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  • Writer's pictureErin Schoen Marsh

"A Good Spanking Never Hurt Anyone" and Other Parenting Debates (Toledo Parent)

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Is technology the reason parenting styles have changed so dramatically over the last two decades?

We’ve all heard or said the equivalent of, “Back in the day, parents always/never used to [fill in the blank].”

“We always put our babies to sleep on their bellies and they turned out fine.”

“That kid just needs a good spanking. Back in our day, parents weren’t afraid to discipline their children.”

Much has changed in the world of parenting, and Toledo Parent has been there to track the changes since its debut twenty-five years ago. Whether you talk to a grandparent, young mother, or pediatrician, they all agree on one thing: the changes have been plentiful.

Rise of Technology

The discussion of changes in parenting over the years inevitably leads to the influence of technology. Mary Wyar, wedding/lifestyle photographer and mother of Locke (6) and Fox (3), muses, “I feel like my parents parented the exact same way as their parents did, and they didn’t really think about the choices they were making. They followed the same path their parents did without necessarily analyzing it.”

Wyar elaborates, “We have a lot more resources than our parents did. We can get on our computers or phones and research something. They did the best they could with the resources they had.”

Dr. Robert Mills, Senior Partner of PediatriCare Associates. who has been practicing pediatrics for just over 30 years, reiterates this point: “Questions from our parents have become more and more sophisticated with the advent of the internet and social media. As would be predicted, this can be very beneficial, or [it] can actually be harmful depending on the validity of the information.”

“Many parents come into our office loaded with excellent questions after doing online research regarding certain medical conditions,” expounds Dr. Mills. “Unfortunately, medical information is sometimes sensationalized and causes undue fear.... A recent example was an internet story on the dangers of ‘dry drowning.’ For weeks, I answered questions from many concerned parent...I had to remind them that some authors...are paid per ‘click’ and to reassure them of the rarity of this condition.”

Mary Schoen, intervention specialist, mother and grandmother, echoes these sentiments: “As a whole, there are lot of more bells and whistles to parenting than we had. Kids have iPads, iPhones, streaming movies--all at their whim. We had to wait until 8:00 to watch The Grinch!”

“There are so many things to entertain the kids at such an early age, and you have to monitor your kids a lot more than we did--what’s online, what’s on TV, what’s on Netflix,” Schoen continues. “We simply had to keep track of our kids’ friends and who their parents were. Everything was much more family-oriented then; there weren’t TV shows you couldn’t watch. We didn’t have the fear of the ‘bad guy’ out there like you guys have.”

Parenting and Education

Mary Schoen has been teaching for 30 years, both in private and public schools, and she has noticed an overall decline of parent involvement. “25 years ago, most of the moms were stay-at-home-moms and you had a lot more parent participation. Parents were volunteering, involved in the education process, and concerned about their children’s grades.”

Schoen continues, “If you called home with a problem or if a student wasn’t doing well in class, they would back you up. Parents would work with the student at home or talk to the student about proper behavior in the classroom. There was usually some kind of punishment at home as well.”

“I think parents question the teacher’s authority much more than they did in the past,” Schoen concludes.

Wyar observes education through the eyes of a parent and offers an alternative view. “I think the expectations on the kids and parents are higher than they used to be,” Wyar says. “Many issues fell through the cracks, things that required speech therapy and OT, but maybe the kids are just being overanalyzed now.”

Wyar illustrates with a personal example: “Locke’s teacher says he has a weakened core because he can’t sit still during reading time, but I feel like they’re boys and they shouldn’t be expected to sit still at 5 or 6.”

Even extracurricular activities carry higher stakes these days. Wyar reminisces, “When we were kids, sports were something you just went to the rec center to sign up for when you were in middle school. Now there’s this pressure at 4 years old to have your kids involved in something--violin lessons, travel swim team, travel soccer team--at 5 years old. Having your kid...committed to something at such a young age is tough.”

Dr. Mills adds, “I have also found more parents stressing over educational issues as their children become young adults. With cell phones and social media allowing for instantaneous and frequent contact with students ‘away’ at college, parents have been challenged to find the right balance for interacting with their developing young adults.”

Views and opinions on parenting may differ, but everyone can agree on one thing: we want our children to be happy and loved. Schoen stresses, “We still want our kids to have lots of different experiences, to be exposed to a lot of different things. We want them to have a better life than we had.

What are your thoughts on these parenting changes? Comment below!


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