MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on January 27th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 13, Three Dinners

Haley Turns the Table on Her Parents

The Framework
Tonight there are three conversations set at three different dinner tables. Although the three storylines never intertwine, the meals all share one thing in common: meddling.

Jay and Gloria’s close friends announce they are moving away, and Jay – desperate at the thought of losing his best pal – butts in, insisting that the move is a terrible idea. Mitch and Cam – out on a romantic dinner date – have taken some things off the table: no wedding talk and no Lily talk. With nothing left to talk about, they glom onto another couple seated nearby, interfering with the couples’ marriage plans.

But Claire and Phil take meal meddling to whole nother level; their meddling is premeditated. They explain their game plan like this.
Claire: Haley has no plans for her future whatsoever. She’s living in our basement. Taking community college classes in … meandering.
Phil: So we’re going to take her out. We’ll have some fun.
Claire: And then gently ease her into a friendly conversation about her future.

But things get off to a rocky start – even before the Dunphy parents have one too many mojitos.
Phil (to Haley): Come on now. Join us for a specialty cocktail on our specialty evening.
Haley: Can’t we just cut to the chase? … What are we doing here? What’s this about?
Claire: Nothing. We just wanted to have a fun night out with our daughter.
Phil: Yeah. Just think of us as your friends.
Haley: I don’t have 45-year-old friends.

And a bit later there’s this.
Phil (about their waiter): He seems like a real go-getter.
Haley: Why? Because he goes and gets things?
Phil: I wonder what he wants to do with his life. I wonder that about people all the time.
Haley: So this is what this whole night is about. The drinks. The pretending to be my friend.
Claire: Honey, we care about you. And we want to make sure. Because it seems like you’re meandering. … No, sweetie. Don’t just start texting because you don’t like the conversation.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Over the last couple decades parents have turned up the intensity of their expectations for their kids as well as their psychological investment in their kids’ lives. Parental responsibility and involvement – even in the lives of 20-somethings like Haley – have expanded in ways that were unheard of when we were growing up.

Today’s parents tend to hold themselves responsible not only for their offsprings’ physical wellbeing but for their psychological adjustment, personal happiness, and future success too. Helicopter parents who hover over nearly ever decision and action of their offspring have given way to snowplow parents determined to clear a path for their kid and remove anything that seems to stand in the way.

Shouldering all this responsibility can be a heavy burden for parents – especially if you have a slow-to-emerge young adult who is still living at home. Probably more than a few of us are familiar with the approach the Dunphys have taken with Haley in the past. An approach that goes something like this.
Claire (with her arms full of laundry): Is this what you’re going to do with your life – sleep late and take a selfie?
Haley: Why are you always criticizing me?! Is this really how you want to start the day?!
Claire: My day started five hours ago!
Haley: I’m under a lot of pressure!
Claire: How?! How?! You take three classes a week. And you miss half of them!
Haley: The parking is tricky!!
Phil (piling on): Morning, sunshine. I saved you some lunch.
Haley (slamming her bedroom door): I got it – okay!! I’m lazy!! GODDD!!!

And those of us who’ve tried this approach have probably had similar results.

Haley: You always assume the worst of me. …. You guys sit here acting like we’re drinking buddies. Judging me. When I have a better handle on my future than either of you did at my age.

We want our kids to be successful. To do their best. To be happy. And to feel good about themselves. And Claire and Phil are not the only parents fretting about their emerging adult. Many parents of 20-somethings worry if their offspring hasn’t yet found a career path or become financially independent.

What’s a Mom to Do
We sometimes assume that our young adults want to push us away. In reality they just need a different kind of closeness. In fact, several new studies suggest that parents who stay close to their kids – even when they’re no longer under their roof – can have a positive influence.

But young adults guard their independence ferociously. And parents who overdo it and meddle too much put their relationship in danger. So it’s important that our involvement be age-appropriate – that we treat our 20-somethings very differently than we’d treat a 16-year-old.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help you pull off this tricky balance.

Pay attention and be interested. Listen and help your young adult review options. But don’t overreact and takeover. Instead respect their right to make their own decisions. Act as a sounding board and a low-key consultant, offering advice only when it’s requested.

Don’t do things for them that they can do for themselves. Even if your 20-something is still financially dependent on you, they still can (and need to) practice independence in other ways.

Give them a chance to solve their own problems and make their own mistakes. It’s hard to sit back and watch our kids struggle. But sometimes that’s what it takes for them to learn. And a mistake or two might make them more likely to ask for and take your suggestions.

Keep your comments about what might lie ahead concise and positive. Don’t preach or lecture; they’ll tune you out. Don’t criticize; it will just make them defensive. And resist the temptation to threaten them with the height of the ladder they have to climb: You have to do well in high school so you’ll get into a top college; then do well in college so you’ll get into a top professional school… Instead of depicting adult success as a perilous and endless climb, describe it as doable and something that’s exciting to ponder and plan.

Be tolerant and patient. Some people take more time than others to figure out a career path. Don’t panic. Even if you’ve got a 26-year-old who doesn’t know what they’re going to do. There are hardly any 40-year-olds with that problem. Sooner or later, we all figure it out.

And, as we saw tonight when Haley turns the table on her parents, sometimes our 20-somethings are more grown-up than we give them credit for. Sometimes they’re already working on a plan.

Your Parenting Experiences
Do you know any helicopter or snowplow parents who never seem to let their kids fend for themselves? Do you sometimes feel parental peer pressure to do more for your kids because of this?

