The Norman Transcript

Features

August 9, 2013

Parenting, child development was better in the ‘good old days’

NORMAN — Sometimes, the so-called “good old days” really were better. For example, if the data is correct, then the state of parenting in America has been in slow but steady decline since the 1960s. Child mental health and school achievement were much better back then, when the go-to parenting experts were grandparents.

In my public presentations, I sometimes begin sentences with “I’m a member of the last generation …” and go on to describe some benefit we Boomers enjoyed that today’s kids, by and large, do not enjoy. Some of these sentences include:

“I’m a member of the last generation of American children who did not receive much adult attention.” As long as we were doing nothing wrong, our parents largely left us alone. They let us have the freedom to entertain ourselves, learn from our mistakes and fight our own battles.

“I’m a member of the last generation of American children who were not allowed to have high self-esteem.” Back then, to express a high opinion of oneself was known as “acting too big for your britches.” Today, high self-esteem is supposedly the key to everything good in life. Problem is, it hasn’t worked out that way. Researchers have found that high self-esteem is associated with lots of bad stuff, like fear of failure and bullying.

“I’m a member of the last generation of American children who did their own homework.” And we did much better in school. Our mothers were not accountable for our schoolwork. They held us accountable. It’s a very simple equation, really: The more responsible one is, the better one does.

“I’m a member of the last generation of American children to grow up in homes where the relationship between our parents was a lot stronger than either of their relationships with us.” I’m convinced that one reason so many of today’s young people are eschewing marriage is because they didn’t see their parents having one, even if their parents lived together. They saw mother and father, two people devoted to them. We saw husband and wife. It makes a huge difference.

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