We must reluctantly admit that parenting norms are improving

Happy family together
Family values have improved drastically from what they once were - Getty

You will have seen the news that doctors are calling on the Government to ban smacking. You will also not be surprised that this is widely supported. Most of us agree it’s better that parents don’t smack their children because violence begets violence – but mainly because it doesn’t work. Also, like it or not, we must reluctantly admit that parenting norms are getting better with every generation.

Obviously there are some things that are worse – mums on their phones when they should be engaging with their toddlers for one – but for every bad modern habit there’s a counterbalancing good one. Dads with papooses. Dads who can cook their children’s supper from scratch and put them to bed. Mums who smile beatifically during a throwdown before mouthing “Use your Words”. (The “Use your Words” line is quite annoying but still it’s better than bawling “SHUT IT”). In case any of us are under the impression that things were better when we were kids, here’s a short list of some of the things no one misses:

Being in a car with the windows up and one or two adults smoking

This was considered perfectly normal, if you remember, and, while being unpleasant and unhealthy, succeeded in turning us all into smokers at the age of 11 (might as well). Oddly, at the same time we were sent to schools where smoking was punishable by instant expulsion and so the same children who were being puffed over at home were getting chucked out for puffing Player’s No 6 behind the gym and their education never recovered.

Having to wear Viyella shirts and woollen school uniform that felt like sandpaper against the skin

It also gave you eczema if, like me, you were prone to eczema. But in those days no one was much interested in things like eczema and would just tell you to stop scratching. I had Matey bubble bath as a treat at the weekends and in retrospect that was like pouring petrol on flames, as were my stretchy nylon pyjamas and wool vest.


I had a red sou’wester, the hat and the coat, and I remember it well because I was always cold and damp when wearing my sou’wester, which I was supposed to love. Maybe I did love it but I can’t think why. I look at children now in their mini puffas and fleece-lined parkas and their pull-on rubber ankle boots and think, you have no idea. We had Ladybird, they have Mini Boden and Zara for kids and shoe shops all of their own.

All the food

At my school in Edinburgh we had haggis on Fridays and there was a rule that no one could drink water with their lunch in case it filled them up so that they were unable to eat every last bone-dry crumb. I used to pray every night that the haggis delivery would go astray or that my mother would relent and send me in with sandwiches. She did not.

The threat of Dad

“You wait till your father gets home” was a popular line for the stay-at-home mums of our generation. But being encouraged to worry about your father coming home because you had refused to eat your eggs (food at home quite disappointing too) seems like bad policy.

Summer holidays

Unless it was a bucket and spade in Cornwall – fine, just extra uncomfortable, see sou’westers and eczema – it was something like a sightseeing tour of Rome and Pompeii with hot, crowded coaches in between. There was a good chance you would be coach sick. Would a Forte Village family holiday with a kids’ club and a tennis coach and vouchers for unlimited milkshakes have been more fun, had it existed? Probably.

Odd schools

My headmistress once washed my mouth out with soap using her hand (for saying “bloody” in her hearing). Quite peculiar and the sort of the thing that’s unlikely to occur now. Which is good.