They say each new generation is most like their grandparents’, but in order for our generation to resemble them at all, I think it’s time we dust off the parenting values of the “greatest generation” and teach them to our offspring now, before we accidentally raise the most needy, self-centered, and ethically-challenged kids of all time. It sounds harsh, but as a former middle school teacher, I’ve personally witnessed the infestation of a large amount of modern day, completely disruptive “Eddie Haskells” into our classrooms and I am certain this is the direct result of today’s lack of good old-fashioned value-based parenting. Of course on the flip side, it’s also totally true that the “greatest generation” was far from perfect (there was a lot of blatant misogyny, leftover prejudices, and discipline by belt-whipping!) but in general, I still think they got a lot closer to hitting the good parenting mark than our generation seems to have gotten and I believe it’s in large part because they had a plan to raise their babies, not just to cater to them, right from the start. Our generation, instead, is teaching our babies that their family (and the world) completely revolves around them. The repercussions of this will surely be disastrous, but I truly believe there’s time for us to reverse them — so let’s get “back to the future” now!
How exactly can you start retro-parenting your baby in today’s modern, busy world? Here are 5 Retro-Parenting Rules for you and your partner to live by:
#1: We will stress less about the breast.
To breastfeed or to bottle feed? That is the question stressing out modern families today. Our grandparents didn’t stress about this — they chose the method they could afford, that fit their family and/or their bodies best, and then they moved on to figuring out how to actually parent. They certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of pushing their personal feeding agenda on to their friends or anyone else. Today, two feeding camps and a great divide between them have formed and the discussions can get downright nasty. I’ve seen long-time friendships strained and even lost over the topic! And in light of a recent study in Social Science & Medicine that found that many benefits attributed to breastfeeding (from reduced rates of obesity and asthma to higher intelligence) have been overstated and that there is little to no difference in the health or well-being of siblings who were formula-fed versus breastfed — there’s just no more excuse for the vitriol. So I say, knock off the guilt-tripping of each other (and ourselves) and let’s get back to what’s most nourishing for your baby: less stressed-out parents.
#2: We will make our marriage/relationship the highest priority.
Our grandparents seemed to have gotten that telegram loud and clear– their lives didn’t end once the baby arrived, nor did their lives completely revolve around their baby. They were still entertaining their friends at home, playing bridge, and even going to the drive-in movie with their newborn in tow! Of course having a baby is a major adjustment and challenge for new parents but it doesn’t have to break your relationship apart. Decide how you’ll both parent up front — whatever that style might be. And take a cue from the retro days: make a cocktail for each other each night and then maybe watch a recorded series from its first episode, together as a date while you’re home bound those first few weeks. Our grandparents did another incredibly smart thing for the sake of their marriage, they used their baby’s nursery for its intended purpose, starting on baby’s night one at home and kept their bed a “marriage bed.” The bottom line: keep as much of what you love about your lives as a couple in your lives when the baby arrives. What’s healthiest for your baby is you two having a really healthy marriage!
#3: We will schedule our baby.
Yes, put them on an old-school, clock-watching, alarm-setting schedule, starting on day one. Your baby wants and needs to have the consistency and stability they can count on; consequently it’s your job to start administering the curriculum. A schedule may seem antiquated, but it truly works beautifully for babies. When left to decide for themselves when they’re hungry and when they’re tired, babies end up not sleeping well for up to two chaotic years, which of course is disadvantageous to their ability to learn. When you teach them to regulate their metabolism, re-set their body clock, and how to fall and stay asleep, they feel secure and nurtured. On a schedule, babies don’t just survive their first year, they absolutely thrive!
#4: We will be our baby’s first teachers.
So many children do not respect authority today because, sadly, they haven’t been taught to respect anyone but themselves. Can you imagine your great-grandparents taking your grandparent’s side over their teacher’s, ever? Not on your life. You’ll be your child’s first and most important teachers, so please teach them that there are boundaries and consequences, teach them manners even in the highchair, teach them how to have patience and be self-reliant, and teach them to treat all people equally. Teach them how to become a responsible citizen, fair teammate, empathetic friend, responsible student, and a caring family member. Just like for teachers, it’s much harder to teach your children than to just be their friend, but it’s your responsibility to elevate your position so your children will respect your authority and therefore learn to respect authority in general as well.
#5: We will allow our baby some independence.
Babies enter this world after three trimesters for a reason…they don’t need a fourth one! They don’t need to be constantly strapped to a chest or in between their parents in their bed every night to feel completely loved, nurtured, and attached to their parents. Babies learn quickly and peacefully how to adjust to their new environment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all saying not to give your baby tons and tons and tons of physical affection…I’m just saying to give your baby a little breathing room too so they get the chance to assimilate and discover — because they’re completely ready and able to do so. Give them the chance to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. And allow for some self-play without rushing to pick them up when they get frustrated by something — give them a minute to figure it out for themselves! In backing off just a little, you’ll be giving your baby the opportunity to gain some self-confidence… and that’s a priceless gift.
As a parent myself, there’s no doubt in my mind that anyone reading this is just as in love with their own children as I am with mine, but the sooner all our babies learn they are not the center of the entire universe, the more likely they’ll grow to be happier, healthier, more confident, and better citizens of this world. Add that to our generation’s unique color-blindness, remarkable talents, and modern sensibilities and maybe (just maybe) we can raise the next greatest generation after all.
Whitney, PPB Co-Founder
Related posts: Why Use Our PPB Schedules?, How to Become a Practical Parent, The Practically Perfect Baby Story, Nursery Night One!, PPB Schedule Birth-3 Weeks, PPB Scheduling Logs, The 15-Minute Rule, The Feeding Dilemma