MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on January 13th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 11, And One to Grow On

Truth Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

The Framework
In one way or another, each of the three subplots in tonight’s episode dealt with the truth. Truth was told, it was bent, and it was played with fast and loose.

Jay and Gloria are busy with Manny and baby Joe’s back-to-back birthday parties while Manny pines for a girl who left her coat at his party. He is certain that she left it on purpose because she is into him and this gives her an excuse to come back. Jay, however, is just as certain that, truth be told, the girl is way out of Manny’s league. Of course, Jay thinks Gloria should be the one to tell this “truth” to Manny.

Meanwhile Cam and Mitch plot to patch-up a quarrel between a pair of teen BFFs by pretending to care about the girls, all the while caring only about getting their dream-wedding spot back – a spot they lost when Mitch decides to play hardball to get a better deal. Later when Mitch makes a “pinky promise” while on the phone with Lily, it sounds perfectly age appropriate… for him. Honestly.

But it’s the Dunphy adults who really play fast and loose with the truth. Just as in “The Butler’s Escape” from last season, Phil again knows no bounds when it comes to turning his dreams into Luke’s reality. Tonight he takes Luke for a ride – literally.
Luke (eagerly): I can’t believe there’s such a thing as autopsy camp!
Phil (to camera) There is no such thing as autopsy camp. I had to trick Luke because I’m actually taking him to a ballroom dancing class. He’s been resisting, but it’s in his blood. I come from a long line of dancing Dunphys. A kick line actually.

Luke (in the car with Phil as they pull up to the class): Forget it! You tricked me!
Phil: I’m sorry, buddy. But no son of mine is going to high school without at least knowing how to do a proper box step. Trust me… You’ll thank me someday. It gets better when you find your signature move. They use to call me “king of the dips.”

And later, at the end of Luke’s first dance class there’s this.
Luke: Just because you’re a dancer, doesn’t mean I have to be one too – cha cha cha. Damn it! I’m never going to fall for one of your lines again. Just take me to autopsy camp.

Claire too lies – to get out of taking Alex for a ride.
Alex: Hey, Mom, can you take me driving? My test is coming up, and I really need to practice.
Claire: Oh, I would, but I’ve got a big Closets and Blinds Union meeting today.
And then Claire to camera: There is no Closets and Blinds Union meeting. Driving with Alex is torture. She drives so slowly, I have to be the only parent who slams on the gas!
Haley (to Claire): Hey, I’m not doing anything. I guess I could take her. And then holding her palm out in expectation: But my rate just went up.
Claire (handing over a wad of cash): Okay, but this buys your time and your silence. Alex can never know how much I hate driving with her.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
During the adolescent years a lot of lying goes on. Teens lie to their parents about a whole range of things – from what they spent their allowance on and what clothes they put on away from home to whether there were chaperones at a party or whether they were in a car with a drunk driver. Few teens are exceptions. Even being an honor student or a tightly scheduled kid doesn’t provide much in the way of protection.

Yet parents rank “honesty” as the trait they most want to see in their children. They see trust as the foundation for their relationships with their kids. And kids get this. Almost all teens say that lying is ethically wrong and that honesty and trust are essential for a good relationship.

Alex(to Claire): You paid Haley to take me driving?! … Haley told me everything! You made up a fake union just so you wouldn’t have to be with me?!
Claire: Alex, I’m so sorry! Haley, I trusted you!
Luke: Good luck trusting anyone in this family! Especially Dad!
Alex: What kind of parents lie to their kids?
Luke: What kind of lesson is that to teach all of us?

To lie takes some finesse. One has to be able to understand what’s true, to think up an alternative reality, and then to sell this trumped up reality to someone else. This means kids grow into lying. They learn how to do it. So listen up, Claire and Phil; you’re playing a role in what your kids are learning about honesty and truth – whether you know it or not.

What’s a Mom to Do
Honesty and trust are among the things we absolutely must teach our kids. Below are some tips that can help us with the teaching.

