Watching “13 Reasons Why” Will Not Make You a Better Parent

Please note off the top that this is not a review of 13 Reasons Why. I haven’t watched the show and have no plans to watch it.

But a lot of people have been watching it, and talking about it. It ended up on my radar, which is markedly free of must-watch TV shows (Tell me more about this “Sopranos.” It’s about singers, right?), because so many people have been talking about what a great, important show it is. Saying, in fact, that parents especially should be watching the series about a teenage girl’s suicide and its aftermath, because it will help them to understand their own kids better.

I understand that kids today are facing a lot of new and difficult challenges, and I understand that parents are often bewildered by the sociological Escher print that is youth culture. But I urge you not to buy into the line that a TV drama will make you a better parent. There’s no TV show that will make you a better parent, unless the show is about how to perform infant CPR or open a college savings account.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the people who made 13 Reasons Why don’t have “parental skills improvement” as one of their top priorities. Nothing against them, but they’re in the entertainment business, which, at its best, is only tangentially related to the loving-relationships business or the healthy-families business. And in the protecting-impressionable-people-from-destructive-cultural-influences business… well, they’re not exactly the first ones I’d pick for my team.

Watching a TV show will not make you a better parent. What will make you a better parent is taking the time you  would’ve spent watching that TV show and spending it instead actually interacting with your children. Make it a habit, and start when they’re young. If you didn’t, it will be harder, but do it anyway. Both of you need it, and there are no shortcuts.