21/12/2014 17:43 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The New Old-Fashioned Parent: Just Who Is In Charge Here?

The New Old-fashioned Parent: Just who is in charge here?

Sick of seeing (some) other people's children running amok, our columnist and parenting writer has decided enough is enough...

As a child of the 70s and 80s, you largely got dragged along with whatever your parents wanted or needed to do. If mum and dad decided to go to the pub, you sat outside in the car park, with a packet of salt and vinegar and a bottle of coke for company. If they had to go round the shops all day, you went along and dealt with the boredom by daydreaming.

You didn't dare answer back and you didn't get to choose who did what and when very often – maybe just on your birthday.

In my family and pretty much all my friends' this was the way - it was as transparent as the glass of the curvy coke bottle outside the pub, that your mum and dad were the bosses. Grown-ups were to be respected (teachers included) and had sanctions if you didn't do what you were told. Sometimes their ruling with a rod of iron ways were a bit scary as a small child, sometimes days were quite boring but we knew who was in charge: there was absolutely no question it was the adults.

Perhaps as a reaction to this dictatorial, 'what we say goes' approach of parenting days gone by, somewhere along the way mums and dads tended to run in the opposite direction towards a more liberal, democratic brand of family life.

Fine if it works for you but it certainly seems we're now left with too many children (hey and I'm not saying yours are like this but we probably all know some who are...) who don't seem to understand the meaning of the word 'no', aren't listening anyway or think they can just disregard anyone else's views.

The milder version of this is the 'democracy is king family' where everyone gets equal input - which doesn't seem so bad. The ones that are more of a worry are where the children have their parents well and truly wrapped around their small fingers; it's the offspring who are now the little dictators.

They determine everything from the choice of restaurant for family dinners out, setting the weekend schedule, picking what's for dinner because they will not eat x,y and z and what everyone watches on TV.

You could call this lot the Modern Flaky Family; the parents are so flaky in their ability to say no, that their children are running riot.

Sure, it's easier to allow whatever they want and avoid tantrums and yes I know 'we're all just doing our best' but these kids are growing up to think it's all about 'me, me, me' and that you pretty much get what you want if you stamp your feet and make a fuss.

How's that going to work when they've got a job or are in a relationship? How are they going to adjust to no longer being the absolute centre of attention when they leave home?


We all need to remind ourselves at times that being a parent isn't about always giving them what they want NOW, it's about helping our children become sensible, socially-functioning adults. They can still have a happy childhood even if we don't give into every demand. We parents need to be confident enough to take charge.


I'm not advocating going back to those days when the children had little or no input into what went on – by all means we should include them in decisions where appropriate and listen to their views. But there are times when we, as grown-ups with rather more experience of the world and more knowledge of what's right (well, usually), do know best and should be making the call on what's what. It's us who get to bang the gavel and give the verdict on what's allowed.
Mother (and father) did know best and mostly we still do.

The New Old-fashioned Parenting rules: on being in charge

Let the children give their views and not just for the sake of it – new old-fashioned parenting does take them into account...
...But your say is final! It's your money they want to spend, your time and you are the grown-ups probably with a much wider perspective of the world than they can possibly have.

Don't just give in to demands because it's easier.

Remember there's long term gain for short term pain. Teaching a toddler to sit at the table is harder work than giving in to their whinges during dinner and letting them get down and run around. But it's worth it – eventually they'll get it.

A bit of democracy is fine: at the very least everyone in the family gets a turn at choosing things but if the kids are doing so more often than the parents, think carefully about whether this is something you want to continue with.

Old old-fashioned parents (OOPs) versus new old-fashioned parents (NOPs) versus Modern Flakies – which kind of parent are you?

OOPs didn't negotiate.

NOPs tell their children clearly when something is non-negotiable (e.g. school night bedtime) but allow them some input and take their views into account where appropriate (which programme to watch after dinner on Saturday early evening).

Modern Flakies have their children tell them when something is non-negotiable and are allowed some input and say when their five-year-old decides it's appropriate.

OOPs gave naughty children a good thrashing and scared the life out of them.

NOPs use sanctions and rewards smartly to encourage better behaviour and make very clear what is and isn't acceptable.

Modern Flakies' children assume it's all part of self-expression (or don't even notice their kids are being badly behaved anyway...)

OOPs went to the pub for a drink and left the offspring out in the car with crisps and coke.

NOPs go to a family-friendly pub with their kids and expect them to sit at the table rather than running about between them.

Modern Flakies go to the pub and let their children stand on the table.

Liat Hughes Joshi's book based on these columns, New Old-fashioned Parenting, is published by Summersdale/ Vie.