MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on November 17th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 7, Queer Eyes, Full Hearts

Alex Keeps on Going and Going…

The Framework
There are queer eyes, wide eyes, and eyeballs that are too tired to move tonight on Modern Family. But more than anything, tonight’s show is about dogged persistence.

Andy (the manny now calling himself a bro pair) defines this type of persistence when selling Phil on giving him a job.
Andy: I will never, ever …. Uhhh … I’m blanking on the verb …
Phil: Quit?
Andy: I had to ask because I don’t know the meaning of the word.

But it’s Alex who truly epitomizes the term.
Phil (to Alex who’s walking while reading a textbook): Hey, honey.
Alex (not looking up from her book): Oh, hey.
Phil: Still studying for that test?
Alex: I can’t; I have to study.
Phil: What time did you get to bed?
Alex (bumping into a wall as she walks away): Sure thing.

Phil: Claire, I think something’s up with Alex.
Claire (lost in thought): I don’t know. Some kind of chicken.
Phil: Why is no one listening to me? Come here (taking Claire by the arm and leading her to the hallway where Alex continues to stare at the book in her hands and walk into the wall). I don’t think she’s getting enough sleep. Look at her. She’s like a human roomba.
Claire: Alex will be fine. This (pointing to Haley who’s sitting on the couch flipping through magazines) is our real problem.
Phil: She’s 20; she’s finding herself.
Claire: How hard can it be? She hasn’t moved.

Later there’s this.
Phil: Honey, I’m getting worried about Alex. I don’t think she slept again last night. It’s like the third night in a row.
Claire: I thought you were going to set your alarm and check on her.
Phil: Stupid thing never went off.

A flashback shows us why. As Phil’s alarm goes off, Alex (still carrying a textbook – now with a reading light attached) walks into her parents’ bedroom to turn it off.

Claire: I’m sure Alex slept.
Phil: I don’t know. She’s sitting at her desk too tired to move her eyeballs. She’s reading her book like this (mimes moving a book back-and-forth in front of his face).
Claire: Alex is going to be fine. [Haley] is the one I’m worried about.

And at the end of the episode there’s this.
Alex (still holding textbook, looking totally exhausted): Claire, the words on the page are vibrating. And I can’t make them stop. I forgot how to read.
Claire: Alex, oh my God!
Alex (handing Claire the opened book): Read it to me, Mommy.
Claire (closing the book): Baby, you’re exhausted. And you have to go to sleep right now. Come with me (putting her arms around Alex and leading her towards bed).

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Most of us remember being tired as teens. But not as tired as Alex. And not as tired as most of today’s teens.

Some teens, like Alex, get behind on sleep because of heavy homework loads and high stakes exams. But over scheduling of activities, after school jobs as well as screens and phones in their bedrooms are also culprits.

They can’t do it all. Something has to go. And often it’s sleep that gets cut.

Even when teens go to bed at a decent hour, they often have trouble falling asleep. They’re drowsy when they wake in the morning, and they’re exhausted in midafternoon. But they then perk up at night – even if they have not had a nap.

Not long ago, researchers examining young adolescents’ sleep patterns found out why. For centuries it was thought that the longer people are awake, the sleepier they become and the greater the pressure to fall asleep. But these researchers found that after 12 hours of being awake, the teens were less sleepy than they had been earlier in the same day. What’s more, after 14 hours, the teens were even less sleepy. This lead to the discovery of the “biological clock” – a clock that keeps people awake even when they are very tired at certain times of the day and at certain ages.

It turns out, that just before puberty begins (around age 10) kids’ biological clocks shift forward to help them stay alert at night about two hours longer than when they were younger. This resetting of their internal clocks creates a no-sleep zone around 9:00 to 11:00 PM – just when they should be getting sleepy. Unfortunately, our internal clocks have shifted back – making it tough for us to stay awake just when our teens are most alert.

Mitch: I wish I knew where your off-switch was.

Many of us obsessed about our kids’ sleep when they were babies. But as our kids get older, their sleep falls off our list of priorities. Like Claire, we focus on what they’re doing (or not doing) when they’re awake.

But it’s not just that sleep matters. It’s how and how much it matters. Inadequate sleep can have negative effects on just about every aspect of teens’ lives – their stress level, their grades, their health, their sports performance, their ability to get along with friends and family, their growth, their mood, their emotional stability, their concentration and memory, their energy level, their ability to think clearly, their risk of injury, their skin condition, their weight, and their use of drugs and alcohol.

And most teens aren’t getting nearly enough sleep. A recent National Sleep Foundation poll found that 59% of middle schoolers and 87% of high schoolers were getting about 1½ hours less than the recommended 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep on school nights.

