Make Room for Daddy

An Analysis of the Differentiating Parenting Techniques of Homer Simpson to His Three Children

By Elise Lipoff
"A father is a banker provided by nature...children suck the mother when they are young, and the father when they are old” (Mackey 100). Homer has a promising future of having his pockets sucked dry by his family. He is the father of Bart, Lisa, and what's-her-name, oh yes, Maggie. By definition he is a father, and no where in that definition does it say that a man will be good at this. Homer may not be the best father in the eyes of critics, but he is a father and cannot be denied that privileged title. As a father, he is raising his children with his best knowledge, and much help from the children's mother, Marge. Being a father is tough, but maintaining a relationship with all three children is even more difficult. Homer has the most substantial relationship with Bart, the most trying with Lisa, and the most loving with Maggie. These relationships can further be understood by breaking down the parent - child roles to understand how Homer and his three children fit into them.

The first, and usually most substantial bond within a family, is that of the father and his first born son. A son is of the most importance to a family because he will carry on the family name. Bart and Homer share the natural father-son bonding relationship. There is not need to have a whole lot of emotion, but there is an underlying stream of conscious love. The relationship consists of Homer and Bart is doing guy things, like in "Saturday's of Thunder” when Bart and Homer build a soap-box car.

    Bart: Dad, I love you, but, you taught me to win. 
   Homer: When did I ever teach you that? 
    Bart: Well, I picked it up somewhere (8F07).
Homer and Bart can verbalize their love, however, Bart still mocks his father for being Homer. This represents Bart's understanding that Homer is not the best father. But Bart also looks up to Homer because he ultimately wants to be just like his father as Hamilton explains, " where the father is interested in and involved with the son, the son generally will acquire many of the characteristics of the father and initially use his father's example as a general guide to his own career” (78). Bart sees his father as a role model that he could one day fit, one of laziness when it comes to work, but restlessness when it comes to the importance of family.

In Homer's treatment of Bart, he treats his son differently than his two younger daughters. "Fathers have been observed to touch and talk more with boys , especially first-born sons” (McQuire 104). Homer and Bart do share this bond, as can be understood in the example from 8F07. Homer does not necessarily talk more with Bart, but it is their non-verbal communication during which they share their man-like similarities.

"In a similar way both mothers' and fathers' accounts of the father-son relationship stress a mutuality of interests which grows as the child becomes more interested in 'masculine' activities, particularly sports, whether as a participant or a spectator” (Lewis 182).

In any other father situation, according to Lewis, this would be true, but not so with Homer. In 2F05, Homer although proud of Bart's hockey team, instead supports Lisa in her attempt at the sport of hockey. Homer goes beyond the normal boundaries of a father to treat his children fairly. But he does this to help his children form their identity roles. A father would have to react differently to their son and daughter in his situation. "Fathers...want to encourage the physical and intellectual developments of their sons. For daughters the father's aim may be to encourage femininity” (Parke 44). Although Homer usually falls in the mold for a father wanting his son to be athletic, he knows that in order to build his daughter's self esteem, sports may also be a good alternative to something girlie unlike a beauty pageant (9F02).

It is in " Lisa's Pony” that Marge suggests that Homer spend more quality time with Lisa because he ignores her. But, oddly enough, the episodes prove that Homer spends the most quality time with Lisa.

"Although many mothers want...and expect their husbands to be involved parents, sharing the tasks and the fun involved in rearing a child, men's attitude toward their roles as fathers have been changing more gradually than their wives expectations” (Mackey 124).

Homer knows how to entertain his daughter, but he enjoys his quality time with his kids. He is easily to be persuaded to spend time with his children. His enjoyment of fatherhood comes from his moments of quality time with the family.

Lisa and Homer seem to understand each other the most, and have a strong bond, as seen in episode 3F10.

  Homer: Yeah, gimme all the dirt. 
   Lisa: Let's see. Dirt....dirt...well, there wasn't really much dirt. 
   Bart: There was a bunch of old paint cans in the garage, though. 
  Homer: [laughs scoffingly] Old painty-can Ned.
Homer does not have to try to hard to find something that he and his family have in common. In order for Homer to bond with his children, he needed something that they could share. In this episode it was what the family could find wrong with their neighbors.

