Millennials catch a lot of flack for their weird habits and even weirder outlooks on life. For the most part, they’re a group of frugal and hardworking people who know nothing in life is going to be handed to them. But when it comes to raising kids? They double-down and aim to get every little detail right, which sometimes means taking advice from well-meaning experts.
There’s a better solution to parenting than sticking your nose in a book, though. Consider someone in your life who’s successfully raised children who went on to become successful themselves- with little or no trouble involved! Grandma might seem a bit old-school and her methods of parenting quite dated, but there’s actually plenty you can learn from how she parented in the old days.
From screen-free time to teaching kids independence, grandma got many things right in her early parenting days. Of course, no generation has yet to produce perfect children who turn into perfect adults, but as far as this parenting game goes, there’s a lot to admire about the moms of the older generation. Here are twenty things you can learn from grandma’s old-school parenting that serve as helpful hacks for today’s moms and dads.
20 Freedom To Be Free-Range
If you haven’t heard of the “free range kids” movement, just ask grandma! Back in the day, kids weren’t constantly shadowed by parents or caregivers- instead, they were free to play outside, alone. Of course, most parents assume times were different back then, and the world was safer somehow. But it turns out, kids are actually safer today than they used to be- it’s just that with social media and the news, we always hear about every near-kidnapping and other awful things that happen. In general, millennial parents would do well to give their kids a little space- just like grandma used to.
19 Old-School Tantrum Tactics
So most of the older generation likely spanked their kids, which is a no-no these days, according to scientific studies that show it’s harmful. But our grandparents likely used another tactic when mom or dad started tantruming: ignored it. Rather than treating your kid’s every meltdown like it’s a personal attack, sometimes it’s better just to walk away and let them cool off. Of course, with younger kids that aren’t yet verbal, you might want to stay nearby to help. But with older kids? Pretend you can’t hear or see them and go about your business- odds are, they’ll give up sooner rather than later.
18 Time For Mom
Most millennials remember their own moms doing this during their childhood, but grandma probably did it better: taking “me” time. Grandma probably had more household “chores” to worry about than millennials do, thanks to our more modern take on gender equality, and that meant she legit needed a break at the end of the day (or weekend). Sure, that may also have meant she left the kids home alone while she went out, but we don’t have to take it that far. For most modern mamas, the idea of taking time to relax on your own is almost unheard of- but it’s something we should bring back! After all, a refreshed mom means happier kids (and probably husband, if applicable, too).
17 Hands-Off Over Helicoptering
Another thing that millennial parents seem to do differently than past generations is micromanaging their kids’ lives, especially when it comes to their interpersonal relationships. Okay, so most toddlers won’t have friendships outside of mom-sanctioned playdates, but back in the day, kids solved their own friendship problems. They got into arguments, pushed each other around, and solved their fights with their own solutions- without mom making them hug it out. This applies to both siblings and friends- often, us modern moms would do well to let kids handle things on their own… Unless it comes to throwing punches, of course.
16 Beginning With The Basics
While your granny likely grew up learning how to handle all the household chores because her parents assumed she’d be a housewife, most millennials were raised the opposite. We learned how to make things like mac ‘n’ cheese and run the washing machine, but we didn’t learn to really cook or even get instruction on how to use an iron. But parents should teach their kids these things in modern times, too- even if that means they have to teach themselves first. And it’s not just girls who should know how to do the laundry or make the bed- boys need those skills to be self-sufficient in adulthood, too.
15 Chore Charts And Then Some
Years ago, it wasn’t unheard of for children to help their parents manage a farm, tend to their younger siblings, or even drive if necessary. Today’s kids, on the other hand, have fewer responsibilities than past generations, something that maybe isn’t such a positive sign. Millennials can help teach their kids self-discipline and self-confidence by assigning age-appropriate chores that help them develop skills and a sense of self-worth. Whether it’s helping their siblings, cleaning their room, or taking out the trash, kids these days can benefit from managing some household chores and taking care of responsibilities.
14 No Harm In Hand-Me-Downs
While many millennials may plan on a smaller family than past generations wound up with, that also means their kids could end up more spoiled. After all, a family of six in the 50’s likely couldn’t have afforded new clothes every school year or even school supplies for every child. Sure, it’s not fun growing up poor, but kids today tend to have no clue how tough it was back then. Teaching our kids that there’s no harm in hand-me-downs is a smart concept, and it can help teach them frugal habits for their futures, too. Whether it’s clothes or toys, appreciating what you have is always a valuable lesson.
13 No Parental Problem-Solving
As attentive and attached parents, we always want to run to our kids- no matter how old they get- and solve their problems for them. Whether they forget their lunch, wake up too late to catch the bus or any other minor inconvenience in life, mom’s always there to help her kids manage problems that crop up. But it’s not really our responsibility to fix all of our kids’ mistakes- grandma for sure didn’t do it. Sometimes, it’s okay to tell our kids “tough cookies” and let them work out their own (often creative) solutions to life’s little problems.
12 When Baby-Wearing Began
It’s become more of a “modern” approach to parenting in the last decade, but babywearing began long before millennial mamas started doing it. In fact, many Native American cultures wore their babies while taking care of household duties. And many of today’s moms appreciate the tactic too- keeping your baby close to you while keeping your hands free is something moms in the past could only dream of. Besides, strollers are sometimes too bulky to be convenient. We know that keeping our little ones close is helpful for bonding, but it’s nice to know we can choose to wear them and still take care of business.
