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In the 1960s, clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind studied 100 preschool children and analyzed parenting styles according to how parents expect and demand mature behavior from their children, and how parents respond to their children’s behavior. Her studies identified 3 general parenting styles, namely:
Authoritative (“Just right”) This is generally seen as the most effective parenting style, as parents demand mature behavior from their children while remaining attuned and responsive to the child. Children learn to self-regulate their emotions and behavior, which is seen as key in the overall success of the child in school and social settings.
Authoritarian (“Too hard”) In this parenting style, parents place a high demand on children and expect compliance, without much consideration for what the child needs. Parents of this style can be punitive and unforgiving. Children raised this way generally can conform, but can be socially incompetent and are more prone to rebellion.
Permissive (“Too Soft”) This parenting style is when parents are responsive to their child’s needs, providing warmth and affection, but impose little or no demands on their child’s behavior. Usually, parents try to be their child’s “friend” and sometimes fail to discipline their child. Children raised this way often end up impulsive and expect things to always go their way.
This research helped a lot when I was asked to write an article about motherhood in Westeros (a continent in the fictional TV series "Game of Thrones"). I was thrilled!
I love Game of Thrones. I’ve read the books, watched (and re-watched) the series, and, on occasion, dreamed about it.
The latest season provided fans with a lot of ups to cheer about and downs that really depressed us. Well, it’s like that every season. But for me, it was even worse. Pregnant with my third child, I had hormones fluctuating like mad, clashing with the highs and lows of the series.
I love Game of Thrones but I cannot imagine being in that world, much less be a mother in it. Here, mothers watch in horror as their children are killed mercilessly, or go crazy trying to protect them. So you will have to forgive them if they resort to unusual parenting styles not fit for our society.
Here I’ve listed some of the more prominent mothers in the series. Loosely using the parenting styles explained above as a gauge, let’s take a look at how well these mothers raise their kids -— or not!
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Cersei Lannister Wife of King Robert Baratheon, King of Westeros, and mother of King Joffrey, Princess Myrcella and King Tommen
Queen Cersei is a character people love to hate. She’s smug and power-hungry, and is behind some of the machinations that led to the chaos in Westeros. She is a product of her world. For her, keeping her position and her family’s is paramount, and she would do it by means available to her: manipulating the realm through her children’s position.
The problem is, not all children are the same. She has no control over her eldest son Joffrey. A psychotic, self-entitled power tripper, Joffrey pays no heed to his mother’s counsel. He makes reckless decisions that weaken his political position. Case in point: he executed Ned Stark, which led to the North waging war against him.
The youngest, Tommen, unlike his brother, is sweet and kind. It seems like Cersei did a better job with him. However, she also couldn’t completely control him. After experiencing the pleasures of married life, he became confused about his priority: Is it his Queen Mother or his wife Queen Margaery or his realm?
Parenting style: The authoritarian style is about making demands and gaining control of children’s actions, without responding to their needs or letting them suffer the consequences of their actions. Cersei wants complete control over her children. But because she didn’t equip them with the backbone to do the right thing on their own, they were lost when stronger outside forces pushed them to the edge.
Rating: Failed Authoritarian
Catelyn Stark Wife of Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Hand of the King, and mother of Robb (The King in the North), Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon
Catelyn Stark seems like the most grounded and reasonable mother of the 3 mentioned here. She instilled a sense of honor in her children, a trait that her husband was known for. In seasons 1 and 2, where Robb came into his own as King in the North, he proved himself a just and honorable leader, gaining the respect of his bannermen and successfully winning battles. Unfortunately, his honor was also his downfall. Despite protests from Catelyn, Robb, who previously agreed to a political betrothal, fell in love and married another woman. The shunned family eventually killed Robb and Catelyn in the Red Wedding.
Parenting style: The authoritative style is seen as the most effective in raising successful children, as it emphasizes setting clear demands and limits in children but responding to their needs as well. But in Westeros, it may not be good enough. Catelyn made it clear to her children that they will be future leaders, instilling the values of Family, Duty, Honor in them, while giving them leeway to make their own decisions and learn from mistakes. Unfortunately for Robb, his mistake proved to be deadly, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
Lysa Arryn Wife of Jon Arryn, Lord of the Vale and Hand of the King; mother of Robin
Lysa Arryn is Catelyn Stark’s sister, but the two are vastly different. Lysa seems to have gone cuckoo over years of failed pregnancies, and she protects her only son, Robin, with every bone in her body. She dotes on him and keeps him at her side the whole time. Not surprisingly, Robin is sickly, immature and cowardly, and thinks everything must be done for him. He screams his commands wildly, suckles on his mother’s breast on demand—at 10 years old!—and cannot control his own emotions. This is in stark difference to his same-age cousin Bran, who squarely took on the task of Lord of Winterfell when his brother went to war.
Parenting style: Lysa’s style of parenting is permissive—it’s about making very little demands on the child, while showering him with love and affection. Robin has very little opportunity to go beyond his areas of comfort, no chance to be challenged, no chance to learn. So far, he is safe in the walls of his impregnable castle, and you can say that Lysa’s parenting is successful (he is still alive!). But no one thinks he’ll survive once he is out in the world.
Rating: Just plain weird
“Mothers. I think birthing does something to your minds. You are all mad.” — Jaime Lannister to his twin sister, Cersei, in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones
Which parenting style (and Game of Thrones mom) can you relate to?