Cliff and Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show
Do have fun with the kids: I remember watching the Cosby Show as a kid and thinking that when I was a mom, I wanted to be a FUN parent like Cliff and Claire Huxtable. The family always had so many laughs, yet there was never any question who was in charge (it was Claire, of course). I like to think of myself as a fun mom, but I also lose my patience way more than Claire ever did. And the Cosbys taught me that little kids lip-syncing grown-up songs is the FUNNIEST. THING. EVER. —Krissy Mac
Mitch and Cam, Gloria and Jay, Claire and Phil (Modern Family)
Do not be afraid to embrace your extended family: As neurotic, self-obsessed, and insular as all the sets of parents can sometimes be, they make a point of sharing in meals and events as a group. Next to your nuclear family, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents help form your character. And what better way to get used to complex situations than by rolling with the ups and downs that come with family get-togethers.
Burt Hummel (Glee)
Do see your children for who they are: Kurt Hummel has never, and probably will never, have a bigger champion than his father Burt. Even before Kurt came out to him, Burt quietly accepted his son’s eccentric style and interests that baffled the rough and tumble mechanic father. Because of his love, he could offer the foundation and support that Kurt would need to find his own way.
Lorelei Gilmore (The Gilmore Girls)
Do figure out the line between being a friend and a parent: As a teen mom, Lorelai was barely equipped to be a parent when she became one. But she forged a relationship with Rory that was full of love and respect. It was also one that reminded viewers that even though you want your teen to feel free to come to you with their problems, they also need to see you as their parent.
Danny Tanner and Uncles Jesse and Joey (Full House)
Do aim for progress, not perfection: In this household of three men (widowed dad Danny, mom’s brother Jesse, and dad’s best friend Joey) and three girls, there was much bumbling about. Even though things didn’t run smoothly, the basics were managed, the girls were loved, and life went on.
Eric and Tami Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
Do pursue your dreams: Both Eric and Tami put their family first but had ambitions they needed to manage. The way they handled that, mistakes and all, set the best possible example for daughter Juli.
Mike and Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch)
Do show compassion: Mike and Carol Brady had all the answers, but were kind and compassionate at the same time. They never criticized Jan for being so inferior to Marcia, Marcia, Marcia… or made Cindy feel bad about that terrible lisp. They didn’t even lose it when they caught Greg with cigarettes! They loved each other, loved their kids, loved each other’s kids, loved Alice… who didn’t want to grow up in the Brady house? —Krissy Mac
Al and Peg Bundy (Married With Children)
Do take an active role in your kids’ lives: To say Al and Peggy had a laissez faire attitude toward childrearing would be an understatement. Those kids practically raised themselves and it was a miracle Bud made it to college and Kelly managed to get out of high school without ruining her life.
Ray and Deborah Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond)
Do know what to emulate from your own parents and what not to: Sure, Ray’s mom Marie may not understand boundaries but she showered her boys with love, and so did Ray and Deb. Just with a tad more self awareness.
Jon and Kate Gosselin (Jon and Kate Plus Eight)
Do know when to put the kids first: Alternately: Do not put your kids on TV.
Hal and Lois (Malcolm in the Middle)
Do not worry about keeping up with the Joneses: Let’s face it: Hal and Lois were never going to keep up with the Joneses. One look at their disaster of a front yard could attest to that. But they did what they could, when they could, yelling at each other all the way.
Eric and Annie Camden (Seventh Heaven)
Do not be afraid to instill your own values: The reverend and his wife knew that raising seven children in a secular world wouldn’t be a cakewalk but they armed them with their own religious and moral beliefs and set about reinforcing that through every difficulty. Even when a certain eldest daughter went way off-book, they stayed true and lived to see those values sink in.
Michael Taylor and Joey Harris (My Two Dads)
Do put aside your differences for the sake of the kids: For these guys to go from romantic rivals to co-parents of a teenage girl (without knowing which of the two was her father) after the object of their affections died took quite a bit of doing, especially when neither man had a parenting role in the girl’s life before. But as most parents must learn to do, they had to work together to do what was best for Nicole.
