Movies are fiction for the most part, but that doesn’t mean they don’t include many elements from which parents can learn. Parenting isn’t easy, and there isn’t a rule book that teaches how to parent or what we’re doing right and wrong. Movies, on the other hand, allow parents to watch and see what others are doing in their parenting roles—even if they’re fake—and add those activities or parenting skills into their own lives.
Although most are fiction, the people that are acting and the writers who put together a movie are real and oftentimes parenting scenes come from experience. It’s important for parents to be able to see how others are doing it because the life of a parent can be stressful, so seeing someone else's experience can be helpful. The list below features movies that include parenting moments that we can all learn from, either in a good way or a bad way. Some are pretty humorous in that they’re clear parenting rules or because they are things that any real parent would never do. But others are serious, heartwarming moments that show us why so many love to be parents more than anything else in the world.
20 Real Life Is Better Than Fantasy—The Little Mermaid
While the Disney version of The Little Mermaid is quite different than the original fairytale, that doesn't mean it can't offer us some important life lessons. One often-overlooked point that the movie makes both through Ariel's and Eric's actions is that real life is better than fantasy. Although Ariel falters initially when she makes her deal with Ursula, she comes to understand her true agency is not in her voice. Eric must also come to terms with his fixation on the fantasy he has of the woman with the voice, versus the real, live woman who had literally washed up on his doorstep, as per California College San Diego.
19 We've Got To Step Out Of Our Comfort Zone—Tangled
Rapunzel spends her entire life locked in a tower, believing that the world outside can offer her nothing but danger and strife. Her mother has convinced her that everything she needs can be found in her one room, and for much of her life, Rapunzel is comfortable in her tower.
When the outside world comes to her, however, Rapunzel can no longer ignore her life of restraint—and she finds that when she truly steps out of her comfort zone, she can be in a world of beauty and wonderful experiences, as per Hollywood.
Stepping out into the wider world can be pertifying—but the rewards are also so much greater.
18 Don’t Force The Kids To Follow Our Lifestyle—Star Wars
Many parents have kids and immediately fall into trying to make their kids follow in their footsteps. This can mean parents want their kids to follow in the family business, or go to the same schools that they went to as kids. Star Wars teaches parents to allow their children to express their interests and to support them no matter what they are. According to HuffPost, a child will become so much better developed if they are allowed to partake in things that interest them the most, rather than strictly following what we want them to do. In the end, what matters is bringing them up correctly and making sure they are happy.
17 Adversity Can Bring Out Strength We Didn't Know We Had—Mulan
When Mulan first leaves her family and poses as a man to satisfy her family's obligation to send someone to the impending war, it's an impulsive move that she makes to prevent her elderly father from having to serve. What she ends up discovering is how unprepared she is for the rigors of training. After enduring commentary when she didn't succeed time after time, she is faced with a choice: give up, or push herself harder than she ever thought possible, as per Oh My Disney.
Mulan finds a way to tap into an inner strength and fire that drives her on to do great things.
16 Push Through The Bad To Get To The Good—Finding Nemo
Arguably the most memorable character from Disney's Finding Nemo wasn't Nemo, but Dory. The ditzy blue fish remained ebullient no matter what happened—she had a nearly unshakeable positive outlook on life, according to Disney Baby. No one's life is a straight line; high mountain peaks of happiness are often tempered by deep valleys of sadness, but no matter what Dory reminds us to “keep swimming.”
We learned from Finding Nemo that pushing through setbacks and finishing the journey in life is often the key to ultimate success. A lack of success might feel like a roadblock, but we've got to push through bad times to get to the good.
15 Playing With Food Is Okay—Ratatouille
Ratatouille is all about food, and at first, it doesn’t seem like there are any parenting tips included, but there is at least one. Kids have to learn how to eat at some point, and it usually takes some time. They start with bottles and gradually move to finger foods while they’re learning how to pick it up and put it in their mouths. Eventually, they will begin to use utensils, but the finger food stage is a long and frustrating one for most parents.
It’s important to remember that children learn at their own pace, and allowing them to examine and play with their food in the early stages is important for their learning process.
14 We'll Sacrifice Anything For The One We Love—Beauty And The Beast
There are several instances of characters in The Beauty And The Beast making sacrifices for the ones they love, according to Reader's Digest. Belle gives up her freedom, hopes, and dreams in order to save her father, who she loves more than anything in the world. Although the Beast is initially lost in his own bitterness, he discovers that true love, which he develops for Belle, is unselfish. Real love for others means wanting their happiness even if it means we don't end up with what we want. Parents often sacrifice their own health, happiness or time for their children without a second thought—this is true love.
13 The Environment Is Important—Happy Feet
Originally the environment wasn’t supposed to be a big plot point in the Happy Feet movie, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But after being rewritten, the film features the environment since global warming is an important topic.
Kids aren’t always interested in learning about things such as the environment, but this movie gives parents a heads up that this is a big topic and it needs to be talked about.
This isn’t the only movie that allows parents and kids to learn about the environment; Ice Age also gave viewers an idea about snowy climates as well.
12 Tell The Truth—Aladdin
Aladdin thinks he must make himself into someone he's not in order to impress Jasmine, but discovers the lies he's told might end up tearing everything apart. Genie is willing to obey the rules that go along with being a magic genie who grants wishes, yet comes to care for Aladdin enough to give him priceless advice, as per Babble. One lesson we work hard to teach our children is to tell the truth, even when it seems hard.
Aladdin is afraid to tell the truth about himself, but only when he is honest—not just with Jasmine, but with himself—he can become the man he was meant to be.
