MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on October 28th, 2013, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 6, The Help

The Dunphy Daughters Call to Claire for Help

The Framework
“Help” (some helpful, some not so much, and some way too much) is what tied the plotlines together tonight. Gloria hires a too-good-to-be-true nanny to help out around the house even though Jay and Manny seem dead-set against it. Mitch and Cam hire Pepper to help plan their dream wedding, but Pepper’s dreams are way over-the-top. And over at the Dunphy house, Phil’s recently widowed dad Frank has come for a visit because he’s a bit down-in-the-dumps. But when Phil and Jay try to help cheer him up with a night out on the town, Frank ends up hiring a hooker – by accident.

Meanwhile, Claire is looking for something that’ll help cut down the fighting between the girls.
Claire: Tension between Haley and Alex has been getting pretty high. So our solution was to move Haley down to the basement – which we were just about to do.
Phil: When my dad came out for a weekend visit.
Claire: Two weekends ago.

Claire is right to be concerned. Anger between the sisters is spilling out of their shared bedroom into the rest of the house. It overflows into the kitchen where the rest of the family is trying to enjoy breakfast.
Alex: You’re ruining my life!
Phil: These eggs are delicious.
Haley: What life?! Get out of my room!!
Claire: I put milk in them.
Alex: It’s not your room anymore!!
Luke: Well they sure are fluffy.
Haley: Mom!!!
Claire: I’m just going to go stand out in the yard.
Haley: Seriously, get out!!!
Alex: I told you it’s not your room.

Later the girl’s outbursts continue with this.
Haley: Gross!!! Those are my socks!!
Alex: They are not! Mom!!
Claire: I’m just going to pop outside.
Phil: I should get her a rake.

And this.
Haley: Mom! I’m going to throw-up! Alex’s hair smells like cheese.
Alex: It is not cheese!!! It is cruelty free, organic shampoo with traces of churned goats’ milk!
Haley: So cheese! (taking a whiff and then holding her nose) Ugh!!! I need a bucket!!!

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
It’s a given. Siblings will fight with each other. That’s just what they do.

The best way to keep brothers and sisters from fighting is to space them at least four years a part. Obviously, there’s nothing that can be done about this now, but it’s true. Siblings close in age (like Haley and Alex) fight more, and the fights seem to intensify as soon as the youngest becomes a teen. This is so for a gazillion reasons – competition, jealousy, differences in temperament all lead to clashes.

It drives us crazy to hear two kids we love acting so hateful to each other. So we often wade into the middle of the fight to try to stop it with something like this: “Each of you tell me, one at a time, what happened.” The problem is that the minute we step in, the issue totally changes. No matter what the original battle was about, it now becomes a competition to see who can win us to their side. And if we begin to arbitrate like a judge, we promote case pleading on both sides that can be endless. Plus the more often we step in, the more likely our kids are to call for our help – just like Haley and Alex did tonight in each of their squabbles.

What’s a Mom to Do
Usually our kids can resolve their issues in their own way. Their screaming might drive us crazy, but as long as there’s no threat of physical violence or emotional abuse, we can often facilitate this best by staying out of the way. (Claire, thanks for modeling this for us tonight. You were wise to step outside instead of stepping into your daughters’ fights.)

Sometimes, though, the fighting intensifies to the point that we have to step in. Below are some tips for stepping into the fray when you can’t ignore it.

Separate them. Send the fighters to their own corners for a cooling off period – their own bedrooms or opposite corners of the house will do. Sometimes the space and time apart seems to be all that is needed. But separating them teaches them nothing, so if we want lasting results, we’ll often need to do more.
Reconvene with them. When things have calmed down, direct the warring parties to another neutral place – for example, the kitchen table. Sit down with them, and listen to both sides without trying to judge who’s right and who’s wrong. Try instead to clarify the problem: “It sounds like you’re mad at Alex because you think she took your socks.” Ask both kids to offer a solution that might work for everybody involved. If they can’t come up with any ideas, suggest a solution. For example, if the teens are fighting over whose clothes belong to whom, you might suggest that they keep their things separate by always hanging them up or putting them in drawers when they’re not being worn. Each might also be responsible for doing their own laundry to further minimize the mix-up.
Reinforce the family rules. Before you all get up from the table, remind your teens of the rules for fighting fairly. For starters, this should include that nothing physical is allowed – no hitting, pushing, shoving, or hair pulling. No damaging each other’s things. And no name-calling. This is also a good opportunity to ask for your teens’ input on these rules and how they’re enforced.

The BottomLine:
Claire (to the hooker she mistakes for a therapist): I’m just at my wit’s end with these two. (Hopeful) I don’t expect you have any experience with teenagers?

It’s not always the intensity of our kids’ fights that drives us crazy. Sometimes it’s the sheer number of the clashes that give us battle fatigue.

To reduce future fighting…
Try to be evenhanded. Teens are especially quick to pick-up on preferential treatment. Although our teens may protest whenever they feel slighted, we’re wise not to try to prove them wrong. Because we can’t. In almost every family there’s going to be one child who needs more of something – our time, or attention, or resources. So rather than trying to treat our kids all the same, it’s better to assure our kids that we’ll try to always do our best to give them each what they need.
Hold family meetings. Get together once a week as a family to give everyone a chance to air grievances and work out solutions together. This is also a good time to praise any negotiating or compromising you’ve noticed during the week. Reinforcing their positive behavior – perhaps even with a tangible reward sometimes – can help with future battles.
Make time for one-on-ones. It’s never easy to find time alone with each child – and it can be especially difficult in large families. But our kids tend to resent each other less (and squabble less) when they feel that we value them as individuals. When we regularly make time to give each child our undivided attention – with special excursions or a few minutes on a daily bases – we are valuing their individuality and letting them know how important each relationship is to us.
Model fair fights. Our highest form of influence in our kids’ lives is our day-to-day modeling. And our kids learn a lot about how to deal with disputes by watching and listening to us resolve issues with our spouse. So it’s important that we get it right. (Click here to read more about this in last week’s post. Claire, you too!)

Your Parenting Experiences
Some fights are easier than others for our kids to resolve on their own. What issues tend to require you to step in when your teens squabble?

Sources: Get Out of My Life by Anthony Wolf and

I'd love to have you become a regular reader. Join my mailing list to be notified by email of new blog posts here. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook below.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

No comments

Leave a Reply

© 2024 Roxane Lehmann, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.