Folate and lots of sex. No wine. No cheese. No seafood. Stay active. Get plenty of rest. Have a natural birth! Breast-feed immediately. Start solids at four months … or maybe six. Use a dummy. Absolutely do not use a dummy. Stick to a rigid sleep routine. Go with the sleep flow. Controlled crying is the answer. Controlled crying is cruel. Naughty step. Time out. No fruit juice. No processed food. Occasional treats. Your child will only eat chicken nuggets? Bad parent! Control your child in public. Stop helicopter parenting your kids.
From the moment you start thinking about having a baby you can find yourself knee-deep in advice. Modern parents are scrutinised to an unprecedented degree. From health professionals to random strangers, everyone has an opinion of how we should take care of our children.
Is it any wonder parents appear harassed, pressured, confused and conflicted. In this era of mass opinion and criticism, Essential Kids thought it was time for some much needed positive reinforcement. We spoke to a cross-section of people who regularly interact with parents and children and asked them for their thoughts on modern parents’ most positive attributes.
Robin Barker – Author of Baby Love and The Mighty Toddler
Modern parents are very safety conscious. Everyone goes on about helicopter parents (we don’t let children roam and we don’t let them do this and that) however the environment’s entirely different now. I nearly have hysterics when my grandson goes rocketing down the street on his little scooter, but my daughter-in-law is very safety conscious and he always has his little helmet on. Issues around safety are genuine, there’s research to support them and parents are right to take them seriously. Their approach to safety is helping to reduce the number of childhood accidents.
Increased affluence is often made to sound like a sin but in many cases it is leading children to have happier lives. Parents are often able to be nicer people and endure less stress if they have a reasonable standard of living. Parents want to expose their children to a broad range of experiences, so affluence tends to be used in really positive ways such as purchasing books, theatre trips and museum outings. These are things kids in past eras certainly never had access to unless their families were very well off.
Parents today tend to question everything and don’t allow themselves to be hijacked into particular philosophies. In the past certain aspects of parenting were set in concrete and anybody that questioned the very highly structured way of doing things was seen as a bit loopy. If you went along to the baby health centre in 1940 and questioned the Sister you’d have been scathingly dismissed. Modern parents do question things and they look things up themselves.
Kids are being brought up in a more tolerant atmosphere in relation to issues such as religion and homosexuality. When I was a kid in the 50s sexism and racism were rampant, even through the education system. In many families now there’s an emphasis on thinking before you talk to your children and not speaking to them in ways that promote intolerance.
Melanie O’Grady – Early Childhood Teacher
Historically, very young children were babied and patronised. Today, parents want to educate them. They expect more from young children because they see them as capable learners. For example, a toddler can be involved in making cookies, a baby can be taught to float as part of swimming lessons. These opportunities equal an empowered child.
This positive approach extends to developmental disorders such as speech delay and gross motor delay. Childhood problems that were once swept under the rug are now acknowledged and addressed with the help of early intervention experts such as speech pathologists and occupational therapists. In the past, developmental disorders would have been seen as the mark of a bad parent. The great attitude of modern parents means that by the time children with developmental issues start school they’re at an advantage and many can be included in mainstream education.
Scott Ellis – Father
The tendency to have children later in life means modern parents are experienced and mature. Having children in my 30s allowed me to put my party years behind me and provide stability for my family. Parenting is a stressful business, but I think that older parents have coping mechanisms that are more finely tuned.
Involvement with my children is incredibly important. I love spending time with my kids and happily take charge of their activities (given the number of dads at the pool on a Sunday morning, I’m not the only one!). There is far greater equality in our household than when I was growing up. My wife and I take responsibility for all aspects of parenting: nappies, cooking, play, education and discipline. The old model of defining gender roles along clearly delineated lines no longer exists for many families. I think this provides a positive model for my children to aspire to.
Families also seem to be much better at communicating with each other these days. Lots of parents operate in an environment where they’re happy to be seen as fallible and human. It’s okay for parents to apologise to their children. Discipline includes discussion and reflection – not just punishment.
