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Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014

5 parenting lessons from movies

Compiled by Kurt Hanson, For the Deseret News

Published: Mon, Sept. 1 4:25 a.m. MDT

 Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron in The Blind Side (2009)

Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron in The Blind Side (2009)

(Warner Bros.)

Popular opinion has it that there's a dearth of good parents in movies to promote values and provide strong examples for the rising generation.

And it's sometimes hard to disagree when in recent films, like "Frozen," parents are either absent or awful.

But isn't the movie-going experience supposed to be a family affair? So why not remember the movies that promote great families, including moms and dads? Some movies still do include and support positive family relationships.

Here are five movies that taught moms and dads everywhere major parenting lessons:

Mary Poppins

Lesson learned: Quality time

Miss Poppins may not have been the children's mother, but she was "practically perfect, in every way." The nanny who flew in on an umbrella encouraged imagination and fun. From dancing penguins to a carousel horse race, Mary Poppins taught parents how to let their kids be creative and free to explore the world around them.

She made chores into games and taught the children to be careful of how they express themselves when communicating with others. Basically, she set the golden standard for so many parenting lessons, the chief of which was time. Mr. Banks comes home and realizes that he needs to spend more time with his children. She teaches parents that they can't neglect their kids as they strive to make their careers.

And to be honest, someone who encourages a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down should be OK in any kid's book as well.

Leigh Anne Touhy — "The Blind Side"

Lesson learned: Support

After Mrs. Touhy spots Michael Oher on a lonely road in the dark, she opens her home to the teenage orphan, at first for the night. But little did she or her husband know that Oher would soon become their adopted son. We watch as the two help a struggling boy escape a dangerous and deadly lifestyle and make his way to college and eventually, the NFL.

Both Leigh Anne and her husband Shaun exemplify many traits, yet the strongest in both is their support. Shaun supports Leigh Anne in anything she does, whether it's owning her own business or adopting an estranged teenager. Sure, Shaun has his own opinions and is a little hesitant to feed another (much larger) mouth. But he ultimately comes to understand and accept his wife's decisions.

Leigh Anne shows how a parent can be caring, supportive and protective simultaneously. She wants all her children, Michael included, to excel in their realms. When her son SJ wants to be a goof, she reins him in a little bit, but knows she can't completely bottle up his personality. And her daughter, Collins, succeeds in school with her help. No matter what, Leigh Anne constantly challenges the children she cares for to do their best. And she shows that when a child is threatened, it's her job as a parent to defend him or her.

Marlin — Finding Nemo

Lesson learned: Determination

Oh, Nemo. All he wanted to do was touch the butt, er, boat. But his juvenile rebellion gets him captured by fish collectors, and his dad, Marlin, chases after the fish-nappers immediately. He finds an air-headed companion in Dory to help him out. He faces his fears time and time again whether it's sharks, a black abyss or a jellyfish field.

Marlin was a little overprotective of Nemo, but really, can you blame him? His entire family, wife included, was eaten by a barracuda, excluding Nemo. Nemo was the last piece of his family he had, and he wanted to be there beside him, no matter what. He crosses the ocean, with help from various sources, all to find his only son. Life as a single parent can be hard, but sometimes, it just means the love is twice as strong.

Mrs. Doubtfire

Lesson learned: It's OK to mess up

This is one of Robin Williams' most memorable roles. Williams plays Daniel Hillard, who, after a bitter separation from his wife, decides to take up a second job, nannying his own children. But he takes it one step further. He goes incognito as a middle-aged British housekeeper, Mrs. Doubtfire.

Between Hillard and his alter-ego, Mrs. Doubtfire, the two get in a mess of trouble in his/her journey to be the best father/nanny. And despite the challenges and fire alarms, things always seem to work out, though not always as expected.

The iconic Robin Williams film teaches its biggest lesson right at the end. Mrs. Doubtfire receives a letter from a young female viewer of her/his new TV show, telling Mrs. Doubtfire of her parents' impending divorce. The viewer said she's afraid that without her parents' love for each other, there won't be love in the family, so she wants to keep them together. But surprisingly, Mrs. Doubtfire says that basically, things happen. But interfamily love binds them together forever.

This is an obvious reflection of the situation Hillard is in as his marriage has come to a close. But his love for his children will never end.

Benjamin Mee — "We Bought a Zoo"

Lesson learned: Spontaneity

This film definitely flew under the radar and received mixed reception from critics. But Matt Damon makes the film as a dad, Benjamin Mee, who's really facing it all. His wife recently died, his rebellious and angsty son is expelled from school, and his 7-year-old daughter is in desperate need of his care. On top of all that, the house they bought turns out to be a zoo.

Amidst all this chaos, Mee somehow manages it cooly. No, he isn't perfect, and he gets into a few fights with his son, but he does his best to manage a zoo and a family.

He teaches his children, and by extention the audience, what "20 seconds of insane courage" can do, and how "something great will come of it." Spontaneity can keep parenting fun while also growing loving relationships.

Kurt Hanson is a Web producer for Deseret News National. Follow him on Twitter @kthehanson.

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1. Anonyme
Orem, UT,
Aug. 31, 2014

Strange as it seems, the correct spelling from The Blind Side is Tuohy, not Touhy.

2. K
Mchenry, IL,
Sept. 1, 2014

Fortunately today the husband who stayed home would have gotten the house and child support. I could not figure out why they got divorced?

3. Sasha Pachev
Provo, UT,
Sept. 1, 2014

This is like saying that if you extracted all the carbon from a pile of trash and arranged the atoms properly you could make diamonds. Theoretically possible, but not practical. If you want examples of good parenting, find a neighbor couple that is 80+ years old, still married, and has on-the-ball grandchildren, and ask them for advice.