MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on November 18th, 2013, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 7, A Fair to Remember

Gloria Takes the Cake

The Framework
Tonight’s episode, set at a town fair, sounds like fun. But the fun played second fiddle to the downside of competing – with family members losing face and friends at almost every turn.

Even as the Pritchetts turn into the fairground’s parking lot, Jay squares off with another driver over a parking spot – and his pride.
Jay: Didn’t you see my blinker?
Derrick: Looking at ya, I’m guessing it was on the whole way here.

Claire and Phil, who are celebrating their china (20th) anniversary on fair day, are also competing. Claire has always given Phil disappointing gifts, but she’s sure she has a winner this year with the Chinese acrobats she’s hired. They’re back at home, though, so she wants to drag Phil away before he even has a chance to whack-a-mole. Phil needs to keep Claire at the fair because he’s going to perform the “romantic” song he wrote for her: She’s a pretty sight, wise as a Buddha. But, brother, watch that bite; she’s a Claire-acuda. That is until he gets cold feet about following the rock star pharmacist who performed before him.

Cam is fixated on his losing freshman football team: Do you see how everyone is glaring at me like a loser coach. … I’m the Hester Prynne of freshman football. I might as well have an ”L” sewn on my shirt.

Alex and Luke are both competing for the same girl. Alex is determined to make Sienna her new best friend: Sienna is amazing. Stylish, worldly, and she’s so new to our school, she doesn’t even realize I’m a full social class below her. I need to cement the friendship before she finds out we have a cafeteria. Luke wants Sienna to be his girlfriend. As Claire tells it: [Luke looks at her] the same way he used to look at Halloween candy. The sibs both lose out when their attempts to thwart each other end up creeping out Sienna.

Meanwhile Jay and Gloria worry about what Manny might lose by winning the fair’s cake contest.
Jay (seeing a crowd of boys laughing at Manny as he carries his cake): Give me that. Do you want to fit in? You’re not doing yourself any favor with this cake contest.

But it’s Gloria who really takes the cake tonight – beginning with this as Manny puts the final touches on his cake.
Gloria (to camera): See Manny up there with the misfits and their crazy cakes. I started to wonder if Jay was right. Maybe Manny would fit in better if he was more like the other boys. And maybe I need to give him a little push.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
The episode left me pondering the title: “A Fair to Remember.” What transpired tonight was funny but forgettable. That is except for Manny’s grit: I’m going to win the cake contest. … And then there will be no stopping me. … [I’ll have] first place ribbons and respect.

When Gloria tries to sabotage Manny’s chances of winning by surreptitiously tearing a huge hunk off his cake, Manny won’t be deterred: Hey, Mom! Check it out! I finished my cake! … It’s Los Angeles after an 11.5 earthquake. I call it “earth-cake.”

Even when he has just 60 seconds to get his cake to the judges’ table and there’s a dense crowd standing in his way, Manny doesn’t give up.
Gloria: Uhhh! There’s no way we’re going to make it through that crowd.
Manny: Like heck we won’t! Here; (handing his cake to Gloria to carry), follow my lead. Ready? Then smiling. Come on! Come on!

Despite his peers’ snickers, Jay’s dire warning, Gloria’s sabotage of his cake, and the crowd standing between him and his goal, Manny stayed focused and persevered.

Gloria: I was the one who ruined your cake. I was afraid all those boys were going to make fun of you. I think I care more about your fitting in than you do.
Manny: No, I care. It’s just the stuff I’m good at isn’t the stuff that makes you popular.

This is a good reminder for us moms. We need not worry so much if we have a teen, like Manny, who is not the most popular. It’s crucially important for their social and emotional development that kids have one or two close, solid friendships. But being popular is not essential.

We may wish for our kids to be popular – just as we may wish for them to be athletic or good looking or smart. But we need to be careful that we’re not imposing our own wishes on our kids or weighting them down with our worries. There are lots of paths to success. And regardless of our kid’s path, researchers are increasingly pointing to how much character traits like the grit that Manny demonstrates tonight matter. Kids who don’t let setbacks discourage them, who are hard workers, and who finish whatever they begin are the most likely to succeed – not just in the immediate, short-term but also in the long-term of life.

