Today, parenting styles tend to lean toward warm and nurturing. This wasn’t, however, always the case.
For much of history, children lived hard lives, without much of a childhood. Childhood as we know it is a Victorian invention. Discipline was quite common at home and at school.
A parent’s job is to prepare children for life as adults and as productive members of society. In the late 19th and early 20th century, there were no Dr. Spock or What to Expect When You’re Expecting books. Parents relied on religious and cultural traditions to teach them parenting skills.
Time to Parent
By the 1910s, family size had decreased, allowing parents time to focus on individual children. Science, and medicine’s newest specialty pediatrics, were confirming that a child’s mind and emotions go through several changes while maturing.
Still, parents were warned not to indulge their children with too much affection because it would make them grow up spoiled and soft. Parents were told not to hug their children or have them sit on their laps. Instead, they were to shake hands.
Instead of an abundance of affection, children were taught to work hard and obey their parents without question. Children were disciplined if they misbehaved. Children were, according to the thinking of the time, empty vessels that needed filled with the appropriate skills and knowledge.
Children are Different
No longer were children thought of as miniature adults who needed their moral character shaped. They were unique individuals with unique issues.
Starting in the mid-19th century, novels and short stories began being written specifically for children, and schooling became compulsory. Toys and games became more commonplace.
But children were still expected to do chores and many worked outside the home.
It wasn’t until the post-World War Two era that parenting styles became those we are accustomed to now. That means your grandparents and great-grandparents probably grew up in an environment that was much more authoritarian than you did.
Are there any family stories that you’re aware of that illustrate this change in parenting styles? I know of a couple instances in my family, including a story about my great-grandmother, who was born in 1900, being punished for asking if her parents could buy her ice cream.
What type of parenting style do you prefer – the authoritative Victorian or the more permissive modern parent? Leave a comment below.
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