Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on April 11th, 2016, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 18, The Party

Plotline: Luke and Manny Throw a Party

The Party

Tonight Luke and Manny secretly throw a party at the Dunphy house where they’re supposed to be babysitting Lily. When Claire’s phone sounds an alert that a fire alarm has gone off at home, she insists on returning from her spa getaway with Gloria to check on things.
Claire: They were very eager to get us out of the house. They’re up to something.
Gloria: You know what? I am gonna call for a Russian masseuse. Their hands are very strong from wringing laundry. You are too suspicious.
Claire: And you are too trusting! Luke’s already been arrested this year. A few weeks ago, we caught him with beer.
Gloria: I’m hearing a lot of Luke’s name and none of Manny.
Claire: You don’t think Manny’s up to the same things when you’re not paying attention?
Gloria: You’re crazy. Manny hates beer.

Claire: You can do whatever you want, I’m gonna go check on my kid.

Gloria drags her feet but returns with Claire. As the two enter the house, Claire immediately finds evidence that something is amiss.
Claire (picking up and sniffing a Styrofoam cup): Wait a minute! What the hell is going on here? Yep. I smell cheap beer. Someone’s been having a party.
Gloria: Claire, you’re just being crazy.

Phil and Mitchell also return to make sure everything is okay at home, leaving the screening of their favorite sci-fi movie. Right before Phil gets the fire alert, he and Mitchell have each downed a pot gummy.
Claire (to Phil and Mitchell as they come in the door): You guys go search the house. Find something suspicious.
And they do find something – just as the pot kicks in, leaving them as high as can be.
Mitchell (standing outside Luke’s bedroom door): I heard something.
Phil (reclosing the door on a bedroom crammed with kids): Okay, but if we tell Claire about those kids, we’re gonna have to stay here and punish Manny and the, uh — the other one.

By the time the parents locate the party and interrogate the boys, Jay and Cam have returned from their night out. Jay tries to reassure Claire.
Jay: Honey, don’t worry. They’re going to be fine. You’re better parents than Dede and I ever were, and you turned out all right.
Claire: Thanks, Dad. But are we just supposed to let these kids off the hook because we were as bad as they are?
Jay: No. We’ll be hypocrites – just like all parents. Luke and Manny get your asses down here.

We can only imagine what happens next. But it doesn’t take too much imagination for us to picture what came before. Many of us have dismissed clues that something is amiss because we trust our kids a bit too much (like Gloria). And many of us have looked the other way when they’ve misbehaved because holding them accountable is a lot of work and can interfere with our own plans (like Phil tonight).

Sometimes after we do all the investigating and discussing with our teen, we’re so relieved to have gotten that far that we make only a vague plan for holding them accountable. We rationalize that we did similar things as a teen and turned out okay (as Claire was tempted to do). We ground them for the next month, believing that in itself will teach them a lesson. Or we skip the penalty phase all together, convincing ourselves that consequences aren’t worth all the work because we haven’t seen much evidence that they change our kids’ behavior.

Most of us have been there and done at least some of that. Still, it’s a parent’s job to draw clear lines between what is safe and respectful and what is not.

Consequences help us keep the boundaries clear and make doing the right thing more of a priority for our teens. Even if they don’t always prevent wrong actions from recurring, consequences help teens feel accountable for their actions and help reinforce the slowly dawning realization that actions – both right and wrong – cause reactions.

Here are some things to keep in mind when crafting consequences:

Be timely. Generally, you’ll want to respond to your teen’s misbehavior within 24 hours. That way the behavior is still fresh in everybody’s mind and the details are still easily recalled. Being timely also means separating the passion of the fact finding from the objective consideration of the consequences.

Be somber. Don’t nag, pile-on, or gloat. Talk about what has to be done – not what you now get to do.

Make the consequences realistic and appropriate.
– Consequences are only effective if they can be enforced. So choose something you can enforce.
– Don’t overkill. If you make the consequence too light, you’ll not get your teen’s attention. But if you make it too harsh, your teen will become resentful, missing the opportunity for reflection and learning. To be effective, the consequence has to make sense to your teen.
– Be aware of overusing groundings. When used sparingly, grounding wields more power. Plus you’ve got to make sure they stay at home, so grounding can be more punishment for you than your teen.

Be clear. Surprises are not helpful, and miscommunicating the consequences only increases bad feelings. So be explicit. (For example, if you tell your teen that they’ve lost their driving privileges for the rest of the month, clarify whether they can still go out if they get a ride with a friend or whether driving with their friends is also part of the restriction.) In addition, teens need to know when the punishment will end and their lives can return to normal. So specify the exact time period you have in mind for the loss of privileges.

Stay the course. Once you’ve made the decision to give a penalty, don’t back off under pressure. Modifying a consequence, however, is not the same as backing off or failing to enforce it. It’s sometimes reasonable to substitute one consequence for another if you determine that doing so is in the teen’s or the family’s best interest.

Connecting Lines:
When the infraction is relatively minor, a consequence may have just one part – a material part. We parents are generally responsible for coming up with this part, and it’s usually pretty easy to come up with. Whatever was damaged, left undone, or done wrong is replaced or righted – often above or beyond the original requirement. (For example, a material consequence for a missed curfew might be docked time on their next evening out.)

When the infraction is serious (like tonight’s party) or part of a troubling pattern, the consequence should have two parts – a material part and an emotional payback part. The emotional payback part is harder. Most of the learning occurs with this part of the consequence which is intended to help heal both the teen and whoever else was inconvenienced or hurt by their behavior. It requires that your teen reflect about what they have done and how they can make amends by answering some tough questions. Questions such as:
What can you do to restore our trust in you?
How can you help those you’ve hurt stop hurting? How can you help them trust you again?

You’ll want to keep posing the questions until you hear your teen say something that demonstrates an awareness of the importance of this part of the consequence. You’re listening for something in teen lingo that shows insight and responsibility – something that will help them heal, rebound stronger, and begin to re-earn your trust.

You’ll probably have to provide some quiet space and some support for this type of thought and learning to come out of your teen. If you’re not hearing good responses, rein in your temptation to rage or scold. Instead keep posing the questions (calmly and dispassionately) until you hear what you’re listening for.

Once you hear words that show reflection and remorse, ask your teen what they need to do to make amends and re-earn your trust. And once you’ve agreed on a specific plan, express confidence in your teen’s ability to rebound and re-earn your trust. If you have a strong relationship with your teen, the more confidence you express in their capability of regaining your trust, the harder they’ll work to earn it.

Resources: Yes, Your Teen is Crazy by Michael Bradley

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