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10 Parenting Practices That Are Now Taboo


Even though we all turned out fine, there are loads of things our parents did that would get parents today in serious trouble. From inadequate safety to starting solids way too young, check out our gallery to see if any of these sound eerily familiar to your own childhood.

Here are 10 past parenting practices that are now considered taboo.

1. Leaving Kids Alone in the Car

a young girl looking out the window of a car

If your kid was cranky--or asleep--and you had to go into the store for a bit, what would you do? Probably skip it, or try to go as quickly as possible while managing your kid’s meltdown. What did our parents do? They left us in the car. Alone. Doing that today would get you in some serious trouble. Leaving children alone in your car is illegal in 19 states and highly discouraged in all others.

2. Smoking While Pregnant

a pregnant mom smoking a cigarette

We all know now that smoking during pregnancy contributes to low birth-weight, prematurity, asthma, ear infections, and a host of other issues. Back in the day, doctors recommended against quitting smoking when you were pregnant because it was considered too stressful on mother and child. Doctors also discouraged moms from gaining more than 10-25 pounds, and smoking was thought to help limit weight gain.

3. Walking to School, Alone

a young girl walking on a basketball court

I have many early memories of walking to school alone. I knew that I was finally a big girl because I could walk the mile to school without my mom--since I was in first grade. I’m an October baby so that means I was five years old when I started walking to school. My son is almost 6 and neither he, nor any of his classmates, is allowed anywhere alone. Ever. Frankly, seeing a child any younger than 10 years old alone is often a reason people call the police these days.

4. Letting Kids Go Free Range

a young girl petting a dog

The "Free Range" movement didn't have a name back in the 70s and 80s--it was just how it was. When you woke up in the morning, you ran outside to play, and you stayed outside until it was time for dinner. These days if a parent can’t point out their child, then they’re too far away. The modern child’s free time is much more regimented and scheduled into play dates, sports practice, study groups, and lessons.

5. Seat Belts, Schmeat Belts

a young boy holding onto a car's steering wheel

Seat belt laws vary by state, but most of today's parents had much looser seat belt rules when they were growing up. The rule in my house was that you only had to wear seat belts on long trips. Children today should rear-face until two years old, be in a five-point harness until the weight limit on the seat, and then a booster until 12 years of age.

6. No Car Seats

a young toddler sitting in a car seat

Whenever my mother tries to buckle any of her grandchildren into their 5-point harness car seats she gets flustered. We’ve had lots of laughs reminiscing about how my sister was born before car seats were readily available so she rode around on the floor of the car. Two years later when I came along, car seats were finally coming into popularity. I asked my mother to describe what my seat looked like. In her words: “well, it was kind of like a plastic bathtub that you put on the floor.” Thanks mom!

7. Lap Sitting While Driving

a young boy sitting on his dads lap while driving a car

A few years ago Britney Spears exclaimed, “We’re country, y’all!” when she was busted by the paparazzi while driving with her son on her lap. Child Protective Services became involved in her case. In the 70s, most parents thought it was cute.

8. Playing Without Protection

a young boy riding his bike along outside

A few decades ago, the only protective equipment kids had access to was for serious sports. Football and hockey players, baseball catchers, and boys wearing cups were the extent of the protected—anyone else would have been ridiculed. Roller skating, bike riding, and sledding were where we earned our battle scars. The youth of today (and their parents) can receive fines of up to $50 in some states for riding or skating without an approved helmet.

9. Starting Solids Early

a young boy being spoon fed by his mom

Common practice today is no solids before six months, though some people start as early as four. But according to my 70s-era baby book, I was fed rice cereal and applesauce starting at two weeks, as per the pediatrician’s recommendation. In the 70s parents were told to start solids as early as FOUR DAYS OLD in order to ensure their child would not be a picky eater. Now we know that infants have a tongue thrust reflex, where they instinctively push solids out of their mouths until around four months old, if not later. Back then it was a point of pride if your infant was “trained” out of it well before then. Now we worry that starting any earlier can lead to allergies and obesity.

10. Sending Kids Out for Smokes

a no smoking sign

Parents used to ask kids to run errands for them. While my parents weren’t smokers, my grandparents and my parents’ friends were. On more than one occasion I was sent to the store with money and a note asking the store owner to kindly sell me some cigarettes. I was never turned away. If a store sold cigarettes to a child today, the store would be fined up to a few thousand dollars and could lose its license to sell tobacco products. The seller could also be charged with a misdemeanor.

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