Most of us have heard the phrase, “Back in my day...” which has allowed us to be privy to some pretty fascinating fables concerning the day-to-day lives of previous generations. From “Baby Boomers” to “Millennials” to “Generation Z”, each generation comes with its own defining set of traits and characteristics, social norms, methodologies and of course, crowning achievements. It can be fascinating to look back on what has changed and what has stayed the same over the course of the years – particularly when it comes to parenting.
Parenting styles and trends have seen some of the most rapid changes of all. These days, classic (if not a little harsh) phrases such as “spare the road, spoil the child” and “children should be seen and not heard” are most likely fairly uncommon, and many parenting tactics that may have been acceptable for our grandparents – and even our parents – to use when it came to raising kids, would certainly raise a lot of eyebrows.
Which tactics are those? You’ll have to read on to find out! Check out these 15 old-school parenting tactics you may have forgotten were a thing – and five that stand the test of time.
20 Start Your Engines
There is little to no doubt that car seat safety (and safety standards in general) have undergone drastic changes for the better in the last few decades. In fact, if photographic evidence is any indication, the very first car seats that were built for children did not appear have their safety in mind at all.
According to What To Expect, many were designed so that parents could keep a better eye on their children inside the car, and so children could also see outside of the car a little better. Fortunately, car seat safety nowadays is a top priority for manufacturers, and parents have almost too much choice when it comes to picking the best seat for their little one. From bucket to booster to the popular three-in-one, children have never been safer on the road.
19 That’s It: Go To Your Room!
For the generations before us, being sent to your room was one of the worst punishments imaginable. After all, it was just so boring. There was nothing to do up there-there was no television or computer. There was no smartphone, and certainly no wi-fi. All that could be done was think about what sent you up there in the first place, and that was no fun at all.
Nowadays, a kid’s bedroom is a technology haven, and that equals fun. Whether there is a sweet gaming setup next to the bed, or a laptop on the nightstand ready to play all seven seasons of a favourite show, there’s always something to do other than think about what you did! As a result, parents have had to come up with creative, new ways to make the room punishment work. Hello new wi-fi password!
18 Bottoms Up, Babes
These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single parent who would even dream of giving their baby alcohol – but that’s precisely what they did back in the mid-19th century to soothe aching gums. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, physicians even went so far as to recommend it in literature, calling it a “valuable sedative”.
Concoctions such as “soothing syrup” were also popular during this period and made up of similar ingredients, give or take. The popular Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, for example, was widely marketed to parents – many of whom were unaware that they were essentially giving their children a potent cocktail mixture of alcohol and morphine, according to Slate Magazine.
17 To Spare Or Not To Spare The Rod?
In very recent years, the topic of physical punishment – namely, spanking – has become a highly contentious issue within the parenting sphere. While there are still many parents who claim that spanking is a harmless method of discipline (i.e. “spare the rod, spoil the child”), there is an increasing number who believe that it is detrimental to a child’s emotional development.
According to CNN, dolling out taps to the bottom seems to have been a universal disciplinary practice dating back to ancient Egypt and Rome. The tide seems to be shifting in the modern day era, however. A total of 60 countries, states and territories have adopted legislation that fully prohibits using corporal punishment against children at home, favoring alternative methods instead, such as withholding privileges.
16 How Does The Baby Like His Eggs?
Believe it or not, pediatricians between the 1930s and 1950s commonly recommended that very young babies – some as young as two days old – be offered solids. According to Slate, one such by the name of Walter Sackett even went so far as to push the notion that breastmilk was “deficient”, and therefore babies should be started on cereal at two days of age.
Even more shockingly, Sackett seemed to think that by nine weeks old, a baby should be eating strained bacon and eggs, and black coffee starting at 6 months to get them used to “the normal eating habits of the family.”
15 No Tummy Time Allowed
Today’s safe sleep advice for the wee babes is fairly universal: back is best.
