I think it is more difficult to raise kids today than it was 50 years ago. There are so many things that are easily accessible than there was when I was a kid; or at least more of it going on. Drugs, gangs, inappropriate content on the Web, child molesters, etc.
I raised two kids (with my wife) who are now adults. Although they didn't come with Owner's Manuals, we did okay. They never got into trouble and were self-sufficient once they got out of high school.
Also, I had my kids when I was in my mid to late 30's, so how I raised them was a lot different than how some of their friends were raised... seeing that I was a generation ahead of some of these parents.
When I was a kid I learned risk assessment at an early age. I made choices, and the wrong ones ended up in a good spanking or "the belt." We had corporal punishment in school... with a wooden paddle. And the more ingenious teachers & administrators had paddles with air holes drilled in them to increase the speed at impact. And of course a swat at school meant you got more when you got home... there was none of this "the teacher was wrong or the teacher doesn't understand the special needs of my kid" stuff. If you got into trouble at school, you faced the consequences at home. So whenever I would break a parental rule, I would weight the potential outcomes before I proceeded. Sometimes I got caught and beaten, sometimes I didn't. Oh, I know this sounds so brutal... but it worked.
I learned how to surf before I really learned to swim well. But then my parents didn't know I was surfing. They told us to leave the house in the morning, come home for lunch, leave the house again and come home for dinner. They did not say surfing was out :) it didn't cross their mind that a 10 year old kid would save money to buy a surfboard and hitch hike to the beach every day. I got beat the first time they found out. They made me take swimming lessons, and then I was allowed to surf.
We played baseball, football, hide and seek, etc. in the street barefooted and had to dodge passing cars. Our parents figured we could watch out for cars.
We didn't go to doctors unless we were really injured. I have a 6" scar on my left shin, the result of jumping off a roof and missing the block wall I had planned on landing on. Got a beating for that one, a little Mercurochrome on it, and a "it isn't bad enough to go to the doctor, doctors cost money" explanation for my question about stitches.
Our cars had metal dashboards and no seat belts. One of my brothers has a nice scar on his forehead from that one.
No video games for us -- they didn't exist. We played army, cowboys & Indians, and other games in empty fields or on the street. We made swords out of sticks and did "real" battle. Rocks made great hand grenades, and sometimes hit their intended target. That could get you a beating.
No skateboards in those days. We took apart strap-on skates, which had steel wheels and nailed them to wooden boards. Of course when a steel wheel hits a small pebble, the wheel stops but you don't. Lots of cuts, scrapes, bruises and bumps from our boards.
We used to race wooden cars down "Killer Hill." Front axle was a 2X4 and steering was a rope from end to end of the axle. We would nail a stick to the side and it was our brake system. You were pretty much guaranteed that if you car could last more than a couple runs it would eventually self-destruct and you would suffer road rash. Road rash was our "badge of courage." And of course road rash would get you a beating once you got home.
Our parents knew we were going to get cuts and scrapes -- that is what kids do. And to be honest, my kids saw more deaths of their friends growing up, than I did as a kid.
When I raised kids, their rules were much stricter than those of their friends... but there were consequences to my rules -- a spanking. Never had to use this but once. This got much better behavioral results than the "time outs" their friends were threatened with. Time Out... pffftttt.
My kids expected us to be parents. That meant we were there to teach them, give them advice, set boundaries, feed them, clothe them, teach them morals and ethics, help them learn their school lessons if they needed help, and to love them. Our job was to prepare them to become adults. Not to be their friend, but to be their parent.
We expected them to work hard at school -- to give it their best effort, not achieve a certain grade. We expected them to participate in activities outside of school-- they chose the activities and we supported them. There was no staying in the house after school watching TV or playing with video games. We expected them to wear the clothes we chose for them, not what they felt was appropriate. We decided what was appropriate in their lives, not them. We encouraged them to take risks... but they had guidelines. We expected them to stay out of trouble. We also expected them to look out for each other, and to defend each other even if force was needed. We expected them to make good decisions based on the values we taught them. And as they got older, we expanded what they could do without supervision, they had been taught right from wrong. But wrong decisions have consequences, and they knew it. We expected them to go to college, and that they pay 1/2 of the cost. But going to college was up to them, they were adults when that time came. Both graduated from college.
I remember one incident that really shows the difference in the "new Parenting" in my mind. When I was about 48, I got stuck taking a bunch of boys (my son's soccer team) to a small amusement park with another parent, who was quite a bit younger than me. It was an all day affair, and at the end of the day all the other parents were to show up at the Pizza joint at the park. Well, I couldn't take the dysfunctional behavior after a couple hours. They were all over the place and did not follow instructions. By the time we got to the Pizza place, and were waiting for the other parents, my patience was gone. I lined up all the boys against a wall with their noses touching the wall. I told them if anyone moved, I would spank them. Amazing... they all stood perfectly still and silent. When the parents arrived, they were shocked. Several threatened to sue me... seems most of these kids had therapists and would need additional counseling -- unbelievable. One lady told me that was no way to treat children -- it is bad for their mental health. And my reply was, "Ma'am your kid does not have the capacity for mental health, he is not a child, he is an animal."
Not saying all parents of the younger generations are bad, but overall I don't think much of many of them. And this is why I got out of the retail business in 1998. I just got tired of too many young people entering the work force who were unable to function at work. Of course there were some great young people coming into the work force, but those were a minority. Alas....