11 There’s Food At Home
Broke millennials can relate to this one- eating out is expensive, so we often have to remind ourselves we have food at home instead! And back in grandma’s day, there wasn’t a whole lot of extra cash for eating out and treating the family. Here’s another area where granny had her priorities in order: keeping a home garden. Eating closer to home may have meant grabbing some greens from the garden to go with dinner, and even with limited space, modern parents can do the same. Maybe you don’t have room for a full-fledged garden, but just eating at home instead of getting takeout saves money and is better for us (and our kids). Besides, even kid’s meals can get expensive (especially if your kid doesn’t actually eat it).
10 Mealtime Togetherness
Another traditional family moment from grandma’s day was the whole family sitting down to enjoy dinner together. The kids were sent to wash up before grandpa got home from work, and then everyone sat together and talked about their days. Experts today say that parents should aim to have meals with their kids to help with bonding and keep kids from giving in to potentially harmful peer pressure. That means millennials need to put down their phones and try to engage with their kids over a meal- it’s good for your relationship and it’s good for your body, too, since you’re not rushing around while eating fast food.
9 Self-Sufficient Snack Time
We’ve already established that past generations of kids were likely more independent than ours are (cue kids lining up outside the bathroom door for mom to open their fruit snacks). But another way we can take a hint from grandma is to teach kids to be self-sufficient when it comes to snack time. Sure, we don’t want them in the kitchen with sharp knives, but enabling kids to get their own snacks or help prepare their own meals gives mom a few minutes to breathe and helps puff up little egos. Give your kids a special shelf or drawer in the fridge, or hand them a butter knife to slice up their fruit, and watch them transform into tiny independent people.
8 Emergency Room Avoidance
First-time parents often freak out at the first sign of injury or blood, and rightly so. It’s scary to see your baby (or older kid) sustain an injury- especially if they won’t stop crying! But back in grandma’s day, it just wasn’t an option to rush to the emergency room or doctor’s office for every little thing- and it usually wasn’t necessary. And honestly, it probably isn’t necessary in most cases for us, either! Kids will get bumps and bruises- it’s just part of life. So think twice before rushing to the ER for a slight fever or a bonk on the noggin- unless there are serious signs of injury that require stitches or in-hospital monitoring.
7 Reuse Rather Than Re-Purchase
While most of us millennials likely wore cloth diapers as infants, it’s not something every modern parent thinks of as being a smart parenting hack. But in reality, cloth diapers can make life easier- as long as you’ve got a washing machine at home! But our grandparents didn’t stop at reusable diapers- they also aimed to reuse other household items rather than repurchasing them. Think of things like paper towels or tissues- opt for reusable hand towels or handkerchiefs instead. Especially with messy kids, it’s often easier to wash and rejuvenate something rather than replace it, not to mention cheaper.
6 Banning The Baby Props
There are tons of lists of “must-have” baby products out there, and sure, some of them are quite tempting. After all, it’s cute to bundle your baby up in a swaddle that helps her sleep longer, or prop your tot up in a Bumbo chair so he can sit up and look around. But most of these baby “props” are unnecessary and, according to current research, can even be damaging to your baby’s health and wellbeing. So maybe take a hint from grandma’s day, and just let your baby lie on his or her back, roll around as he learns how, and cuddle him a lot- no props needed.
5 Family Sleep Setup
I recently read an article about family sleep that highlighted the fact that it wasn’t too long ago that kids didn’t have their own bedrooms. With a home’s square footage sorely lacking back in the day, private bedrooms weren’t exactly a priority. And already, our modern society is seeing a shift back toward co-sleeping and bedsharing in families. Plenty of moms already want to sleep near their newborns to make night feedings easier or just to allay their fears of something happening to the baby, but it’s also something grandma used to do that’s not a bad idea! After all, what infant truly needs their own fully-decorated bedroom when all they’ll do is sleep and possibly poo in it?
4 Tech-Free Time
We already know that technology has taken over our lives, and it’s likely encroaching on our kids’ lives, too. Even toddlers and babies are learning how to use mom and dad’s phones and tablets. But in granny’s day? Nope, didn’t even have it! You were lucky if you had TV at all, but most families had nothing other than a basic telephone- which grandma was probably always on herself! Kids didn’t have tech- they had the outdoors, books, and each other, and maybe some basic toys. While banishing tech altogether isn’t necessarily realistic for most families, we’d do well to take a hint from past generations and cut most of the cords for our kids.
3 Learning To Navigate Nature
This “hack” is closely related to the previous suggestion of cutting out the excess tech. Kids these days don’t get out in nature much, and it’s partly because there’s less nature available than there was when grandma was a kid (or a new mom). But millennial parents can do something about it- there are plenty of green spaces kids can still enjoy, even if it’s just their own backyards. Getting our kids outside is not only healthy for them, it's a great parenting “hack” because they’ll get worn out faster playing in the sunshine than they will glued to a screen.
2 Early Bedtime Benefits
Hopefully, your kids don’t run your household, and you have a firm grip on how things run day-to-day. Or maybe you’re like me and your kids are routinely up late and wreaking havoc, despite your need for a full ten hours of sleep each night. Regardless, our grandmothers didn’t let that happen in their households- they had set bedtimes for each of their kids, usually depending on age, and there was no negotiating. Because after the kids were in bed, it was the parents’ time to relax and decompress, maybe even have a drink. And there’s nothing wrong with mom and dad savoring their evenings kid-free!
1 Play Is A Priority
Technically, kids don’t have to start school in most states in the US until age six. But for some reason, many kids start preschool at age two or three or at least attend a daycare program for “socialization” or whatever other reason. Sure, plenty of parents work, so the kids need care! But formal school programs are often a bit much compared to what grandma had her toddlers doing back in the day. Play is an important part of childhood, and the kids of yesteryear benefited from the grownups acknowledging it. Kids today are pushed pretty hard from the moment they enter formal “school,” but millennials especially would do well to let their kids have a bit of a break.