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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on January 13th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 11, And One to Grow On

Truth Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

The Framework
In one way or another, each of the three subplots in tonight’s episode dealt with the truth. Truth was told, it was bent, and it was played with fast and loose.

Jay and Gloria are busy with Manny and baby Joe’s back-to-back birthday parties while Manny pines for a girl who left her coat at his party. He is certain that she left it on purpose because she is into him and this gives her an excuse to come back. Jay, however, is just as certain that, truth be told, the girl is way out of Manny’s league. Of course, Jay thinks Gloria should be the one to tell this “truth” to Manny.

Meanwhile Cam and Mitch plot to patch-up a quarrel between a pair of teen BFFs by pretending to care about the girls, all the while caring only about getting their dream-wedding spot back – a spot they lost when Mitch decides to play hardball to get a better deal. Later when Mitch makes a “pinky promise” while on the phone with Lily, it sounds perfectly age appropriate… for him. Honestly.

But it’s the Dunphy adults who really play fast and loose with the truth. Just as in “The Butler’s Escape” from last season, Phil again knows no bounds when it comes to turning his dreams into Luke’s reality. Tonight he takes Luke for a ride – literally.
Luke (eagerly): I can’t believe there’s such a thing as autopsy camp!
Phil (to camera) There is no such thing as autopsy camp. I had to trick Luke because I’m actually taking him to a ballroom dancing class. He’s been resisting, but it’s in his blood. I come from a long line of dancing Dunphys. A kick line actually.

Luke (in the car with Phil as they pull up to the class): Forget it! You tricked me!
Phil: I’m sorry, buddy. But no son of mine is going to high school without at least knowing how to do a proper box step. Trust me… You’ll thank me someday. It gets better when you find your signature move. They use to call me “king of the dips.”

And later, at the end of Luke’s first dance class there’s this.
Luke: Just because you’re a dancer, doesn’t mean I have to be one too – cha cha cha. Damn it! I’m never going to fall for one of your lines again. Just take me to autopsy camp.

Claire too lies – to get out of taking Alex for a ride.
Alex: Hey, Mom, can you take me driving? My test is coming up, and I really need to practice.
Claire: Oh, I would, but I’ve got a big Closets and Blinds Union meeting today.
And then Claire to camera: There is no Closets and Blinds Union meeting. Driving with Alex is torture. She drives so slowly, I have to be the only parent who slams on the gas!
Haley (to Claire): Hey, I’m not doing anything. I guess I could take her. And then holding her palm out in expectation: But my rate just went up.
Claire (handing over a wad of cash): Okay, but this buys your time and your silence. Alex can never know how much I hate driving with her.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
During the adolescent years a lot of lying goes on. Teens lie to their parents about a whole range of things – from what they spent their allowance on and what clothes they put on away from home to whether there were chaperones at a party or whether they were in a car with a drunk driver. Few teens are exceptions. Even being an honor student or a tightly scheduled kid doesn’t provide much in the way of protection.

Yet parents rank “honesty” as the trait they most want to see in their children. They see trust as the foundation for their relationships with their kids. And kids get this. Almost all teens say that lying is ethically wrong and that honesty and trust are essential for a good relationship.

Alex(to Claire): You paid Haley to take me driving?! … Haley told me everything! You made up a fake union just so you wouldn’t have to be with me?!
Claire: Alex, I’m so sorry! Haley, I trusted you!
Luke: Good luck trusting anyone in this family! Especially Dad!
Alex: What kind of parents lie to their kids?
Luke: What kind of lesson is that to teach all of us?

To lie takes some finesse. One has to be able to understand what’s true, to think up an alternative reality, and then to sell this trumped up reality to someone else. This means kids grow into lying. They learn how to do it. So listen up, Claire and Phil; you’re playing a role in what your kids are learning about honesty and truth – whether you know it or not.

What’s a Mom to Do
Honesty and trust are among the things we absolutely must teach our kids. Below are some tips that can help us with the teaching.

Model the behavior you want to see in your teen. To be honest, what we model around lying isn’t always the best. Most teens have been brought up on half-truths. Most of them have seen us fib to get out of something (like Claire did tonight). And, while we may never have been quite as deceptive as Phil, who has not told a “white-lie” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? These shortcuts can be tempting, but our kids are often watching when we take them. And what we model is our highest form of influence in our teens’ lives.

Focus on the learning process. Lying is wrong. But when we catch our teens in a lie, we need to remember that kids are not born with good judgment. Most teens have to experiment with dishonesty to learn the value of honesty and trust. And telling a whopping lie does not mean that they’ll grow-up to be a pathologic liar. It’s far better that they do this experimenting with the truth now when we’re able to help them learn and grow from their mistakes.

Teach your teen the value of honesty. Teens are less likely to lie when their parents focus as much on teaching them the value of honesty as they do on teaching them that lying is wrong. And teens get a chance to learn the value of honesty when we link more freedom and privileges with the trust they have earned.

This is best done by:
– Being clear about your values and setting a few, clear rules based on your values.
– Consistently explaining, monitoring, and enforcing your rules.
– Giving your teen quite a bit of freedom in other areas of their life as they earn it. Decision by decision. Action by action.

According to a recent scientific survey, teens parented like this lie the least.

Your Parenting Experiences
To understand what our kids are going through, it sometimes helps to think back to what it was like for us as a teen. So what was the biggest whopper you ever told your parents that they ended up finding out about?

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