It seems to me that Elly standing around lecturing Michael on the need to listen to his teachers is a tad on the hypocritical side; that's because he lives in an environment wherein listening is not valued. The woman running her mouth about paying attention to other people can be said, to coin a phrase, to live in a weird fantasy capsule; she's either so focused on her pointless busywork that she gets outraged to the point of violence when people interrupt, so busy listening to the beloved sound of her own voice that she ignores people who have something to say, lets her preconceptions do her thinking for her or simply zones out because she's bored. What she seems to not have realized that for her children to value listening, they have to be listened to; that's not something that happens in that house. That's because open, honest communication is not something Elly values; not only does she tend to clam up about whatever it is that's bothering her, she explodes when people say what they actually think. What she ended up calling communication is an angry, long-winded tirade that's only tangentially related to whatever the children have done to get her upset. Also, they cannot defend themselves. EVER. What happens is that they get lectured at and have to take it. John's refusal to listen approaches her own but is not quite as bad; he manages to side-step the issue by intimidation and absence, however. What's more, they never seem to reward good behavior in the least; either they grumble "About time", make some patronizing remark that reveals how little they really think of the child and what s/he accomplished or simply shrug and retreat back into themselves. The end result of all this is, sadly, somewhat predictable. Mike grows up knowing that the only way he can get his idiot parents' attention is by making an obnoxious jerk of himself; they don't seem to care when he succeeds at things so he's stuck trying to antagonize him. Since Liz is a more timid child, she can only try her best to cling to Elly to make her pay attention so eventually becomes a carbon copy of her. April has the best of it because she sees that neither tactic works all that well; she eventually gives up trying and goes where people will respect her and pay her the regard she deserves.