But that wasn’t always the case – and it doesn’t date back very far! According to KidSpot, even as recently as the 1980s, parents feared putting their babies to sleep on their backs in case of a little midnight regurge. Instead, they would put them down on their tummies or their sides, which unfortunately ended up being associated with an increased risk of SIDS and prompting an overhaul on sleep safety.
14 A Tiny Houdini In The Making
Speaking of sleep safety, nothing screams “safe” quite like a literal strap to keep your baby in place! While it sounds a bit like science fiction, the “Slumber Guard Babee Belt” was an actual product marketed to parents in the post-war era.
According to the vintage ad for the belt (which is essentially a harness to buckle baby in tight!), it “eliminates fear of Baby getting out of his crib or under covers … and placing of strap makes entanglement almost impossible.” We’re not sure what’s worse: the creepy Silence of the Lambs vibe, or the less-than-encouraging word “almost!”
13 Stick With The Sudo
One popular home remedy that nearly every parent has heard at one time or another is using cornstarch to treat that pesky diaper rash. While it seems like a tempting and inexpensive alternative to some of the pricier diaper creams on the market nowadays, this old-timey antidote has actually been proven to potentially have the opposite effect when it comes to clearing up a tender tush – especially if the rash is yeast-related. According to We Have Kids, cornstarch contains sugars that a yeast infection thrives on, so it’s probably best to stick with the Penaten or Sudocrem for this one.
12 Nobody Puts Baby In A Cage
Nobody puts baby in a corner – but if you were a parent back in the early part of the century in London, England, you might have put her in a cage.
Dubbed “Baby Cages”, these actual crates-for-tots hung precariously outside of apartment windows high above 1930s London and according to Good Housekeeping, were marketed to parents who wished to “air out” their babies, to “renew and purify the blood.” Since there happened to be a lack of outdoor space in the city, this fad seemed like the perfect alternative to green grass to help get kids some much needed fresh air. Thankfully, it was short lived!
11 Raising The Bar
There comes a time in every child’s life when those forbidden, filthy words begin creeping into their vocabulary. Whether the culprit is movies, television, or older siblings, it can be a huge challenge to curb the cusses.
Parents across all generations have somehow had to combat sharp tongues and lie telling, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the idea of literally washing your child’s mouth out with soap as a deterrent began to really take off. Nowadays, this type of corporal punishment would be looked down upon, if not viewed as outright wrong. This is good news for most of today’s kids, who will fortunately never know the taste of the most bitter bubbles.
10 No Getting Down Until That Broccoli Disappears
Making sure kids clean their plate at every meal might seem like a good tactic – after all, ensuring proper nutrition is important, and no easy feat. Ask nearly anybody, and chances are they will tell you that growing up, they were not allowed to leave the table – let alone, enjoy dessert – until their plates were empty.
Modern-day table tips, however, suggest that parents ditch this antiquated rule and not pressure their children into eating everything they are served. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is okay if younger children do not eat everything on their plates. What is more important, they argue, is that they are served a variety of foods and children are given the opportunity to decide when they are full. (Does this include dessert, too? Asking for a friend.)
9 Is Breastfeeding Really Best?
Infant nutrition has enjoyed had a long and fascinating history. From breastfeeding to the use of wet nurses, to formula feeding and then back to breastfeeding once again, society, scientific advancement and education have typically dictated which method is superior at the time.
According to Health Foundations Birth Centre, the advent of infant formula in the mid-20th century saw a decline in women who nursed their babies – particularly women of a higher socioeconomic status. For years, formula was hailed as superior to breastmilk, a trend that lasted until very recently. While many infants are still formula fed for various reasons, breastfeeding is once again on the rise. According to the World Health Organization, of infants born in 2011, 49 percent were breastfeeding at 6 months and 27 percent at 12 months. That’s a stark contrast to the early 1970s, where only 22 percent of women breastfed, and most likely only for a very short time.
8 The Left-Handed Details
Left-handed people have been notoriously discriminated against for centuries, and this shockingly persisted well into modern times. Prior to the Age of Enlightenment, left-handers were akin to the devil, and women who were southpaws were even accused of being witches.
