MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 10th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 16, Spring-A-Ding-Fling

Claire “Broke” Luke’s Date

The Framework
Tonight’s show begins with Phil dressed to the nines.
Phil: Hey, guys! For my opening number… Be honest – does it look like I have anything on under this?
Phil is set to be the first three-time host in the history of SCARB – THE annual banquet for Southern Cal realtors. And he’s got five, planned, real-time, hit-performance wardrobe changes underneath that tux.

Meanwhile it’s Mitch’s first day on the job at a legal aid firm, working for Wendy (a friend from law school). The day begins with Wendy dressing down her intern for the outfit he’d picked out for her.

Over at Jay and Gloria’s house there’s an argument about who knows how to get what they want out of people best. The dispute begins like this.
Jay: I do love it in leather.
Gloria: Well learn to love it in silk. It’s too hot to be wearing leather.
Jay: I was talking about this car… Oh by the way, I do the negotiating today at the dealership.
Jay claims that his business experience gives him the edge. But Gloria is certain that her curves and cleavage make her better at working people – and she has Jay’s fancy watch, a pair of designer shoes, plus a huge diamond bauble to prove it.

And tonight Cam is in-charge of the high school’s Spring-A-Ding-Fling (the “A-Ding” is Cam’s addition). He turned this two-bit dance into the event of the year, and he dresses-up for the occasion.
Fellow teacher: Fancy shirt, Coach Tucker.
Cam: Oh, thank you. You know what I like to say – I might be a coach but I travel first class.

Suffice it to say, there is a lot of focus on appearance and clothes in tonight’s episode. But it wasn’t until there was more of the same back at the Dunphy household that my attention got caught.

Luke and his date for the Fling are tussling on the front lawn as Claire arrives home.
Claire (to Luke): Honey, it’s getting close to time for the dance. Shouldn’t you go in and get changed?
Luke: I did already. The guys are coming by. We’re going to ride from here.
Claire: What about you, Rhonda? Do you wanna go in and get cleaned up?
Rhonda: I’m good.
Claire (waving Rhonda inside): Luke you wait here. Ride with your friends. I’ll bring Rhonda [when I come to help chaperone the dance].

Later at the dance there’s this.
Luke: What did you do to Rhonda?
Claire: I cleaned her up.
Luke: No! You broke her! I hate her like this.
Claire: She looks fantastic!
Luke: To you!!

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
As our teens work to figure out who they are and who they want to become, they try on new looks and new ways of dressing. In fact, their choice of clothes and accessories is often one of the first ways that teens determine and express their individuality. Some teens experiment with new looks on a weekly basis.

So how do we deal with this in a way that lets us be respectful of our teens’ new expressions of who they are? How can we guide them as they search for their own image – rather than forcing them to grow into our image of what looks good (as Claire did with Rhonda tonight)?

And how do we guide their search without using up all the emotional capital in our goodwill relationship account with them? Imagine if we each had just $1 a day to spend from that goodwill account. Some mornings we might spend most of it dealing with what they’re wearing before they’re even out the door, leaving us little for the rest of the day and night.

BottomLine
End of show voiceover: We all want people to think the best of us …

And we all want people to think the best of our kids.

In order to build their own identity, our teens have to differentiate themselves from us. The changes they make in their appearance and how they dress are part of that process. And we need to honor that. But we also need to stay involved enough to let them know that we care and that it is our responsibility to help shape the image that they project and help them understand how they might be viewed.

What’s a Mom to Do
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind the next time your teen is trying on new looks and ways of dressing.

Look for and reinforce the aspects of their wardrobe choices that you like. As they flit by in the fifth outfit of the morning, causing you to wonder just how many times they’re going to change, it’s tempting to ask, “What was wrong with the first one?” Instead, you might try something like: “Nice choice. You look great in that color!”

Sometimes it’s better to say nothing. If your teen wants to dye their hair blue, paint their fingernails black, or wear funky clothes, think hard before you object. You don’t want to squander your goodwill account trying to remake your teen with inflexible demands about their looks. It may make you cringe, but if it’s a harmless, non-permanent change, and if it doesn’t cross your limit of respectability, then consider letting your teen conform to their own idea of what’s right.

If your teen’s appearance doesn’t meet your standards for decency, say so. There are bound to be some looks that will cross over the line into what you consider disrespectful. It will probably be “too” something – too tight, too teeny, too low, too short, or too graphic. When this happens, you’ll want to tell them that while you know it’s a look for some kids, it’s part of your job as their mom to let them know when what they’re wearing doesn’t meet your family’s standard for respectability. If it makes you uncomfortable to see so much (bare skin, underwear, whatever it is) tell them that. Add that if it makes you this uncomfortable, you feel certain that it’s going to make other people uncomfortable too. Or if you’re concerned that they’ll make a poor impression or attract the wrong attention, say that.

Then negotiate with them to come up with a compromise that will work for both of you. It might be that they can wear it around the house but not to school. Or maybe they can add something to the outfit to make it acceptable.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that your teen won’t change again before they arrive at school. But at least they’ll have heard your point of view and the values that your view is based on.

Your Parenting Experiences
Alex and her date are dressed and ready with time to fill before the Fling. Their conversation also focuses on appearance.
Date: My dad has three tattoos. I’m like, “Why? You’re a dad.”
Alex: Ew! It’s so sad when parents try. My mom doubled pierced one of her ears, and I’m like, “Hello! You’re 50!” It’s so old – like ancient to have an ear piercing when you’re 50.

Do you think it pushes teens to be more extreme as they try on new looks when parents accessorize or dress like the young crowd? This could be an interesting topic to discuss with your teen. And if you do, I’d love to hear what you learn.



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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.

Bottomline
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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