MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on October 7th, 2013, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 3, Larry’s Wife

Claire and Phil Aren’t Paying Attention

The Framework

“Control” is what knotted the plotlines together tonight on Modern Family. After agreeing to let Cam plan their wedding, Mitch has trouble letting go of control. Look no further than the fake cat funeral to see why. As Cam admits: This was supposed to be a small service. But I don’t winnow down. I overdo. Meanwhile at the Pritchett’s, Gloria is worrying that a family curse has put baby Joe under the devil’s control. And over at the Dunphy household things are getting out of control.
Phil: I’ve been on something of a hot streak at work. I’ve tapped into a rich vein of new clients: recently divorced moms. You might say I hit the single mother lode.

With Phil on his hot streak and Claire preoccupied with her new job, Luke has been hosting poker games in the basement, and his luck seems to have gone cold. As he laments: We lost everything down there.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Claire and Phil seem oblivious to the money (among other things) changing hands in their basement. But so what? What’s the big deal if kids get together and gamble – especially if it’s in your or a neighbor’s basement?

Parents’ answers to this question vary. Some parents are all for teen gambling – even citing benefits such as social interaction, practice with math and number skills, and learning to consider risks. Other parents are wary, but condone it – explaining that they can’t stop their kids, that it means they know where their kids are, and that the standard $10 buy-in is less than their teen would spend going to a movie. Yet other parents frown on their kids getting involved in any type of gambling. Pointing to the research on the impulsivity of the developing teen brain, they worry that their kids will keep playing even when losing a great deal or that gambling now may set their kids up for lifelong trouble.

So what’s a mom to do?

Regardless of which parent camp you’re in, your best bet is to negotiate with your teen. As strange as it sounds, negotiating makes it more likely that your teen will honor the limits you set – whatever they are.

Stay with me now. This doesn’t mean your kid gets to do whatever they want. On the contrary, kids need limits regardless of their age. And kids of all ages seem to be programmed to test those limits.

When kids are young, our limits are a lot like walls. As long as we’re sturdy, they’re not going to walk all over us. But as our kids get bigger, stronger, and smarter, our sturdy presence is not enough. Because our limits become more like lines. It’s our job to draw those lines so that our teens know what is acceptable and what is out of bounds. But our teens have to decide whether or not to step over those lines. To keep our teens healthy and safe requires their cooperation. And we can go a long way in gaining our teens’ cooperation when it comes to gambling (and everything else) by being willing to negotiate with them.

Negotiating doesn’t mean giving into your teen. It doesn’t even mean always giving ground. Instead to negotiate means:
– Engaging your teen in open-minded discussions.
– Listening to them without interruption and respecting their right to have an opinion different than yours no matter how crazy their idea is.
– Letting your teen know what your concerns, values, and boundaries are.
– Being flexible and saying “yes” if your teen fully addresses your concerns so that you can say “yes” and still be a responsible parent.
– And it means holding the line and explaining why you can’t give an inch (and what it would take for you to reevaluate the situation down the road) as objectively and respectfully as possible when you have to say “no.”


Haley: Thanks for winning my computer back.
Luke: And getting me all my money.
Alex: Yeah. If only I’d stopped there. But I had to go back down. I got greedy, and I was careless.
Haley: There’s a story about that I remember from school. Icarus flew too close to his son; I think their wings bumped; one of them fell. I think they might have been ducks. Anyway, the lesson is you have to pay attention.

Teens aren’t the only ones who have to pay attention when gambling. In fact, teen social gambling is only a big problem if we parents are not paying attention.

Paying attention starts with drawing the line between what is acceptable and what is not for your teen. If you consider any form of gambling out of bounds, you need to say so. If you’re willing to condone some social gambling, then you need to be clear about what is acceptable – when, where, with whom, how, and how much. And you need to keep tabs on what they’re doing and step in if you see that the pot is getting too big, the kids are starting to write IOUs to each other, or they’re starting to collateral their personal belongings.

And you need to monitor your teen’s behavior to make sure that their low-stakes gambling isn’t turning into a high-stakes problem. This means keeping an eye out for troubling signs like these:
– Borrowing from family and friends and not repaying
– Missing personal belongings
– Spending lots of time at online gaming sites
– Being overly concerned with sports scores
– Having unexplained debts or large amounts of cash
– Having unexplained absences from school or falling grades
– Withdrawing from activities, friends, and family
– Being distracted, moody, or anxious

Claire. Phil. Pay attention!

Your Parenting Experiences

Poker parties may not be quite as popular as they were a few years back. But now that football season has started, many kids are getting involved in fantasy football. And if money starts changing hands, the fun turns into gambling.

Does your teen have a fantasy football team? Is money changing hands? If so, what do you consider acceptable?

Sources: Teens + Gambling = Trouble

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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on April 15th, 2013, 0 Comments

Haley and the Champagne Flute

Season 4, Episode 20

The Framework

Tonight on “Modern Family” a couple former storylines get picked up right where they left off. The house that Claire and Cam have been renovating gets put on the market and sold. While over at the Pritchett house Gloria gets mad when Manny’s father visits again, bringing Trish – another one of his girlfriends – with him. And Gloria gets even madder when it turns out that this one is not a bimbo but an art expert with a fancy degree and a job to match.