Like Mitch, many of us find ourselves wishing for an off-switch. Because when it comes to our teens’ sleep habits, we’re not totally in charge. We can set a bedtime, take the TV out of their room, and confiscate their phone and computer. But we cannot make them sleep.

What’s a Mom to Do?
Rather than giving up on them, we need to monitor how much sleep they’re getting and look for ways to work with them to make sleep more of a priority. Here are some things you can do to try to help.

Provide them with a model. (Click here for more on how our sleep habits affect those of our kids.)

Offer a convincing argument for more sleep. Pick and choose among the list of researched negative effects of inadequate sleep listed above to fit your family’s values and what your teen values. For teens like Alex the research on how sleep affects learning and memory found here may be particularly convincing.

Keep things calm at bedtime. Help create a calm atmosphere in your home around bedtime, and encourage your teen to have a regular routine to help them unwind before sleep. Doing the same calming things every night before sleeping will signal their body that it’s time for sleep and help them fall asleep faster. So encourage taking a warm shower or bath, reading a book, listening to music, or other relaxing activities.

Urge them to plan naps right. If your teen is drowsy in the afternoon, a nap can be revitalizing, but it should be short (less than an hour) and not too close to bedtime – otherwise naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

Help make their room a sanctuary for sleep. Cool, quiet, dark rooms are better for sleeping. Some teens may benefit from eyeshades or blackout curtains.

Adjust the lighting. Bright lights stop the body from producing melatonin – a hormone that responds to light and helps determine whether we feel sleepy or not. So to reduce the risk of sleep disruption, urge your teen to keep the lights dim near bedtime. This includes turning down the brightness of their phones, tablets, and computers. And in the morning, open curtains and blinds to let the bright light in and signal their body to wake-up.

Help them establish a bed and wake time that they can stick with. Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week – staying up later and getting up later on weekends. Encourage your teen to keep weekday and weekend bedtimes and wake times within a couple hours of each other. And if they need to sleep in to catch-up on missed sleep during the week, they shouldn’t sleep more than two hours later than they normally do on a weekday. Sleeping longer will disrupt their internal body clock – hurting the quality of their sleep, making it even harder for them to wake up on Monday.

Tonight Claire yells at Haley: Get off the couch! Do something with your life! Yet she says nothing as Alex keeps on going and going. It’s tempting to come down hard on Claire. But sometimes highly motivated teens keep up a daily brutal grind because they can. They think they should if they can, and it’s tough to convince them otherwise.

In truth, it can be more difficult to help a go-getter kid decide what is most important and what may need to be cut back than it is to motivate a less ambitious one. Yet when Alex was totally overwhelmed tonight, she came to Claire for help, reminding that even our most self-regulated teens are counting on us to be there to guide them.

Your Parenting Experiences
Different teens value different things. Which of the negative effects of too little sleep would be the most convincing to your teen? Would it be their stress level, their grades, their health, their sports performance, their ability to get along with friends and family, their growth, their mood, their emotional stability, their concentration and memory, their energy level, their ability to think clearly, their risk of injury, their skin condition, their weight, or the risk from drugs and alcohol?

Sources and Resources: “Teens and Sleep” by the National Sleep Foundation; Snooze… Or Lose by Helene Emsellem, MD & Carol Whitely; “Sleep and Teens” by UCLA Sleep Disorder Center; “What You Can Do to Promote Better Teen Sleep’ by Mayo Clinic; “Adolescents and Sleep” by Sarah Spinks

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.

MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on November 18th, 2013, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 7, A Fair to Remember

Gloria Takes the Cake

The Framework
Tonight’s episode, set at a town fair, sounds like fun. But the fun played second fiddle to the downside of competing – with family members losing face and friends at almost every turn.

Even as the Pritchetts turn into the fairground’s parking lot, Jay squares off with another driver over a parking spot – and his pride.
Jay: Didn’t you see my blinker?
Derrick: Looking at ya, I’m guessing it was on the whole way here.

Claire and Phil, who are celebrating their china (20th) anniversary on fair day, are also competing. Claire has always given Phil disappointing gifts, but she’s sure she has a winner this year with the Chinese acrobats she’s hired. They’re back at home, though, so she wants to drag Phil away before he even has a chance to whack-a-mole. Phil needs to keep Claire at the fair because he’s going to perform the “romantic” song he wrote for her: She’s a pretty sight, wise as a Buddha. But, brother, watch that bite; she’s a Claire-acuda. That is until he gets cold feet about following the rock star pharmacist who performed before him.

