6 Things We Got Wrong

  • 01 of 07

    Clean Your Plate!

    Child in the 50s balks at eating all her food.
    Children were once expected to eat all their food even if they didn't feel hungry. George Marks | Getty Images

    When we were kids, we were expected to eat whatever was placed on our plates. It didn't matter much if we weren't hungry. And it certainly didn't matter if we didn't like the foods that were prepared on a particular day. Dessert was often used as a reward for eating a meal. Today we know that these practices override the natural appetite controls that exist in healthy children.

    Most grandparents and great-grandparents think they were fairly good parents. They probably did a better...MORE job than modern parents at a few things, such as getting kids outdoors and feeding them real food. However, they got some fairly significant things wrong. Here are six of them.

    Related: Do Grandparents Make Their Grandchildren Fat?

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  • 02 of 07

    The Old Ways Aren't Always Best

    In the 50s children ride in a car with no seat belts.
    We had different standards of car safety 50 years ago. Superstock | Getty Images

    If you're a grandparent, you're almost certain to have ridden in a car without seat belts. You may have driven your own children unbelted. The first seat belt law in the United States wasn't passed until 1984. Parents of earlier times can't be blamed for not using safety measures that were not widely available. But did we commit other parenting gaffes? Sure, we did. And occasionally we should have known better.

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  • 03 of 07

    Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard

    Little girl giving the hush signal.
    Silence was once considered golden, where children were concerned. George Marks | Getty Images

    Not so many years ago, children were expected to keep quiet in public and almost any time that they were in the company of adults. I agree that this practice made it easier for adults to enjoy themselves, but it also had the effect of depriving children of opportunities to express their ideas to persons other than their peers. I can remember being paralyzed with shyness when I had to talk to an adult. As a naturally shy child, I might have experienced some shyness in any case, but I think I...MORE would have achieved confidence sooner if I had been encouraged to speak up more often.

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  • 04 of 07

    Love Is Shown, Not Spoken

    50s mother checks on sick child
    George Marks | Getty Images. Parents once showed their love through actions rather than words.

    In an earlier time, parents tended to demonstrate their love rather than verbalizing it. I was a very loved child, but those three little words were seldom spoken, and I observed the same thing in my friends' families. In fact, the few families that spouted "I love you" were considered strange.

    As my parents aged and as the culture changed, they became more open about expressing their love. And I think it's a healthy change that we say it more often today.

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  • 05 of 07

    Because I Said So!

    Old-fashioned father gives his son a talking to.
    Authoritarian parents were once the norm. Carl Purcell | Getty Images

    Is there a parent alive who hasn't resorted to, "Because I said so!" Probably very few. But when I was a kid, it was the standard answer.

    I have watched my own children as parents, as they very patiently explained over and over why their offspring could or could not do something. I must admit that I often thought that they were wasting their time, but the concepts that they so patiently explained seem to have soaked in, for the most part. They have adopted a parenting style that is...MORE more authoritative than authoritarian, and it seems to have worked for them.

    See Also: How to Discipline a Grandchild

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  • 06 of 07

    Feelings Can Be Ignored

    Little girl sulks in school.
    Emotions were once something to be experienced but not talked about. Erich Auerbach | Getty Images

    When I was a kid, we didn't have much of a vocabulary for talking about feelings. We could express that we were mad, sad or had hurt feelings, but that was about as complex as it got. Also, most of the time giving in to those feelings was a sign of weakness. My husband's family has an expression for how children should deal with minor injuries — "Rub it in the dirt!" Ignore it and keep playing, in other words. That was the prescribed method for dealing with psychic pain, too. And...MORE it worked sometimes, and sometimes it didn't.

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  • 07 of 07

    Girls Were Girls and Men Were Men

    Boy feels his father's muscle and appreciates his manliness.
    Gender roles were firmly adhered to, in most cases. Harold M. Lambert | Getty Images

    Women cooked, cleaned and took care of the kids. Men earned the living and perhaps mowed the lawn or washed the car. Gender roles in the mid-20th century were rigidly defined and reinforced by every form of media. Girls took homemaking and typing. Boys took woodworking and auto shop. Boys competed in sports. Girls played for fun or in intramural leagues. And only one in 9 college students was a woman.

    We know now that some gender differences seem to be inborn. At least, infants and toddlers...MORE display some gender differences. But at least we accept that a man can cook and a woman can mow the lawn. More importantly, men can be actively involved in parenting and grandparenting. To deny men that privilege would be horribly unfair.