By Kimberly Witt
On the air since 2011, the animated TV sitcom Bob’s Burgers has been serving laughs and compassion along with their “punny” burgers for 13 seasons and one full-length movie. (Seriously, as a word nerd, I would watch the show for the puns alone!) After a long day of work and parenting teens, this show is one of my favorite ways to unwind before heading to bed.
Along the way, sitcom parents Bob and Linda Belcher have passed along some surprisingly great parenting wisdom.
Parenting Tips Featured in Bob’s Burgers
1. Let your kids be themselves, even if their behavior is weird
Louise, age 9, always wears the same bunny-eared hat. Gene, age 11, pesters everyone around him with weird noises and a gross sense of humor. Tina, age 13, is more-than-mildly obsessed with horses and teen boys.
And Bob and Linda don’t try to change these aspects of their kids. Sure, they coach them on whether or not something is appropriate for the time and place, but they don’t try to make their kids into something they’re not.
Want to befriend a talking toilet? Go for it! Want to write gobs and gobs of goofy fanfiction? Do it! Want to carry around your Kuchi Kopi night light? Sounds great!
Loving acceptance is certainly needed when raising teens. Our teens are constantly trying out new personalities, hobbies, and hairstyles. They’re figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world around them. We would do well to copy Bob and Linda Belcher and unconditionally embrace our teens, even if some of their interests might not be what we would choose for them.
2. Teach them the value of hard work
Nearly every episode of Bob’s Burgers shows the kids working in the family burger restaurant. Whether they’re cleaning bathrooms, filling ketchup bottles, or wiping down menus, Tina, Louise, and Gene are an important part of the family business. Sure, they are often trying to get out of work, but aren’t most kids?
That same work ethic and perseverance show up in other areas of the Belcher kids’ lives—from Tina’s never ending pursuit of her middle school crush, to Louise’s relentless attempts at troublemaking in school, to Gene’s persistent efforts to make music.
There’s value in chores and in asking our kids to help around the house. Growing up on a farm in the 1980s, I learned many of those lessons from my parents, and I’ve tried to instill the same in my sons. Whether it’s scrubbing their shower or helping wash the cars, our sons know that pitching in is part of being in a family.
With teenagers’ busy schedules, it can be easy to just do things for them. (I’m super guilty of that one myself—just ask my husband!) But the Belchers remind us that teaching our kids to work hard pays off in the long run.
3. Own your mistakes
Perhaps more than anything, it’s Bob and Linda’s humanity (or as “human” as a cartoon can get!) that makes them great parents.
They mess up. They reflect. They make a plan to do better, and then they move on.
The mess-ups add to the laugh-out-loud comedy of the show, but watching Bob and Linda clean up their parenting messes reminds us that as parents we will make mistakes. What matters is what we do after those mistakes.
As they clean up the kitchen in one episode, Bob and Linda discuss her recent parenting mishap in over-mothering Gene. “We both screw up,” Bob admits. “All the time. Sometimes we’re okay, I think, but a lot of times we screw up. I just think as long as we’re trying our best, that’s the best we can do.”
For the Belchers, doing their best always involves repairing relationships with their kids.
In one moment of heartfelt apology from Bob, he ends with a simple statement: “I just want to say, you kids are great. Maybe the best ever.”
And that’s what our teens need to hear, too. Like Bob and Linda, I try to remember the importance of sincere apology after I’ve messed up.
4. Let your kids know how much you love them
The Belcher kids are 13, 11, and 9, and Linda is still constantly exclaiming “My babies!” and showering them with love. While Linda’s love might border on smothering, her kids are confident in her unconditional love for them, a confidence they carry into other areas of their life.
While Bob’s love might not be quite so exuberant, he’s still always there for his kids. And he always will be. As he told Louise when he picked her up early from a school field trip, “I’m always available to come pick you up. Even in college. Or on business trips. Or on your honeymoon.”
In raising teenagers, we are faced with lots of worries and pressures. Are they taking the right classes? Choosing the right friends? Making the best choices? We can do well to follow Bob and Linda’s lead, though, and focus first—and always—on unconditional love for the quirky kids we get the pleasure of parenting!
When I send my teenage sons another eye-roll-inducing gif or text, put another “I love you” post-it on their door, or make up an obnoxious song about how much I love them, I think of the Belchers.
My kids might doubt a lot of things during their adolescence, but I hope they never doubt the depth of my love for them.
The next time you need some belly laughs and light-hearted entertainment, dish up an episode of Bob’s Burgers. Along with the fries, you’ll get a healthy side of parenting inspiration, too!