Many years ago, the Ann Landers’ advice column which was carried in newspapers across the United States published ’12 rules for raising children’. I came across these recently and have been wondering if these parenting tips are still relevant or not, especially as family life has changed so much.
One thing that is striking is how much more secular families are nowadays. While religion still matters greatly to many people, it is not as fundamentally important for all families as it once was.
Family structures have also changed substantially – moving away from the presumed ‘norm’ of a married heterosexual couple where mum stays home to raise the children, to a more culturally diverse mix with families of varying sizes, same sex parents, blended and one parent families that create new parenting dynamics, challenges and rewards.
Do you think these 12 parenting tips have stood the test of time? Are they relevant to your family?
Ann Landers was a pen name created by Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ruth Crowley in 1943 and taken over by Esther Pauline “Eppie” Lederer in 1955.
For 56 years, the Ask Ann Landers syndicated advice column was a regular feature in many newspapers across North America. “Ann Landers” became something of a national institution and cultural icon.
Here’s the advice column letter and reply:
Dear Ann Landers: Several years ago, you printed Twelve Rules for Raising Children. I carried the column in my wallet until it became so dog-eared and yellowed with age that it is no longer legible.
Please print it again, Ann. It’s worth a repeat.
San Antonio Mother
Dear Mother: Here it is. Thanks for asking.
#1. A Child is a Gift
Remember that a child is a gift from God, the richest of all blessings. Do not attempt to mold him in the image of yourself, your father, your brother or your neighbor. Each child is an individual and should be permitted to be himself.
Updated for 2022:
Remember that a child is a gift. Do not attempt to mold her or him in the image of yourself, your mother or father, your sister or brother or your neighbor. Each child is an individual and should be permitted to be themselves.
#2. Be Careful about Comparisons
Don’t crush a child’s spirit when he fails. And never compare him with others who have outshone him.
#3. Encourage Your Child to Talk
Remember that anger and hostility are natural emotions. Help your child to find socially acceptable outlets for these normal feelings or they may be turned inward and erupt in the form of physical or mental illness.
Updated for 2022:
Remember that anger and hostility are natural emotions. Talk to your child if you notice they are feeling angry, remind them that these feelings are normal and that “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Bottling things up can be bad for you.
#4. Fair Discipline
Discipline your child with firmness and reason. Don’t let your anger throw you off balance. If he knows you are fair, you will not lose his respect or his love. And make sure the punishment fits the crime. Even the youngest child has a keen sense of justice.
#5. United Parents
Remember that each child needs two parents. Present a united front. Never join with your child against your mate. This can create in your child (as well as in yourself) emotional conflicts. It can also create feelings of guilt, confusion and insecurity.
Updated for 2022:
Your child needs a loving family, however big or small that may be. If you are co-parenting with a spouse or a former partner, present a united front. Never join with your child against their other parent. This can create in your child (as well as in yourself) emotional conflicts. It can also create feelings of guilt, confusion and insecurity.
#6. Try to Give Your Child the Chance to Be Responsible
Do not hand your child everything his little heart desires. Permit him to know the thrill of earning and the joy of achieving. Grant him the greatest of all satisfactions, the pleasure that comes with personal accomplishment.
#7. Be Honest
Do not set yourself up as the epitome of perfection. This is a difficult role to play 24 hours a day. You will find it easier to communicate with your child if you let him know that Mom and Dad can err too.
#8. Avoid Impossible Promises and Threats
Don’t make threats in anger or impossible promises when you are in a generous mood. Threaten or promise only that which you can live up to. To a child, a parent’s word means everything. The child who has lost faith in his parents has difficulty believing in anything.
#9. Don’t Smother Your Child
Do not smother your child with superficial manifestations of “love”. The purest and healthiest love expresses itself in day-in, day-out training, which breeds self-confidence and independence.
#10. Teach Them the Value of Work
Teach your child there is dignity in hard work, whether it is performed with callused hands that shovel coal or skilled fingers that manipulate surgical instruments. Let him know a useful life is a blessed one and a life of ease and pleasure-seeking is empty and meaningless.
#11. Don’t Be Overprotective
Do not try to protect your child against every small blow and disappointment. Adversity strengthens character and makes us compassionate. Trouble is the great equalizer. Let him learn it.
#12. Teach Them the Value of Work
Teach your child to love God and to love his fellow men. Don’t send your child to a place of worship, take him there. Children learn from example. Telling him something is not teaching him. If you give your child a deep and abiding faith in God, it can be his strength and his light when all else fails.
Updated for 2022:
Teach your child to love themselves and to love their fellow people. Children learn from example. Telling them something is not teaching them. So work on loving yourself and loving others (even if that can be difficult sometimes!).