Why Read A Parenting Book When You Can Just Watch The Brady’s?

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 9 almost 10-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 few 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 DVD’s 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. 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, so I get the shakes if I don’t watch some laugh-track containing sitcom every few weeks. I get my fix from 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:

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 9 almost 10-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, you feel confident about his excellent driving abilities. You are happily surprised to learn he has saved over $100 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.

Disappointment: Your son has “borrowed” your tape-recorder and eavesdropped on the conversations of all his siblings. Then he has shared their private information – and for his own entertainment, sits back to watch the fireworks fly. Using your already proven cool-headedness, you observe the situation and realize only one child is not in the throes of this argument. Instead of calling him out, in an angry fashion, in front of his siblings; you ask him to have a private conversation with you. From the moment he enters the room you have a look of disappointment on your face, thus already weakening his defenses. You then ask him why he seems to be the only one unaffected by the breach of privacy. The look of disappointment he sees on both of your faces is more than he can bear and he breaks down and tells the truth. You explain to him in a logical and empathetic manner why what he did was wrong and then tell him his punishment is having to face his 5 other siblings and tell them the truth. Thus having to face the natural consequences of his actions.

 

Here are the facts: It is impossible to live up to the standards of a fictional, perfect family and marriage. However, it is possible to learn from it.

For the past three days I have attempted to channel my inner Carol and Mike. I have been amazed and pleasantly surprised that after reading 512 books on the subject, following the examples of these television icons has been the most effective parenting tool yet. You may think I am over-simplifying, but I would disagree. While my son is banging his car on the window creating an annoyingly loud noise as well as a situation where something is going to break, my first instinct is to yell from wherever I am. This accomplishes two things, he can hear me over the din and he stops – briefly. My new method is – in my regular voice – I walk up to him and say “Sweetie, could you please stop doing that?” He looks at me, and says “OK.” If he does do it again, I repeat myself and this time not only does he agree, but I also get an apology! It would be impossible to regale you with all of the opportunities I have had to use these techniques this week. I will tell you this. I have noticed a marked improvement in his behavior and I believe that it is all in relationship to me. If I am his model, and I am yelling or getting angry, then who is teaching him to yell or get angry back? Seems like a ridiculous question when in writing. The miraculous thing is that while he was confused and annoyed by my change in behavior at first, even accusing me of mocking him, he eventually began to respond positively and then even anticipate what I would say by just a look.

I don’t know where we will go from here. I notoriously fall back into bad habits when under stress, and sometimes I just plain forget the important lessons I have learned. However, I am hoping to keep this one in the front of my brain where the sticky stuff is; because whether you think I’m crazy or not, if I have to choose between Carol Brady and The Evil Dragon Lady, I chose my girl Carol every day of the week.

  • After spending four days with my kids and parents, I just want to dive headfirst into my own bed and hide for a few days. I need a vacation from my vacation!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Dude, I feel you. I got 19 days which included my parents and my sisters family. It was over-whelming to say the least. Take a break!ReplyCancel

  • very insightful Post.
    What caught my attention right away was the idea of listening to a TV show, as opposed to ‘watching’. I love the concept of playing with the ‘gross message’ and try to see how the parts work together, to produce the whole. I do that at home on the occasions (increasingly rare) that I find myself in front of the television. What I do is mute the commercials (nothing surprising there, given how the channels have learned to put their commercial breaks on at the same points in (a given half hour/hour) there is no longer refuge in surfing to a show that is not in commercial. In any event, watching a commercial with no sound is kind of interesting. The visual element is isolated and you can see how the message is enhanced and reinforced by what they show as they shout at you. (One thing that has always made me smile about commercials *sans* sound, how did it happen that everyone (except for me, apparently) get to live in houses with kitchens that could hold my living room and dining area? Amazing! I don’t think I’ve seen a single commercial that portrays a kitchen even remotely the size of ours.
    Now that I see that in print, those Bradys had kind of a humungous kitchen, but that only makes sense, having to accommodate 6 kids, 2 adults and a maid… typical American demographic.
    Always an interesting view of the culture, these old TV shows.

