Mum ‘traumatised’ after reading 1940s parenting manual to get advice

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A mum who had her first baby four years ago says she was left traumatized after reading a 1940s parenting book to get advice on raising children. Caroline Hemmingham had tried a number of parenting manuals and came across the 1944 book – republished in the 50s – then decided to give it a read.

Caroline, a journalist at HullLive, said: “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.”

She added: “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.

“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.”

The book advises spanking children who are badly behaved, or giving a slap on the hand, and doling out corporal punishment if a child is ‘purposefully doing all the things he knows are forbidden, and who as evening comes makes a terrific scene about going to bed’.

The book goes on to give ea case study of a three-year-old girl who was cured of crying in the night by the threat and reality of spanking. Caroline said: “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.”

The book also recommends spanking if a child doesn’t eat their food.

Here are a few other ‘gems’ Caroline found in the book…

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…”

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 .

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!

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 with 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?!

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