10 ‘Old School’ Parenting Techniques We Should Bring Back Today

by Becky Squire
A mother blowing out birthday candles with her daughter for her second birthday
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Parenting is vastly different than it was 30 plus years ago. We have come a long way in parenting philosophies, including health and safety. Raising children is a completely different game than it was back then. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take some of our parents’ expertise and put it into practice. Vintage parenting might be just what this generation needs. Here are 10 things our parents did that parents today should bring back.

Put Each Other First.

Back when our parents were young, it wasn’t uncommon for marriage to be the most important relationship in the family. But somewhere over the last 30 plus years, parents have started to treat their children as the center of the universe.

Keeping your spouse a priority can be hard, but it’s essential to have a healthy and happy family. When my children interrupt me while I’m talking to my husband, I tell them they will have to wait (unless it’s an emergency). Children need to learn that everything does not revolve around them.

Made Kids Play Outside.

Most of my childhood memories are playing outside, using my imagination. My friends and I would be outside as soon as we got home from school. We would come in for dinner and then go back out until dark. I enjoyed watching TV here and there, but we always preferred to be outside.

According to the CDC, kids ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours every day in front of a screen for entertainment. That does not include homework or educational purposes. On the flip side, children spend a whopping 4-7 minutes a day engaged in unstructured outdoor play on average. Kids don’t need a sports court or a swimming pool to be entertained outside. All they need is their imagination.

Trusted Their Children.


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I’m sure most of us (especially if you are old like me) can remember spending most of our free time riding bikes with our friends miles away from home, building snow forts for hours, staying out until dark, all without our parents knowing exactly where we were. You may call this “free-range parenting” or even think it’s dangerous. The truth is, children are twice as likely to die in a plane crash than get kidnapped by a stranger.

Didn’t Push Academics.

Before 1980, the main focus of the early elementary years was creativity and social skills. Children did not know how to read upon entering kindergarten and many didn’t even know their alphabet. They were taught to be respectful, to share, and to make friends. Culturally, our children are obligated to compete academically at these early ages which magnifies, if not causes, anxiety and stress in our children.

Taught Manners.

I am always amazed at the lack of manners I see in many children and teens today. My husband and I spent a week cooking for 300 teens a few years ago. We would spend the entire day cooking, doing dishes, and literally serving food onto their empty plates for them. We were were shocked at the amount of “thank-you’s” we received: 2 out of 300. That’s a simple example. I could make lists of others who demand snacks or toys when they play at my house, or that take without asking, etc. It is refreshing when I come across those who have been taught well.

Ate Dinner As a Family.

I could write an entire article about this subject…oh wait, I did. That’s because it is so important and so easily overlooked. Parents today tend to sacrifice family dinners for extra-curricular activities and it is damaging. Children who participate in regular family meals are less likely to have anxiety and depression. They have less delinquency, greater academic achievement, and improved psychological well-being. Don’t schedule meals around your activities, schedule your activities around meal-time.

Made Their Kids Do Chores.

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When I was growing up, every Saturday was reserved for doing chores. We couldn’t play with friends or any other activities until we had cleaned our bedrooms and done a few other of our assigned chores. I cleaned bathrooms, vacuumed, dusted, mopped, and more. Today children are asked to take on only the most trivial of responsibilities. You might be surprised at how much your kids are capable of.

Disciplined Each Other’s Kids.

What would you do if your child’s friend threw a tantrum or even hit your child? Ask them nicely if they would like to stop? Would we even dare bring it up to their parent? With our parents, there was an unspoken rule that if another child acted out, they would discipline them the same way as their own kids.

Held Birthday Parties at Home.

The birthday parties our parents would throw included cake, ice cream, and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. They didn’t give every guest a basket filled with personalized party favors. They didn’t rent out the local trampoline park or hire a professional photographer or caterer. Yet we still had fun! It was a guilt-free party zone.

Kept Things Simple.

The best part of the “good ol’ days” was how simple it was. As kids, we weren’t rushed from soccer to piano to dance. Our parents didn’t take us to Disneyland every summer or buy each child their own tablets. We got bored. We used our imaginations. And we thrived in the simple life.

Our children will end up fine–even better than we did. They don’t need to be handed everything on a silver platter. They don’t need to be the best at everything, or even at one thing. It’s okay if they fall and get hurt or get their heart broken. It’s how they learn and grow. And it will teach them compassion and kindness and love.