When I was a child, back in the Parenting Stone Age, your parents were the most important people in the family. They acted like they were bigger than you were too, like they knew what they were doing and didn’t need your help making decisions. They spoke in no uncertain terms, and they thought you were smart, so they said anything only once. The rule was very simple: They told you what to do, and you did it because they said so.
Your mom and dad paid more attention to one another than to you. You didn’t think about that at all. But looking back, you are glad you weren’t the center of the family universe. You were a satellite, orbiting around their solid presence.
They bought you very little, so you appreciated everything you had. And you took care of it. When your bike broke, you figured out how to fix it. Or your dad fixed it. In either case, you understood you weren’t getting a new one, not any time soon. You loved your mom and dad, but you left home as early as possible because you were absolutely certain you could make a better life for yourself than they were willing to make for you.
Back then, elementary school classes often held more than 40 children, most of whom came to first grade not knowing their ABCs. Your mother didn’t give you much, if any, help with your homework. Yet at the end of first grade, and every subsequent grade in fact, those kids were outperforming today’s kids in every subject.
Today’s parents treat their children as if they are the most important people in the family. When they talk to them, they get down to their level, like they’re petitioning the king, and they whine, as in, “Do you think you can stop what you’re doing for a minute and help Mommy carry in the groceries?” Parents ask children to do things, and children take the requests under consideration.
So today’s kids leave home later, and many of them come back because they never learned certain fundamentals, as in don’t spend more than you earn.
Sometimes people accuse me of what’s called “Golden Age” thinking. I only say what is statistically verifiable: The 1950s were a better time for kids. According to mental health statistics, we were happier than today’s kids and research also finds that kids from homes where their parents’ marriages are strong do better in school.