Cam is fixated on his losing freshman football team: Do you see how everyone is glaring at me like a loser coach. … I’m the Hester Prynne of freshman football. I might as well have an ”L” sewn on my shirt.

Alex and Luke are both competing for the same girl. Alex is determined to make Sienna her new best friend: Sienna is amazing. Stylish, worldly, and she’s so new to our school, she doesn’t even realize I’m a full social class below her. I need to cement the friendship before she finds out we have a cafeteria. Luke wants Sienna to be his girlfriend. As Claire tells it: [Luke looks at her] the same way he used to look at Halloween candy. The sibs both lose out when their attempts to thwart each other end up creeping out Sienna.

Meanwhile Jay and Gloria worry about what Manny might lose by winning the fair’s cake contest.
Jay (seeing a crowd of boys laughing at Manny as he carries his cake): Give me that. Do you want to fit in? You’re not doing yourself any favor with this cake contest.

But it’s Gloria who really takes the cake tonight – beginning with this as Manny puts the final touches on his cake.
Gloria (to camera): See Manny up there with the misfits and their crazy cakes. I started to wonder if Jay was right. Maybe Manny would fit in better if he was more like the other boys. And maybe I need to give him a little push.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
The episode left me pondering the title: “A Fair to Remember.” What transpired tonight was funny but forgettable. That is except for Manny’s grit: I’m going to win the cake contest. … And then there will be no stopping me. … [I’ll have] first place ribbons and respect.

When Gloria tries to sabotage Manny’s chances of winning by surreptitiously tearing a huge hunk off his cake, Manny won’t be deterred: Hey, Mom! Check it out! I finished my cake! … It’s Los Angeles after an 11.5 earthquake. I call it “earth-cake.”

Even when he has just 60 seconds to get his cake to the judges’ table and there’s a dense crowd standing in his way, Manny doesn’t give up.
Gloria: Uhhh! There’s no way we’re going to make it through that crowd.
Manny: Like heck we won’t! Here; (handing his cake to Gloria to carry), follow my lead. Ready? Then smiling. Come on! Come on!

Despite his peers’ snickers, Jay’s dire warning, Gloria’s sabotage of his cake, and the crowd standing between him and his goal, Manny stayed focused and persevered.

Gloria: I was the one who ruined your cake. I was afraid all those boys were going to make fun of you. I think I care more about your fitting in than you do.
Manny: No, I care. It’s just the stuff I’m good at isn’t the stuff that makes you popular.

This is a good reminder for us moms. We need not worry so much if we have a teen, like Manny, who is not the most popular. It’s crucially important for their social and emotional development that kids have one or two close, solid friendships. But being popular is not essential.

We may wish for our kids to be popular – just as we may wish for them to be athletic or good looking or smart. But we need to be careful that we’re not imposing our own wishes on our kids or weighting them down with our worries. There are lots of paths to success. And regardless of our kid’s path, researchers are increasingly pointing to how much character traits like the grit that Manny demonstrates tonight matter. Kids who don’t let setbacks discourage them, who are hard workers, and who finish whatever they begin are the most likely to succeed – not just in the immediate, short-term but also in the long-term of life.

What’s a Mom to Do
There is not yet a proven way to make teens grittier, but there is growing evidence that the following can help:

Encourage your teen’s activities and hobbies that stem from long-term interests. These opportunities provide our kids’ some of their best opportunities to see that sustained effort over time is key to achievement. So we need to be there to encourage them and to cheer as they set goals and work hard to achieve those goals. (Jay and Gloria, I’m talking to you!)

Give your teen a chance to learn how to handle disappointment and failure. Like Jay and Gloria, we moms often think our job is to do everything we can to shield and rescue our children from struggle and hardship. Yet when kids are overly protected, they don’t get a chance to develop the ability to overcome failure. So rather than trying to protect our teens, we need to be their safety nets instead.

Being a safety net means allowing natural consequences. It means paying attention so that we’re there when they fall – to comfort them and reassure them that they can indeed bounce back. And it means acknowledging what they did well and then helping them look honestly at where things went wrong, how they contributed to the problem, and what they need to do differently next time.

Be your teen’s historian. Remind your teen of obstacles they’ve faced before and successfully overcome. (Gloria, make a mental note of all that Manny overcame to win at the fair.) When they’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, you can listen to their worries and then remind them of their past successes under similar circumstances.

There were lots of laugh lines tonight. But Manny’s grit is what made this show one to remember.

Your Parenting Experiences
How gritty do you think your teen is? The Short Grit Scale (click here) developed by Angela Duckworth can give you some idea.

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.

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