so by Nick's Dad so that the boys can learn about sex.
  • Sex Education: Otis's sex therapist mother Jean is very open about sex and masturbation. After discovering her son has been faking masturbation, she puts him through excruciating embarrassment by trying to analyse and assist him.
  • Schitt's Creek: Johnny and Moira were at times neglectful and permissive with their children, especially with their daughter Alexis. Although Johnny and Moira are sometimes shocked to hear about her wild teenage adventures, at other times, they were well aware of and supported her antics. They knew, for example, she was dating Sean Penn when he was around 40 and she was 14 and Johnny paid for her to make an extremely racy and terrible album when she was underage. His favorite track was called "Hamptons Hoes."
  • Six Feet Under: Although she isn't their mother, it's discussed that when Nate and David were teens, they went to their aunt Sarah's for a party. Nate lost his virginity and David wandered off the property to be found the next morning. Ruth struggles to forgive her sister for this, but Sarah sees it as elementary to their development.
  • The Sopranos: To help A.J out of his post-breakup depression, Tony encourages him to go to a party being held at The Bing (Tony's strip club). Even though A.J is still under 21 and The Bing would be serving alcohol, he suggests his son should get "a blowjob" or find someone to have sex with.

    Web Animation 
  • Cyanide and Happiness: In the short "The Punishment", a father finds his young son smoking with his friends. It seems that the father will give the son the Radish Cure, but it subverts the trope, and we see him and the young boys all smoking together. The father then says that "big men drink when they smoke", and we see him pouring beer into his son's mouth. The joke ends with the father expressing hatred towards the son's mother, as the boy lies upon a pile of bikini-clad women. He was trying to be a fun Disneyland Dad all along rather than punishing the child.
  • Dorkly Originals: In "Pac-Man's Pac-Wedding", a female Pac person yells at Pac Jr.'s uncle for giving twelve-year-old Pac Jr. alcohol.
    Female Pac person: What the hell kind of a Pac-uncle are you?
    Uncle: I'd say a pretty good one! (he and his friends laugh until Pac Jr. vomits)
  • The Most Popular Girls in School:
    • In episode 33, Jayna the Alcoholic Parent mentions that when she was nine, her mother couldn't get her out of bed without giving her some Schnapp's, meaning that her mother allowed her to drink alcohol at that age.
    • In episode 65, Jayna tells her children (who are all below 21) that they can have as much beer as they want at the family reunion.
  • TheOdd1sOut: "My Mom's Cruel and Unusual Punishments" shows a younger James talking with three other boys. The first boy notes that his mother allows him to wear clothes with skulls on them, the second reveals that his mother permits him to eat whole tubs of ice cream, and then the third one says that his mother lets him play with knives.

  • El Goonish Shive: While wild partying isn't really on the table, Mrs. Dunkel's reaction to Elliot having a girl over is to make sure they're both girls if they decide to have sex just to be on the safe side, and both parents' reaction to Elliot breaking into a government warehouse is... that he doesn't get dessert. Or at least only gets one brownie for dessert. Then we see Mrs. Dunkel offering him another brownie.

    Web Series 
  • The CollegeHumor show Precious Plum parodies Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The character Mama demonstrates very poor parenting, as she frequently encourages Plum to engage in dangerous and inappropriate acts. In "Hitchhiking", she gives Plum a cocktail of "Monster energy drink, frappuccino, and Dayquil". When Plum vomits into the drink, Mama stirs it with a straw and insists she keep drinking it. In "A Swim in Sh*t", Mama takes Plum to a "water park" that is actually a lake full of toxic waste. Plum is sceptical to swim in the water, but Mama encourages her to join and they both end up getting ill from poisoning.

    Western Animation 
  • Allen Gregory: Allen is a rather racist Dirty Kid, and a lot of it is because of his father Richard's guidance. Richard not only does nothing to stop Allen Gregory's prejudice and perversity, he actively encourages it. Case in point, in "One Night in Gottlieb", he is quite complacent about the fact that Allen Gregory has supposedly made a sex tape with his elderly principal (he actually hasn't).
  • American Dad!: Stan does this all the time with his 14-year-old son Steve in an effort to make Steve grow up faster and become less of a nerd. Examples include forcing Steve to go to another kid's unsupervised house party, taking Steve down to Mexico so he could lose his virginity in a brothel, and gifting Steve a rifle for Christmas even though Francine explicitly forbade it.
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks", Bob allows Tina, his 13-year-old daughter, to drive his car. She gets so nervous that she ends up swerving and crashing into the only other car in the parking lot.
  • Futurama: In "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles", Leela's parents are willing to let their de-aged daughter have an independent life but Leela actually wants the strict parenting a teenager normally gets. Leela's dad responds by giving her a bottle of tequila with a crazy straw.
  • King of the Hill: In "Get Your Freak Off," Bobby is interested in a fellow 13-year-old whose parents want her to see them as friends; as such they encourage her to have an unsupervised coed sleepover that results in a game of 7 Minutes In Heaven that makes most of the kids uncomfortable. Luckily, Hank finds out and encourages the kids to partake in more age-appropriate games that they have more fun with.
  • The Simpsons: Homer allows his kids to do inappropriate things throughout the series. One example is when he lets Lisa drive the car for him, despite her age of eight years old.
  • South Park:
    • Tweek's parents allow their son to have caffeine so that it'll calm him down (which, if anything, does the opposite). As it turns out, the coffee has meth mixed into it, and his parents are alright with Tweek ingesting it so that they can test the quality of the beverage.
    • Pretty much all the parents in the show are this to some degree, except for the Stotches. The prize might actually go to Liane Cartman, who rarely, if ever, attempts to control her absolute hellion of a son, and when she does, he usually ends up getting his way regardless.