What would be a potential hypothesis showing that King Lear could be called an example of how not to parent?  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In analyzing how Lear is an example of how not to parent, my hypothesis would focus on the first scene of the drama.

A hypothesis that could explore how King Lear embodies a manual on how not to parent could talk about how Lear establishes a superficial bond with his children.   In the drama's first scene, Lear fails as a parent because he thinks that words are the currency of parental affection.  This is evident in the initial challenge that sets the drama's plot in motion:

And here are to be answered.—Tell me, my daughters,
(Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state)
Which of you shall we say doth love us most
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge?
Lear demonstrates the failure of a parent when he insists on the idea of "doth love most."  This is a parental failure on two levels.  The first level of failure is in how Lear gives his kingdom to his children.  Successful parents understand that when kids have to work for something, they develop a greater chance of valuing it.  When Lear simply decides to give the girls his "interest of territory, cares of state," he fails as a parent because he does not teach them the value of diligent work.  
 
The second way he fails as a parent is in how he attaches conditions to his love. As a father, Lear should love his children equally and without preexisting conditions. He should teach them that such love is a two way street between parent and child.   However, in his insistence that the more they flatter him, the more land they will receive, Lear establishes a bad emotional standard as a father.  His reaction to the three girls shows his failure as a parent.  He does not establish a nurturing bond of respect and equality.  Rather, in suggesting that flattery can substitute for real emotion, Lear creates a dynamic that ends up dooming his parental role with his children.  A hypothesis that focuses on how the initial challenge he offers to his children represents false emotion which results in bad parenting can be seen in Act I, scene i of King Lear.