Laura Kiln – Childhood Behaviour Specialist
Modern parents are more open to being their child’s advocate than their predecessors. They seek a consultative relationship with schools to ensure their child is getting the most out of his or her education. They are comfortable praising their children and recognise the importance of celebrating the small achievements, not just the A grades. They understand we can’t be good at everything but we can all shine at something; the effort put in by their child is more important than the actual result. This approach is great for building a child’s self-esteem.
Many parents appreciate the need to build resilience. That children need to learn to bounce back from life’s set backs and accept that mummy can’t always make everything better. Problem solving is encouraged, as is the belief that children can learn by their mistakes.
Parents want to spend more one on one time with their children. Family time is important e.g. Friday night is often a family ‘movie night'. The notion of children being seen and not heard is largely redundant.
Ros Dale – Grandparent
When I was a child, there was an emphasis on keeping up appearances. Modern parents are far more realistic. They are very honest about their children and are willing to acknowledge how incredibly challenging it is being a parent. They talk to one another and readily seek advice and support. That wasn’t acceptable 50 years ago. Admitting you were struggling would have been seen as somewhat shameful.
Parents are intuitive and have a deeper appreciation for their role. They understand the difference between recreational and educational play. They are huge supporters of learning, but want to make sure that learning is a fun and positive experience for their children. From eating to toilet training to managing tantrums, parents adapt practices to suit their child, not force them to abide by a one-size-fits-all approach like in my day.
Most importantly, parents are fiercely opposed to abusive forms of discipline. It’s sad to say but when I was small, society had a far more permissive attitude towards violence against children. It might have taken the form of a beating with a cane or being locked away in a cupboard for hours on end, it was cruel and totally unnecessary. I’m so happy parents today have mostly rejected what was once considered to be normal and acceptable.
Leanne Elliston– Accredited Practising Dietitian
Modern parents take it upon themselves to engage with the science of nutrition, from general health benefits to the application of nutrition in managing disease and disorders. A generation ago, parents wouldn’t generally be aware that iron deficiencies might arise from a lack of red meat in their children’s diet. Parents today are much more educated about nutrition and understand the need to ensure their children eat the right amount of fresh produce and limit foods that contain high levels of saturated fat and sugar.
This engagement links to an awareness regarding sustainable food production. Parents are enthusiastic about ensuring their children know where food comes from. They take their children to farmers’ markets, grow veggie patches in the garden and try to forge stronger links between food and its production.
A lovely aspect of modern parenting is that children are developing more sophisticated palates. Parents are keen to expose children to a greater range of flavours and textures. Rather than relying on salt and pepper to season foods, children are learning how to use herbs and spices to add flavor. Instead of meat and two veg (as it was when I was growing up), stir-fries, curries, pasta dishes and fish are now the staples of many family meals.
Martine Gill – Principal, Coomera Springs State School, QLD
25 years ago parents saw their role in relation to their child’s education as ensuring homework was completed. They made sure children did what they needed to do, but in the most part children were left to get on with it. Modern parents are eager to be involved with homework and understand the curriculum. Parents have been instrumental in supporting the shift away from bags laden with heavy textbooks to engaging with online learning portals that provide a strong connection between home and school.
Parents are focused on the psychology of their children and are keen to mediate and talk. They understand the nature of the playground so there’s very little ranting and raving from parents. Most are keen to tackle the root of any problem and achieve a resolution. There’s far less ‘eye for an eye’ mentality from parents these days.
Parents are appreciative of the different pathways open to their children and support the holistic approach schools are adopting. There’s more encouragement to support children in their interests and their abilities rather than create pressure to be purely academically successful. This reduces the anxiety in school children. With greater support and less pressure children’s self-esteem flourishes. They have increased confidence and are more actively engaged in the learning process.
What changes to the family dynamic do you think are positive? Let us know on the Essential Kids Forums.
There is far greater equality in our household than when I was growing up. My wife and I take responsibility for all aspects of parenting ...