Why we need to stop talking about "the good old days of parenting"

I've come across a number of articles recently which lament the disappearance of the "good old days" of parenting.

Apparently, somehow parents are doing it wrong compared to the parenting that happened in the 60's and 70's.

Ironically, it seems we as parents today are making one of two completely different mistakes.

These articles claim that either:

We are spending too MUCH time with and energy on our kids and teens - we are over scheduling, overprotecting them, rescuing them from every little harm, trying to force them to talk to us, doing too many craft activities, questioning their teachers too much, spending too much energy on them.  According to these writers, children and teens should be outside playing with sticks in the creek and managing life on their own like we did when we were kids.

Or:

We are spending too LITTLE time with our kids and teens - we are at work too much, on our phones too much, not having enough holidays, not teaching them about how to manage social relationships, not monitoring their device and computer use enough, not picking them up when they cry as babies or spending time listening to their emotions.

With my special talent for worrying about being a parent, somehow I manage to feel guilty about both of these mistakes at the same time :)

Oh for the parenting that happened a few decades ago.  If only we could go back in time and do it like they did.  Because after all, we turned out okay didn't we?

Didn't we?  Did we??

How do we evaluate how "well we turned out".  Shall we look at the data on mental health issues in the adult population today?  Alcoholism?  Relationship satisfaction?  Chronic illness? Health and well being?  Employment rates?  Literacy rates?  Should we look at rates of childhood injuries that occurred back in the 50's compared to today?  Should we look at how "cared for" and connected to their parents that the average kid in the 70's felt compared to today?  

I don't know how to measure exactly how well our parents did, but I don't think adults have a picture of perfect emotional and physical health today which we can bask in.

Now, I'm not suggesting that our parents got it all wrong - clearly they didn't.  They did it "right" (whatever that means) in many ways, for many of us.  Many of us can be incredibly grateful for how they loved us.  

But I also don't think we can say that parenting hit it's pinnacle back then and has gone downhill ever since then.

Ironically, the parents of that era are often the first ones to say this.  I've asked plenty of grandparents about their parenting and they will OFTEN say, actually, I think my kids are doing a much better job of being a parent than I did.   I also know that when I ask parents themselves - do you want to emulate the same kind of parenting as you received - an awful lot of them say "heck no!"

Let's be careful when we compare what we do as parents today to what our parents did.  

There are definitely some lessons they can teach us.  However there are also some ways in which we know more, can do things better and have moved on from.  This is true in every area of human endeavor - we learn and grow from the past in areas of health, science, education and mental health - and it's no different with parenting.

Being a good parent in 2016 IS different from being a good parent in 1976.  And that's as it should be.


We have "parent only" counselling sessions, where we talk through the stresses/challenges of parenting a "tricky" child or teen - this kind of appointment might be appropriate for you if:

You are worried about your young person - but they don't want to see a psychologist themselves
You are feeling stressed, hopeless or overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting
You need some advice about how to respond to a child/teenager.

For information or appointments - call 8357 1711