Old School Parenting Today: When Saying is Believing

By Meta J. Mereday


Famous columnist Abigail Van Buren once wrote, “If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”

The role of parents has taken many twists and turns and while many families are following non traditional models, they are still looking to the sayings of our parents to help with child rearing.  Taking a trip down memory lane from the “spare the rod, spoil the child” approach to punishment to the infamous, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say” statement for role modeling.

We tracked sayings for parents from famous people and everyday folks to discover what they found most useful in raising their children and the lessons that can be learned by parents of today. 

These individuals came upon their wisdom not by rule books or laboratory experiments but by the hands on, seat of their pants approach every parent experiences when they are handed a baby in a blanket and a bill in their hands.

Erma Bombeck wrote, “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe   playpen.  When they’re finished, I climb out.”

While there are many guidebooks and courses that are designed to help parents, the process of parenting is not an exact science because the newborn has their own unique characteristics that have to be followed and tracked and sayings for parents are outgrowths of that relationship. 

Rose Kennedy, the matriarch of the Kennedy family once said, “Whenever I held my newborn baby in my arms, I used to think that what I said and did to him could have an influence not only on him but on all whom he met, not only for a day or a month or a year, but for all eternity – a very challenging and exciting thought for a mother.”   

According to Bill Cosby in his book Fatherhood, “In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything.  You just need a lot of love and luck – and, of course, courage.”

Being courageous with the many challenges that impact parents and affect child rearing makes the practice even more daunting. 

The many distractions that parents have today has generated a renewed reliance on “tried and true” sayings for parents that they remembered during their childhood. 

Dennis Williams, a New York based father of 7-year-old son Christian, uses many sayings he remembers from his mother.  

“’Do the best you can, cause that’s all you can do’ my Mama used to say. And my favorite was, ‘Don’t let (anyone) hear you say that…’ and she would use that with family members who were pursuing her wise counsel and with her soft tone, she would often dissuade them from their initial action and inspire a more desirable course,” Williams adds, “To this day, I utilize these and other sayings on various occasions and, when I do, I smile and think of only the fondest memories of her.”

         There are many saying for parents that I am sure take you down memory lane or help to forge your own parenting path.  Using them wisely makes all the difference in the world and helps to make your children more responsible parents themselves.

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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