Time changes all things. And this couldn’t be any more true than when it comes to parenting across generations. The standards that used to fly when our parents and grandparents were raising tots wouldn’t necessarily qualify as best parenting practices today. And this isn’t a negative reflection on them. If anything, it is a testimony to our evolution, that we are expanding with new research and adapting our parenting accordingly. The more we know, the more we have the opportunity to grow.
We thought it would be fun to look at common parenting practices of the past to compare how we were parented to how we parent. Take a look:
Modern-day parents often shame themselves for not being and doing more, a fear that they aren’t giving their children enough time and attention. But guilt-ridden mamas and papas take heart: Research shows that we are actually spending more time with our children, not less.
In 1965, American mothers spent a daily average of 54 minutes on child care activities, while moms of current day spend about 120 minutes or more. In 1965, American fathers spent a daily average of 16 minutes with their kids, while today’s dads spend about 85 minutes or more. We have shifted from an adult-centric mindset to a family - and even child-centric - approach.
Peace, love, and … no car seat? After childbirth, when the family was released to go home, it was common for the parents of this era to hold their little bundles of joy in their laps while sitting passenger in the car. It was also normal for parents to shrug as their kiddos walked around with candy cigarettes hanging out the side of their mouths. Both of these today? Big no-no’s.
This was the era where parents were nervous about their kids combining Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola, family mall trips were normal and the solution to all things was, “go outside and play.”
It was also a time where sugar was its own food group, and no one batted an eye if you threw down additive-laden salami between two pieces of white bread doused with mayo ... all to be washed down with a side of Kool-Aid. And, don’t forget the Lunchables, Squeezits, Gushers, and Fruit By The Foot snacks that made lunch-time so cool. Packaged food marketed to children was relatively new in the ‘80s, but we know more now about food sensitivity and the potential effects of white sugar on physical, emotional, and behavioral development.
The ’90s was “all that and a bag of chips” - a time where technology was revving up, kids played outside, and the “Rachel” haircut was all the rave. Most of us probably still have the Barney and Teletubbies theme song on loop in our head.
Also a 90’s fad … Leaving your kid in the car when running errands. If your parents were bopping in and out of the grocery store and then to the laundromat, there’s a good chance you stayed behind with the window cracked. Back then, though, it wasn’t considered negligent, it was considered efficient. Nowadays, people will call the Children’s Division of Social Services and report it, because we know the potential for abduction and hot car deaths.
Another popular trend of the time was Time-Outs. Nose in the corner, isolated to their room, think-about-what-you-did kind of punishment. Today there is a greater focus on discipline, which means to teach, and thus parents are moving to Time-Ins. In a Time-In, adults guide their children in noticing and managing emotions and build the skills of self-regulation through co-regulation - aka doing it together via connection to help children process what happened, how they felt, and tools for the future.
Parenting isn’t about not doing what was done to us, but rather the opportunity to apply what we know. Real learning comes from more than using the space between our ears - it takes head and heart. It’s using what we understand logically and enmeshing it with what feels best for our family intuitively.
And while some parenting practices reasonably need to be left in the past (hello holding your newborn in the front seat of your car), it can feel challenging, and even isolating at times, to parent differently than you were parented. Fortunately, you are not alone. There is an entire community out there with access to information, support, validation, and guidance.
We invite you to ask yourself: Where do you parent from, and where would you like to evolve? No shame. No guilt. No judgment. Just love and curiosity.