MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on May 20th, 2013, 0 Comments

Right. Wrong. They Just Can’t Stop It.

Season 4, Episode 23

The Framework

The title of tonight’s episode – “The Games People Play” – is the same as that of a song by the Spinners from years ago. Actually the full title of this classic is “They Just Can’t Stop It The Games People Play.” And this mouthful of a title is what tied tonight’s “Modern Family” storylines together.

The adults in each of the three families were interacting with their kids and with each other in ways that they’d picked-up from their parents. Right or wrong, they just couldn’t stop it.

When Jay and Gloria discover that the family had held a game night without them, they first blame it on each other’s competitive and cheating ways. But then quickly pin the blame on their parents:
Jay: I get this damn competitive streak from my dad. It’s a wonder I didn’t pass it on to Mitchell.
Gloria: I love that we can blame our parents. … My mother used to cheat on everything we ever did.

Of course, Jay was wrong in assuming that he hadn’t passed his competitive ways on to his kids. Because as Mitch watched Lily compete in a gymnastic tournament, he morphed into an out-of-control little league dad:
Mitch (to confessional): I have to admit, seeing Lily do so well brought out something in me: the pride of being the parent of a child who wasn’t just participating but thriving. … This [competitive thing] is the thing I always hated in my dad. … This ends today. I’m not passing it on to Lily.

Claire too picked-up her dad’s competitive streak:
Claire (to her kids): I goaded you guys into a fight to prove a point. Why do I always have to win? How did I get this way?

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

How we were parented matters. Even when we are consciously trying to do things differently, we can find ourselves acting just like the parent we vowed to never be.

Like Mitch, we don’t want to pass on to our children what our parents got wrong. But our memory of how we were parented can get in the way – not only in the specific behaviors we model but also in our overall approach to parenting.

Several decades of research have defined four basic parenting approaches or styles:

Micromanaging Bosses (authoritarian) use control with lots of lectures, warnings, and restrictions.

Likable Friends (permissive) place few demands and give more freedom than the teen is ready for.

Proactive Consultants (authoritative) strike the right balance between restrictiveness and autonomy.

Indifferent Bystanders (uninvolved) minimize the time and energy needed to interact with the teen.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not an indifferent bystander. But most of us have some of each of the other three approaches in our parenting repertoire. Most of us also have a dominant style – a style that is often influenced by the approach our parents used.

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, our parenting style helps form the stance we take when we interact with our teens. Our stance, in turn, affects how our teens think, the tactics they use to get what they want, and what they learn as they interact with us:

A teen parented by a micromanaging boss…
Might think if I ask, they’ll say no without even listening. So I need to figure out a way to outsmart them and then be really careful not to get caught.
Tends to learn that you get what you want by sneaking and even lying. And if something bad did happen, they’d be reluctant to seek help or advice from their parents and would probably try to figure it out alone or with their friends. So they’re also learning that there are limited ways to solve a problem.

A teen parented by a likable friend…
Might think I can talk them into this – especially if I pester and badger them long enough. And if something does go wrong, they’ll have to get me out of trouble. That’s there job. So I have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Tends to learn that they can take risks without considering the consequences because their parents will do all the worrying that is needed. These teens tend to get the impression that they’re entitled to whatever they want – not because they’ve earned it but just because they want it. And they fail to learn that past behavior matters.

A teen parented by a proactive consultant…
Might think I’ve earned this by following the rules and being responsible. I had to do some negotiating last time, but they trusted me and let me do what I wanted to do. So I just need to assure them that I can handle this and then not mess up. But I’d better figure out what they’ll be concerned about and how I can handle those things before I ask.
Tends to learn how to negotiate and think ahead about possible holes in their plans. And since their parents had pre-approved the plan, they’d likely seek their parents’ advice if something went wrong. So they’re also getting guidance in problem solving.

The catchy lines of the Spinner’s song keep playing in my head – right, wrong, I just can’t stop it. It’s hard to unlearn what our parents modeled. Sometimes we’ll find ourselves acting just like they did, even though we vowed not to. At other times, we’ll over compensate and go too far in the other direction. So chances are we’ll sometimes act more like a boss – micromanaging and controlling. And chances are there will be times when we’re at the other end of the spectrum – leaving our teens too much on their own.

Just as our parents weren’t perfect, neither are we. But the more time we spend at the middle of the control continuum, guiding our teens like a proactive consultant, the better our relationship with them will be and the more influence we’ll have on their decisions and actions.

