Raising a family has changed substantially in the United States over the last generation. Couples are waiting longer to get married, women are waiting longer to become mothers, parents are more involved with their children, and society is more accepting of diversity in parenting couples, such as mixed-race, same-gender, or single parents.
However, in the midst of all that change, some of the classic parenting moves are still worth keeping around, like:
1. Respect your elders
Are more children calling adults by their first name these days? It does seem to be a trend, which is, arguably, troublesome. Because while it might appear benign, being on a first name basis implies that children are adults’ equals. And that leads to misunderstandings. Adults are (or should be) still in charge. Parents are there to guide and protect children until they leave the nest and can care for themselves.
Let’s bring back “mom” and “dad,” and save the first names until college (or beyond).
2. Break bread together
Does your family watch TV, text, or tweet while you eat? Or do you eat in shifts to accommodate your children’s various schedules? Today, the average family eats together only once a week. Yes, your teens may complain, and it might seem impossible to get everyone in the same place at once.
But it’s been proven that kids are happier and do better in school when the family sits down to a meal together regularly. Eating together allows everyone to face each other and connect. Even if that connection is full of static now and again.
3. It takes a village
It’s amazing how many people don’t know their neighbors’ names. Hillary Clinton was right; it does take a village to raise a child. The state of our society will be influenced by those future adults—whether those kids are yours or not. Not so long ago, the neighborhood was a community where neighbors kept an eye out for each other’s kids and houses.
In a pinch, you could drop your kids at a neighbor’s house, or if you needed your lawn watered, the family across the street could pitch in. That kind of neighborhood community is no longer the norm. It wasn’t perfect, but the additional structure provided security and community support.
4. Get outside…
…and don’t come back until dinner! For millions of adults from a certain era, those words will always bring a nostalgic grin. They were always followed by hours of playing baseball/football/kickball/whatever in the street, stopping only for a car to go by or a bathroom break. Balls would be launched over houses, arguments would break out and be quickly forgotten, and aimless, glorious playtime would stretch for hours on end.
Today, only one in three kids is physically active every day, thanks to phenomena like online gaming and the prevalence of smartphones. Remember, a dirty and tired kid is a happy kid. And bringing a little free-range parenting into the mix can give your children a healthy sense of independence.
5. No specializing
Back in the 1960s, fewer kids had access to as many sports as they do today. But it was also extremely uncommon for a parent to allow their 8-year-old to specialize in one sport. Kids played what they wanted and playing three sports wasn’t just allowed, but encouraged. Specializing has been shown to increase the chance of injury and rob kids of new experiences that they might enjoy.
While parenting has changed over the years, and often for the better (we probably shouldn’t bring back the old tendency to let kids roam around the car unbuckled, for instance), we can adopt some parenting practices from the last generation to give children a greater chance of success and happiness as adults. There’s no replacement for fresh air, time with family, and a great variety of activities.