Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 14th, 2016, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 15, I Don’t Know How She Does It

Plotline: Who is Minding Luke?

Tonight Claire and Phil work to hold down their parental responsibilities and their jobs. Phil notes that he’s been doing this for a long time: I’ve been juggling family and work for 22 years – just juggling for 30. And he wonders how Claire has managed to master it all so quickly.

In spite of her new position as boss of her dad’s company, Claire still manages to pack the kids’ lunches, pick up their clothes from the laundry, and buy presents for their friends. She even whips-up homemade ice cream for the family and cupcakes for a bake sale. By the end we see that she’s actually focusing on her new job at work while a guy from marketing is handling things at home.
Claire (lamenting): I’m so damn busy trying to be the perfect mom and the perfect boss, but I’m outsourcing the one job that means the most to me, and I really miss it.
I miss being a mom.

Meanwhile, Luke continues to go in the wrong direction. A few months back he got caught drinking with his buddies. Weeks later he took the family car without permission or a driver’s license. And tonight he takes a couple more wrong turns: skipping school and downloading a picture of a naked girl.

Claire and Phil are focused on doing things for their kids – tasks that, frankly, the kids should mostly be doing for themselves by now. And with both parents busy doing things that aren’t really their responsibility any more, they miss something important that is. They’re not paying enough attention to what Luke is up to.

Claire and Phil need to be doing more parental monitoring of Luke’s activities and behavior. This isn’t about prying and spying. Instead, it’s about 1) the rules parents have for their teen’s behavior, 2) the actions they take to keep track of their teen, and 3) and the way they respond when their teen breaks the agreed upon rules.

You are monitoring your teen when you…

Make and discuss your rules with your teen.
– Keep your rules simple. For example: Be safe. Be in contact. Be respectful. (Click here for more about these three simple rules.)
– Talk with your teen about your rules and winning their cooperation for following the rules by talking about what’s in it for them.

Keep track of your teen.
– Talk with your teen about their plans with their friends – where they’re going and what they’re going to do. If they’re going to a friend’s house, ask if a parent will be present.
– Set expectations that your teen is to keep you informed, calling you if their plans change or if they’re going to be late.
– Make sure your teen knows how to reach you at all times.
– Pay attention to how your teen spends money.
– Keep track of how your teen spends time online, and discuss Internet safety. (You can read more about that here.)
– Get to know your teen’s friends – especially their boyfriend or girlfriend. And get to know the parents of your teen’s friends.
– Pay attention to your teen’s behavior and mood at home; if you see anything that concerns you, discuss it.
– Talk with your teen’s teachers, aunts, uncles, and other adults who know your teen. Ask them to share what they’ve observed about your teen’s mood, their behavior, and their friends.

Respond when your teen breaks the rules.
– Give consequences that fit the infraction and make sense to your teen.
– Give your teen the support they need to learn from their mistakes.
– Define a way for your teen to re-earn your trust.
– Work to mend any frayed connections with your teen. You can still do fun things together while keeping the consequences in place.
(Click here for more about how to give consequences that work.)

Connecting Lines:
Your connectedness to your teen matters! In fact, a growing body of research indicates that all parental efforts to monitor teen behavior are much more effective and efficient when parents are connected to their teens.

Plus as our kids get older, they will be making more and more decisions when we’re not around to monitor them. This means that our power is increasingly in our influence. And if we let monitoring become the main focus of our relationships with our teens, we won’t have the influence we hope to have.

So try to spend as much time on your connection with your teen as you do on making and enforcing rules. The closeness and fun you share with your teen helps recharge your parenting batteries. And this in itself will help promote connection between the two of you.

Below are some ways to show your teen that they’re valued and cared about. Consider adding some of these to your routine.
– Make time to stop by your teen’s room just to chat and listen. Make it a habit to knock before going into their room.
– Note what they’re doing well and pay them a genuine compliment at least once a day.
– Text them to offer encouragement before tests and games or just out of the blue to let them know you’re thinking about them.
– Plan a menu and cook a favorite meal together.
– Notice when they enter the house or the room and greet them.
– Ask for their help on a project.
– Go to a movie together, and do dessert afterwards to talk about it.
– Do a physical activity together such as hiking, biking, or skating. Invite one of their friends and the friend’s parent to join you.
– Read the same book and then offer to take them to lunch to talk about it.
– Choose a weekly show as “your show” to watch together.
– Strive to have 5 positive interactions with your teen for every 1 negative interaction.

