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'Mad Men' Reminds Us How NOT to Raise Kids

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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.

Mad Men

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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25 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mary August 2, 2010, 8:48 AM

I can understand that, to a point.

I grew up in the 70s/80s. When we were told to do something, we did it. There was no explanation as to why we had to do it, we just did it. No back talk about not wanting to do it, or not feeling like doing it right now, it was just understood that you did what you were told to do when told to do it. Also, it was done right, not just “good enough” and mom said “oh well, she tried her best”. Kids do everything half way today and they’re still given a pat on the back. Kids are capable of SO much more, yet we give them credit for so much less.

Samantha  August 2, 2010, 8:55 AM

Sometimes that’s just the way things were back then, but to say that there is a wrong or right way to raise children is ludicrous because every child is different and every parent is different. someone may say your nuts for letting your 11 year old on facebook in the first place, and not all things we tell children “no” for need to be explained to them in explicit detail. sometimes things between mommy and daddy should stay between mommy and daddy for a certain number of years until the children or really old enough to understand. and sometimes, things that happened between mommy and daddy should stay between mommy and daddy forever. as much as a split affects the children, sometimes the reasons for the split is something private that can only be understood by those persons in that marriage.
it’s not our place to judge anyone else’s parenting skills or technique. i’m not singling out the mad men episode mentioned in the article, as i have never seen mad men. i do know that the said actions of “Betty” sounded selfish. a child should be allowed to call their father if they miss them, and if the father’s attitude toward the children is healthy. i could never do that to my kids. but what we see from the outside of anyone’s marriage, divorce, or life in general may not tell the entire story, and we need to remember that. That one instance that you saw a mother in a grocery store raising her voice to her kids or someone’s child acting out is just a tiny glimpse and not the whole story.
we all need to be a little more understanding and compassionate and instead of offering judgement upon our fellow mothers, offer compassion and help. the world would be such a happier place if we all felt we had a network of individuals on our side to be understanding and maybe offer up some heartfelt advice or a little sympathy….

anonymous August 2, 2010, 9:29 AM

It sounds like the worst things in the episode are things that still might happen today. Parents of any generation should not:
1. Cheat on their wife until she gives up and divorces you;
2. Go to a prostitute; or
3. Sleep with a new boyfriend in front of the kids.

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