I read a parenting book from the 1950s and was horrified by its advice

[ad_1]

Since becoming a parent almost four years ago I have read many parenting books. I am the sort of person who likes to have a bit of guidance and instruction with most things in life.

As much as I’d like to, I’ve never been someone who can just “wing it” or “go with the flow”. I’m way too much of a control freak to be able to do that.

When I had my first daughter, Georgie, I was constantly searching high and low for guidance on anything and everything from feeding to sleeping to how to dress her. I was a bag of nerves.

Read more: We asked five mums to give us their best advice for getting a toddler to sleep

And even after having my second, I still found myself soaking up any information I could which I thought might just make this whole parenting malarkey a little easier. Although there are loads and loads of different books, websites, Instagram accounts and YouTube channels out there now that give a host of differing views, I feel the general consensus and most favorable type of parenting method these days is “gentle parenting”.

We’re advised to let the baby lead the way when it comes to feeding, with breast being the most recommended method of feeding for new mums. And letting them feed “on demand” and for as long as they want to is also advised.

Gentle discipline for toddlers is recommended which includes getting down on the child’s level, avoiding raised voices and certainly no form of physical punishment. So having had all this drummed into my head since I became a mum, I was actually quite stunned when I read what was advised to mums in an old parenting book I stumbled across recently.

“The Intelligent Parents’ Manual” was originally published in 1944 and then published by Penguin books in 1953. It’s what I can only assume would have been a well respected and recommended guide for new mums and dads back then.

I obviously knew it was going to contain different information and advice to what we’re given today. And actually, I did pick up a couple of good tips in the book.

But I was honestly left quite traumatized by one section in particular.

“Spanking – not only excusable but beneficial”

In the chapter called ‘”Two to six years” it talks about “appropriate punishments” and there is a lot of information and guidance about spanking your child and why this can be “beneficial” to them. It says: “‘Is one ever justified in spanking a child? adults invariably ask.

“This is because all parents at one time or another have been at their wits’ ends to know how to control their children’s behavior. There are certain rare occasions when a spanking or a well-administered slap on the hand is not only excusable but beneficial .

“A child who has been behaving in a truculent way all the afternoon, purposefully doing all the things he knows are forbidden, and who as evening comes makes a terrific scene about going to bed, may possibly profit from spanking.”

The book goes on to give a case study as an example of “beneficial spanking” and talks about a three-year-old little girl called Mary.

“She began to wake up in the night yelling loudly,” it says. “The sound of her shrieks penetrated every room of the lightly constructed cottage they were then living in, and disturbed every member of the family.

“Her mother would rush in, turn on the light, and try to quiet her. The child would then insist on the mother’s staying with her until she had gone back to sleep.

“At first the mother thought she was having nightmares, and tried to be comforting and reassuring. As this night crying continued over a period of weeks, however, the mother decided she was crying to get attention.



A stock image of a father spanking a child.

”’Mary, she said, ‘I can’t have you crying this way every night, for you wake everyone up. If you cry tonight I will spank you’.

“Mary cried and her mother spanked her. She howled and raged during the spanking, but from that time on she ceased making the nightly scene…’

My daughter is three-years-old and the thought of hitting her because she has woken upset in the night is just absolutely insane to me. Of course little Mary “ceased the nightly scene'”- she must have been terrified!

It makes me really uneasy to think how many people would have read this and acted on the book’s advice. The book then goes onto give another case study about a four-year-old who stopped eating well but after a good spanking “was soon eating as heartily as before…'”. wow.

So what else did I learn from the book? Well, aside from spanking, there was another part that I found quite surprising and a little sad.

Don’t give your baby too many cuddles

In the section of the book called “Feeding the infant” it talks about the benefits of breastfeeding and about how it can be beneficial to the baby and the mum. But, it goes onto say: “A word of warning should be given here. Just as an excess of any good thing may become harmful, so may an overindulgence in the nursing relationship become unhealthy for the baby.

“Too many caresses, too much emotion lavished, may accustom a child to so much pleasure in being touched and handled that all future relationships may seem cold and unsatisfactory by comparison.” It adds: “A mother who over-indulges her child in this way is usually a woman whose emotional life is unsatisfactory…”



A stock image of a mother feeding her baby.

Wow, again. It goes onto give another case study, this time about a child who, in a nutshell, had too many cuddles and ended up sulking and having tantrums when they no longer got the attention they were used to getting.

Imagine telling a new mum nowadays that she mustn’t cuddle her baby too much?!

Don’t breastfeed for too long

And on the subject of breastfeeding, the book also recommends the mother to start weaning the baby onto a bottle after they are one or two months old. It says: ‘Keeping a child at the breast after he is over nine months or at most a year old is bad for him, because he keeps him in an emotionally infantile state and is likely to make him over-dependent on his mother.’

Any good advice…?!

Well, despite what you’ve just read, it actually wasn’t all bad. I’ve got a two-year-old son and I did pick up a couple of bits of advice which I have put into practice with him since reading the book. One thing was regarding potty training. Something that I really found a battle with my eldest so have not looked forward to going through again.

It seems a really simple thing when I think about it but I’ve actually never read this before. The book advises that once you recognize the time of day that your child goes to the toilet (a number two) encourage them to sit them on the potty regularly at this time of day so that they associate going to the toilet with sitting on the potty .



A stock image of a family in the garden.

I thought that was quite a good tip. Another piece of advice for two-year-olds was to let them be outside as much as possible. It talks about how parents should have an outdoor space where they can play safely and ideally where they can play with mud, sand and water to make mud pies.

I thought this was great and have since encouraged my boy to be outside more and more. My instinct has also always been to try and stop him from getting too messy or mucky but the book goes onto say how it’s cruel to try and keep a two-year-old clean and tidy. Music to my ears!

What do you think of the advice in the parenting book? Let us know in the comments section

There were other parts of the book where the advice was pretty relaxed too – for example if a child sucks their thumb, the advice is don’t draw too much attention to the matter and they will grow out of it, which I was quite surprised to read.

So in summary, I am pleased this book is no longer on the shelves because I know only too well how impressionable new parents are. But maybe a revised version with some of the dodgy bits taken out could work?!

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.