Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #3 Capable Parent / Capable Child

If you've missed it, we've been talking about how to get kids away from the adults who so want to solve all the big problems, so that the kids can be the ones to solve them all. (SOOOOO important in middle grade books!) We've talked about two of the most common methods for getting the kids separated from the parents / guardians: The Orphan and the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent.

Today, we're talking about one of my FAVORITES METHODS OF ALL TIME. The Capable Parent / Capable Kid. I think what made this one work its way into my alley of love was the TV show Kim Possible. (A.k.a. one of the greatest cartoons of all time.) Kim's mom is a brain surgeon. Her dad is a rocket scientist. They're smart. They're capable. And they're around a good deal of the time. So how do the writers get Kim away from her parents so that she can go save the day? By making her capable as well. Uberly capable, in fact. So much so that her parents can trust her to go fix all the problems, and still make it home in time to do her homework.


Consists of one or both parents (or even a guardian / guardians, such as grandparents, adoptive parents, etc.) who are capable caretakers. This works when the main character is also a capable child whom they can trust.


In Rump, Rump's grandmother is his caretaker. She is a good guardian, and trusts Rump. So when he goes off to find his destiny, it works. In Sky Jumpers, Hope has good parents. There's also a bad situation where she can help, so she goes off with her mom's (but not so much her dad's) blessing. In Kim, they trust her to go off, because they know it'll be okay.

  • It is a method not used as common, so there's a lot more room for uniqueness.
  • It can be nice to model good parents. It's something of a rarity.
  • Sadly, a lot of kids don't get to experience this in real life, so it adds an element of fantasy / wish fulfillment.
  • Teachers and parents appreciate when they aren't depicted as incompetent.
  • Extremely hard to pull off, especially repeatedly and especially if the book is more realistic. (I can speak to this firsthand! I got my capable character away from her capable parents just fine in book one. But repeating it gets more difficult-- especially if you're trying to do it in a way that doesn't make the parents / guardian or the child seem like they're making a bad decision, and without making the child defy the parents and sneak off, knowing that the capable parent has said no.)
  • You get less sympathy for the character in this area. Nobody is going to cry crocodile tears for your character who has caring adult figures in their lives.
Come on back tomorrow-- we'll talk about the fourth method: the Sibling as the Parent.


Unknown said...

I loved Kim Possible ^_^ I'm glad you mentioned her. I thought the relationship between her and her parents was wonderful, with them making comments about being home for dinner and that Mother's Day episode where her mom went on a adventure with her.

Tammy Theriault said...

i used to watch Kim Possible!! flash back! Great tips!!