These storylines were full of laughs like these:

Haley: He went to college at a place called “mit.”
Alex: It’s MIT.
Haley: I know how to spell it.

Gloria: This is not even garbage. They wouldn’t take it. It’s too big for the can.

Trish (to Gloria): You know what I had for lunch?! I had half a granola bar. And I can’t even button my pants.

But as the families celebrate the completed renovation, there were a couple sobering lines as well:

Phil: I would like to propose a toast.
Haley (emptying her glass of bubbly and holding it out for more): Missed me. And before the second toast: Still empty.
Alex: You know you’re my ride.
Haley (pinging the champagne flute with her finger): They say it’s bad luck to toast with an empty glass.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Does Haley have a drinking problem? She did chug down that glass of champagne. And there was that night of bizarre behavior that got her kicked out of college – a night that began with drinking. But how would we know if she had a problem? Come to think of it, how would we know if one of our kids had a problem with alcohol?

Here are some warning signs:
• Mood changes – flare-ups of temper, irritability, and defensiveness
• School problems – poor attendance, low grades, or recent disciplinary action
• Rebelling against family rules
• Switching friends along with reluctance to have you get to know their friends
• A “nothing matters” attitude, sloppy appearance, a lack of involvement in former interests, and general low energy
• Finding alcohol in your child’s bedroom or backpack, or smelling alcohol on their breath
• Physical or mental problems – bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, slurred speech, memory lapses, poor concentration
(Source: NIAAA)

Some of the things on this list may be no more than normal teen growing pains. But if your teen shows several of the signs at the same time, if they occur suddenly, and if they are more extreme, it’s probably time to get some help. A good place to start is to call your teen’s doctor – just as we would if our teens had any other serious medical need.

None of us want our teens to use alcohol – much less to develop a drinking problem. But no teen is immune. So we need to keep our radar up and quietly monitor for signs of use. Because no one will ever be more concerned than we are. And no one can be more watchful than we can be.

If your teen casually mentions that some of their friends are drinking or that some of their friends’ parents let their kids drink, it’s a signal that they may be doing some experimenting or at least considering it. Putting up these trial balloons lets teens test our response. And as the balloons float by, we get a natural chance to reinforce our rule that no use is acceptable and to remind them of the consequences for missing the mark.

If you suspect experimentation but only have your suspicions, voice your concerns as objectively (and unemotionally) as possible. Tell your teen what it is that you’ve noticed that has you worried. And tell them that you love them too much not to worry and care too much not to fight them over drinking or drug use. By saying this we let our teens know that we’re paying attention, and it lets us gradually build a case if their worrisome behavior continues. So say this, and then quietly monitor their behavior.

And if you find evidence of one occasion of use, try not to view it as the end of the world. Yes, it’s disappointing. And to send a message that you won’t tolerate drinking, you’ll have to take away some of their privileges (things like driving, sleepovers, and extended curfews) until they’ve re-earned your trust. But there is also reason to be grateful. Because when our teens make a mistake and we find out about it, we get one of our best opportunities to help them make better decisions down the road.

The BottomLine

Jay (to Trish): Now, I’m not an art expert like you, but I did acquire this piece in a gallery in one of those finer Vegas casinos. What do you think?
Trish: It does say something. … What is it Thoreau said: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Some parents will take a look at the teen scene and decide that teens will drink and that there is little they can do about it. And to be honest, the research indicates that parenting doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of effect on whether kids decide to try alcohol. But if you take a closer look at the data, you’ll see that parenting attitudes and actions can make a big difference in how much and how often teens drink – and this is where the greatest risks to their safety and their brains lie.

Researchers have found that the kids least likely to do heavy drinking have parents who are highly supportive and highly demanding. These parents are warm and caring. They know where their kids are and who they are with. They send a clear message that no drinking is acceptable. And they hold their kids accountable. On the other hand, having a permissive parent who is warm and caring but low on accountability (I’m talking to you, Phil) can triple the risk of a teen taking part in heavy drinking. And a controlling parent who is high on accountability but low on warmth (Claire, I’m talking to you now) can more than double their teen’s risk of heavy drinking.

So it’s true that as our teens get older, we have less influence and their peers have more. But it’s also true that our actions and attitudes can go a long way in minimizing the effect of peer encouragement to drink.

Flipping the Frame: From My Life as a Parent

A decade ago when my son was a teen, many parents viewed teen drinking as a rite of passage. Some parents today still may feel relieved that their teen is “only” drinking. But in truth, what we’ve learned over the last several years underscores the dangers of underage drinking:

• It’s a major cause of death from injuries among teens.
• It plays a role in risky sexual behavior and violent crime.
• And there is growing evidence that the teen brain, which is still forming, is more vulnerable than the adult brain to the damaging effects of alcohol.

Some adolescent experts used to advise letting teens do their experimenting before they left home for college so that parents could keep watch and monitor their use. Nobody is suggesting this any more. We now know that the best thing we parents can do is to delay the age at which our kids start drinking for as long as possible. Because the earlier teens start drinking, the more likely they are to become a heavy drinker and to have problems with school, jobs, and relationships.

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• I’m pretty sure that Haley is not yet 21. Why do you think she got champagne for toasting while Alex and Luke got juice? She’s almost 21. And it’s just one glass. So does it matter?

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