Model the behavior you want to see in your teen. To be honest, what we model around lying isn’t always the best. Most teens have been brought up on half-truths. Most of them have seen us fib to get out of something (like Claire did tonight). And, while we may never have been quite as deceptive as Phil, who has not told a “white-lie” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? These shortcuts can be tempting, but our kids are often watching when we take them. And what we model is our highest form of influence in our teens’ lives.

Focus on the learning process. Lying is wrong. But when we catch our teens in a lie, we need to remember that kids are not born with good judgment. Most teens have to experiment with dishonesty to learn the value of honesty and trust. And telling a whopping lie does not mean that they’ll grow-up to be a pathologic liar. It’s far better that they do this experimenting with the truth now when we’re able to help them learn and grow from their mistakes.

Teach your teen the value of honesty. Teens are less likely to lie when their parents focus as much on teaching them the value of honesty as they do on teaching them that lying is wrong. And teens get a chance to learn the value of honesty when we link more freedom and privileges with the trust they have earned.

This is best done by:
– Being clear about your values and setting a few, clear rules based on your values.
– Consistently explaining, monitoring, and enforcing your rules.
– Giving your teen quite a bit of freedom in other areas of their life as they earn it. Decision by decision. Action by action.

According to a recent scientific survey, teens parented like this lie the least.

Your Parenting Experiences
To understand what our kids are going through, it sometimes helps to think back to what it was like for us as a teen. So what was the biggest whopper you ever told your parents that they ended up finding out about?

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The Case for Arguing More with Your Teen

Posted on May 31st, 2012, 0 Comments

The last post discussed why teens lie and the importance of teaching our teens about the worth of honesty. But research documenting both the pervasiveness of teen lying as well as the reality that teens lie even though they believe that it is morally wrong makes me think that our teens might need something more from us.

Researcher Nancy Darling found that 98% of teens lie to their parents about some things – things such as:
– What they spent their allowance on
– Whether they had started dating
– What clothes they put on away from home
– What movie they went to and with whom
– Their alcohol and drug use
– Hanging out with friends that their parents disapprove of
– Whether chaperones were at a party
– Whether they were in cars driven by drunk teens

While some of these lies are certainly more serious than others, they share one thing in common: They all have to do with teens deceiving their parents so they can do what they want to do.

The other option open to teens as they battle for independence is, of course, arguing. But the research shows that the average teen is much more likely to lie rather than argue about a rule – 244% more likely. Researchers, however, have also found that there is significantly less lying in homes where there is more protesting and arguing.

So you just might need to argue more with your teen.

Now, I have to admit that I did not like arguing with my kids when they were teens. It often left me feeling disconnected from them and inadequate as a mom (not to mention as a debater). Apparently I’m not alone. Researcher Tabitha Holmes, who did extensive interviews with mothers and their teens, found that nearly half of mothers feel that arguments damage their relationship with their teen.

Yet, Holmes found that the vast majority of teens think that fighting can make the relationship with their mother stronger. Teens said they see arguing as a way to get their views heard and as a chance to hear their parents’ perspective. For teens, it’s not how big the fight is or even how many fights that is important. Instead, what matters most to teens is the quality of the disputes and how they are resolved.

I never learned to like arguing with my teens, but I did find that when I changed how I thought about our arguments – when I began thinking of them as a chance to model how to communicate when you disagree – things went much better. And when I took a couple minutes to think about what I wanted most – for myself, for my teen, and for our relationship – before jumping into the fray, sometimes these disputes even left me feeling more connected to my teens.

Arguments can strengthen your relationship with your teen if:

– You calmly listen to them, acknowledging when they make a good point.

– You take their interests and perspectives into account before making a decision, and you sometimes budge a bit, letting them use responsibility to negotiate to “yes.”

For example, a teen asking for a later curfew might get to “yes” with “If you let me stay out 30 minutes later, I’ll text you at my regular curfew time just to check-in. How about if we try that for a month before you make a final decision?”

– When saying “no,” you have good reasons for denying their requests and take the time to explain your decision.

Battling for independence is at the top of the teen agenda. By giving our teens an appropriate avenue for disagreeing and a model for how to do it, we are giving them an acceptable way to stay true to their mission to extend away from us. Doing so can also help us stay true to our mission as parents to stay connected to them so that we can guide them to wiser decisions and safer actions.

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