Your kids used to complain about your parenting style. Now they're copying it.
Today's parenting books are full of smug declarations that yesterday's parenting methods have been proven wrong and that new approaches are best.
Not so fast.
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Lately, researchers and parenting experts have discovered that, as parents, your generation may not have been so misguided after all. But since we know your children probably won't tell you that you were correct all along, here is a list of six things you got right.
1. Good for What Ails You. They're back: Cod-liver and other fish oils, the banes of your kids' childhoods, were recently invisible in families' medicine cabinets. Now these healthy oils are found not only to boost academic performance, but also to help kids with attention-deficit disorder and dyslexia, and even to protect the heart from disease. There is one improvement from the past, though—now the oils come in easy-to-swallow soft geltabs. Mention this to your kids, but remind them to check with their pediatricians before giving it to their young ones.
2. Early to Bed, Early to Rise. Working parents try to squeeze in an hour or two of evening time with their kids, but a consensus of researchers now says that the children would be better off if they were put to bed as early as possible. Earlier bedtime appears to be a key to better sleep and to happier kids in general. Research by the National Sleep Foundation has found that most kids today don't get the sleep they need. The foundation has discovered that just one hour less sleep than kids need each night can lower their ability to concentrate in class to that of children two grade-levels below. Beyond toddler meltdowns, lack of sleep has been linked to attention problems, dulled memory, hyperactivity, and obesity.
3. Go Outside and Play
Dr. Benjamin Spock, author of the best-selling parenting bible you may have referred to while raising your kids, used to prescribe at least one hour outside, every day, rain or shine. Now, even in the age of hand sanitizers and hovering parents, the benefits of unstructured play, running around, and digging in the dirt are being recognized again. It's good for kids to be on their own and with other kids, without such close parental supervision.
"Unstructured play builds the imagination," says Dr. Robert Needlman of MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, the co-author of the eighth edition of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care. Even in winter's chill, children are unlikely to get sick from playing outside. Needlman says: "Outdoor play is healthy for kids, whether it's cold or not. In the cold weather, we get sick more often because we are inside, with the windows shut, and so are more exposed to germs from everyone else."
4. Manners Matter. Remember when families sat down to dinner together each night and used real utensils, and kids were told not to slurp or chomp? When kids said "please" and "thank you," and had to ask to be excused from the table? According to Cindy Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute, author of the book Emily's Christmas Gifts, more people today are seeking a return to social graces they believe have been ignored too long. And a recent Columbia University survey found that sitting down together for real, regular family dinners has been linked to better grades for teens and a decreased likelihood of taking up smoking or abusing alcohol, among other benefits.
5. This Is Not a Democracy. After what many parenting experts have called a generation of indulgence, it's becoming OK to say "no" to kids again. Setting limits and standing firm as parents — instead of letting kids set their own rules — is now seen as a cornerstone to ensuring a happy and healthy future for children. And chores are once again being seen as good for the soul. According to Muffy Mead-Ferro, author of Confessions of a Slacker Mom, for the sake of their kids, and for their own sanity, parents need to get back to the art of household management and delegation. "It's painful to watch my kids load the dishwasher," Mead-Ferro says. "Stuff gets broken, and I could do it faster myself, but think what they're learning — how to help around the house, how to be self-sufficient, and how to work hard."
6. You Get What You Get. The Rolling Stones were right, Dr. Needlman says. You can't always get what you want. And kids shouldn't. If there's a silver lining to the current economic downturn, it may be a move away from high-end distractions and back toward simple pleasures. "Remember what fun kids can have with a cardboard box?" he asks. The recent epidemic of "affluenza" among kids and parents alike now even has a formal diagnosis in the annals of medical science — "spoiled-child syndrome" — and after a lengthy shopping spree, parents are beginning to opt out of mass-consumption by paring down their holiday shopping lists and teaching kids to ask not what they can get, but what they can do.
This article originally appeared on Grandparents.com. © Grandparents.com LLC.