Shaking Up Childhood

Parental advice has changed markedly over the years. Some of it has stayed pretty much the same.

We talk a lot these days about children’s mental health and clearly that’s a good thing.

But what about in the 1910s and 1920s? Not so much! The context of the day was different and we can’t judge in the same way but there were some things advised that would rattle a few cages now.

Try this on as an example.

Experts encouraged parents to put their baby in an oversized shoe!

They believed handling your baby as little as possible was a good thing.

Look at this poor little blighter….

Baby Advice 1910s

It was argued at the time by some that affectionate behaviour could make children overly dependent on their parents and engender the premature development of sexual impulses.

Experts were covered in more mystique than they are today so many people listened…..although not all. There was some advice given that met with opposition then as it would be now.

For example, there was an American psychologist called John B. Watson who warned parents of giving children too much love and affection. He said that love was a reaction that, if evoked too much or too often, would lead to overcoddling, which would later be manifest in adults who needed coddling.

He described child rearing as a science and in his book Psychological Care of Infant and Child, he said,

Never hug and kiss [children], never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning… Try it out. In a week’s time you will find how easy it is to be perfectly objective with your child and at the same time kind. You will be utterly ashamed of the mawkish, sentimental way you have been handling it.

This view isn’t popular. On the contrary, research reveals how having warm, loving parents as a child helps you flourish as an adult.

Human contact is hugely important to a baby’s development and there are lots of studies that have concluded warmth and affection from parents to their children results in life-long positive outcomes.

But despite this, there are some who question the advice given to parents and children about physical boundaries today.

For example, in the US, Girl Scouts chiefs have flagged up concerns that hugging could be seen as “forced affection” in certain situations and give children the wrong idea about consent.

Being a kid has never been easy.

So, whether you decide to hug your child or shake hands with them, whatever you do makes a big difference in later life.

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