I am sometimes asked if I think the “parenting pendulum” is swinging back, however slowly, toward where it was 60-plus years ago or at least toward a tolerable middle point.
Prior to the psychological parenting revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s, there was no periodic swing in child rearing in America or any other culture. The evidence points to a parenting ethos that remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years (while everything else was changing). This ethos consisted not of methodologies, but of timeless understandings concerning children and parental responsibilities, understandings that crossed cultural boundaries. It is, in fact, still being adhered to in cultures that have not turned to mental health professionals as the primary source of child-rearing guidance but still rely on community elders for parenting support and counsel.
In the cultures in question, children are everything American children were before “experts” determined that they had been anointed by some New Age divinity to fix something that wasn’t broken: responsible, mannerly, respectful of adults, hard-working and trustworthy. As an example, a woman who recently spent two years working in rural African schools told me that it was not unusual to find more than 100 children of all ages being taught in one large space by one teacher who was dealing with virtually zero behavior problems.
That is a hallucinogenic dream in America, yet I have met a good number of American women who taught, solo, more than 90 first graders at one time in the early 1950s. Without exception, they testify to orderly classrooms where discipline was not a major issue.
The major difference between then and now is that parents in the good old days understood their obligations to their neighbors, communities and culture whereas today’s parents do not. Today, the raising of the typical child is all about the child and promoting his accomplishments.
So, having put the original question into a proper historical context, my answer is no. I had hope for such a restoration up until recently.
Then it became clear to me that most of today’s parents will do such things as give their 10-year-olds smartphones on demand even if they’re aware of research saying that such devices induce changes in brain development that mimic addiction. The inmates are obviously running the asylum.
Which leads me to point out that today’s parents are, as a lot, afraid of their children. They are afraid to upset them, deprive them of what their friends have, afraid of losing their carefully cultivated friendships with them.
American child rearing underwent a paradigm shift fifty years ago and has been off the rails ever since. Will the big picture ever be re-balanced? I doubt it, but that’s not the point. The point is to do the right thing without needing someone else to join in, or even cheer you on.