We used to be better parents

I have recently become more and more eccentric in my parenting. The more crazy articles I read, the more things start to make sense to me. It occurs to me that things really were better, back in the good old days. As a society, we used to be better at parenting.

It wasn’t something that was necessarily done on purpose. It was more just a consequence of the way people’s lives were back then. Say what you want about today’s world, but we increasingly have more (material possessions, food, what have you), while doing less (less in the sense that I work at a desk job and don’t produce my own food or fix my own house, etc.). This is generally considered a good thing, but perhaps there are unintended consequences.

So this comes down to two major areas: choosing less, and giving your kids more work.

Choosing Less

The idea here is that you want to keep your kids busy, but not by over-scheduling them. Natural busyness, not a series of activities. I firmly believe that kids need time to do nothing. They need time with their parents, time to explore, time to play on their own, time to read and be quiet, and time to be bored, all of it structured by more routine. It means forgetting time-outs (which used to be our go to in times of crisis), less explaining and bargaining (this one is particularly hard for me), and less choices.

This article really resonates with me, and inspires me to try to be a better parent. We’re always busy, going from one trip to the next, debating music class vs. swimming lessons vs. dance classes. We schedule days and times to go to the park. We do it because we think our kids will enjoy these things, and they do! But it’s stressing me out, what’s it doing to the kids?

Giving Your Kids More Work

When I was growing up, my mom worked us hard, and I didn’t like it. But now I’m a hard worker. Coincidence?

The articles explain the why and the how. The thing is, our kids love to do play “work”, or even do real work. They love to do dishes, put their babies to bed, help unload the dishwasher, or set the table. They pretend in the play kitchen, and they always love to help cook (which is something I actually used to do more of, and haven’t been lately, shame on me). They love these things! Evie will actually cry if you set the table without her. I don’t think this is that unusual; I think kids like to pretend to do the things they see adults doing. Kids like to imitate work, and that is good for them. So why do we try to curb this natural impulse?

Well, the reason why is because it’s hard. It requires an immense amount of patience. I guess the key is to not look at it as getting things done, because you’ll just get frustrated that it’s taking too long or not being done correctly. This is where I tend to get frustrated. It’s easier just to say, “I’ll do it myself.” But when you look at the big picture, isn’t a little frustration worth it if it teaches your children life lessons?

I’m not ready to move out to a farm and live off the land just yet, but I’m getting there. I’m not totally Amish. But then again, I don’t have a texting plan, so how far off am I really?

2 thoughts on “We used to be better parents

  1. One of the new therapy techniques I have been reading up on is called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Basically it is about learning to “embrace” negative emotions which are part of life rather than hiding or trying to distract yourself from them. It’s pretty much exactly what this article is talking about


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