    ….Boobie Scientist?! now wait a minute! the last time I checked, and I certainly did check, there was not a formal curriculum established for that discipline! damn! I can just imagine the MAT for that particular degree track…ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Oh Clark, you have no idea the scope of my child’s imagination, it is frightening. Really. Save me.
      It actually was really interesting to “listen” to the show without the visual, very different, and clearly had an impact. I think I prefer the listening without watching to the watching without listening though….ReplyCancel

  • Oh I seriously loved the Brady Bunch and they were replaying it on one of he cable channels recently. And I agree it was a real eye opener to watch from a parent’s perspective and not a kid’s. My kids were watching with me a bit and Emma loved it, she couldn’t stop talking about Greg, Marcia and all the other kids, too. Oh and one more thing, I still love watching Three’s Company, too (must be the 70s kid in me!!).ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Janine ~ I know, I loved it too, and I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I watched. My son kept asking me what I was doing, I said “I’m watching too!” He didn’t get it. And HECK YEAH to Three’s Company! Only the best show EVER!ReplyCancel

  • Omigosh I love this post! I have seriously seen *every.single.episode* of the Brady Bunch…. so nice to live in a world where every.single.parenting.problem gets solved in 23 minutes, with an accompanying laugh track! And you nailed it! Must have been that late 60s/early 70s eastern-inspired counter-culture… compassion, empathy, cool-headedness, equanimity, respond-don’t-react….. Were the Brady’s secretly Buddhists? Must rewatch and consider follow-up post…. Thanks for this – I loved it! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Sarah ~ That’s awesome, I think they were the true parents of Love and Logic!ReplyCancel

  • I love that you gave us such important lessons in such a funny and nostalgic way because I love the Brady Bunch and remember those episodes! I don’t think I missed a single one! I definitely can work on being cool-headed. I need to print this and hang it up on the fridge for the day that my son goes behind my back and does something I told him not to do. I fear my default would be to get angry. Oh and hahah to Isaiah wanting to be a boobie scientist!! Welcome back!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Kristi ~ No joke, I have printed stuff like this out and hung it up to remember. Just getting through today was tough enough!ReplyCancel

  • Huh. Who would have ever thought of it?! Amazing, insightful, perfect advice. Off to watch Netflicks . . .ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Diane, do it! You won’t be sorry!ReplyCancel

  • Jean

    Jen- My son is a TV watcher! He’s 3!!!! 🙂

    My opinion(coming from someone who was knee-deep in 7-8-9 year olds for the past decade) is the quiet, calm approach is good but letting the dragon lady out on occasion helps the kid see that you are human, that you can lose your cool too. Seeing how you come down from that is showing them the example of how to control their emotions. Also, if saved for the really big things it lets them know you mean business.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Oh Jean ~ I’ll give you a pass, I am nothing if not opinionated. I personally have seen some real life reasons why I believe children under 3 should not watch TV, but I respect everyone else’s opinions. If you want mine, I’ll give it to you though!
      And have no fear, Evil Dragon Lady is alive and well!ReplyCancel

  • I haven’t seen The Brady Bunch in so long. I should watch some because you’re right – I was always amazed at their logical, rational and calm approach. Sure, it’s just a tv show, but it makes sense. Come to think of it, all the shows back then were like that. Now shows are so snarky and everyone’s taking pot shots at each other. We need to get back to those core values. Don’t laugh…;) Seriously though Jen, great post. Very insightful and a great reminder – just in time for day 1 of summer vacation here!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Linda you are so right! That is exactly my problem and why we don’t have cable. There is no way I am going to let my kid talk to me the way they talk on shows these days. I love controlling what he watches, and I also love getting to secretly watch too!ReplyCancel

  • Uh-oh. Those people making tons of money off those stop being a helicopter parent books and Love & Logic classes are going to be super sad when everyone figures out they just need to watch “The Brady Bunch”.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      For real my Crazy Sister! I was totally watching and going, this is Love and Logic, WTHeck? Why did I read EVERY SINGLE ONE of their books?? I’m buying all the Brady seasons now.ReplyCancel

  • Boobie doctor, haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

    I also notice that raising my voice in frustratinog does nothing, whereas calm voice, redirection and ignoring (if possible) are winning strategies. I liked Jean’s advice, too.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Oh Deb, you are in for it when you meet this guy!ReplyCancel

  • Best parenting advice ever, LOL. My work here is done. But seriously, you should get paid for this post from Nick at Night or whomever owns The Brady Bunch. Either that or write a book about it! I’m off to set my DVR:)ReplyCancel

