This 16th century parenting advice is all kinds

Every generation of parents think they know better when it comes to raising children, but one thing we can probably all agree on is that those in the 16th century didn’t.

An analysis of books from the 1500s has revealed some pretty illuminating parenting techniques used by moms and dads of the time.

Dr Joan Fitzpatrick, from Loughborough University, analyzed dietetic literature – historical books that offered advice to all kinds of people, including parents, about health and well-being.

“We know they were popular and widely read because they were frequently reprinted in the decades after they first appeared,” said Dr. Fitzpatrick.

Here’s what he found.

Diet and exercise

Sixteenth-century parents were told they had to help maintain “an ideal humoral balance in the body,” a priority for raising healthy children.

“According to the humoral theory, being healthy involved maintaining an equal balance of the four humors flowing through the body,” says Dr. Fitzpatrick.

So what are the four “humors”? Blood, anger (yellow bile), melancholy (black bile) and phlegm, explains the expert. OK, we definitely regret asking.

“The diets recommended women’s breast milk for both sick adults and infants, but caution was needed if a nursemaid was employed as it was believed that a child could develop his nurse’s character through her milk,” added the dr. Fitzpatrick.

Natural suppositories were also recommended for “weak people or children” to purify the body, while “overnourished” children were made to exercise and fast.

Parents or caregivers were also encouraged to diligently search their baby’s poop to sense what “digests well and what does not.” Fun!

Development and security

A piece of literature has encouraged parents to do this keep their children away from pigs because “they are vile creatures”.

Another health tip that looks what could be done to help with teething recommended rrubbing a hare’s brain on a child’s gums to grow teeth. Handsome.

E – probably the most preferable treatment – ​​using bsay “when their teeth grow or hurt.”


As you can imagine, views on punishment were far more extreme, with one book suggesting that parents would be ashamed if they “spared the rod and spoiled the child.”

Good parents were also compared to *check notes* gardeners.

The guidance implied that parents should protect their offspring from bad or foolish behavior, just as gardeners watch out for tender plants that could be harmed by harsh weather.

It was also crucial that parents punish swearing, “which is a detestable thing to hear and no one is going to punish it.”


A book on good manners for children, translated into English from the Latin in 1532, has also uncovered some rather fascinating findings about how children were expected to behave.

Some of the recommendations for the kids included:

  • Don’t wear too many bright colors,

  • Make sure your clothes are clean, with no urine stains on the hems.

Dr Fitzpatrick, author of Three Sixteenth-Century Dietaries: A Critical Edition, said it was “remarkable” how much advice given on good manners has stood the test of time.

“The dietary literature is perhaps more hit and miss when it comes to giving advice to today’s parents – for example, how many would rub a hare’s brain on their baby’s gums?!” she said.

“But there are gems to be found among the more helpful advice, not least that the good parent should care for their children as they would a tender young plant.”


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