7 Old-School Parenting Tips That Seem Crazy In The Modern Age

The most ridiculous—and in some cases, dangerous—parenting notions that we’re happy to see fading into history.

February 14, 2017
old school parenting

Parenting advice isn’t like wine. It doesn’t always get better with age. Sure, there’s the odd old-school chestnut that stands the test of time (treat others as you’d like to be treated; choose your battles) but a lot of what used to pass for common sense, it turns out, is total BS. Read on for the some of the most ridiculous—and in some cases, dangerous—outdated parenting notions that we’re happy to see fading into history. 

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Spank for discipline

Back in the day, spanking was seen as necessary to keep kids in line, but there’s no evidence that physical punishment eliminates problem behavior. There is, however, research to show that physically punishing kids can lead to increased aggression and mental health problems for children, plus it teaches kids it’s okay to hit. Ouch!

Related: 6 Parenting Tips From Around The World That Only Sound Crazy To Americans

baby wanting to be picked up
​Don’t pick up your baby too much

Handle the baby as little as possible. Turn it occasionally from side to side, feed it, change it, keep it warm, and let it alone.” This gem comes courtesy of Drs. Lena and William Sadler from their 1916 book, The Mother and Her Child. Childrearing books of the time warned parents not to kiss or cuddle babies too much for fear of spoiling a child. If only parents back then knew the power of touch, how it promotes healthy weight in newborns, boosts baby’s cognitive development and lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol in moms. 

Related: I Taught My Son To Bake By Giving Him Free Rein In The Kitchen

giving whiskey to baby
Haywood Magee/gettty
Use whiskey for teething

Put down the Jim Beam! While the old adage was that whiskey on the gums could soothe a teething baby, there’s no solid evidence that whiskey numbs, not to mention the fact that alcohol isn’t recommended for babies. Instead of the liquor cabinet, turn to the freezer. Experts now suggest a chilled teething toy.  Look for teething aids that are free of Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates (also known as plasticizers), and Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), such as the Sophie la Giraffe teether—it's 100% natural rubber and colored with non-toxic food paint.

Related: 4 Types of Baby Products You Should Buy Green (And One You Can Skip)

babies in crib
Put bumper pads in cribs

If Pinterest were a thing in the 50s, no doubt crib pics would be adorned with pastel-hued bumper pads snuggled around the interior of baby’s bed. The thinking was that bumpers protect baby’s head from hitting the side of the crib and keep baby’s arms and legs from getting caught between bars. Think again. Now parents know these seemingly innocent adornments are potential suffocation hazards linked to infant death and injury. A bare bed is best.

Related: 6 Ways to Eliminate Hidden Toxins from Your Baby’s Bedroom

child drawing
​Turn lefties right

Southpaw. Goofy. Wrong-handed. Being a lefty in a right-handed world was seen as a disadvantage—some even believed a child’s insistence on using their left hand was proof of a defiant personality—so many parents and educators “switched” kids, going so far as restraining a child’s left hand. No longer seen as a stigma, being left-handed boosts your chance of becoming president (4 out of the last 8 presidents are lefties) and could even mean a higher salary. One study found that college-educated lefties earned 21% more than their right-handed counterparts. 

mother hugging son
Boys don’t cry

It wasn’t only dads who pushed this dated parenting dictum; moms were guilty too. We now know that little boys are just as emotive as little girls and crying is a natural response. In fact, today’s research says that emotionally supportive parents have kids who are more socially well-adjusted than parents who punish kids for getting upset.

Related: Should You Really Let your Baby Cry It Out?

father hugging son
Children should be seen and not heard

The Victorian expression is still dropped occasionally, and no doubt you’ve felt the glares, like at the library when your little one doesn’t use his inside voice. That’s not to say parents shouldn’t set rules and boundaries, but the antiquated adage doesn’t teach kids what is acceptable—and it certainly doesn’t foster self-esteem. Todays' parents concur that kids should be seen AND heard—a Nickelodeon study found that more than half of parents seek their kids’ input.