According to Right Left Right Wrong, during the post war years, pressure was put on left-handed children very early on to use their right hand, both at home and at school. If they did not assimilate, they were punished either physically or psychologically.
Thankfully today, we have a lot more information than we did back then. Left-handedness is now embraced – and children who favour their left hand are often rumoured to be creative, musical and exceptionally intelligent. That’s a heck of a lot better than being called a witch!
7 Poppin’ Bottles
These days, it’s generally agreed upon that juice should not be given to children under the age of one and should still be diluted or given extremely sparingly to older children, considering the high calorie count and amount of sugar that can be found in most commercial juices.
While juice was an extremely common thing to put in baby’s bottle back in the day, one quick glance through vintage advertisements will reveal that not only were babies given juice, but parents were also encouraged to give them carbonated drinks, such as Coca Cola and 7-Up – sometimes as early as nine months old!
6 Tiny Fists of Fury
Nowadays, children are encouraged to use their words and not their fists during schoolyard battles, but back in our parents’ and grandparents’ days, it was certainly more common for kids to stand up for themselves and give their bullies “a taste of their own medicine.”
Norms about retaliation have certainly changed, especially in our current no-tolerance bullying climate. Instead of hitting back, kids are now encouraged to challenge bullying behaviours with positive approaches and prevention tactics, so the idea of retribution can once and for all be removed from the playground.
5 Does This Park Have Wi-fi?
Sometimes it feels like television, video games and the internet have been around forever, but before the invention of the DVD player, Grand Theft Auto and viral fail videos, kids had to find other ways to keep themselves busy.
Cue the great outdoors – and the good old days of scraped kneecaps and grass-stained t-shirts. Playing outside is something that has never gone out of style, and probably never should, given that it encourages unstructured play, creativity, imagination and problem solving. Besides, fresh air and sunshine beats the glow of a flat-screen TV any day of the week.
4 Pass The Potatoes, Please
Sitting down together for a family meal seems like something out of a 1950s Good Housekeeping cover, but this old-school family-first tactic should not be dismissed.
Even though work meetings can often run late, and swimming lessons and dance recitals may force it onto the back burner, eating together as a family as much as possible helps create a routine and structure for younger children, and allows for everyone to spend quality time together to talk about their day (and most importantly the opportunity look up from their phones for a few minutes).
3 Pick A Chore, Any Chore
Chores are the one thing that children from every generation can come together on: they’re no fun at all. But when all is said and done, and the dishes are washed and the garbage is out on the curb, everybody will be better for it (especially mom and dad!).
But especially the kids.
In fact, according to The Center for Parenting Education, children who have assigned chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification. Vacuum all the things!
2 Be Bored. Be Very Bored
Today’s generation is one of the first to be brought up with entertainment and technology constantly at their fingertips, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is no longer anything resembling “down time”, and kids rarely disconnect and have time to themselves without scheduled activities and screens.
According to Psychology Today, children can benefit greatly from boredom by being able to switch off the outside world for a moment in the day. This allows for the opportunity to demonstrate creativity, problem solving, and to develop motivational skills that may help them later in life. Sounds like boredom is actually pretty exciting!
1 I Promise These Won’t Go Viral
From Boomer to Millennial, parents across the generations have always wanted one thing for their kids: for them to thrive and succeed. After all, isn't it our job to help ensure our little ones never fail?
Many experts disagree, to a certain extent. The timeless tip of letting kids fall down once in a while has actually been shown to build their confidence in the future when it comes time to picking themselves up and trying again. According to Psychology Today, by preventing disappointment and failure, parents create helpless children, which is the exact opposite of what most hope to achieve. Hopefully, no cameras are rolling when it inevitably does happen!
References: Psychology Today | What To Expect | National Institute of Health | Slate | CNN | Kidspot | We Have Kids | Good Housekeeping | Healthy Children | Health Foundations | Center For Parenting Education