How Parenting Expectations Have Changed Over The Years

September 26, 2019  |  
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It’s funny how every generation will have parenting trends that just sweep the nation—if not the world. You can tell that we feel that this is the best way to parent and this generation of children will grow up to be so much better/kinder/smarter/healthier/happier than the last one. But the truth is, our parents turned out pretty good, right? And their parents did things a different way. And our grandparents turned out alright too, and their parents did things a different way. I can’t help but wonder how much of an effect all of these trends really have on a child once she becomes an adult. For the most part, I understand that change is good, but I also think that there are some core values of parenting that are probably what really makes for a good kid, and probably haven’t changed much over the centuries. Nonetheless, here is how expectations for good parenting have changed over the last half century.



Not only is it severely frowned upon to spank a child today, but also even saying the word “No” can be a bad thing. Times outs, restricting playtime, pulling dessert, and other forms of punishment are being phased out. The idea seems to be that these experiences can be traumatizing, and don’t actually teach a child anything. I don’t know what to say about that. I was put on time out and spanked occasionally. I still love my parents and don’t look back on my childhood in terror.


We just hope they make the right call

Instead of punishing kids, the new idea is to give them the chance to do the right thing. Parents will ask children if they really want to draw on that wall or if they really want to steal their sibling’s toy, and why it might not be okay. Are we giving kids too much credit? Can a five-year-old figure out why she shouldn’t take her sister’s toy?


Prestigious kindergartens

Now, parents are greasing the palms of kindergarten principals and putting their toddlers in special prep classes to make sure they get into the best, most prestigious kindergarten. I haven’t done the research, but something tells me if you looked at the preschools that some of our most impressive individuals in history went to versus less-impressive ones, you wouldn’t find any rhyme or reason there. It’s just kindergarten.


More expectations of nannies

Today, with more families in which both parents work, nannies are a necessity. But in a culture of prestigious kindergartens, we’re asking more of our nannies. Can they teach our children a second language? Were they team captains of their college volleyball teams and can they coach our children? They must be super nannies—not just loving individuals who keep our kids alive when we aren’t around.


Super pure diets

I believe if a parent from the 1960s could travel through time and try to make an “acceptable” meal for a child today, she’d be chastised. The gluten. The soy. The heavy cream. The beef that is not grass fed. The other parents would gasp. Kids snacks are non-GMO, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, fair trade, humanely-raised, etc. etc.


All organic everything

Everything that touches our babies today must be organic. The diapers. The toys. The blankets. The baby wipes. The wood that makes up the crib. Using a gift card to a simple Toys ‘R Us probably wouldn’t cut it anymore.


Technologically-savvy by two

Today, we are giving our little ones tablets and smart phones to amuse and educate themselves. Some parents take issue with it. Some think it’s irresponsible not to teach a child to use such devices early. Nonetheless, being a parent today means being a part of that conversation, which simply wasn’t the case for our grandparents.


Free time is for SAT prep

Free time used to be, well, first off, aplenty. Kids had tons of it. They got out of school at 3pm and just played. Now free time is an opportunity to prepare for the next thing in life. It’s an opportunity to do volunteer work to ensure that prestigious high school accepts your 12-year-old. It’s an opportunity to do extra SAT prep work. It’s an opportunity to take lessons in a second language or an instrument or gastronomy.


In fact, boredom is extinct

Boredom may be an entirely extinct concept for our children today. They don’t have the time to be bored. That’s a bit sad, because there is actually value in being bored. Only when we are bored do we daydream and unlock creative parts of our mind that are hard to access when we are focused on a task. Boredom is actually essential for the creation of the arts. Nobody got an idea for a novel or a painting while doing SAT sample tests.


Never pushing gender norms

I absolutely understand the importance of this, but we have to admit that it is probably a confusing time for parents. They understand why it’s not okay to insist a girl wear dresses, or play with dolls, or take ballet lessons instead of soccer ones. All the things they aren’t allowed to do, they mostly get. But then…what are they supposed to do?


Tracking child development charts

Child development charts have not been A) around or B) so thorough for very long. Now parents are obsessing over the fact that their child is technically one week behind on taking her first steps or saying her first word. Really, I’m sure all of our parents and grandparents would have varied greatly on these charts, and yet they all turned out fine.


Reading up on everything

There is a lot of reading and watching to do today. There are all of the vloggers parents should be following and newsletters to which they should be subscribing and books they should be reading. One parent will ask another (assuming the answer is yes), “Did you read so-and-so’s book?” and give a look of disapproval when the answer is “No…”


Somehow still “have it all”

In addition to following all of these new rules and regulations, parents are expected—much more than previous generations—to “have it all.” They should still have hot sex lives with their partners, active social lives, and thriving careers. Did anyone expect all that of our grandparents when they were raising kids? I doubt it.


Dads are more involved

Dads are—rightfully so—more involved with kids. Fifty years ago dads spent maybe thirty minutes with their kids when they got home from work, and before the kids went to bed. Now you have stay-at-home dads and even the working ones are expected to pull their weight.


A close eye on mental health

Parents are having psychologists analyze their five-year-olds to check for early signs of Sociopathy or anxiety disorder. They’re five…Of course they don’t want to make eye contact with the weird stranger yet and sometimes scream for no reason.

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