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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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on April 1st, 2013, 1 Comment

Look Who’s Manipulating Now

Season 4, Episode 18

The Framework

Wow! There sure was a lot of manipulation tonight on “Modern Family.” Every house seemed to have some of it going on.

The Dunphy household had its share of it. Alex sweeps up spilled sugar as though she’s never used a broom in her life, and Haley complains that she can’t change a light bulb because the ceiling is too high. Observing all this, Phil becomes alarmed – not that his daughters are playing him for a fool but that they know nothing about house maintenance. And he decides it’s up to him to show them what a modern, self-sufficient woman looks like.

First he demonstrates how to use a stepstool to reach a light bulb before moving on to bigger things like how to restart a water heater. And that’s when he gets in over his head. After bemoaning (with mini flashlight in mouth) that he can’t get the crupid thing relit, he sends the girls on a concocted errand so that he can Skype his father on the down-low for help.

Over at the Pritchett house, Jay cons his way out of an event he’d promised Manny he’d attend by convincing Gloria that he’ll take care of baby Joe so that she and Manny can have some mother-son time. At first Gloria is delighted. But then she finds out what Jay knew all along: The event is a reading of “Moby Dick” which Manny gushes is going to be four hours you’ll never forget. In the end Gloria lies to escape the event, telling Manny the book reading is sold-out. But she doesn’t stop there. She has a couple more tricks up her sleeve:

The first is on Manny: I lied, but I earned that lie, Manny. I’m so sorry, but you know I’m always trying to do everything for everybody in this family.

The next on Jay: But you – you only do what’s good for you. Let me tell you something, Jay Pritchett, when it comes to raising kids, you get what you give.

Meanwhile Mitch is adamant that nobody in his house is going to be bullied. Suffice it to say that Mitch has suffered from this overt and meaner form of manipulation in the past. So when he learns about Milo – a kid at Lily’s school who’s been bullying anyone who tries to play a child version of handball on the playground – Mitch vows to get good at the game and give Milo a taste of his own medicine. And with Luke as his trainer, he does – drawing an audience of disapproving parents and teachers in the process. Of course, there were consequences:

Mitch (to camera): Cam’s gonna be doing drop-offs for a while.

Lily (forlornly): We got a letter.

There was even manipulation going on in the house bought for flipping. Because when it comes to making decisions about the renovation, Claire and Cam are mostly at odds. And they both use trickery to get their way. Cam uses a method he calls a Trojan Horse:

The key is I let Claire think she’s in charge. I hide what I want in something bigger and more expensive. Then, when she rejects that, we ‘compromise’ on what I wanted all along. … You know how I got Lily? I asked Mitchel for triplets.

But Claire is not to be outdone. She rattles off numbers about square footage and cost to rattle Cam and get her way:

I employ something I call the “number dump.” Yesterday I accidently said “elevendy-five.” (She also said “forty-twelve.” But who’s counting?)

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Manipulation is a deliberate thought process. It takes advanced social skills to lie well and spin good stories, to con others into letting you do what you want, or to know how to push people’s buttons and intimidate. Manipulating is something kids grow into.

And, of course, as we saw tonight what adults model isn’t always stellar:

Phil fibs to get his daughters out of the house.

Jay cons his way out of a four-hour father-son event.

Gloria lies to Manny to get out of the same event and rationalizes as she tries to justify her lie. Then she gets up on her high horse and lays a guilt-trip on Jay to keep him on the defense.

Mitch, determined to give bullying Milo his comeuppance, uses shame in the form of sarcasm and putdowns to do it.

And Cam and Claire trick each other so they can each have their own way.

Truth be told, these characters aren’t all that different from the rest of us. Most of us occasionally manipulate a situation to advance our own cause. And our kids have probably seen some of it. Yet our best chance to make a difference in our children growing up to be trustworthy adults is to be straightforward and honest when we deal with others – especially when dealing with our own children.

The BottomLine

Handball trainer Luke to Mitch in the tag scene tonight:

Close your eyes. It’s okay; we’re off the court. And then just as Mitch lets down his guard, Luke knocks the water bottle out of his hand and hits him with this parting shot: You’re never off the court.

If you’re a parent, you’re a model. Like it or not, we cannot, not model. And we’re never really off the court. In fact, our day-to-day modeling is our highest form of influence in our children’s lives.

So to tell our children to be trustworthy and to be disappointed and scold them when they’re not, is all well and good. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that this alone will teach our children not to be manipulative. Our words have meaning only when we practice them on a regular basis.

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• What do you think the letter from Lily’s school said? If you were Milo’s parents what would you want the letter to say? How about if you were a parent of one of the kids watching from the sideline?

• There seemed to be a number of missed opportunities for setting a positive example tonight. For instance, Phil sent his daughters on an errand instead of modeling the rightness of asking for help when you get in over your head. What missed opportunities did you notice?

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