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Lessons in how not to be a parent, from TV families

Whether you have kids or are just toying with the idea of starting a family, you likely want to avoid psychologically scarring your offspring, if at all possible. Just consider the following families — a few of TV’s worst — as field guides for what not to do.

Al and Peggy Bundy, Married with Children

When it comes to shoddy TV parents, Al and Peggy Bundy are, perhaps, one of the most iconic examples. While most men suffer silently in discontent, Al made no pretenses about his life of “quiet” despair — taking every opportunity to remind Peggy and his kids how he could have done so much more with his life than being a shoe salesman had he not been saddled with them. So he sits on the couch with his hand tucked into his pants and tosses aspersions at everyone but the dog. Okay, sometimes at the dog too. Peggy’s fault isn’t in not loving her family — it’s in being such a shopaholic that she’d sell her kids down the river for a shiny new bauble.

Evelyn Harper, Two and Half Men

You know when someone does something epically bad and everyone asks, “How did they end up like that?” Well, it all often boils down to the mother. If she’s an otherwise good one, the response is, “His mama raised him better than that.” If the mother, however, is deeply flawed, the response runs more along the lines of, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The latter perfectly fits Evelyn Harper of Two and Half Men. Prior to his death on the show, Charlie’s superficial antics often left us speechless. But then, look at his mama. When it comes to manipulative matriarchs, Evelyn takes the cake. From having sex with Charlie’s transgender ex-girlfriend to getting Charlie to break up marriages so she could get the divorcee’s real estate listing, Evelyn has pretty much messed with her sons’ minds every which way possible.

Frank and Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond

Let us just state, for the record, that we love our parents. And our in-laws, for that matter. But does that mean we’d want them living across the street from us? Uh, no thank you — and our parents can’t hold a candle to the nightmare that was Everybody Loves Raymond’s Frank and Marie Barone. If you think your mom’s guilt trips are bad, you wouldn’t have stood a chance against Marie — she elevated making her children feel bad to an art form. She’s also mastered backhanded compliments, condescending advice and righteous indignation. And Frank? Holy crap (in his own words)! Let’s just say his version of “parenting” involved a lot of cursing at, berating and altogether ignoring Ray and Robert.

Betty and Don Draper, Mad Men

While Frank and Marie Barone are inept parents, they aren’t totally unfit — unlike Mad Men’s Betty and Don Draper. The laundry list of parental indiscretions they’ve committed could constitute a show entirely of its own. Betty’s breed of mothering borders on psychological warfare — she shames her daughter Sally on a daily basis, she enjoys a pseudo flirtation with the neighbor boy who likes Sally, and casts general malaise upon her children. Don isn’t much better. Not only did he actually sleep with his daughter’s schoolteacher, but he also blatantly courts every skirt in town. Oh, did we mention when these two split, they totally dropped off two of their kids with the maid for her to raise?

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