MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 3rd, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 15, The Feud

Phil Revises His Advice

The Framework
Tonight there was lots of cause for head scratching. Lily brought head lice home from school and Claire catches the head pets. (Cam’s delicate wording)

But there was a lot of the “go figure” kind of head scratching in tonight’s episode too. Alex and Haley get stuck in the basement with a possum. Manny obsesses over what the other kids will think about his squeaky shoes but still saves self-conscious Gloria from some catty moms. Meanwhile, Luke faces Gil Thorpe’s son in a wrestling match, causing Phil’s ongoing rivalry to become a multigenerational feud.

It was the conversations that lead up to Luke’s match that caught and held my attention.
Luke: My match is coming up. Got any “dadvice”?
Phil (smiling): Starting to sound natural, right? … You know what, just get out there and enjoy yourself. You show character trying a new sport. No matter what happens, I couldn’t be prouder. Go get ’em.

But then just before the match begins, the fatherly advice morphs into this.
Phil: I’d like to revise what I said to you in the car about biting…
Luke: But the important thing is I have fun out there, right?
Phil: Okay, let’s go over this again because I feel like you’re not listening.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Phil is overcome with his loathing and fear of the obnoxious Gil. His darkest thoughts and deepest worries are reflected in his revised advice to Luke. Though the situation was far-fetched, the fear Phil felt and his urge to help Luke hit a bit closer to home.

When our kids ask for our advice about something unfinished and messy, our minds start churning. We’ve gone through enough to have a good idea of what’s going to happen next. We can anticipate twists and turns full of additional troubles that our kids are totally oblivious to. We feel we must intervene and make sure they don’t get it wrong. It’s our job to protect them.

At a restaurant following the match…
Luke (setting his pop down on the table): Dang it!
Jay: We don’t want you to beat yourself up because you lost.
Luke: I’m not. I just started wrestling. Sure it would have been nice to win. But I tried my best. I just said “dang it” because I forgot my straw…
Phil: Son of a gun! He’s absolutely okay.

Sometimes what has us worried is not a problem for our teen. Sometimes they’ll already have a solution. At other times, though, they’ll need a bit more from us. But be careful. If you offer advice too readily, expect some rejection. After all, it’s their job to prove to us (and to themselves) that they don’t need our advice anymore. To them, taking our advice – even if they ask for it – feels like a setback.

What’s a Mom to Do
Instead of beginning by giving our teens advice, we might start by offering our presence. Because even when they ask for our advice, often what they really want is our quiet attention and reassurance.

Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind the next time your teen asks for your advice.

Acknowledge that it’s a tough issue. Even if the solution seems clear-cut to you, realize that from your teen’s perspective things often seem much muddier. And if you don’t acknowledge the difficulty, they’re likely to feel put-down, less capable, and angry at you for making them feel this way.

Be a sounding board. Restating the key parts of the issue in a calm, neutral voice as if you’re lining up the dots in a dot-to-dot puzzle can guide your teen to new insights and a higher level of thinking.

Ask for their ideas about how to handle the situation. Asking open-ended questions like What have you already tried? What seemed to help? Who else might you talk with? can get your teen thinking and talking about a way forward.

Wait. If they don’t answer your questions right away, don’t rush to fill the silence. Instead stay with your teen and give them your silent support. Sometimes it can help to give them time to go away and connect the dots before providing more guidance.

Underscore their strengths. Like adults, when teens struggle with a problem, they become experts on the problem. Focusing on the difficulty can cause them to lose confidence and avoid doing anything. We can help them switch gears (and calm ourselves) by keeping their strengths and past successes at the forefront of our mind. By reminding them of what they’re good at doing and how they’ve used their expertise in solving problems in the past, we can model for our teens how to refocus and become an expert on the solution.

By supporting our teens as they solve a problem rather than doing it for them, we’re helping them develop wisdom. It’s frustrating, though, not to just come right out and tell our teens what to do. After all we’ve lived long enough to have some wisdom worth sharing. But wisdom is like a college degree – it can’t simply be handed down.

