Jon Hamm

Betty Draper's 6 biggest parenting fails

April 12, 2013 at 2:39 PM ET

Mad Men: Betty Draper Wins the Bad Parent Award
AMC /
Mad Men: Betty Draper Wins the Bad Parent Award

Ever have a day where you feel like you just don't cut it as a parent? Feel better by tuning in to Mad Men to watch Betty Draper Francis screwing up way worse than you ever could.

Gorgeous but icy cold, Betty (played by January Jones) is damaged herself—a woman who once had big dreams but is now defined by the men she marries—but that doesn't change the fact that her go-to parenting strategy is to tell her kids to go watch TV.

In honor of Mad Men's new season, we've rounded up Betty Draper Francis' most egregious parenting fails.

She Slaps Sally for Cutting Her Own Hair
Poor Sally, who bears the brunt of her mom's suburban rage. Betty makes casual remarks about Sally getting fat, giving her daughter the idea that looks are more important than anything. She drives this idea home when Sally cuts her own hair (a clear cry for attention in the wake of her parents' breakup), and Betty rewards her with a hard slap to the face.

She Locks Sally in a Closet
When Betty finds Sally lighting up in the bathroom, she accepts her own role in making smoking appear glamorous and calmly explains how dangerous cigarettes can be. Kidding! Although it wasn't widely accepted at the time that cigarettes can cause cancer and other health problems, Betty, uh, lights into Sally for creating a fire hazard, then drags her by the hair to a dark closet. "You're hurting me," Sally cries. "Good!" Betty fires back. She threatens to leave Sally in there all night, but then softens when Sally wonders where an absent Don is.

She Tells Bobby to Bang His Head on the Wall
Betty's an exhausted new mom to baby Eugene, and she just wants a little peace and quiet. Totally get it. Don't get: telling Bobby to "go bang his head on the wall" when he complains he's bored. "Only boring people are bored," she tells him. There's probably a good make-your-own-fun message in there somewhere—too bad it's wrapped up in vitriol.

She Overreacts When Sally Refuses to Eat Dinner
It's the family's first Thanksgiving with new husband Henry. Sally's clearly still miserable about her parents' divorce and whines about the food, which her mother insists she eat. When Sally gags, she's dragged from the table, and off-camera you can hear her begging Betty to stop pinching her.

She Unceremoniously Fires the Nanny
Everyone knows nanny Carla was the one really raising the Draper kids. But when Carla allows Sally to say goodbye to first crush and neighbor Glen (with whom Betty has some history) before Sally moves, Betty fires Carla without letting her even say goodbye to the kids. For an extra dose of revenge, she refuses to give Carla a reference.

She Handles the Sex Talk All Wrong
There was foreshadowing that Betty would botch The Talk when she first addressed kissing with Sally. “You don't kiss boys, boys kiss you,” she admonished Sally. Way to set her up for healthy sexual identity, Betty! But, in one of the most cringe-worthy Mad Men episodes ever, Sally is caught masturbating at a friend's house. Betty yells, "What's wrong with you?" and sends her off to a shrink. Actually, given some of her other parenting moments, that may have been Betty’s smartest move yet.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.

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