  • I love ANYTHING Brady’s. They were in one of my posts last week. 😉 I haven’t turned my kids onto them yet, but someday. Someday soon. I just found this challenge called the Orange Rhino – I think they’re at OrangRhino.com. Anyway, it’s a challenge to not yell at your kids. This woman’s goal was to not yell at her kids for 365 days straight and if she yelled she would have to start over at Day 0. I don’t know how far she got, but I had to start over at 30 minutes today.ReplyCancel

  • Oh Jen, I so needed this reminder this week. I was just on the phone with my mom telling her how frustrated and ashamed I am of being the evil dragon lady this week. I didn’t even know that this persona existed, but she kept pushing her way out this week. It doesn’t matter what four-year-old did to provoke her, she still should never have shown up. I haven’t watched the Brady’s but I’ll try to if I get a chance. It’s interesting that all it takes sometimes is a “silly” show for us to internalize something we read so much about. I totally get it. I am so happy I read this post this morning. HugsReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      I’m so glad to help Katia! I really needed it too. And even this morning as the boy is yelling at the dogs, I’m having a hard time keeping my cool, but I’m trying!ReplyCancel

  • I TOTALLY appreciate this as another child of the 70s. I may seriously try a little Brady time on our next road trip. My 8 year old son stumbled upon Little House on the Prairie. He totally loves it!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Nina, I so want to get my son on Little House!ReplyCancel

  • Great parenting advice! I admire how you have kept your son from watching tv. I always thought cartoons like Spongebob were so dumb. I just LOVE ‘Boobie Scientist’!
    NikkiReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thanks Nikki! It was really hard, especially with complete strangers saying things like “Do you like Sponge Bob?” Don’t they know that Sponge Bob is Y-7 anyway? Maybe not.ReplyCancel

  • I love this post! I love the beautiful things you were able to learn from a sitcom. I love that you know you won’t ever be perfect either. That’s beautiful too. I love that your son wants to be a “boob” scientist!ReplyCancel

  • LOVED Brady Bunch, can’t wait until my girls are old enough to enjoy it. I still love Mary Tyler Moore more than anything on TV now! We do allow some TV with our little ones, but only PBS-type shows, LeapFrog, that kind of thing.
    If their grandmother wants to watch Spongebob with them for the one hour a month she’s with them, I’ve learned to let it go 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Joy ~ I totally understand! I LOVED Mary Tyler-Moore, I fear the boy won’t like it, but maybe Bob Newhart someday?ReplyCancel

  • Jen, I totally love this! In fact, it’s kind of genius! There are some pretty amazing observations and ideas in this post, and all the while you managed to make me laugh with things like Boobie Scientist! I also loved “modicum of volatility.” Yup. Preach it. This was fantastic!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thank you Stephanie! I might make it a book, LOL!ReplyCancel

  • I like how you learned more from an episode of the Brady Bunch than you did from reading 512 books on the subject.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thanks Motha – I think I need to replay them now…it’s been about 3 weeks and it’s wearing off 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Great post! Stopping by from the Honest Mom link-up. My girls are obsessed with The Brady Bunch, but I had never really looked at it from this perspective before…I wonder, too, if Mike and Carol were able to be better parents because Alice lived there, too?! ;)-AshleyReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thanks Ashley, you know Alice sure made a difference, its easy to keep your cool when you aren’t washing 5 pairs of shorts because your kid keeps changing his clothes every time you turn around!ReplyCancel

  • I knew I liked those Bradys. You’re totally right. I bet I am such an amazing nanny cause I grew up watching this brood! Right? Yes, that’s def it.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Erica! You are right! That is why you are so awesome!ReplyCancel

  • I loved the Brady Bunch when I was a kid. This was a great read thanks for pointing me to you post. Glad you will also be at Blogher13ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thanks Kimmy! I loved it too, obviously 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Yeah – It would be nice to be able to embrace your inner Brady to deal with family strife. It would also be nice to have live in Alice.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      For real. I could do anything with an Alice.ReplyCancel

  • I knew all those hours of watching The Brady Brunch would eventually pay off! Mike and Carol are the best. (Tho it helps to have script writers making sure the kids toe the line. Wonder if they make house calls….) 🙂ReplyCancel

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