MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on June 17th, 2013, 0 Comments

Draw the Boundaries But Don’t Make Them Battle Lines

At this point, curfew and chores are tied for the most votes in last week’s poll about what we battle about most. Together those two issues make up two-thirds of the tug-of-wars we have with our teens.

The curfew battles often begin with them wanting to stay out later than we want:
Them: I wanna stay out until 1:00 tonight. Everybody else gets to.
Us: What? That’s after curfew – not just ours but the city’s too. No way.
Them: But listen! Just listen to me for a minute!

The chore battles tend to begin with us wanting them to do something they’d rather not do:
Us: The kitchen trash is about to overflow. It’s your job to take it out. Please do it right now.
Them: Why am I the only one who ever has to do stuff around here? I’ll take it out as soon as I get done [whatever…]

We want one thing. They want something else. And the battle is on.

Often the curfew and chore battles are about our kids trying to push the boundaries to make sure we mean what we say. And when they are testing our limits, it’s usually best to limit ourselves to just one more line. For example:

Us: You’re to be home by 11:30. If you’re not, there will be consequences.

Us: The garbage needs to go out now. If you don’t have it done in the next few minutes, I’ll do it and you’ll have to deal with the consequences.

Nothing quells a battle more effectively than silence. Yes, it’s tempting to fire off a retort beginning with Don’t you dare…! But that eggs teens on, and they’re likely to battle back with Just watch me! – a reply they always have at the ready. So say your parting line, make eye contact, and then walk away, ignoring whatever comes next.

Our teens know what gets to us and keeps us engaged in battle. They know that their threats of disobedience (like You can’t make me! or You can’t stop me! or I don’t care!) and swearing are particularly effective at keeping us going – just in a different direction. And they want us to stay in the battle because they prefer to deal with us than with their conscience.

But this internal battle is exactly the one we want them to face. We want our teens to have to listen to and wrestle with their inner voice – that voice whispering to them to do what they know is right and that source of bad feelings when they don’t. So it’s best to silently walk away, letting them have the last word, ignoring their threats of disobedience, and dealing only with actual rule breaking. And if you feel that you have to address their back talk, do it later after things cool down. To try to deal with it in the heat of battle will only fan their fire.

While it’s often best to restate our position and then walk away, we want to make sure that our default is not permanently set at “no.” So next week we’ll take a look at how and when to say “yes” to extending curfews and renegotiating agreements about chores.

See you next Monday!



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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on June 10th, 2013, 0 Comments

While we wait for Season 5 to begin…

We’ll look back at Season 4, exploring some new aspects of the episodes I’ve already blogged about. We’ll also look at episodes 1-6 that aired this season before I began blogging about “Modern Family,” and we’ll take a peek at some of the best episodes from earlier seasons. Plus, starting this week, there’ll be some polls to make it easy for you to share your parenting experiences. Your answers will be added to those of others and the results will be instantly available for you to see.

So come on, Ladies! Let’s get some synergy going over the summer!

Reframe: Right. Wrong. They Just Can’t Stop It.

Season 4, Episode 23
(Click here to see the original post.)

My Notes

Our job is to stay connected to our teens. But our teens don’t make our job easy. In fact, they seem programed to extend away from us. Because to successfully transition from childhood to adulthood, they must complete two crucial tasks: They have to figure out who they are as individuals, and they have to become independent.

Two snippets from this episode of “Modern Family” give us a glimpse at how teens think about their job of extending away:

As the Dunphys ride up the coast in a borrowed RV, there’s this conversation…
Claire: Alex, honey, that’s a cute sweater. Doesn’t Haley have one like that?
Alex: Oh, it actually is hers. I took it from her closet before we left.
Claire: You’re okay with this [Haley]?
Haley: Oh, yeah, she can wear whatever she wants after I’ve had it for six months.
Alex: Or I get it automatically if you buy anything that looks like it.

And there’s this back and forth as Manny explains why he needs to search for his backpack in first the Dunphy home and then Mitch and Cam’s place while the families are away…
Manny: But my backpack is in there, Jay. My poem for my poetry reading…
Jay: Calm down. Didn’t you back it up on the computer?
Manny: What kind of man writes poetry on a computer?
Jay: You could have ended that sentence after “poetry.”
Manny (continuing to think about his upcoming reading): I don’t want my mom there. I’m exploring some darker themes I’m not sure she is ready for. Poems like “The Umbilical Noose,” “A Jail Called Mom,” “Smother Nature.” She’ll just find some way to make it all about her.

As our teens assert their individuality, they are also busy pushing for adult privileges and battling for independence. To be honest, most interactions between us and our teens involve a tug-of-war. They want one thing, and we want something else. What do you battle most about with your teen? And you only get to pick one.


If the direction of the interaction doesn’t sit right with our teen, they dig in for battle, using their improved vocabulary and arguing abilities to prolong, intensify, and complicate things. What is your teen’s “go to” strategy for keeping the battle going? Again, you only get to pick one.



How do your tug-of-wars with your teen compare with what other moms said in the polls above? Did you have trouble picking just one battle or strategy?

In the next few weeks we’ll talk about how to handle some of these battles. See you next Monday!



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