"Parenting" is a New Phenomenon

Years ago, there was no such thing as parenting.  The industry of parenting…  Parents needed kids to help them—to work on the farm, to do jobs, to support their family structure.  They needed kids to bring in money, but that’s about as far as parenting went.  And as times progressed, people parented intuitively, or like they had been parented, which had very little thought behind it.  The history of parenting in this country includes parents in apartment dwelling, putting their children in cages, suspended in the outside to air them.  But they left them there for eight hours.  And then when survival no longer depended on needing kids around, people started to think about how they felt.  And how their mothers treated them.  I think Freud in the 1920s was the first person to really make an impact about thinking about childhood.  So it’s been the last 100 years when we really started to experiment, talk about, and think about, how we were parented. 

This is new.  What we do with a child, that child remembers.  What we give to that child, emotionally, physically, and often gift-wise, that child remembers.  Everything that we do and everything we don’t do...  One of my audience members told me that he was obsessed with building models.  He related a story about when he was a child, and it was holiday time, his parents would ask him what he wanted.  He would make a list for them, on which he would write down the numbers of the models he wanted.  He never got them.  He has never forgotten that.  You know, when soldiers came back after WWII, they had left their parents in charge of some of their belongings (e.g., guitars, pets, etc.), and when they came back, and the pets were gone, and the guitars were gone, they were crushed.  And often, their parents said, “We didn’t think you were coming back.”  It gets to go from an emotional to a physical hit.  Emotional damage can feel physical, and this is not without reason.  Innumerable studies have demonstrated the negative health effects of emotional harm, such as an increase or decrease of certain key chemicals in the brain, in addition to higher blood pressure and an increased rate of heart attack or stroke.