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.

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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on April 29th, 2013, 0 Comments

Reframe: Will Luke Be the Last Man Standing?

Season 4, Episode 16 (Rebroadcast from 2/20/13)

The Framework

The verb “fall” and its various forms like “fell,” “falling,” and “falls” help shape the storylines of tonight’s episode. In one storyline Cam is doing a movie-theme photo shoot with Lily and baby Joe as his models. All goes fine until Lily glues a wig to Joe’s head. Mitch and Cam eventually cut the wig off – and with it much of Joe’s hair. Now they’ve got another problem: Who’s going to take the fall and tell Gloria?

Woven into tonight’s storylines about falling there’s a string of con artistry – all orchestrated by Luke. And with perfect sitcom logic, Jay becomes the fall guy for baby Joe’s haircut when Luke blackmails him by revealing that he’s on to how Jay’s team won the bowling tournament: They broke league rules by subbing in a pro.

As it turns out, Luke also knows a thing or two about breaking rules:

Luke (to camera): I have to get [a] letter signed because I failed my assignment on the Revolutionary War. I recreated the Battle of Bunker Hill using one of my old science projects. Seemed re-revolutionary to me…

(To view the original post, click here.)

Flipping the Frame: From My Life as a Parent

We send our kids to school to learn content and skills and how to figure things out. But in many ways we parents are in the best position to teach our kids about how to work and to encourage them to work hard. So what do you do when you have a kid like Luke who seems to be always looking for shortcuts when it comes to their schoolwork?

My son was one of those kids. Try as his father and I might to model the advantages of hard work, our son’s preferences as a teen were different. I’ll never forget the supper one night when my husband asked our son, then 16-years-old, about his plans for the evening. Upon learning that the plans didn’t include any studying, my husband suggested that our son needed to take his schoolwork more seriously. Our son then turned to his father and, using his best “get out of my life” teen voice, told his father that he didn’t want to be anything like him. Our son saw his father working almost all the time without the big social life packed full of fun activities that our son craved for himself.

When your teen rejects your model – and they probably will to some degree – it’s important to remember you don’t need to accept their values or agree with their ideas. But respect is like air to teens; take it away and that’s all they can think about. So if you want to be able to influence your teen, you do have to respect that their preferences may be different than yours. And the wisest approach when it comes to school (and most other things that don’t involve their health or safety) is to try to strike a balance by providing some guidance while giving them some room to find out who they are. A fitting first response at our dinner table that night – the one I’d wished we’d been smart enough to have – might have gone something like this:

You don’t have to choose the work ethic we’ve chosen. You can choose to have a bigger social life. But to be successful and have the advantages that come with success – including the lifestyle we enjoy – require hard work.

Right now your work is school. You have to go. And you have to get passing grades. We hope you’ll do much more than that. We hope you’ll work hard enough to excel at school. But the choice about how hard to work is mostly yours.

It’s our job to help you understand that the choices you make about how hard to work now are affecting the habits you’re developing and the options you’ll have when it comes time to choose what to do next. If you want one of the cool, in-demand jobs and the matching lifestyle, you’ll have to do more than pass. The cool jobs are snatched-up by people who learn the self-discipline of working hard on stuff – even when that stuff is boring and seems irrelevant.

Keeping our emotions in check while having this kind of ongoing conversation is part of the safety net our teens are counting on us to provide. Here are a few other things that can help us strike the right balance when it comes to our kids’ schoolwork:

Taking a longsighted view of their education. Our kids’ willingness to work hard is the best predictor of how much they’ll ultimately achieve. So rather than acting as if grades are the most important thing and punishing, threatening, and bribing them to get A’s, we’re at our best when we take a longsighted view and focus on instilling a willingness to work hard and a love of learning.

We can teach our teens to focus more on effort and learning by:

Asking more about their learning process and their opinions about their effort and less about the grade. (You can find a sampling of questions that foster a longsighted view of learning here.)

Sharing with them the findings from recent brain research, showing that learning prompts neurons in their brain to grow new and stronger connections. Tell them that their brains are like muscles and that the harder they work, the smarter they’ll get.

Organizing your family’s routine to make schoolwork a priority. It’s wise not to impose more structure than our teens need, but if your teen seems low on willpower when it comes to getting at their schoolwork, try collaborating with them to establish a homework routine. Together agree on a regular starting time and the duration for study. A good rule of thumb is 10 minutes of study per school night for every grade in school. So for 7th graders this would mean 70 minutes a night, for 8th graders, 80 minutes and so on. And if you have an unmotivated teen who is floundering, consider rewarding them for regularly getting their homework done. (You can read more about using money to bribe your teen here.)

Helping them get started on big projects. This is particularly important if your teen procrastinates when it comes to schoolwork. (You can read more about helping your teen overcome procrastination here.)

Continuing to be a role model. Our highest form of influence in our teens’ lives is what we model on a day-to-day basis. So if you have a teen who seems to reject your hardworking model (as mine did), you can redouble your efforts to share the highlights of your day with them to model work as fascinating. And perhaps nothing we do can model the importance of hard work better than letting our kids regularly see us doing some type of mind work or quiet work while they’re doing their homework. Yes, we’ve worked hard all day. But our teens will argue that they have too. And you have to admit that demanding they get at their homework while we settle into watch our favorite TV show doesn’t send a particularly clear message.

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• If you have a teen who’s a bit like Luke when it comes to schoolwork, what has your approach been? If you’ve done some tinkering to try to change your teen’s work habits, what have you tried?

Flipping the Frame: What’s in the Picture for Next Week?

Next week there will be a brand new Modern Family episode and a brand new post to go with it. See you next Monday!

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