I’ll never forget the night my husband and I returned from a date night, after my in-laws graciously offered to watch our baby boy while we caught a movie. When we returned to their home, they were gone. The problem? Our baby’s car seat was still in our car—they were driving around town with our child unsecured. We tend to think that the most recent way of doing things is the best, don’t we? After all, the light bulb trumped gas lights and the email beats snail mail, so wouldn’t newer parenting styles be better? Not always…
Our parents’ generation may not know all the latest (and constantly changing) information on installing complicated car seats, or get the interest in feeding your children organic green beans, but there were lots of ways their parenting methods were better for family life than modern couples. For example:
1. They didn’t over-schedule.
Parents of yesteryear didn’t cave to the idea that children must be engaged in numerous scheduled, organized activities to develop well and have a great childhood. They might let little Bobby play baseball in the spring, and little Suzy might have taken piano lessons after school, but the 12-month merry-go-round of constant activity didn’t exist. The result: more family time and less stress. And somehow, we grew up just fine.
2. They didn’t over-spend.
Our parents’ generation was far less prone to over-spend and wreck the family finances with poor management. They were thrifty, lived in smaller homes, and they were less concerned with keeping up with the Joneses and constantly upgrading their lifestyle. As a result, that generation saved more and enjoyed greater financial stability. Not luxury, mind you—stability.
l’ve often marveled at the fact that our moms would push us out into the back yard early in the morning and not even allow us back indoors until lunchtime. We were expected to entertain ourselves and make our own fun. We had decent supervision, but weren’t constantly showered with attention and praise. Perhaps our need to constantly hover is out of fear, or guilt about being a two-career family, or other legitimate reasons, but kids do better with opportunities for independence.
4. They weren’t afraid to discipline.
Old-school parents weren’t as shy as we seem to be about meting out discipline whenever, and wherever, necessary. The number of times I was spanked on the front portico of my childhood church for misbehaving during the worship service can attest to this. Was it always perfect parenting? No. But the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction with us, depriving our children of the kind of consistent correction they need.
Take some time to think about what was right about your childhood that your kids may be missing out on, and even ask your parents or grandparents what they thought was most important in parenting. There’s a lot we can learn from the veterans.
Tell us! What are some other things old school parents got right?