11 We Are Not The Same People We Were Yesterday—Alice In Wonderland
There are days when we wake up and realize we aren't very happy with who we are. As a parent, we've not only experienced this in ourselves but sometimes witness our children going through these difficult feelings. Alice In Wonderland reminds us that every day we have a chance to be something and someone different than the day before—each day is a new day full of new choices, as per Owlcation. We can choose who we want to be each day. No one else can be us or truly choose for us, either. Every single day that comes to us is an opportunity for growth.
10 The Power Of Friendship—Toy Story
It's hard to believe that the first Toy Story came out in 1995—we've had 20 plus years of life lessons of love and friendship from this inspiring movie. Both children and grown-ups got a refresher course on what true friendship looks like when Buzz Lightyear landed amongst Woody and Andy's other toys, according to Today. Ever since we've all found ourselves singing Randy Newman's theme song, “You've Got A Friend In Me.” Woody learns what it really means to be a friend not just to Andy, but to the other toys, and their bond is stronger when he learns this valuable lesson.
9 Be Yourself—Frozen
Frozen was a Disney hit—and not just because of the amazing songs. The messages that this movie had for us were important. Elsa struggles to be the dutiful daughter her parents want her to be, and when they're gone, she tries to keep who she truly is a secret in order to please the people around her, but that backfires, as per Lifehack. When Elsa begins to acknowledge her true self and stops holding in her feelings and her gifts, she can start growing and become a better leader and better sister. What we think of as a hindrance could turn out to be a blessing.
8 Sometimes No One Can Fix The Problem But Us—Brave
In Brave, Merida finds herself in an intolerable situation and decides to take matters into her own hands. Unfortunately, she acts rashly and without thinking, and endangers her own mother. Merida then has to use her brains and her bravery to find a way to save her mother—and herself, according to How To Be A Redhead. Sometimes we feel trapped in a fate we didn't choose. We may want to charge ahead to change things for ourselves, but if we aren't careful, we could hurt the ones we love in our haste. When we work with the ones we love, we can do many more great things.
7 Look Beyond The Anger To Find Love—Moana
The fiery Te Ka is full of rage and anger; unsettling everyone. Moana fights through setbacks and even pushes on alone when her helper and hero Maui doesn't succeed, and confronts Te Ka, as per Sweety High. When Te Ka rages, Moana sees past the anger because she knows it comes from a place of pain. She treats Te Ka with respect and helps her find a way to heal from her great loss.
Sometimes people lash out at the people around them. Moana teaches us that compassion and love can sometimes be the lifesaver that helps a wounded person heal and become who they were always meant to be.
6 Traditions Can Tie Us Together—Coco
While Disney's Coco contains as many raw life lessons as colors—and it's a color riot—one important lesson is that our family traditions can be the link that ties the past to the present. Miguel learns that the Dia De Los Muertos practices his family participates in every year have deep meanings and keep alive the memories of loved ones who have passed on, according to the Boston Globe. Both cultural traditions and family traditions can strengthen family bonds and remind us that our heritage can be an important part of our identities. These cultural traditions are a rich and important part of our lives.
5 The Meaning Of Ohana—Lilo & Stitch
Lilo & Stitch has a dedicated fan base even after many years, and there are a number of reasons why, but one of the biggest is the meaning of ohana. Sometimes families look different from others, and sometimes families aren't just those related to each other, but also include those who become family by choice. Most of all, Ohana means family—and family means no one is forgotten or left behind, as per Bustle. Lilo knows that Stitch belongs, because she's an outcast, too. She and Nani are there for each other through thick and thin, and Lilo shows Stitch the same love and care, teaching him the true meaning of ohana.
4 Everyone Deserves To Be Treated Fairly—The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
Certainly, one of the darker Disney films, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a little different than other Disney movies and dealt with some serious themes of social justice, according to The Stir. Both Esmeralda and Quasimodo know what it's like to be judged by their looks. Esmeralda is either objectified or rejected as a Gypsy outsider, while Quasimodo is reviled as a freak. Esmeralda is able to help Quasimodo to see that he deserves to be seen the way she sees him—as a whole person who deserves the same justice that others are given and that she fights for herself.
3 Knowledge Is Power—The Sword In The Stone
The lowly Wart pulls the sword from the stone, but that's only one small part of his evolution from servant to a future leader. When Wart meets Merlin the wizard, he realizes that his journey has just begun, and he has a lot to learn before he can become who he's destined to be, as per Oh My Disney. The more he knows, the farther he can go and the more respect he'll gain in the coming years.
Wart himself also reminds us that just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it's wrong—sometimes we know a lot less than we think.
2 Allies Can Come From Unlikely Places—Lady And The Tramp
Although Lady lives in the lap of luxury, she cares deeply about her human family, and when tragedy strikes, she will do anything to help. She finds help in a place she never thought, however, when a streetwise dog without a home or owner steps in and helps her save the day, according to The Main Street Mouse. Lady learns that so-called “good breeding” and the right social class aren't always the hallmarks of a hero. As parents, we want our children to learn that good people can come from the poorest or the richest areas—money and material things don't make one person better than another.
1 Piecrust Promises—Mary Poppins
Both parents and children can benefit from remembering Mary Poppins' musings on piecrust promises—easily made, and easily broken, as per Journal News. As parents, sometimes we blithely make promises to our kids that we just can't keep, not realizing that when we break them, our kids do notice. Additionally, our kids may think it's nothing to make a promise they have no intention of keeping. Not keeping a promise can feel like a form of dishonesty. It can feel like the promise-breaker has let us down, or didn't think our feelings mattered. Mary Poppins reminds us not to make promises lightly.