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• Where were your parents on the control spectrum – were they more controlling, guiding, or hands-off? What did you argue most about with your parents when you were a teen – grades, curfew, clothes, friends, attitude, chores? How do you think your teen would answer these questions about you?

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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on May 13th, 2013, 1 Comment

How Low Can You Go?

Season 4, Episode 22

The Framework

Tonight the whole family is at a roller rink for a charily event. And on and off the rink, family members seem to be struggling with self-esteem issues. So much so that when Phil skates by and asks, “How low can you go?” he might have been enquiring about their level of confidence rather than their Limbo skills.

Claire is still worried enough about disappointing her father that she won’t even consider his job offer – at least not initially. Cam is beside himself with jealousy over the relationships that Mitch’s ex, Teddy, still has with the rest of the family. Meanwhile Gloria is self-conscious enough about not being able to roller skate that she lies about it.

The adults aren’t the only ones struggling tonight. The kids have their own issues: After her first failed go at college, Haley so wants to avoid having a conversation with her parents about school that she secretly throws out all the college brochures that she’s getting in the mail. Alex wants a bigger romantic life, but her insecurity when interacting with boys makes her come off as mean. And Luke is so stressed out about disappointing his dad that he engages in some serious binge eating.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Is self-esteem the root cause of all these problems? If these characters just learned to accept and love themselves a little bit more, would their issues gradually go away? And would they end up treating each other better in the process?

Not long ago, most experts would have answered “yes.” For decades it was believed that healthy self-esteem could solve (or at least help solve) many personal and social problems. The list included some of the things we worry about most when it comes to teens. Underachievement in school, relationship issues, early sexual activity, and drug use were all on the list.

Unfortunately, self-esteem was way oversold. We now know that …

• High self-esteem in children does not make kids do better at school. While it’s true that many kids with good grades do have high self-esteem, it’s because school success leads them to feel good about themselves – not the other way around.

• Having high self-esteem does not make kids nicer or more popular. Although teens with high self-esteems may think they are better at getting along with others than most kids, when researchers asked their classmates or teachers to rate these teens’ social skills, the ratings had nothing to do with self-esteem.

• High self-esteem does not cause kids to wait longer before having sex. The most careful studies have found either no relationship between self-esteem and sexual behavior or a small tendency in the other direction. This might be explained by the fact that teens with high self-esteem take more initiative in getting to know people, which may lead to earlier dating.

• Finally, high self-esteem does not protect teens from experimenting with substances. If anything, kids with higher self-esteem are slightly more likely to experiment at an earlier age – possibly because kids with high self-esteem may be more likely to downplay the risks involved with alcohol and drug use.

So in spite of the high hopes for self-esteem, most agree it’s time to stop concentrating so much on it. Researchers have begun to shift their focus to character strengths that have been shown to be good predictors of high achievement and life satisfaction – things like grit (click here to read more about grit), self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity. And some schools are beginning to get serious about helping kids develop these strengths. Some like the Kipp Schools have even begun to evaluate kids on character the same way they’re graded on math and reading.

Sources: “Rethinking Self-Esteem” by Roy Baumeister

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• Teachers in the Kipp Schools use a report card that assesses students on the following traits for each of their classes:

_____ Actively participates
_____ Shows enthusiasm
_____ Invigorates others

_____ Finishes whatever he or she begins
_____ Tries very hard even after experiencing failure
_____ Works independently with focus

Self Control – School Work
_____ Comes to class prepared
_____ Pays attention and resists distractions
_____ Remembers and follows directions
_____ Gets to work right away rather than procrastinating

Self Control – Interpersonal
_____ Remains calm even when criticized or otherwise provoked
_____ Allows others to speak without interruption
_____ Is polite to adults and peers
_____ Keeps his or her temper in check

_____ Gets over frustration and setbacks quickly
_____ Believes effort will improve his or her future

_____ Recognizes and shows appreciation for others
_____ Recognizes and shows appreciation for his/her opportunities

Social Intelligence
_____ Is able to find solutions during conflicts with others
_____ Demonstrates respect for feelings of others
_____ Knows when and how to include others

_____ Is eager to explore new things
_____ Asks and answers questions to deepen understanding
_____ Actively listens to others

How do you think your teen would score on this kind of a report card? How do you feel about schools doing this kind of assessment? Do you think having this kind of information would be helpful to you and your teen?

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