Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The History of Parenting Advice:

Times reporter Jessica Grose waded back through the paper's archives to see what sort of advice it had printed for parents:

In the ’30s and ’40s, The Times had a parenting writer named Catherine Mackenzie, whose columns dealt with issues we’re still mulling, like how much kids should be learning in preschool, whether new kinds of media are harmful to children, and what to do when 13-year-old girls want to wear lipstick and go on dates. . . .

But the most revealing article I read was from 1952. It was a summary of the work of Clark E. Vincent, a graduate teaching assistant in sociology at the University of California, who had surveyed thousands of articles from the previous 60 years of infant care and child-rearing advice.

Vincent noted that the breast vs. bottle “controversy” has been around since Hippocrates, and that much of parenting advice is trend-driven. “In 1890 women’s magazines recommended ‘loose scheduling’; in 1920 they were all for the tight schedule, ‘cry it out’ routine, and in the last year analyzed, 1948, all were for ‘self regulation’ by the baby,” the article noted.

According to Vincent, parenting advice has “often reflected changing patterns of thought in middle-class society, and changing theories of education and personality transformation.” His ultimate takeaway? Less dogmatism and more flexibility, “so long as the baby’s needs are satisfied.” Maybe if we keep giving this advice for the next 70 years — that there’s no one way to parent, that kids can thrive in many different situations — it will finally stick. 

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

"Maybe if we keep giving this advice for the next 70 years — that there’s no one way to parent, that kids can thrive in many different situations — it will finally stick."

It's advice that applies to many things.

To quote Carl Sagan, "As if there were only one human nature!"

Every baby has different needs. Every child in school has different needs. Every patient visiting a doctor has different needs.

No two people have the exact same religious convictions, or the exact same political views, or the exact same philosophical leanings.

Human experience is overwhelmingly subjective, even when the underlying reality remains the same. The exact same thing experienced by two different people can result in almost wholly opposite reactions.

And yet by and large, we tend to treat our own personal experiences and preferences as if they were somehow universal. And even worse, when we encounter something which substantially differs from our "universal" assumptions, we recoil in shock, fear, and disgust - we interpret that difference as some sort of sign of "otherness", and revile it as "unnatural" or "immoral" or otherwise "wrong".

There is a staggering number of people who get legitimately and deeply upset about such utterly inconsequential things as which pizza toppings other people enjoy, and who make insane, vehement, wholly serious condemnations of any preferences that differ too substantially from their own.

I think we, the entire human race, need to work a hell of a lot harder to impress upon our children the vital importance of accepting that other people are different, and finding joy and inspiration in that fact, rather than using it as an irrational justification for division, hatred, and even violence.

Live and let live! You don't have to like what other people like, you just need to respect them and their choice even if you disagree. If it's not affecting anyone else, what business is it of any else?