All I Ever Needed to Know About Parenting I Learned from Carol & Mike Brady

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I just got schooled. I guess I had to be here, in this place. This place of banging my head against the wall trying to parent a wacko/pyro 7- almost 8-year-old. I will start with this admission: I am a total hypocrite. I used to preach no TV until the Roosters Came Home and the Cows Went to Bed. Honestly, I'll still preach that to you if your kid is 2 or 3. So if you want to hash it out, just tell me your 2-year-old sits in front of a TV, ever.

I have gradually introduced TV into my son's life for the past two years. I cherry pick what he can watch; we don't have TV or Cable, only Netflix/etc so I can completely control what enters his malleable brain.

This week I introduced The Brady Bunch. I picked up the DVDs at the library -- nothing past season 3 -- I didn't want to get into the "boy/girl relationship stuff." My son is already girl crazy, and has decided he's going to be a Boobie Scientist so he can study Boobies all day. So there's that. That's enough.

We were on a 975 mile road trip, so I let him watch in the car. (Another thing I am "anti" on short trips.) It was fun for me too. I hadn't watched The Brady Bunch in about...oh...8 years? I am a child of 70's TV; I get the shakes if I don't watch some laugh-track containing sitcom every few weeks. I still watch Three's Company whenever I can. So, my son was watching, I was listening. Not being able to see, I was really listening to the dialogue, not all caught up in what Marsha was wearing or how floppy Greg's hair was.

I have to admit I was surprised. I had never watched/listened to The Brady Bunch as a parent. I was struck by the sheer peacefulness of parental interaction; there was a distinct lack of arguing or yelling. I ask you to SUSPEND YOUR DISBELIEF. I know it's a TV show. But let's face it; would you yell, roll your eyes or be disrespectful if your parents never yelled or argued with you?

So this is what I learned from Carol and Mike this week:

Carol and Mike Brady, © Globe Photos/
Credit: © Globe Photos/

Don't yell.

The end. Alright, not quite the end -- but it could be. Here are some things I will admit about my personality: I am impatient, I am a perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the behavior of a 7- almost 8-year-old. Put these things together with a spirited, strong-willed, pyromaniac, and you may experience a modicum of volatility.

As I listened to (and later watched) the Brady's interact, I noticed a pattern: Empathy, Cool-headedness and Disappointment; all leading to Natural Consequences.

I am not a parenting expert, but I do play one on TV. These things are not foreign to me. For one; intuitively I know these traits are positive ways to deal with a child. Secondly, they work really well for Carol and Mike.

Empathy: Your child is distraught because everyone compares her to her beautiful, successful and popular older sister. So distraught, she decides to distinguish herself by wearing a black curly afro wig to showcase "the new her." Do you tell her "she's being ridiculous"? Do you demand she take that thing off right away? Are you angry at her for borrowing money from her brother to buy a hideous piece of brillo pad disguised as a wig? No. You empathize. You listen to her complaints, you tell her how much you love her and how you see her for who she really is. When that is not enough for her, you support her decision to change her looks and wait for her to learn this valuable life lesson on her own.

Cool-headedness: Your child wants to buy a car. He is 16 and you feel confident about his excellent driving abilities. You are happily surprised to learn he has saved money towards the purchase of a car and encourage him to keep saving. However, when you come home later, you discover that he has gone behind your back and purchased a car, even though he said he would wait for your opinion before spending his money. Do you yell at him for making such a stupid decision? Do you go on a tirade about what a hunk of junk he bought? Do you refuse to even speak to him until he gets his money back? No. You listen to him. He is confident that he can make it work, and you give him the opportunity to fulfill this desire. All the while, never making a snide comment or derisive remark about how hard it will be. You give him a chance to work it out on his own, while being supportive, and allow him to learn from his own mistakes.


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