MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 31st, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 18, Las Vegas

An Adults Only Weekend Away

The Framework
Tonight’s episode opens with the adults in Las Vegas for a get-away weekend. The three couples are staying in a connected suite of rooms in a fancy hotel courtesy of Jay’s closet client. But Jay is obsessed with upgrading to even nicer accommodations. And he makes no secret of his obsession.
Jay: There’s a floor above us.
Gloria: What?!
Jay: I know. It threw me too. Excelsior Plus. But to people on that floor we’re “Excelsior Minus!”

Phil and Claire, on the other hand, are both intent on accomplishing secret missions. Phil is auditioning for membership into a secret society of magicians, while Claire’s goal is to win back money she lost years ago.
Claire: Las Vegas you have a gambling problem. And her name is Claire.

Mitch and Cam, explaining, we’re forty; we have a child, seem intent on nothing but relaxing.
Cam (in steam room, glass in hand): I love cucumber water.
Mitch: I know.
Cam: If I were president…
Mitch: I know cucumbers in the reservoirs.
But as it turns out, they too are doing some things on the QT. As Cam puts it: It’s Vegas. [Mitch] doesn’t need to know what I’m doing. I don’t need to know what he’s doing. So if you see him, maybe don’t mention what I’m doing.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Tonight’s episode was a delightful farce full of absurd miscommunication and misunderstandings. I laughed out-loud at the incompetence of the characters while at the same time admiring the skill of the actors.

There’s a similar paradox going on in teens. Our kids grow bigger, smarter, and stronger during their teen years. But at the same time their chances of getting hurt or running into trouble go way up. Neuroscientists who’ve tracked brain changes in adolescents say that teens’ reward systems (unlike those of younger children or adults) seem to bias teens’ choices and decisions towards the thrill even if there is some risk. Another words, our teens are biologically set to seek out thrills and take risks.

So were the Modern Family teens left at home busy with secrets of their own?

BottomLine
Phil (introducing his magic trick): They say the only constant is change. Well, all of that is about to ch… be different.

When it comes to kids, change is a constant. Sometimes, though, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For as soon as our kids are grown-up enough to take care of themselves while we’re away, we have to consider getting a sitter for the house. Need convincing? Click here. And here.

Tonight’s show doesn’t bother with the planning that went into this adult-only get-away. So we can only guess about the arrangements made for the kids left at home. Of course, there’s Andy, baby Joe’s manny. He’s competent and often seems like he needs more to do. Plus we’ve seen Hailey’s slow but steady maturation this season. More then likely their kids and their homes were in good hands.

But what about our teens? Could we leave them home alone while we went away for a weekend? Should we?

What’s a Mom to Do?
Without the kids, tonight’s show had a fun, fresh energy. The same kind of energy that a weekend away without our kids can provide. Here are few pointers to keep in mind before packing your bags.

Consider your teen’s past behavior. Your teen’s maturity level and track record, rather than their age, matter most. Have they proven themselves to be trustworthy by following your rules and respecting your property in the past? Or do they have a history of ignoring your directions and acting impulsively? Your teen’s recent history is the best predictor of their future behavior.

Know your teen’s friends. Would their friends be likely to pressure your teen into hosting a party? If so, don’t risk it.

Establish clear rules for staying home alone. These should include whether they can have friends over while you’re away. And if so, how many. As you consider this, take the number you’re comfortable with and divide it by two. If you’re wondering why, remember their brains are a construction site. And to work with them, we have to figure out how they count. Perhaps do a test run, letting them entertain a few friends while you are out of sight. If all goes according to plan, fine. If not, don’t leave them alone.

Spread the word. Notify neighbors that you’ll be away and ask them to watch out for signs of trouble brewing – like a lot of kids, cars, or noise. And ask friends or family members to stop by occasionally to check on things. Tell your teens about the checks you’ve put in place so they’ll think twice about hosting a party.

If these pointers have left you wavering back and forth about which way to go, you’re not alone. This is a common conundrum when parenting teens. I often suggest giving teens the benefit of the doubt and a chance to build trust. In this case, though, I’d probably opt for the peace of mind that a house sitter can bring.

And take heart. Adolescence is a stage. Things do change. And almost always for the better.

Your Parenting Experiences
Have you left your teen home alone overnight or longer? How did it go?



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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 10th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 16, Spring-A-Ding-Fling

Claire “Broke” Luke’s Date

The Framework
Tonight’s show begins with Phil dressed to the nines.
Phil: Hey, guys! For my opening number… Be honest – does it look like I have anything on under this?
Phil is set to be the first three-time host in the history of SCARB – THE annual banquet for Southern Cal realtors. And he’s got five, planned, real-time, hit-performance wardrobe changes underneath that tux.

Meanwhile it’s Mitch’s first day on the job at a legal aid firm, working for Wendy (a friend from law school). The day begins with Wendy dressing down her intern for the outfit he’d picked out for her.

