MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on September 30th, 2013, 1 Comment

Season 5, Episodes 1 & 2, Today’s a New Beginning and First Days

Phil Gets It Right Twice Tonight

The Framework

With a nod to California Supreme Court’s recent ruling, Cam and Mitch both get down on one knee tonight in the season’s premier and say “yes” to a new beginning. Meanwhile Claire and Phil long for the time alone they had in the beginning. It takes some manipulating of kids (as well as their schedules) to coordinate Luke’s summer camp with Alex’s volunteering trip and Haley’s getaway to the beach. But they get it done and have a whole week without kids. And over at the Pritchett house, Manny is set to begin his first solo trip to Columbia. Gloria misses him before he’s gone. Jay misses him too – once he’s gone.

There were more new beginnings in the second half hour of the season’s premier. Claire goes to work at Jay’s company. Lily almost starts first grade. Cam gets hired as a coach for the football team. And Luke and Manny begin their freshman year of high school.

As Phil drops Luke off for his first day, there was this exchange between father and son:
Phil: Buddy, I know a new school can be scary. So a little advice: Every time you meet someone new, pay them a compliment. Like umm, “I love your hair.” “Awesome kicks.” “You have a beautiful smile.”
Luke (with a smirk): Okay, Dad, I’ll tell that big guy over there that he’s got a beautiful smile. … Could you maybe not walk me all the way in. I’ve got it from here.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Like Claire and Phil, sometimes we feel as though we can’t live with our kids one more minute. But as Gloria and Jay found, we always know deep down that we can’t live without them.

Guess what. Our teens have similar mixed messages running through their heads.

To grow up, our teens have to disentangle their identities from ours and develop a sense of independence. And the best way they know how to do this is to push us away: “I don’t need you telling me what to do anymore!” But even as they tell us to get out of their life, they’re sending us another message: “No matter how hard I push you away, please don’t let go.” This second message is easy to miss. But if you look closely, you’re bound to see it. For this kind of mixed messaging is a part of typical teen development.

We saw this double communication play out tonight. When Phil gave Luke some tips on making friends and fitting in, Luke gave him the cold shoulder. He had to. Luke’s drive for autonomy means that he can’t appreciate such help from his dad any more. If he did, he’d be setting himself up to be dependent on Phil – the guy he’s trying to be seen as (and eventually become) independent from.

But even though Luke rejected his dad’s advice, he didn’t ignore it. For as he left school that day, there was this exchange:
Big guy with the nice smile: See you tomorrow, Luke.
Luke (grinning): Not if I see you first. The two boys bump fists, and then Luke says: There it is. There’s that smile.

Phil who came to drive Luke home, hears his advice being put to use but says nothing. He simply smiles and nods his head. And as father and son walk to the car together, they too bump fists.


Cam: Today is a new beginning. And that can be scary.

This is part of Cam’s message meant to inspire his new football team. But his words have meaning for adolescents both on and off the field. Because being a teen is full of new and firsts. It can be confusing. Even scary. And during these times our teens can benefit from our sturdy presence.

Sometimes we need to offer advice to our teens. To not do so would be to abandon them. But often the minute we open our mouths and start making suggestions, our teens stop listening. They point out how wrongheaded our advice is. And if we continue, they get mad and accuse us of trying to run their life. They have to reject our advice. Like Luke, they can’t help it.

So what’s a mom to do?

– When you decide to offer advice, float your suggestions by your teen. By using a light, take-it-or-leave-it tone, you’re making it more likely that your teen will pay attention to your advice, take it with them, and use it later.

– Be prepared for your teen to reject your input. And try not to take the rejection personally. Because it’s not about you. It’s about your teen restoring their sense of independence. Plus rejecting your advice is not the same thing as ignoring it. I know it sounds crazy, but by rejecting your input – either by telling you how unhelpful your advice is or by becoming offended that you’re trying to control them – your teen is being freed up to use your advice later on.

– If you learn that your teen has put your advice to use, don’t dare try to claim credit for the idea. If you do, you’ll not get the gratitude you hoped for. Because your teen will have to pick a fight with you to reclaim their sense of independence. So instead of expecting to be thanked, be content in knowing that your teen has taken in some of your wisdom and used it in their quest to grow up. And just as important, know that you’ve strengthened and deepened the connection between the two of you.

Phil gets it right twice tonight. First when he spoke up and floated a helpful idea by Luke. And later when he just smiled and nodded his head.

Sources: Staying Connected to Your Teenager by Michal Riera

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

It helps to remember that your teen will outgrow this stage. Eventually they will be able to be more gracious when it comes to your advice. We were reminded of this in a scene at the end of tonight’s episode. It’s Claire’s first day working for her father. It’s late, but she is still at the office because the computer system has crashed, and Claire is indirectly responsible.
Jay: How’s the data entry coming?
Claire: Good. I’m up to 1998.
Jay: Ahh. That’s when I’d already been doing the job for 20 years.
Claire: So maybe I should listen to you.
Jay: Get you home a lot earlier.

How old were you when the way you dealt with your parents’ advice changed for the better?

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1 comment

  • It’s good to have you back and blogging. This was a terrific episode and you really did a good job linking it to real world issues.

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