Homer and Lisa have fun together because they share the father-daughter bond. This can clearly be seen is "Lisa's Wedding”.

    Homer: Little Lisa, Lisa Simpson. You know, I always felt you were 
           the best thing my name ever got attached to. Since the time 
           you learned to pin your own diapers, you've been smarter than me. 
     Lisa: Oh, Dad -- 
    Homer: No, no, let me finish. I just want you to know I've always been 
           proud of you. You're my greatest accomplishment and you did it all 
           yourself.  You helped me understand my own wife better and taught 
           me to be a better person, but you're also my daughter, and I don't 
           think anybody could have had a better daughter than you -- 
     Lisa: Dad, you're babbling. 
    Homer: See? You're still helping me. 
This scene of this episode is detrimental to understanding the relationship between Homer and Lisa. Although twenty years had supposedly passed, the clarity of Homer's feelings towards his daughter is strongly felt. Even if Homer thought he neglected Lisa the most as a child, in his heart she stayed with him always.

Homer's strength as a man helped Lisa become a strong and independent person. "When a man uses his protective-armor approach to impart substantive information, he can inhibit his daughter's developing into an independent woman comfortable with thinking for herself” (Fields 92). There has been differentiating techniques with the raising of Bart and Lisa. Parental involvement is an important factor in forming a child's personality, as Fields explained in the previous quote. Was Homer more involved with Lisa than Bart? If so, how can this be seen. Through cognitive levels and opposite personalities, Homer's involvement with the developmental processes can be determined.

Bart is known as an underachiever and a delinquent. Parke discusses in his book how the likelihood of Bart being an underachiever is due to the lack of Homer's involvement. But Homer posses the average fatherly view that, "their role as father beginning after the baby stage and believed that the father's role is more important later in the child's life, especially during adolescence” (72). Homer is waiting for Bart to get older, so they can communicate easier, but unfortunately he has waited too long.

Not only is Bart's underachievement caused by the lack of Homer's involvement, but Bart's delinquent tendencies, as well. "Delinquents have usually received very little positive attention or guidance from their fathers... give (them) little directions and share fewer plans, activities, and interests with their children” (Biller 213). It is seen often that Bart is being reprimanded or threatened by Homer. But, it is ultimately Homer's fault why Bart is a trouble making child. Marge's influence on Bart only goes so far, it is up to the father to form the bonds that will make Bart into a decent young man.

Lisa, on the other hand, has received much more positive reinforcement from her father than she realizes. It may seem odd how Lisa can be so intelligent, being that she is the second child, and Bart not being too bright. Parke says, "father's affected their daughters' cognitive progress through verbal stimulation such as talking, praising, and complimenting though being responsive to their daughters' social initiatives... both mothers and fathers influence girls through verbal interaction and warmth and boys through physical interaction” (70).

It is obvious now that Marge and Homer must have consistently praised Lisa for her well doing from the start. Bart, although when rewarded through sports activities, might have also wanted to have been verbally congratulated. Lisa used her cognitive abilities for commendation and attention, while Bart used his delinquent tendencies for his much needed attention.

Maggie Simpson is the teetering toddler, with a lonely pacifier, a dress that is too long, and she is the youngest child. Homer openly admits to Maggie being his favorite child in "And Maggie Makes Three”. Maggie is so innocent that she loves Homer because she has to, she has no choice. "Recent evidence indicates that infants can recognize their mother's by smell even in the first week of life. Moreover, infants can distinguish their parents from strangers by site by two months and their mothers from their fathers soon after” (Parke 47). This is an important example because she understands who her parents are, although they do forget about her. Although Maggie is often forgotten like in episode 3F10, and numerous others, at the end of this episode she was able to acknowledge her mother and father from the Flanders, the Simpson's neighbors. Maggie was torn between the two families because the Flanders' showed her the attention she had been craving, but her mother was her home. Homer unconditionally loves Maggie. Lisa and Bart question Homer why there are no pictures of Maggie in the album. He replies, "Oh, there are pictures. I keep them where I need the most cheering up”(2F10). The place where all the pictures are is in Homer's workstation at the power plant.

