Parenting 80’s Style

Mark Parenting, Popular 9 Comments

babycare book m&sWhen it comes to parenting styles I’m a big advocate of the hindsight method.

You’ll need a second child to truly see the benefits, but then having a spare is never a bad thing, just don’t refer to them as such. Better to call them your eldest.

The hindsight method is a natural successor to the winging it method I deployed on Sonny, and before you start feeling sorry for him it’s worth bearing in mind he does get first dibs on new clothes. So, swings and roundabouts.

That’s not to say I didn’t try reading parenting books as an expectant father. I did. The problem was they grew up far faster than I could read. When I should have been saying, ‘this is what to expect next’, you’d be far more likely to hear, ‘so that’s where we went wrong!’

I’m not saying parenting books are bad per se, but what I am saying is at least check the publication date first, because advice changes. Attitudes change. What Supernanny tells you is right today might be so very, very wrong tomorrow.

This is what my mum and dad were reading when I was a child. Published in 1980. Just one generation ago.

And this is no ordinary parenting book either; this is an M&S parenting book, 80’s style …

80's father photoFathers-to-be

“Newborns rarely look as beautiful as in television commercials. A father-to-be who takes time to study photographs of how a baby looks immediately after birth will not be alarmed if, initially, his own baby looks like a red or purple wizened old man or woman.”

(Wise words indeed. This blog was very nearly called The Tales of Sonny & Yoda.)

hospital photo 80's


In Hospital

“However busy the hospital routine, take time to care for your skin, nails and hair to make yourself look presentable. Tie a new ribbon in your hair before your husband visits … If you begin in hospital, you are much more likely to continue when you get home.”

(Because you really don’t want to go sullying those earliest memories with yesterdays ribbon. You think I didn’t notice Janet. I did. Everyone did.)

ironing photo 80's


At Home

“Have a nutritious breakfast with your husband, rather than a cup of coffee and a cigarette.”

(Coffee and a cigarette isn’t nutritious? Shit!)

“Use what time you have in the afternoon wisely, so you’re not too tired when your husband comes home … do not iron kitchen towels and underwear. If your husband is agreeable, iron only the parts of his shirt that show.”

(Agreeable? I was bloody livid!)

“Unless you are quite sure your plumbing can cope with the disposal of nappies, it is better to incinerate them.”

(See, there WAS more fog when we were growing up. And people mock me when I speak of the Great Nappy Smog of ’82.)

chores 80's kitchen



“A two-year or three-year old will empty waste-paper baskets and wipe fingerprints and dust quite competently. Give him child-sized mops, brooms and dust-pans. Introduce each one slowly so that by about five a child can handle a vacuum cleaner and iron responsibly. Don’t be tempted to give money for the jobs done.”

(Clearly my mum skipped this chapter. I nearly lost a nipple leaning over a hot iron, although in her defence at thirty-five I probably should have known better.)

tantrums 80's photo


Temper Tantrums

“He may look like he is trying to kill himself, but he will not. He may even lose consciousness, but, if so, he will begin to breathe again.”

“One of the worst aspects… is the current idea that a loving parent allows a child to make its own choices. In truth, this is proof of neglect, if not hatred. No truly loving parents expects a child to make a choice before reason and discrimination have been developed.”

(I have only vague memories of throwing a tantrum as a child. I can’t remember what the outcomes were either, but then why would I when I was probably dragged out of the shop unconscious!?)


discipline 80's photoDiscipline

“There is, as every parent is painfully aware, a school of thought that says ‘to smack is to fail oneself and one’s child’. The truth is that a small child is not reasonable.

The ideal way to smack a child who is flouting discipline is to put on a good act of anger without really feeling it. But if a parent actually feels irritation, it is not good leaving the situation until his temper has died down – the moment for effective action will have passed.

It is better to smack and be done with it. It is always better to smack than to indulge in a whining nag all day. The important thing to remember is that when smacking, aim for the bottom, legs or arms – never the head.

Turn a blind eye nine times out of ten rather than nag, but when taking aim the tenth time do not miss. The golden rule is: always be simple and direct. Expect to be obeyed.”

(Obeyed? I’d be happy with a half-hearted look up from their screens! And what happened to our ten count? Who was it that said, ‘you can’t smack any more. Oh, and you know your ten count, well that’s gone down to three!’

