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This year, I spent most of April, May, and June neglecting my kids. I had more compelling things to do than look after them, namely:
- Thinking about the last episode of Game of Thrones
- Watching the current episode of Game of Thrones
- Anticipating the next episode of Game of Thrones
Now that the season finale has aired, and I have to go back to being an adult, I realize I wasn’t just escaping my parental responsibilities these last few months. I was honing skills. I was learning to be a better father.
This might seem counter-intuitive. The fathers on “Game of Thrones” are, generally speaking, awful. Whether it’s Tywin Lannister — whose obsession with his family’s reputation warps his children in unimaginable ways — or Stannis Baratheon — whose stubborn pursuit of the Iron Throne leads him to burn his only daughter at the stake — fathers in “Game of Thrones” seldom do right by their children. But this unrelenting parade of bad dads is actually quite educational. Every season is like a 10-part Lynda course on “How Not to Raise Your Kids.”
With that in mind, here are some of my favorite GOT fathers from Season 6, along with the lessons their bad parenting provides. (Needless to say, lots of SPOILERS below):
The head of the House Bolton, Roose is father of the charismatic bastard Ramsay, the manipulative sadist who has been ruining the lives of everyone around him since Season 2. Roose is supposed to be a dispassionate pragmatist, untouched by sentiment or illusions. Yet when he hears his new wife has given birth to a son — a legitimate heir — he invites his bastard in for a congratulatory hug. This rare moment of fatherly pride is rewarded with a knife to the gut from Ramsay, who goes on to feed the wife and child to his dogs, thereby securing his future as the new head of House Bolton.
Lesson: When telling your older child about his new brother or sister, be sensitive to the jealousy the news might engender.
The smoking-hot Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch started the season as a pretty blue corpse, having been ambushed by a group of his fellow men-in-black. One of these conspirators was his young squire Olly. Resurrected by magic, Jon’s first order of business is to remind Olly that acting out will result in serious consequences (in this case, death by hanging). The scowl that Olly gives Jon before he swings is one that every parent of a teenager will recognize — the look that says “You may be punishing me, but I refuse to learn from it.”
Lesson: Be firm when dispensing discipline. Spare the rod and you’ll spoil the child.
The 3-Eyed Raven
In his capacity as mentor and guide to Professor-X-in-training Bran Stark, the 3-Eyed Raven forbids Bran from mystically traveling to the past on his own. But he never explains why. Bran, being a teenager, immediately does exactly what he was told not to do. His solo spirit journey lands him smack in the middle of the evil White Walkers and leads them to the Raven’s hiding place. Mayhem and death ensues.
Lesson: Be clear about the rules, and explain why you’re imposing them. If you don’t spell things out, your child is sure to do something stupid.
Lovable bookworm Samwell Tarly has been talking about his dreadful father Randyll for 5 seasons now, building him up as the most epically disappointed parent in the history of Westeros. We finally get to meet Randyll in episode 6, and he is all we hoped he’d be. During a savagely awkward family dinner, Randyll berates his son for his weight, his cowardice, even the fact that he likes to read. But it’s an insult to Sam’s wilding girlfriend Gilly that finally drives the son to an act of rebellion — running off in the middle of the night with the family’s priceless Valyrian sword. This is the Westeros equivalent of stealing Dad’s Porsche to go to Burning Man.
Lesson: Don’t underestimate your kids, or how angry you can make them.
A member of the mysterious guild of assassins known as the “Faceless Men,” Jaqen H’ghar gets a lot of mileage out of appearing wise. But then he puts one teenage girl, The Waif, in charge of another, Arya Stark. Anyone with half a brain knows how this will end: in tears (of blood, as it turns out).
Lesson: Don’t pit your children against one another. It will only make more trouble for you.
In episode 4, self-made man Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish gives a new pet falcon to his mama’s boy stepson, Lord Robin Arryn. Lord Arryn is so delighted he lends Littlefinger his army, which comes in handy a few episodes later when Littlefinger uses it to rescue Jon Snow.
Lesson: Sometimes bribing your kids with gifts gets the best results.
King Aerys II
If a King is a father to his kingdom, than Mad King Aerys II Targaryen might be the worst dad in the history of Westeros. Though he only appears on screen for a couple of seconds during one of Bran’s visions, Aerys is incredibly important to the show’s backstory, and is arguably responsible for more misery than any other character. A paranoid lunatic, his actions plunged Westeros into war, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Without Aerys, Robert Baratheon would never have rebelled, Daenerys would never have fled to the east, Jaime Lannister would never have earned the name “Kingslayer,” and the Starks would probably all still be alive at Winterfell. Aerys also left all those barrels of wildfire under Kings Landing, the ones Queen Cersei put to such explosive use in the season finale. The Mad King is the Platonic ideal of the Bad Dad: even years after his death, he’s still finding a way to screw his kids over.
Lesson: Try to make sure your personal craziness doesn’t bleed over into your children’s lives. Also, keep the fireworks locked up and out of reach.
Jon Moskowitz is a senior copywriter and content creator.