Homer can use his experiences with Bart and Lisa to form Maggie into the best that she can be. With more attention from Homer, she will be will smarter and more athletic. Also, she will have Lisa's independence, and Bart's keen nose for blackmail. If Marge and Homer show Maggie the attention she needs, then the possibility of having a normal child is greater.

Homer tries to play the role of the good father, but he often makes big mistakes most often in forgetting about his children. In order for Homer to become a better parent, he must first learn from his mistakes. In episode 8F15, Homer forgets Bart's birthday. This is acceptable for Homer because he is regarded as the forgetful father. Richard Corliss said, " Homer isn't bright, but he loves his brood.” He is supposed to make mistakes because his character is supposed to be a real father. That allows the audience to associate with his character and feel for his mistakes and watch him grow as a father. Homer tries to be a good father to his children, an example would be in episode 8F07.

   Marge: Maybe you should do something with the kids while I'm 
   Homer: [sugary-sweet] Oh, sure, great idea. I've love to. 
          [sees Lisa] D'oh!! Did you hear that? 
    Lisa: Yes.
   Homer: How much? 
    Lisa: Everything.
   Homer: What's the quickest, cheapest, easiest way to do 
          something with you?
    Lisa: Uh.... Take us to the video store?
    Homer: Anything for my little girl (8F07).
In this episode, Homer attempts to be a good father, but does not want to sacrifice his time. He can not deny any time from Lisa. The odd thing about Homer is that he constantly thinks that he never spends enough time with his children, when a lot of his time he is spending with his family. Here Lisa and Homer share one of many moments together. In 8F06, the relationship with Homer and Lisa most easily seen. Homer tries to do right by Lisa, but ends up messing it all up. In trying to right his wrong, he buys her a pony, and sacrifices his nights and takes on the night shift at the Kwik-E-Mart. " Homer is not effective in such actions, but that makes his devotion to his family in some ways all the more touching” (Cantor). Homer's intentions were very admirable, but he did not think of the consequences it would have on himself, his only care was for the happiness of his daughter. He was trying to show her the attention that he thought he was not supplying.

Homer may not be the best parent in the world, but he has learned a lot from all his mistakes. Sure he forgets a child or two every now and again, but this is how he sees how much more attention must be given to his children.

   Homer: Well, wait a minute! OK, I'm not going to win "Father of 
          the Year". In fact, I'm probably the last guy in the world 
          who should have kids. I -- [the judge looks at him sternly] 
          Er, well, er, wait...can I start again? Fathering children 
          is the best part of my day. I'd do _anything_ for Bart and 
   Judge: And, er, Margaret? 
   Homer: Who? Lady, you got the wrong file. 
   Marge: [whispering] It's Maggie! 
   Homer: Oh, Maggie. Er, I got nothing against Maggie. (3F10)
Although he has flaws, Homer is a real Dad. He enjoys being a father to his children, even though he knows he is not perfect. Some people were meant to be fathers and Homer Simpson was one of them. "Oh, Marge, don't blame yourself. _I'm_ the terrible parent. The boy bugs the hell out of me, I can't help Lisa with her homework...the only thing I'm fit to take care of is a houseplant” (3F10). That is not true, Homer knows how to love each of his children in their own individual ways, although he could not take care of the plant because he killed it.

Homer J. Simpson is an ultimate father. Corliss wrote, "the poor patriarch is so dull witted that he probably couldn't count to 16 if he used all his fingers and his toes. But he is a faithful husband, and if he often derides his kids, he will do anything...”. Homer wants to be a better father than he is, and is doing this by spending more quality time with each of his children. He tries to make each one happy, but at the same time must reprimand them, and make up for his mistakes. Homer is a good father to Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, but each in a different way.

