MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on April 1st, 2013, 1 Comment

Look Who’s Manipulating Now

Season 4, Episode 18

The Framework

Wow! There sure was a lot of manipulation tonight on “Modern Family.” Every house seemed to have some of it going on.

The Dunphy household had its share of it. Alex sweeps up spilled sugar as though she’s never used a broom in her life, and Haley complains that she can’t change a light bulb because the ceiling is too high. Observing all this, Phil becomes alarmed – not that his daughters are playing him for a fool but that they know nothing about house maintenance. And he decides it’s up to him to show them what a modern, self-sufficient woman looks like.

First he demonstrates how to use a stepstool to reach a light bulb before moving on to bigger things like how to restart a water heater. And that’s when he gets in over his head. After bemoaning (with mini flashlight in mouth) that he can’t get the crupid thing relit, he sends the girls on a concocted errand so that he can Skype his father on the down-low for help.

Over at the Pritchett house, Jay cons his way out of an event he’d promised Manny he’d attend by convincing Gloria that he’ll take care of baby Joe so that she and Manny can have some mother-son time. At first Gloria is delighted. But then she finds out what Jay knew all along: The event is a reading of “Moby Dick” which Manny gushes is going to be four hours you’ll never forget. In the end Gloria lies to escape the event, telling Manny the book reading is sold-out. But she doesn’t stop there. She has a couple more tricks up her sleeve:

The first is on Manny: I lied, but I earned that lie, Manny. I’m so sorry, but you know I’m always trying to do everything for everybody in this family.

The next on Jay: But you – you only do what’s good for you. Let me tell you something, Jay Pritchett, when it comes to raising kids, you get what you give.

Meanwhile Mitch is adamant that nobody in his house is going to be bullied. Suffice it to say that Mitch has suffered from this overt and meaner form of manipulation in the past. So when he learns about Milo – a kid at Lily’s school who’s been bullying anyone who tries to play a child version of handball on the playground – Mitch vows to get good at the game and give Milo a taste of his own medicine. And with Luke as his trainer, he does – drawing an audience of disapproving parents and teachers in the process. Of course, there were consequences:

Mitch (to camera): Cam’s gonna be doing drop-offs for a while.

Lily (forlornly): We got a letter.

There was even manipulation going on in the house bought for flipping. Because when it comes to making decisions about the renovation, Claire and Cam are mostly at odds. And they both use trickery to get their way. Cam uses a method he calls a Trojan Horse:

The key is I let Claire think she’s in charge. I hide what I want in something bigger and more expensive. Then, when she rejects that, we ‘compromise’ on what I wanted all along. … You know how I got Lily? I asked Mitchel for triplets.

But Claire is not to be outdone. She rattles off numbers about square footage and cost to rattle Cam and get her way:

I employ something I call the “number dump.” Yesterday I accidently said “elevendy-five.” (She also said “forty-twelve.” But who’s counting?)

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Manipulation is a deliberate thought process. It takes advanced social skills to lie well and spin good stories, to con others into letting you do what you want, or to know how to push people’s buttons and intimidate. Manipulating is something kids grow into.

And, of course, as we saw tonight what adults model isn’t always stellar:

Phil fibs to get his daughters out of the house.

Jay cons his way out of a four-hour father-son event.

Gloria lies to Manny to get out of the same event and rationalizes as she tries to justify her lie. Then she gets up on her high horse and lays a guilt-trip on Jay to keep him on the defense.

Mitch, determined to give bullying Milo his comeuppance, uses shame in the form of sarcasm and putdowns to do it.

And Cam and Claire trick each other so they can each have their own way.

Truth be told, these characters aren’t all that different from the rest of us. Most of us occasionally manipulate a situation to advance our own cause. And our kids have probably seen some of it. Yet our best chance to make a difference in our children growing up to be trustworthy adults is to be straightforward and honest when we deal with others – especially when dealing with our own children.

The BottomLine

Handball trainer Luke to Mitch in the tag scene tonight:

Close your eyes. It’s okay; we’re off the court. And then just as Mitch lets down his guard, Luke knocks the water bottle out of his hand and hits him with this parting shot: You’re never off the court.

If you’re a parent, you’re a model. Like it or not, we cannot, not model. And we’re never really off the court. In fact, our day-to-day modeling is our highest form of influence in our children’s lives.

So to tell our children to be trustworthy and to be disappointed and scold them when they’re not, is all well and good. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that this alone will teach our children not to be manipulative. Our words have meaning only when we practice them on a regular basis.

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• What do you think the letter from Lily’s school said? If you were Milo’s parents what would you want the letter to say? How about if you were a parent of one of the kids watching from the sideline?

• There seemed to be a number of missed opportunities for setting a positive example tonight. For instance, Phil sent his daughters on an errand instead of modeling the rightness of asking for help when you get in over your head. What missed opportunities did you notice?



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1 comment

  • I love the analogy of parents “always being on the court.” Perfect!

    Jay had a missed opportunity with the baby even though Joe is still a baby. He might have talked to him, held him, taken him for a stroll, etc.

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