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To spank or not? Modern vs Traditional Parenting.


Today many parents have decided to ignore the traditional way of parenting and have instead embraced the so-called ‘modern’ style which the grandparents are not happy with. But many parents are struggling to find the perfect balance between the traditional and modern parenting.

The world of child-rearing has changed dramatically in the last 30-40 years,  from ready-to-eat baby food to the influence of technology to the evolution of diapers.

Here are some important changes that seem to have taken place over the last 30-40 years with regards to parenting:

  • A recent study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology has shown that modern parents have greater expectations on their children in relation to school, doing homework, being polite etc. The study also found that modern parents are more likely to monitor their children compared to parents years ago.
  • Dads have become more actively engaged with their kids, as the amount of time the average father spends with his kids have increased by 100% since 1965.
  • Parents have become more focused on the safety of their children and consequently modern parenting has led to a decrease in the accidental death rate among children by 45%.
  • Traditional parenting was focused on strict rules and harsh punishment for disobedience. Kids were “to be seen and not heard” and consequently often ignored. The modern parent is more focused on the inclusion of children into their daily lives and provide children with more opportunities to express themselves in adult conversations.
  • Years back, parents relied mostly on family members for advice regarding parenting. Modern parents now have access to parenting experts, the latest research on childhood development and wider support groups to assist them in choosing their parenting styles and practices.
  • Discipline is one of the main areas in which parenting has changed. Traditionally children were disciplined with physical punishment. Modern parents are doing away with these practices and are now more focused on explaining to their kids why they are being punished, and children are made to understand that negative behavior will lead to them being put in “time-out’s” or having certain privileges removed for a time period.
  • Traditionally parents didn’t worry about building up their children’s self-esteem or providing them with “unconditional love”. In contrast this has become very important for the modern parent and as a result parents are administering far less spankings and more physical affection and praise. There is definitely an increase in the display of love and affection towards children in the current day compared to 40 years ago.
  •  Traditional parenting was more focused on teaching their children about things such as value for money, spending time outdoors exploring, shouldering responsibility at home and respecting their place within the community, and understanding the practice of good stewardship. Modern parents seems to have different focus areas in their parenting approach.
  • Traditional parents say “No” more often and are not afraid to hurt their children’s feelings. Modern parents are focused on nurturing their child so they feel confident in their individuality and are able to express their needs and emotions in a constructive way towards others.
  • Neuroscience technology and research has educated the modern parent about brain development, the role of attachment and how parents can help their kids to develop into well-balanced happy individuals, a privilege that previous generations did not have access to.


The question most modern parents are pondering, is how they can incorporate the parenting insights from previous generations and traditional techniques in this modern age?  Traditional parenting developed over years and years and relied on the learning and experience of many generations. Though some practices, like physical punishment, can be seen as negative, there are many practices from traditional parenting that are extremely advantageous in the modern world. Here are some traditional practices that could be incorporated:

  • Teaching your kids about manners, being polite, the values of good character and their contribution towards society.
  • Reacting consistently towards your kids, especially when it comes to discipline.
  • Encouraging exploration in the outdoors and limiting time in front of the TV, Ipad or Computer.
  • Previous generations did not experience as much confusion or anxiety about parenting practices. Though educating yourself is extremely important, the modern parent can learn from the previous generation to reduce anxiety, insecurity and confusion about their own parenting.
  • In the rat race that characterises the lives of most children today, parents can help their kids slow down and teach them the importance of quality time with others and just “being” instead of constantly being focused on “performing”.
  • Traditionally, mother and infant were in constant touch up to about 2 years. Research has shown that this tradition has major positive effects on the brain and emotional development of the infant and their ability to socialise and form intimate relationships as adults later in life. In most modern households this does not happen anymore.
  • Past generations understood the importance of responding to a crying baby. Many modern parenting approaches are telling parents that they need to rigidly organise their babies’ routines, defer their responses to crying and teach their babies to self-soothe and be independent. Research has shown that these practices actually have detrimental effects on childhood development. Previous generations had the right idea when they responded warmly and immediately to the cries of babies, understood the priority of the needs of the baby above their own, and allowed the infant to trust the external world because of their responsiveness to their needs irrespective of the time of day.
  • Traditional parents understood the importance of communal parenting and children were parented in conjunction with family members and friends. This is something we have lost in our modern society, and research has shown that children greatly benefit from having other adults round.

I believe that an approach that is able to incorporate the best of both worlds would be ideal. I believe that a parenting style that is loving yet firm, where parents understand their purpose to produce well adjusted, self-confident, caring individuals in society is the best way to go. I believe an approach that integrates theoretical learning and experiential learning is what is needed. Modern research and the consequential impact on parenting styles has provided knowledge that will greatly benefit the children of today, but there are many things that we can learn from the experience of previous generations that could also positively impact the development of the next generation.

We live in an age where knowledge and information is in full supply. Because of this moms are flooded with messages from their families, friends, books and medical practitioners. It can be quite daunting for a new mom to find her way amidst all these opinions. It is important to strike a balance between educating yourself about childhood development and parenting, and trusting your motherly instincts. Do not apply a parenting practice just because it is what your parents applied. Think it through, and trust your own instincts towards your child. Also make sure that you obtain the support from others. If you are emotionally and physically in a good place, you will have more energy and insight available to be the best parent you can be. Don’t be afraid to question the inputs of others.

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