Parenting past and present

I grew up during the time that the generation gap (see story at right) was much discussed. "Old folks" (anyone over 30) just didn't understand the younger generation, it was often lamented.

My dad, stuck in the Frank Sinatra era, couldn't tell the difference between the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, which I found hilarious, but also, in one way, comforting. Our music gave my generation something special, something that set us apart from the "old fogies." We liked that. I couldn't ever have imagined going to a rock concert with my mom and dad, as today's families often do.

Back in my childhood, it was understood that parents set the rules. I sometimes ranted and raved about how strict my folks were, and I'd occasionally argue and cajole to get their restrictions set aside. But there were times – especially in my teen years – when I found that those scorned rules gave me a good excuse not to do something that I wasn't quite ready to say no to on my own: "Sorry, my folks won't let me do that." Everyone understood.

Times change, and families change, too. I raised my sons differently from the way I was raised, and if they have children, no doubt their kids will be reared differently still. A new generation always approaches parenting determined to do a better job than the generation before. Out go the ideas of Dr. Spock; in comes the advice of T. Berry Brazelton.

It's true that the new methods can occasionally swing too far one way or the other. (Will people ever agree on what "too permissive" is?)

The important thing, I've learned, is to think through the current counsel and decide if it's right for the people involved. When it comes to advice and family relationships, one size rarely fits all.

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