I’ll tell you something, if I ever find out who I’ll give him a good smacking …. sit down on the naughty step.)



“A mother or father who does not have some difference in affection for certain individuals is a rarity. It would be a happier world if every child could be sure of an equal place in their mother’s or father’s heart, but this deal is rarely realised. The way out is to meet everybody, including one’s not-so-dearest, as if one has never met him, or her, before.”

(So true. I have a favourite child, although it does change daily. I also act like I’ve never met them before, normally in the Supermarket when they’re having a sword fight with cucumbers.)



“It is rare for adults to be so at ease with themselves physically that they are able to behave in a totally natural and asexual way when naked. More commonly the situation carries an atmosphere of being contrived and the presence of inhibition communicates itself to a child. This can have a reverse effect from the one intended.”

(Really? I can’t remember the last time I walked around naked in anything but an asexual way? Isn’t that what having kids does to you?)


child necklaceHomosexuality

It is not only people with an ‘innate tendency’ who can be attracted to homosexual relationships. People with anything like an ‘innate tendency’ are extremely rare and, when this is the case, there is a definite physical aberration. Such aberrations are quite different from a slight tendency to effeminacy in boys, or masculinity in girls. These are superficial and borrowed characteristics which are, therefore, rectifiable at an early age.

Children, youngsters and adults who are attracted to homosexual relationships are usually the victim of a simple idea, which may have stemmed from a parent: ‘I always wanted a son, not a daughter,’ or an idea which arises from a passionate attachment to or antipathy to one of other parent.

There is no doubt that many boys do have a profound fear that they are incapable of becoming men. If, subsequently, anything in their upbringing convinces them of failure in their own eyes this can result in boys playing a woman’s part in a homosexual relationship. Where girls are concerned, a dissatisfaction with their own bodies lies behind a desire for a homosexual relationship. This again is caused by a destructive idea, such as a fear of being considered inferior or of not being in control of events and natural physical functions, like menstruation. Left unchecked in childhood, such ideas may cause a girl to form a homosexual relationship.

(Wow. This was just thirty years ago. One generation.)

So if you are going to rely on parenting books it’s worth reading them with a huge vat of salt. If your instincts tell you otherwise, go with your instincts. And always keep a copy of the book, because if nothing else it might just give your children some material for a blog post.

Comments 9

  1. “However busy the hospital routine, take time to care for your skin,
    nails and hair to make yourself look presentable. Tie a new ribbon in
    your hair before your husband visits … If you begin in hospital, you are
    much more likely to continue when you get home.”

    I’m a fan of all things vintage so I know that stuff like this gets MUCH worse the farther back you go lol
    Even so, I was a parent in the late 80’s and any ribbon would have been tied securely around my then husband’s throat.

    I don’t recall my mum and dad owning a parenting book, though it might have been an idea for my dad to have read up on not underestimating your three year old child’s ability to climb over gates…
    A little incident which involved the police, my brother and his mates being dispatched to find me. I’d scaled the garden gate and walked up the high street (crossing two roads) wearing a pair of Ma’s fluffy slippers. Apparently someone sussed that a small child shouldn’t have been wandering around on her own and took me to the local shop, where a neighbour recognised me.

    Dad was supposed to be looking after me while Ma was at work but the budget was on and he got sidetracked. He aged a good few years that day, I can tell you. Ma nearly killed him when she got home from work.

    Sends a shiver down my spine thinking of it now….

    Great post!! 🙂

    1. He must have been terrified! Did he know you were missing before you were returned?

      I remember waking up in an empty house because my dad who was ‘babysitting’ had nipped to the petrol station for cigs. I could only have been 3 or 4. He was lucky I could keep a secret or he’d have been in as much trouble as your dad.

      1. I think his hair turned grey that day lol
        Ma NEVER let him forget it. She’s probably reminding him of it in heaven ha ha

  2. Wow. There’s got to be a reality TV show in that. One Born Every Minute in the 1980s. Supernanny: Rewind. Bringing Up Baby: the Spandau Ballet Years. Thank you for sharing – I suddenly feel a lot better about myself and will pop off now to iron my ribbon.

  3. Wow… it’s incredible that any of us arrived unscathed at adulthood if we grew up in the eighties and our parents read this book! Great post x

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