Parenting styles have changed pretty drastically since the days when car seats weren't a requirement and screen time wasn't a concern. And while there's no question that kids are better off now in some ways than they were (see the car seat mention above), there are some old-fashioned parenting tips we should totally bring back.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to erase your current rules in favor of time-honored tips. It simply means implementing and adapting some classic strategies to make them work for your crew, and not, say, a family from the era when June Cleaver was considered the best mom ever. To be fair, the old-school ways might take some getting used to, especially if you're not comfortable with the more authoritative approach. “Some ideas might make a 21st century parent cringe, like saying 'No means no" or 'Because I'm the parent, that's why,'” Stephanie M. Kriesberg, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Romper. “But the ideas behind them are critical for raising independent, resilient, and caring adults.”
Here are 9 old-fashioned parenting tips that just might inspire you to try something old and make it new again.
1. Say No — And Mean It
Sometimes you just have to say no, especially if it’s having doughnuts for dinner — um, again. “Decades of psychology research shows that children thrive when their parents have an authoritative parenting style, or what I call a balanced parenting approach,” says Dr. Kriesberg. “They are firm, set limits, and expect their children to behave in ways that are appropriate to their ages and development.” That doesn’t mean that you have to be a meanie, though. You can still be warm, empathetic, and flexible — you just need to be able to commit to your decisions.
2. You’re Not Your Child’s BFF
Being the cool mom might not always benefit your child. "Parents are not their children's best friends," says Dr. Kriesberg. “They need to be in charge while having their children's best interest at heart, too.” Although it's important for parents to state the reasons for rules, Dr. Kriesberg says that debating with your child can be counter productive and sends your child the message that if he argues enough he just might get his way. Says Dr. Kriesberg: "Having boundaries and abiding by them can help your child learn mutual respect and responsibility."
3. Eat Together
“Studies have shown that children who regularly enjoy family mealtimes have lower rates of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety,” Elizabeth Irias, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper. “Essentially, the more frequently that children and adolescents enjoy family mealtimes with their caregivers, the less likely they are to develop mood disorders.” So while it can be extremely challenging to schedule sit-down dinners when you have to chauffeur one kid to hockey practice and another to lacrosse, try to avoid the temptation to hit the drive-thru and carve out the time to have a quick bite together at home.
4. Let Them Play Outside
All you need to do is tune into the news to become totally paranoid about letting your kids play outdoors. But outside play doesn’t necessarily mean “unsupervised” play, so you should encourage kids to get out of the house and play independently. “Kids now are overwhelmingly sedentary, spending endless hours with electronics at the expense of experiencing nature, challenging their motor skills and learning to navigate social relationships in person,” Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg DPS, OTR/L, a pediatric occupational therapist in New Jersey, tells Romper. “While the world has changed, the ways children's brains and bodies develop hasn't! They still require sensorimotor play, physical challenges, and personal interaction.” So lace up those sneaks, and get your kids running, tumbling, and laughing in the great outdoors.
5. Allow Them To Be Bored
When my kids would say, “I’m boredddd,” I used to create a fun craft project to do. But I found that doing that all.the.time left me exhausted. Now, when they say that they’re bored, I say, “Good. Go find something to do.” (And I only half-cringe when I say it.) Psychology Today backs me up, reporting that letting kids be bored helps them build their imagination skills, creativity, and self-confidence. And remember, you’re not responsible for entertaining your kid every hour of every day.
6. Make One Meal For Dinner
Your kids need to know when they sit down to eat for dinner that one meal (and one meal only) is going to be served, not pizza for one, chicken nuggets for another, etc. To encourage picky eaters to partake of the food in front of them, try serving smaller portions, and let your kids see you eating healthy foods, too, Kids Health suggested. Eventually, your kid should come around and become more flexible with his food choices.
7. Give Them Chores
Assigning small tasks to complete around the house (i.e. empty the dishwasher or make your bed each morning) is another old-fashioned parenting practice that needs to make a comeback. "Developing a sense of responsibility, accountability, and accomplishment are all helpful in children as they grow up," Lisa Howe, MSW, a certified peaceful parenting expert, (this is a real thing!) tells Romper. "Sending them into the world with these skills will help them to be successful and it's also a way to increase connection and family cohesion."
8. Acknowledge The Adults
Whether you’re visiting a friend’s house for a playdate or swinging by Grandma’s, encourage your child to acknowledge the people present, even if it’s simply saying hello. “When you enter someone's home, you should politely greet any adults present,” Janice Robinson-Celeste, an early childhood educator, tells Romper. “It's a manners and respect-thing.” But be sure to meet your child where they are — you should never force your child to hug or kiss someone. That’s when a hello or a wave will do just fine.
9. Give Them More Downtime
“So many families I work with have their children so overscheduled and there is no downtime,” says Howe. “They wonder why their children struggle, and it’s because they are exhausted and overloaded in every way.” So take some time to look at your kid’s calendar and see what activities are necessary — and which ones aren’t. And remember, it’s okay for your kids to have quiet time to themselves that doesn’t involve any kind of structure.
As you assess your stance on all things child-rearing, consider adapting some of these tried-and-true tips into your modern-day parenting style. The results might surprise you.
Stephanie M. Kriesberg, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist
Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg DPS, OTR/L, pediatric occupational therapist in New Jersey,
Lisa Howe, MSW, certified peaceful parenting expert
Janice Robinson-Celeste, early childhood educator