Roseanne and Dan Connor? (Roseanne)
Do not be afraid to embarrass your kids sometimes: Roseanne and Dan Connor taught parents everywhere that you didn’t need a lot of money to show your kids you loved them. As a parenting team, they were strict disciplinarians with a unique sense of humor… one that their kids didn’t always appreciate. They always taught parents that embarrassing your kids in public is VERY FUNNY. —Krissy Mac
Howard and Marion Cunningham (Happy Days)
Do create a home environment that welcomes your children’s friends: Sure, Arnold’s Drive-In was the official hangout for Richie, Potsie, Ralph Malph, the Fonz, and the rest of the gang, but you were just as apt to find them at the Cunningham house interacting with the ‘rents (sometimes awkwardly, sometimes not). Mr. and Mrs. C. were definitely of a different generation but they made a point of knowing their kids’ friends. Heck, Mrs. C was the only one who could get away with a sternly toned ”Arthur” without the leather-clad greaser getting all riled up.
Ann Romano (One Day at a Time)
Do not ever give up on your kids: Spunky single mom Ann Romano went through it all with her thoroughly modern family of teenage girls. Drugs, sex, all manner of rebellion — Ann fought her way through it all and always let the girls know that while she loved them fiercely, she wouldn’t roll over.
Edith and Archie Bunker (All in the Family)
Do try to maintain boundaries: While it was a big financial help for the Bunkers to let their daughter Gloria and her husband Mike live with them while he finished school, it also served to make them all grate on each other’s nerves. Living with Archie’s bigotry and ignorance may have made discord an inevitability but remember that no matter how upsetting your daughter- or son-in-law is, calling him a Meathead is never a good idea.
Shirley Partridge (The Partridge Family)
Do not let your kids make the big decisions: Sure, Shirley had to give her blessing for her brood to become a touring pop sensation, but she was swayed by an overzealous (and kind of creepy) manager and a bunch of kids who wanted to be in music.
Bill and Pat Loud (An American Family)
Do remember that some things should be kept private: It must have seemed like a good idea in the beginning, letting the cameras into their family to document their lives. But when the marriage began to unravel and family members claimed the final product was edited to exaggerate personalities, being reality TV trailblazers really didn’t seem worth it. Too bad others on this list had to find out for themselves.
Ward and June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver)
Don’t be discouraged when your kids don’t pick up on the example you set: Ward and June Cleaver were the ultimate middle-verging-on-upper-class couple. The sort of folks who wore a jacket and tie, and pearls and a dress, to dinner on an ordinary weeknight. That they raised two slovenly, quarrelling sons — Wally and Theodore, aka, The Beaver — does not diminish their parents’ efforts. While the boys didn’t seem to ”get” polite society, we viewers were witness to many private moments of the kids’ generosity and good sense when tempted to do naughty things. —Ken Tucker
Jim and Margaret Anderson (Father Knows Best)
Do Conform to the Conventions of Your Era: While the very title Father Knows Best now seems quaint, if not insulting, the way it played out on the show was considerably more nuanced. Jim Anderson was the wise daddy the three kids crowded around to greet when he came home from the insurance company in the series’ opening credits. Margaret deferred to him in the first round most parental decisions, while adding her own opinion when she felt it needed. At a time when father figures were starting to be portrayed as ineffectual dopes, the confident air of Jim Anderson was a valuable lodestar of direction for his family. They could veer off-course to pursue their own decisions, but if they strayed or stumbled, wise dad was there to set them back on-course.—Ken Tucker
Ma and Pa Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie
Do lead by example: Both Charles and Caroline Ingalls were the strong and silent type. Even as they carved out their rustic life, you just knew that these parents were not going to let anything bad happen to their family (that whole Mary-contracting-scarlet-fever-and-going-blind-thing was totally not their fault). They were strong and brave in the face of adversity and their children were strong and brave as a result. Oh, and one could learn a thing or two about work ethic from those Prairie folk. —Krissy Mac
Bill Davis (Family Affair)
Don’t be afraid to have a social life: When the debonair bachelor Bill Davis took in his dead brother’s three kids, it meant lots of adjustments. But with the help of his trusty valet, the kids find a new home in the swanky upper east side apartment and the handsome engineer, who was often traveling the world for work, still had time for dates.
Donna and Alex Stone (The Donna Reed Show)
Don’t be afraid to show affection in front of the kids: Was there a 1950s/60s sitcom couple that ever seemed hotter for each other than Donna and Alex Stone? The beautiful, happy housewife and the chiseled doctor-husband were always exchanging avid glances and fond looks at each other. They were never so demonstrative that their kids said, ”Ewwww!,” but there’s a reason Shelley Fabares, who played daughter Mary, had a 1962 hit single with the pop ballad ”Johnny Angel”: The kid knew what romantic yearning looked like. —Ken Tucker