Your Parenting Experiences
Phil (to camera): That might be the best part about being a parent: Whatever is going on in your personal life, when your kid is happy, you’re happy. A happy kid is like an antidepressant.

Is Phil onto something here? If so, might the antidepressant effect of a happy kid further complicate the issue of giving advice? What do you think?

Resource: Staying Connected to Your Teenager by Michael Riera

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 February 10th, 2014, 1 Comment

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 14, iSpy

Claire Steps Over the Line

The Framework
The three storylines in tonight’s episode are all built around what happens to relationships when trust is missing, the worrying and the snooping that ensues, and the feelings of disrespect that follow.

Tonight Jay moans oh, baby over and over in his sleep, causing Gloria to fear that he’s dreaming about another woman. Of course, gorgeous Gloria’s distrust is misplaced. But Jay is hiding something: He’s made a loan to a female friend and the details are on his phone.

Meanwhile when Mitch learns that a friend got calf implants, he promises to keep it a secret – especially from busybody Cam. But the friend was wrong to trust Mitch to resist Cam’s prying: It’s never nothing with that one. What was it this time? … Tell me. Tell me. Tell me. And Mitch was wrong to trust Cam to keep his mouth shut. After all Cam believes that gossip belongs to everyone, and his texting proves he practices what he preaches.

And over at the Dunphy household, Claire goes into hyper-spy mode for no real reason, enlisting a reluctant Phil and a more reluctant Alex to help with the snooping.
Claire: Is it me, or is [Haley] just being purposefully vague? Alex, I want you to go through her things and find out about this [event] tonight.
Phil: Wait. Wait. I don’t feel good about us snooping.
Claire: I know. That’s why I told Alex to do it.

Later Claire uses an iPad-tracking device to track down Luke.
Claire: I don’t like [Luke] going over to [Zander’s] house.
Phil: Why not?
Claire: Zander is a bad influence … I don’t trust him … I have tracked Luke’s cell phone, and he is nowhere near his friend Zander’s … He’s lying … He’s all the way over at Olympic and 20th.
Haley (jumping into the conversation): That’s the old salvage yard where kids go to get high.
Claire: What?!! Oh, we are going there right now!
Phil: Wait. Wait. [Haley] are you sure?
Haley: I’m gonna answer, and then I’m gonna walk away. Deal? … I’m 420% sure.
Phil (bewildered): Wow! She’s bad at math.

Once at the salvage yard, Claire and Phil get right down to work.
Phil: I can’t find a way in.
Claire: I can’t see anything, but I hear them laughing, and you know why kids laugh. … We’ve got to see what’s going on in there. Get that drone thing out of the car.
Phil: That thing is a professional aerial photography tool for real estate use only.

But Claire persists and Phil predictably complies.
Phil: We are airborne, expertly navigating the wires. We have cleared the wall. Approaching target. There they are.
Claire: Do you see anything suspicious – like smoke or paraphernalia or nachos?
Phil: Honey, they’re not getting high. They’re making a movie! Without me!!

Claire (suddenly realizing they’ve made a mistake): Oh, God! We’ve got to get out of here! He can’t know that we were spying on him.
Phil: Too late. Too late. They’re pointing at the drone. We’re compromised.
Claire: Get out! Get out!
Phil: I can’t leave the drone. It belongs to the office. They’re still mad at me for writing on the dry erase board with a permanent marker.

And towards the end of the episode there’s this.
Phil: Here comes Luke. What do we say we were doing today?
Claire: When has Luke ever showed any interest in what we do?
Phil: Okay. But be cool. If he finds out we were tracking his phone, he’ll think we don’t trust him.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Claire and Phil are right to be concerned. If Luke learns that they’ve been spying on him, he won’t feel trusted. If he finds out on his own, he’ll feel even more violated. Trust is the key to a teen’s self-respect. So teens need to feel that their parents trust them. Our teens see trust as the way we show them that we understand they’re not a little kid anymore.