Resources: Monitoring Your Teen’s Activities: What Parents and Families Should Know from the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, “Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes” in online journal Societies, Staying Connected to Your Teenager by Mike Riera

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Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on October 4th, 2015, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 1, Summer Lovin


Plotline: Claire and Phil Meddle
Last season ended with Phil attending Alex’s graduation celebration by a robot on Skype. At the end of that show, Andy gets set to take Beth for a drive to catch the sunset and propose while Phil tries desperately to get his attention.
Phil: It’s Haley! Haley’s the girl! You love Ha– (no audio) love each other! Where are you going? You guys love each oth– You’re making a huge mistake!

When the audio fails, we’re left dangling with no resolution about whether Haley and Andy will end up together. Tonight’s premiere begins basically where it left us – with Phil continuing to meddle. Again the family is all together except for Phil who joins in on speakerphone.
Phil: Haley, Andy’s on his way to propose to Beth! (Everyone gasps.)
Claire: Ahhh! That’s very sweet!
Phil: It’s not sweet! Haley and Andy love each other, but they don’t know it!
Claire: Whoa. (Then to Hailey) Is that true, Honey?
Haley: Dad, what makes you think he’s in love with me?
Phil: I could tell by the way he hugged you goodbye.
Claire: Phil, are you sure about this?
Phil: Claire, I think I know the look of love in another man’s eyes.
Haley: This is crazy! Should I call him?
Phil: His phone’s off, but he said he was going to the beach.
Haley (sighing): I know what beach he likes.

With that Claire and Hailey jump in the car and head to the beach where there’s more parental meddling.
Claire: Oh, god! There they are.
Haley: Should I do this? I shouldn’t do this. I’m gonna do this.
Claire: Honey, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You got to be really sure of this. You’re gonna go over there and break them up for what? To hang out or to date until the next guy comes along?
Hailey: Who knows? But shouldn’t we get a chance to find out what we are?

To see more of Claire and Phil’s meddling, click here.

The twenties have become a time for self-discovery. Like Haley, many twenty-somethings are trying to find out what they are. Some change jobs, housing, and romantic partners repeatedly. Others depend on their parents for financial support. And many are close to their parents too – texting them all day long or living in their basements.

But their dependence and closeness doesn’t mean that young adults want or appreciate their parents’ unsolicited advice. Instead, our advice tends to make them feel like a little kid – which puts us parents in a tough position. We want to help our young adults avoid mistakes. But the advice we offer probably won’t be well received or heeded – even if it’s desperately needed.

In general, the best advice on giving advice to a young adult is to hold your tongue unless your guidance has been requested. However, there are a couple exceptions.

It’s wise to speak-up if:

1) It’s about their health or safety. If you believe your young adult’s health or safety is at risk, it’s worth speaking up even if it puts a strain on your relationship. This doesn’t mean speaking your mind if they’re simply making choices that are different than the ones you’d make if you were in control – for example, staying out later than you’d like night after night or dating someone you don’t like. But it does mean saying something if you suspect that they are driving home drunk or if you have reason to believe they are in an abusive relationship.

2) Your money is at stake. How you spend your money is one thing that you have full control over. This doesn’t mean using your money to control things that are unrelated to finances. But if you are providing financial support, it makes sense for you to set ground rules about what you will and will not pay for, and it’s important that you speak-up if the agreement is not being honored. For example, if you’re footing the bill for college, and your student is not making reasonable progress towards graduation, voice your concern. Similarly, say something if your adult child is living at home until finding a job, and you notice that they’re not looking for work.

It will help your relationship if at the end of the conversation you acknowledge that the final decision is theirs. And that you’ll continue to love and care about them even if what they decide means that you can’t continue to support them financially.

If you need to say something, it doesn’t have to begin with advice. Consider beginning by asking questions, but don’t make it an interrogation. Instead, try to make the tone conversational. And as you listen, try to show genuine curiosity about how your young adult sees things.

If your young adult believes that you’ve listened, that you respect their right to have opinions that differ from yours, and that you recognize their interests and take them into account, they are much more likely to give your ideas a fair hearing.

Connecting Lines:
Record Modern Family and use it to connect with your kids – whether they’re teens or young adults. You might be surprised how much you’ll laugh together while watching and learn from each other in the conversations that follow.

Below are a few conversation starters for this episode:
– How would you feel if you were Haley and I acted like Claire and Phil did?
– Are there things I do that feel like meddling to you?
– Do you think there are some topics about which a parent should have a say? Do you know how I feel about this?
– If you needed some advice but didn’t want to ask me, who would you go to?

Sources and Resources: “Mistakes Parent Make that Push Adult Children Away” by Jeffrey Arnett, Ph.D. and When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?: Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Fishel; picture from ABC

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