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January 23, 2009

Go Bang Your Head Against the Wall and Other Parenting Wisdom from the 60s and 70s

Head_bang I grew up in a kinder, gentler time.

No wait, I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Protests, hippies, assassinations, The Grateful Dead, John & Yoko, The Me Generation and worse. Not so kind and surely not too gentle. I guess every generation has a tendency to pine away for the supposed simplicity of their childhood compared to the times in which they live as adults. More complicated times or evolution? Perhaps a little bit of both.

With my days of parenting young children having drawn to a close I think a lot about the style in which each generation chooses to raise their kids. Every era has its popular parenting gurus and practices. What was acceptable 30 years ago we would not dare try today.

I was raised in a solid, loving family. I truly had the sense that my brother and I were the most important people in my parents' lives. They were kind, firm and nurturing. That said the following is a perfect illustration of parenting style differences from one generation to the next.

When I would complain of boredom as a child it was not uncommon for my parents to say, 'then go bang your head against the wall'. And I can almost guarantee they were not the only parents to use that phrase. Seriously, picture saying this to one of your kids today.

I kid you not. Those who were raised in my generation will be nodding and smiling at this point, for these phrases were truly the norm back then.

Another favorite response to boredom was this winner, 'then go play in traffic'. Nice, very solid parenting.

How about when you made a face at your sibling? 'Stop it, your face will freeze like that.' I spent a good part of my childhood in fear of walking around for the rest of my life with my tongue sticking out and my nose all screwed up.

One more, when you did not finish all the food on your plate, 'finish all your food, there are children starving in Europe [China] [South America]'. Ok, so let me get this straight, if I finished my food they would stop starving?

When my kids were young we were so mindful of every word we uttered. They were never bad, their behavior was. They were not punished, we put them in 'time out'. A place, I might add, my sweet daughter spent a great deal of time. We trophied them for every single move they made. Spent hours, which rolled into years, bolstering their self-esteem and reminding them that all children are special with their own talents. Heaven forbid we make them eat a food that they did not like. Substitutions and special orders were the norm at meal time. So who had it right?

I look back on my childhood and never was there a time that I felt unloved or neglected. I realize how rare and precious that is. I wonder if that language really made any difference. Does that mean I would use it today? Hell, no. Not unless I wanted to open the door to the school psychologist placing a judgmental call to my house. However I do believe that if it went back into fashion to toughen up our kids instead of helicoptering, we would probably lean back in that direction to some extent.

But somehow I don't think those absurd comments of 30 years ago will ever really be dusted off and used again.

Original 50-something Moms Blog post. Posted by Amy Zimmerman. Amy also blogs at i could cry but i dont have time and leaving the zip code.


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