Parents also believe that trust is important. In fact, most parents view trust as the foundation of their relationship with their teen. And when we don’t trust our teens, we can become so overwhelmed with worry that they won’t honor our values, follow our rules, and keep their promises that we’re a nervous wreck every time they’re out of our sight.

Plus if we truly do not trust our teens, they are probably going to feel our lack of trust and respect deeply. And they’re likely to feel that they have nothing to lose by breaking our rules and their promises.

Phil: Honey, I love technology as much as the next Wozniak. But are you sure we want to be spying on our kids? … How ‘bout if I just ask [Luke where he is]?
Claire: Oh, man! I wish you were my dad… The things I would have done.

Claire is right: Letting your concerns about your teen’s privacy keep you from taking action if you suspect that your teen is in trouble is risky business. But Phil has a point too: Invading your teen’s privacy also comes with risks. Turning kids’ book bags upside down, reading their texts, and pulling their rooms apart is sending a loud message that they’re liars and that they can’t be trusted. This is a terrible blow to the mutual trust and respect that staying connected with them is all about. And lots of research indicates that your connection with your teen is your biggest parenting asset.

What’s a Mom to Do
Author Michael Bradley tries to explain the fine line parents must walk between respecting and invading their teen’s privacy this way: “You must absolutely invade their privacy, except in those situations when you should never invade their privacy, unless it’s a time when you have an obligation to invade their privacy – which is usually never but frequently often.”

This contradictory statement gets at the difficulty of keeping our teens safe while respecting their need to be trusted. The following tips can help you walk this fine line:

Don’t snoop without evidence of a threat to your teen’s health or safety. Search only when you have rational reasons for doing so, when you’ve tried all other means for getting the information you need, and when your teen’s health and safety are threatened.

If you decide you need to snoop, act quickly to seek your teen out and apologize for snooping before they find out you snooped. Do this even if there’s a chance they’ll not find out. There are two reasons why it’s wise to apologize whether you found anything or not.
1) Even if you found they were doing something wrong, you violated trust and respect when you did the search. Apologizing tells your teen that in solid relationships, trust and respect are always upheld.
2) Apologizing allows you to hold a follow-up conversation related to the snooping.

Regardless of what you found, hold a follow-up conversation later, in a separate discussion, after your teen’s anger over the snooping has died down. By waiting, you’ll help your teen focus on what you’ve got to say rather than how you violated their privacy when you snooped. If you found something, you’ll want to discuss their misbehavior. If you found nothing, you’ll want to discuss the problem of your relationship deteriorating to the point that you felt you couldn’t trust them and had to snoop.

Nurture the rebuilding of trust between you and your teen. There are three things that can help you do this.
1) Remain optimistic when your teen makes bad choices. Your optimism stays with your teen even when you’re not around, and often your positive expectations will help them make the right choice.
2) When your teen has misbehaved, enforce the consequences you agreed on and provide any additional support your teen needs to learn from their mistakes.
3) Make a real effort to reconnect with your teen. Shared fun and laugher are the foundation when it comes to staying connected to your teen. During stressful times, we parents need to work to keep this at the forefront of our minds.

Walking the fine line between respecting and invading a teen’s privacy takes a lot of work. It’s easier just to snoop. But the extra work is worth it. Because when our teens feel that we trust them and that their efforts to earn this trust have been noticed and appreciated, they are more likely to be determined not to do anything that would jeopardize our trust.

Your Parenting Experiences
At the end of the episode, Claire’s three teens confront her about all her snooping. Claire responds with this: You have no idea how hard it is to be a parent – to figure out what is going on with your kids when all you get is a grunt or a “fine” or a flick of the hair. It’s my job to protect you and make sure you are making good choices. And if I step over the line every now and again when I’m doing that, tough! Knowing you’re safe is the only thing that lets me sleep at night.

What do you think? Is Claire right? Have you snooped and had to resolve this with your teen? How did you do it?

Source: Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! by Michael J. Bradley

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.

© 2021 Roxane Lehmann, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.