What we can learn from retro parenting

Woman Taking Roast Turkey Out Of Wall Oven With Hu
Are these old-fashioned parenting tips the secret to domestic bliss? Credit: Getty Images

Modern parenting is all short-range planning for quick and quantifiable results. It gets intensely busy due to an explosion of tasks and goals. Parenting of the past worked toward a happy and self sufficient 30 year old, modern parenting works toward a 100 percent on this week’s spelling test. We need to go retro. I don’t mean the “Retro Housewife,” that new domesticity trend of opting out of the workforce and going domestic. I mean going retro for the whole family by standing firm against modern parenting pressure without the reassurance of immediate results.

This is no easy task when it feels like it’s your kid’s future at stake. Moms need resolve to think in the long term and resist the clamor for more activities or the disapproving cocked eyebrow when someone learns you give your kids chores rather than flash card drills. But the how-to info is out there.

Because a sense of humor helps when going against the status quo, I recommend “The Three Martini Playdate.” The overall advice under the tongue in cheek tone tells parents to teach children practical skills required for adulthood, such as manners, cooperation, chores, and, keeping with the title, cocktail making for adults. Part of teaching children practical life skills requires parents to stop thinking of themselves as servants to their children in the first place. As the book opens, “It has come to my attention that children have become the center of our universe. … Somehow a pint-sized velvet revolution was waged right under our noses, and the grown-ups have quietly handed over the reins. … Remember when we couldn’t wait to grow up so we could be in charge?” I certainly do.

Because facts help strengthen resolve, I highly recommend the original retro-parenting work, “The Hurried Child.” Among other things, David Elkind counseled against the full schedules of enrichment activities that parents push on their children to build up their college application resume. A resume of boutique experiences probably doesn’t teach the child much about real life and likely fails as resume building these days anyway. The modern standout application to college comes from the kid who built a summer lawn-mowing business or babysitting service.

Because how-tos help, I recommend “Under Pressure” or “The New Six Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children.” These books build on the foundation that we need to let children own their successes and their failures. Neither homework nor activities should be parent and child team sports. The first book mostly explains the research, the second is loaded with practical advice.

None of these books are new, but they are still relevant because the reassurance of short range accomplishments is quite tempting.


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