In watching an episode of “Father Knows Best” from the 1950s television culture, one is immediately swept back to a time and place when family life and structure was really solid. The father, mother, son, and sister all interact together in ways that truly underline and define the meaning of distinct role playing within a functioning family.
Although the hierarchy of the family community is perhaps a bit too underscored and overplayed in this television series, the authority slowly yet definitely diminishing from father, to mother, to son, to daughter, there is a definite sense of security and relaxed comfort between the individuals in how they relate to one another.
The father represents the one who takes care of his family and is proud of it. He sets the tone and the limits. The mother acts as the classic helpmate, attempting to illustrate and support her husband, largely subservient to his authority, while also attending to the needs of her children. The son is portrayed as intelligent, yet subject to whims and in need of guidance, and the daughter is mostly cast as the young, trailing puppy who pipes in now and again. When the father comes home from work and his son has bought a set of bongos, the father is disappointed in him. He chides his son as having made the wrong decision in his business deal.
When the mother enters the room, she helps her husband to illuminate the reasons why purchasing the instrument perhaps was not well thought out. The son is a bit frustrated, yet listens attentively while providing small arguments in defense of himself.
The young daughter laughs at the silly display of her father and mother acting out a scene together depicting the son in his recent past, short lived passion of attempting to learn the piano.
Although the hierarchical family structure has faded out over time, perhaps beginning in the 1960s and prevalent still today, viewing the classic familial hierarchy in “Father Knows Best” offers the viewer a sense of unity and togetherness which almost feels foreign in our modern day and age. Despite the disintegration of traditional family structure in current society, one can certainly and luckily gain a sense of the contentment and ease of flow of traditional family values as portrayed in “Father Knows Best”, a bittersweet remembrance of the family unit which has been lost to many people over the past several decades.
In considering the family roles of the traditional family, where the father is truly the disciplined boss, the mother, the associate helper, and the children, the learning fledglings, one is faced with the idea that hierarchy acts as a certain kind of support and guide for family members. A positive view of traditional hierarchy can be taken in an attempt to validly justify the need for roles and meaning between people and in relationships. If every person were exactly equal, completely the same within a family, there would be no leadership, no organization, and, in essence, no diversity or complementarity between individuals.
Even with in the case of seniority as it relates to age, being older than another person is a way of deciding both who is ready for more responsibility or who is deserving of a new and different kind of role or position of leadership or maturity. Having an older husband may provide a wife with a certain added sense of security or meaning, and older children may benefit from privileges related to their age and developmental maturity.
A positive view of the traditional family structure, such as the strong, hard working father, the mother who tends to the home and helps her husband and children, and children who follow the good examples set by their parents, does not have to restrict the idea that individuals are never wrong, however it does support the idea that even in working toward a common solution between family members, the roles and positions within the family are not ignored or abandoned. The economical, social, and familial support which is derived from attending carefully to the traditional family model cannot and should not be ignored or taken for granted.
In general, families benefit from traditional family structures and roles being played out in the home. Having a father who works hard, earns money, sets limits, and feels like the king of his castle and his family lends well to his masculinity and self esteem. A mother who tends to the home, providing and clean and comfortable nest, cooking delicious meals, and aiding her husband and her children, gets much feminine satisfaction from her helpful work and nature.
The benefit of children who grow up within a home where traditional values regarding marriage and family are heralded will fare well as they develop, because they will have witnessed the complementarity of their parents and will have blossomed within a nurturing environment. The age of the children also may set an additional element of hierarchical structure which could help in cases of assuming new and different responsibilities, such as a young daughter leaning to cook or a young man learning to balance his checkbook before leaving for college.
Being buoyed within a diverse and complimentary system, a logical and functioning family, can only be beneficial for the members. One cannot disregard the differences between people and how these differences serve well to be utilized within an organized system, especially one as delicate and important as the family.