TV's "Mad Men" Reminds Us How Not to Raise Kids


Elizabeth Lindell: I've been told by my daughter's grandmother, who grew up in the "Mad Men" generation, that I overexplain things to my child. I've been doing it since she was probably six months old. When she wants to befriend someone on Facebook whose profile displays quizzes that are not age-appropriate, I don't just say, "You can't be friends with her." I say "no," adding that her friend's Facebook page is not appropriate for an 11-year-old and reminding her that she sees her friend in real life every day, anyway.

What I have enjoyed most from the past three seasons of "Mad Men" is that it provides a window into a generation that was seemingly full of parenting advice that is the opposite of what today's research tells us is best for our children.

Don and Betty Draper's parenting mistakes must be obvious to any generation. Their children ride without seatbelts, play in dry-cleaning bags and were told of their parents' divorce in a scene devoid of any real comfort or empathy. Their young daughter, Sally, can mix a Tom Collins like a pro. There is little nurturing by either parent -- except when one of the adults needs it.

This week, it was Thanksgiving for the Drapers. Newly divorced Betty spent it with her new beau in the home she shares with her children, and Don spent it having sex with a prostitute. While Betty is cuddling up with her new man in the bed she previously shared with her children's father, her daughter is distraught in the hall and attempts to make a call to her father because she misses him. Betty reprimands her, sends her to bed and goes back to her foreplay.

It's not Betty's moving on that I have a problem with. It's the lack of explanation to the children and the Drapers' lack of understanding of the turmoil their actions will cause for years to come.

"Mad Men" has shown me that some kids raised in the '60s were taught not to question the actions of their parents (even when they were wrong) until much later in life -- and maybe not ever.

I've always given my child explanations because I wanted her to understand from a young age why those "nos" were necessary -- not so she would like me more (as many Baby Boomers believe is the reason), but so she would know how (and understand why) to say no for herself when I'm not there to do it.


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