American parents have been listening to psycho-babblers tell them how to raise children since the late 1960s. In graduate school, my professors thought the babblers were geniuses, correcting all the egregious wrongs parents had done to children. Children were about to enter a golden age in which their opinions would not only be listened to but also taken into consideration. And they would be allowed to express their feelings freely! And parents and teachers were going to tell them how wonderful they were, so children would do more and more wonderful things, and peace and love would fill the universe!
It didn’t turn out quite that way. Indeed, parents and teachers did all the “right” things. Nearly everything they did was pretty much the opposite of previous generations of parents. The result? Well, let’s just say the Age of Aquarius has yet to dawn.
Child mental health in America, across the demographic spectrum, has declined markedly in the last 50 years. Compared with a kid from my generation, today’s child is five to 10 times more likely to become clinically depressed before his or her 16th birthday. Parenting has become the most stressful thing a woman will do in her adult life.
When are parents — mothers, especially — going to get it? When are they going to wake up to the fact that the babblers have done nothing but damage? In my estimation, the Age of Aquarius will begin when parents shut the babblers down and return parenting — to borrow from the vernacular of the 1960s — back to the people!
I’ll highlight a few of the more salient features of pre-1960s childhood. But before I do, I’ll respond to those who claim that I “idealize” the 1950s. No, I do not. I simply maintain what is verifiable fact: American children were better off then — as well off as they’d ever been and certainly happier than today’s kids.
The biggest difference was that mom and dad paid more attention to one another than they paid attention to their kids. We were supposed to pay attention to them, not they to us. And so, by the time we went to school, we’d learned to give our undivided attention to adults, which is why we were taught successfully (our academic achievement was much higher than today’s kids). By the time we were in our early elementary years, we were doing more for our moms, in the form of chores, than they were doing for us. And our moms expected us to figure out our own entertainment, do our own homework, settle our own squabbles, lie in the beds we made, and stew in our own juices.
We were allowed to express our opinions, but they didn’t count for much (and shouldn’t have). And no, we were definitely not allowed to express our feelings freely. Have you ever met someone who expresses his or her feelings, without regard for others? That’s an obnoxious, narcissistic boor.
Finally, I am a proud member of the last generation of American kids who weren’t allowed to have high self-esteem. When a child back then had an outburst of high self-esteem, his parents told him he was too big for his britches.
Yet we were happier. We may have missed the Aquarian train, but I hear it ran off the tracks sometime around 1975.
John Rosemond answers questions at www.rosemond.com.