Homer has learned a lot about what it takes to make a great kid. It takes attention, time, and lots of love. Bart, Lisa, and Maggie have all been influenced early in life by their father is some form or another. Each of their childhood experiences are different because Homer has learned more from his mistakes as his children have grown older. Fields may have said it best when she stated that " being a great father requires three things: being there, being aware, and being real. Everything else is dessert” (129). Homer has said it best, "MMM.... dessert”.


Alber, Dianne S. " An Analysis of Sex Roles and Their Relationships to Self- Esteem, Birth Order, Race, Socioeconomic Class, and Age." Disertation Abstracts International April 1981: Vol 41(10-A), p 4334.

This article deals with the socioeconomic factors which is a different perspective to look at Lisa as the middle child. Using the socioeconomic aspect of this articel I can see how Lisa compares with other middle children in different areas of the country.

Barthell, Charles. : Affiliation, birth order and extroversion and introversion" Disertation Abstracts International. Jan. 1971: Vol 31 (7-B), p4324-4325.

This excerpt will be of use because it discusses the differences of Bart and Lisa and their streotypes as the introvert and extrovert. Once again, using birth order, I can determine what part of Lisa’s character comes from her birth order after Bart, and before Maggie.

Bragg, Barry W. " Academic Primogeniture and sex-role contrast of the second born". Journal of Individual Psychology. Nov 1970: Vol. 26(2), p 196-199.

This article will be useful because the subject of the article is the emphasis of sex-roles and and over attention given to the first child. I could compare the finds of the survery against the background of Lisa and the relationship between her and BArt. By comparing Bart and Lisa to the survey, we can see where they fall pn the survey.

Chalfant, Deana. " Birth Order, Perceived Parental Favoritism, and Feelings Toward Parents. Individual Psychology: Journal of Aldarian Theory, Research & Practice. March 1994: Vol 50 (1), p 52-57.

This source will be helpful to me in researching the parent favoritism to the middle child in a family. I can then ask myself " Do Homer and Marge favor Lisa morehtan th other children?" It is a different angle to see the relationships between the children and their parents.

Clark, John R. and Green, Roger L. "Adler’s Theory of Birth Order". Psychological Reports. 1970: 26(2), p. 387-390.

Using Adler’s theory of the effects on the older child’s personality when another sibling arrives within the first three years of his life. Also, Adler has theories on birth order and their effects on personalities.

Cox, Sandra. " An Analysis of the Middle Child in a Three Child Constellation." Disertation Abstracts International . March 1986: Vol 46(9-A), p 2623-2624.

Sandra Cox uses the threee children modle for her research into the place of the middle child. Using Sandra Cox’s findings I can compare Lisa with the data that is prevelent in the study.

Theroux, Nancy Louise. " Birth Order and Its Relationship to Academic Achievment and Personal Traits." Disertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities & Social Sciences 1994: Vol 54 (10-A), p 3684.

In this article, extracirricular activities is the main objective. Based on birth order and the statistics of the study, I can judge Lisa against other middle children, and see if other middle children are as involved as she is.

Hillman, Bill W. " Compostition of the Family Constellation and is Effect on School Achievement: A Test of an Alderian Hypothesis." Disertation Abstracts International. May 1970: Vol 30 (11-A), p 4892-4830.

I believe this article will be helpful because it discussed the family as a unit, and how parents encourage certain children to do good in school. The purpose of the article is to prove an Alderian hypothesis of acadmica acheivement is based upon birth order. Comparing Lis and Bart, this hypothesis can may or may not be proven.

Stewart, Robert B. The Second Child: Family Transition and Adjustement. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1990.

This book take a different look into the role of the second child. It talks about the family’s transition and the difference between the first and second child. Tis is usueful in comparing the roles of siblings between Bart and Lisa.

Sutton-Smith, Brian. The Sibling. New York: Holt, Rineheart and Winston. 1970.

This book contains useful excerpts of how siblings deal with eachother. There is a section on the middle child, and his idea of the traits of a middle child. I will compare Lisa with the traits that Brian Sutton-Smith has claimed for the middle child.

© Elise Lipoff, 11 April 2000

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