MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on January 12th, 2015, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 11, The Day We Almost Died

Claire is Controlling Even When She Tries Not to Be

The kids have Friday off from school, and as tonight’s episode opens the Dunphys are driving home from a trip to the pancake house. Phil is at the wheel, as laidback as ever, while Claire (predictably) acts like she owns all the controls.
Claire (phoning Mitchell): Mitch, hi. What? … (then to the kids riding in the back) I can’t hear him. I can’t even hear myself. Everybody just shut up!!!

With the noise under control, Claire now takes control of her conversation with Mitch.
Claire: I need you to send a gift to Mom for her birthday from the both of us.
Mitch: No, I did it last year.
Claire: I know, and I need you to do it again. Look, I’ve got a conference call at 1:20. Then Luke’s tutor comes to the house, 2:45 sales meeting, and I still gotta get Alex to judo.
Mitch: And yet you somehow find time to bitch at me. Wow! You really can have it all.

Then suddenly a big truck barrels through a stop sign, missing the Dunphy’s car by inches. No one gets hurt, but the brush with death leaves everyone shaken.

Claire and Phil respond to their near miss with death by changing how they think about control.
Phil (to his family): Something hit me this morning – when that truck didn’t hit me this morning. I have not been in control of my own life. But those days are done … And if me getting what I want inconveniences people a little, so be it.

Claire (confiding to Mitch): Do you know what I was doing when I almost died? … Scheduling my life down to the last minute. [But] today made me realize something. We are not control freaks. We don’t [need to] sweat the small stuff. Just let it go.

The Framework
Tonight’s episode is all about control. Parenting teens is too.

Some parents think they own the controls. And they use lectures and threats to try to keep it that way. Teens parented this way are likely to become secretive, dedicating all their energy to sneaking around and outsmarting their parents’ controlling tactics.

Other parents choose to relinquish almost all control. They place few demands on their teens and give them more freedom than they’ve earned or than they’re ready for. Teens parented this way often fail to learn that past behavior matters, and they are likely to get the impressions that they’re entitled to whatever they want.

BottomLine
Claire (to Phil): Oh, honey, you spent the whole day trying to control everything. And I spent the entire today trying not to. And neither way worked.

Neither way – trying to control everything or totally opting out – works when parenting teens either. But often our deepest desire to do what is right for our kids means that we (like Claire and Phil) lean too far in one directions or the other.

When our kids were younger, we controlled all the action. Many of us would like to maintain that same relationship. Like Claire, we’re controlling even when we’re trying not to be. After all those tactics worked really well for the first twelve years of our kids’ lives.

Sometimes, though, we lean too far in the other direction. We so value our close relationships with our teens that we become reluctant to set limits or discipline them. Lots of well-meaning moms fear they’ll lose their teen’s love if they make and enforce rules.

Separating from the control of adults (especially their parents) is the teen agenda. In the spirit of growing up, they cannot allow our old relationships with them to continue. If they did, they’d live with us forever.

Yet teens lack experience and their brains are still under construction. This means that they don’t always prioritize or foresee things the same way we adults do. So even though they’ll almost never tell us directly, our teens are counting on us to provide guidance by making rules, and they’re counting on us to hold them accountable when they mess-up.

What’s a Mom to Do?
We’re at our best when we parent from the middle of the control spectrum. From this sweet spot, we neither act like we own the controls nor relinquish the controls completely. Instead, we help our teens manage the controls.

To help you find your sweet spot, take a few minutes to think about the path you’re currently on with your teen. Then make a list of 10 things that would make the path a lot smoother – things that would make a huge difference for good in your family life.

Now go back and put a question mark next to any of the things on your list that would require your teen or someone else to change. Then put a “C” for control next to the things left unmarked. These are the things on that list that you have direct power to change.

Next look back at the things on the list labeled with a question mark. Which of those things can you affect or sway if you work hard to interact with care, sincerity, and persistence? Mark those things with an “I” for influence.

Truth be told, once our kids become teens we can only really control two things when it comes to their lives: We can control how we spend our resources on them. And, we can control much of what they do in our homes – if we’re there and paying attention.

Yet, as we give up control, we can gain power through our influence. This starts with staying connected to our teens because our influence can be no stronger than our connection with them. Then we must use our influence wisely by focusing on the things that really matter and directing our energy towards affecting those.

Your Parenting Experiences
In general, where do you think you are on the control spectrum? Are you more likely to want to take control, like Claire? Or are you more laidback, like Phil? Are you purposefully more hands-on about some things and more hands-off about others? What do you think your teen would say?



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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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