The tomboyish Arya is understandably a fan favorite—she's sharp, blunt, and fearless (and the actress who plays her, newcomer Maisie Williams, is perfectly cast). She's also, at this point, one of the series' only purely virtuous characters—bratty or petulant at times, but lacking the guile and capacity for deception that characterizes even her sister Sansa. When Arya gives up needlework for a sword that she dubs her own “needle,” Ned recognizes and rewards her confidence by promising to find her an instructor. Ned is by no means a perfect parent—as Arya notes, he's complicit in the politically beneficial arranged marriage between Sansa and the insufferable Prince Joffrey—but he's trying to instill the same sense of honor and duty that he values so greatly in his daughter.
Queen Cersei actually has two other children besides Joffrey (a daughter and another, younger son) but their almost total lack of screen time is indicative of their importance to her. Cersei only has eyes for Joffery, whom she's grooming for the day when he'll be crowned King. Cersei's advice for her son speaks to both her coldness and her greater ambitions for the Lannister family: “Someday you'll sit upon the throne, and the truth will be what you make it. And if you'd rather fuck painted whores, you'll fuck painted whores.” When Cersei tearfully told Lady Catelyn about the death of her own infant child in last week's episode, it was unclear how much of the story was calculated, and how much of it was genuine remorse over her role in Bran's crippling injury. We get our answer in “Lord Snow” when she advises Joffrey that “the occasional kindness will spare you all sorts of trouble down the road.” Cersei is always looking for a way to get what she wants—by any means necessary—and she's teaching her son to do the same.
It's not difficult to see how Ned raised a daughter like Arya, or how Cersei raised a son like Joffrey. Though similar, there's an important philosophical distinction to be made between the final advice that the two independently share with their children (quoted at the opening of this review). When Ned warns Arya against fighting within the Stark family, he's telling his daughter that—no matter who else she aligns with—her family's loyalty is something that she must rely on. When Cersei warns Joffrey that all non-Lannisters are enemies, she's telling her son that—no matter who else he aligns with—anyone outside of his family must eventually be dismissed or destroyed.
And what about the non-noble children in Game of Thrones? In “Lord Snow,” they linger, appropriately, on the fringes. First and foremost is Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow, who takes his place as the newest member of the Night's Watch. As he recognizes how bleak his unglamorous, celibate new position will be, he laments, “My father knew. And he left me to rot on the Wall just the same.” Tyrion later reveals that one of Snow's fellow recruits was also abandoned by his father. And Mycah, the murdered “butcher's boy” from “The Kingsroad,” looms large over the episode—a child whose father simply wasn't important enough to protect him from being slaughtered. Game of Thrones is almost exclusively about the affairs of Westeros’s seven noble families, but it takes pains to remind us that there is even less justice—and less hope—for the vast majority of Westeros’s common-born citizens.