3 things I learned about parenting from ‘House of Cards’

As far as I’m concerned, Netflix and similar services are a gift to me as a mom. My husband and I enjoy a babysitter-less date night almost every Saturday where we bring in some takeout after the boys are in bed and pick a movie to watch together. No planning! I recently went on a House of Cards binge and blew through the first two seasons in about a month.

House of Cards

After spending that amount of time with the Underwoods, here are the parenting lessons I learned:

Let your kids learn that life is not fair — while they’re still on the playground
The driving arc for the first two seasons of House of Cards is that Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is thwarted in his ambition to become Secretary of State, a position he believes he was promised. The series is absolutely gripping in its portrayal of Frank and his wife, Claire (Robin Wright) as they work to exact revenge in a very sophisticated way, but I did keep thinking of Frank as a sort-of lost 7 year old trying to get his friends to let him be the superhero in the game. Unlike a 7 year old, however, Frank’s capacity to ruin other people’s lives is vast.

As a mom, it can be hard to watch my child struggle with being left out of a game that should include him, or handle unfair situations. And I’m not advocating for a completely tough-love approach in our family. But I am seeing with my 8 year old especially that he really does grow from failure and yes, unfairness as well as all the positive experiences he has. Teaching him to show grace when he loses is something I hope to do right.

Teach your kids to recognize when they’re being played
Part of the reason the Underwoods succeed so well that they are master manipulators, doling out not just favours but their friendship in order to advance their political game. This comes through pretty quickly in childhood politics as well: A child I know spent about half a year begging his mother for treats that, in end, were going to another child in order to maintain membership in “the club.” It was only after his mother helped him work through what a friend is — and more to the point, is not — that he started to be able to sort out someone who wants candy from someone who wants to be friends.

Teach your kids to back down
Although the premise of the show is based on Frank’s inability to forgive a betrayal, there are many moments when his capacity to strategically step back or take blame saves his longer-term career (and dark and disturbing goals.) I think we all like to help our kids develop persistence, and to see things through. But it can also be a great life lesson to help our kids learn when to admit a mistake and change direction.

What’s inspired your way-too-late-at-night parenting thoughts lately?