Over at Jay and Gloria’s house there’s an argument about who knows how to get what they want out of people best. The dispute begins like this.
Jay: I do love it in leather.
Gloria: Well learn to love it in silk. It’s too hot to be wearing leather.
Jay: I was talking about this car… Oh by the way, I do the negotiating today at the dealership.
Jay claims that his business experience gives him the edge. But Gloria is certain that her curves and cleavage make her better at working people – and she has Jay’s fancy watch, a pair of designer shoes, plus a huge diamond bauble to prove it.

And tonight Cam is in-charge of the high school’s Spring-A-Ding-Fling (the “A-Ding” is Cam’s addition). He turned this two-bit dance into the event of the year, and he dresses-up for the occasion.
Fellow teacher: Fancy shirt, Coach Tucker.
Cam: Oh, thank you. You know what I like to say – I might be a coach but I travel first class.

Suffice it to say, there is a lot of focus on appearance and clothes in tonight’s episode. But it wasn’t until there was more of the same back at the Dunphy household that my attention got caught.

Luke and his date for the Fling are tussling on the front lawn as Claire arrives home.
Claire (to Luke): Honey, it’s getting close to time for the dance. Shouldn’t you go in and get changed?
Luke: I did already. The guys are coming by. We’re going to ride from here.
Claire: What about you, Rhonda? Do you wanna go in and get cleaned up?
Rhonda: I’m good.
Claire (waving Rhonda inside): Luke you wait here. Ride with your friends. I’ll bring Rhonda [when I come to help chaperone the dance].

Later at the dance there’s this.
Luke: What did you do to Rhonda?
Claire: I cleaned her up.
Luke: No! You broke her! I hate her like this.
Claire: She looks fantastic!
Luke: To you!!

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
As our teens work to figure out who they are and who they want to become, they try on new looks and new ways of dressing. In fact, their choice of clothes and accessories is often one of the first ways that teens determine and express their individuality. Some teens experiment with new looks on a weekly basis.

So how do we deal with this in a way that lets us be respectful of our teens’ new expressions of who they are? How can we guide them as they search for their own image – rather than forcing them to grow into our image of what looks good (as Claire did with Rhonda tonight)?

And how do we guide their search without using up all the emotional capital in our goodwill relationship account with them? Imagine if we each had just $1 a day to spend from that goodwill account. Some mornings we might spend most of it dealing with what they’re wearing before they’re even out the door, leaving us little for the rest of the day and night.

BottomLine
End of show voiceover: We all want people to think the best of us …

And we all want people to think the best of our kids.

In order to build their own identity, our teens have to differentiate themselves from us. The changes they make in their appearance and how they dress are part of that process. And we need to honor that. But we also need to stay involved enough to let them know that we care and that it is our responsibility to help shape the image that they project and help them understand how they might be viewed.

What’s a Mom to Do
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind the next time your teen is trying on new looks and ways of dressing.

Look for and reinforce the aspects of their wardrobe choices that you like. As they flit by in the fifth outfit of the morning, causing you to wonder just how many times they’re going to change, it’s tempting to ask, “What was wrong with the first one?” Instead, you might try something like: “Nice choice. You look great in that color!”

Sometimes it’s better to say nothing. If your teen wants to dye their hair blue, paint their fingernails black, or wear funky clothes, think hard before you object. You don’t want to squander your goodwill account trying to remake your teen with inflexible demands about their looks. It may make you cringe, but if it’s a harmless, non-permanent change, and if it doesn’t cross your limit of respectability, then consider letting your teen conform to their own idea of what’s right.

If your teen’s appearance doesn’t meet your standards for decency, say so. There are bound to be some looks that will cross over the line into what you consider disrespectful. It will probably be “too” something – too tight, too teeny, too low, too short, or too graphic. When this happens, you’ll want to tell them that while you know it’s a look for some kids, it’s part of your job as their mom to let them know when what they’re wearing doesn’t meet your family’s standard for respectability. If it makes you uncomfortable to see so much (bare skin, underwear, whatever it is) tell them that. Add that if it makes you this uncomfortable, you feel certain that it’s going to make other people uncomfortable too. Or if you’re concerned that they’ll make a poor impression or attract the wrong attention, say that.

Then negotiate with them to come up with a compromise that will work for both of you. It might be that they can wear it around the house but not to school. Or maybe they can add something to the outfit to make it acceptable.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that your teen won’t change again before they arrive at school. But at least they’ll have heard your point of view and the values that your view is based on.

Your Parenting Experiences
Alex and her date are dressed and ready with time to fill before the Fling. Their conversation also focuses on appearance.
Date: My dad has three tattoos. I’m like, “Why? You’re a dad.”
Alex: Ew! It’s so sad when parents try. My mom doubled pierced one of her ears, and I’m like, “Hello! You’re 50!” It’s so old – like ancient to have an ear piercing when you’re 50.

Do you think it pushes teens to be more extreme as they try on new looks when parents accessorize or dress like the young crowd? This could be an interesting topic to discuss with your teen. And if you do, I’d love to hear what you learn.



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