What’s a Mom to Do
There is not yet a proven way to make teens grittier, but there is growing evidence that the following can help:

Encourage your teen’s activities and hobbies that stem from long-term interests. These opportunities provide our kids’ some of their best opportunities to see that sustained effort over time is key to achievement. So we need to be there to encourage them and to cheer as they set goals and work hard to achieve those goals. (Jay and Gloria, I’m talking to you!)

Give your teen a chance to learn how to handle disappointment and failure. Like Jay and Gloria, we moms often think our job is to do everything we can to shield and rescue our children from struggle and hardship. Yet when kids are overly protected, they don’t get a chance to develop the ability to overcome failure. So rather than trying to protect our teens, we need to be their safety nets instead.

Being a safety net means allowing natural consequences. It means paying attention so that we’re there when they fall – to comfort them and reassure them that they can indeed bounce back. And it means acknowledging what they did well and then helping them look honestly at where things went wrong, how they contributed to the problem, and what they need to do differently next time.

Be your teen’s historian. Remind your teen of obstacles they’ve faced before and successfully overcome. (Gloria, make a mental note of all that Manny overcame to win at the fair.) When they’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, you can listen to their worries and then remind them of their past successes under similar circumstances.

There were lots of laugh lines tonight. But Manny’s grit is what made this show one to remember.

Your Parenting Experiences
How gritty do you think your teen is? The Short Grit Scale (click here) developed by Angela Duckworth can give you some idea.

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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on May 6th, 2013, 0 Comments

Will Lily Help the Tooth Fairy Out of a Jam?

Season 4, Episode 21

The Framework

“Choice” was the thing that seemed to tie the plotlines together tonight on “Modern Family.” Jay claims that if he’d had a choice he’d have written a spy thriller by now, but life always got in the way. (He nods at Gloria as he says this.) At Career Day in Luke and Manny’s class, Claire is pressed by the teacher to talk about her choice to be a stay-at-home mom. A girl with a laser sharp tongue, who interrupts to say that her mom went back to work when she was four, adds to Claire’s pressure to justify her choice.

And over at the Tucker-Pritchett house, Mitch and Cam are trying to convince Lily – under her own free will – to return the $100 bill Cam accidentally slipped under her pillow when he was playing the Tooth Fairy. It was this storyline that caught and held my attention.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Wanting to preserve Lily’s belief in the Tooth Fairy, Mitch and Cam are compelled to rely on influence more than control as they try to convince Lily to give back the $100. Thus, the power struggle the two had with their precocious six-year-old is not unlike the ones you and I might have with our teens as they battle for independence. And we can learn a few things from what Mitch and Cam did before, during, and after their conversation with Lily.

Before beginning, ask yourself what you want most for your teen and for your relationship. In the beginning, Mitch and Cam wanted different things.

Mitch: I don’t understand why we don’t just go in there and tell her we’re taking the money, and that’s that.
Cam: Because this is a teaching moment, and we want her to want to give the money back.

Tip: In the moment we (like Mitch) may want our teens to be obedient and do as we say. But unless our teens’ health and safety are involved, it’s better to be more like Cam here, focusing on what we want in the long-term and using our influence to get there.

Don’t begin the conversation by providing all the answers. Mitch and Cam made this mistake.

Cam (reading the letter from the Tooth Fairy): I’m writing because I made a mistake and gave you too much money. Please leave the $100 under your pillow tonight, and I’ll give you a dollar. Sorry if that bites.
Lily: No. I want to keep it!
Mitch (to Lily): Ahhh, well, it sounds like she’s really in a jam, and I think we’re going to have to give the Tooth Fairy her $100 back.

As it turns out, Lily had a plan for the $100. And Cam and Mitch could have saved a bunch of time and energy if they’d ask Lily here – at the beginning of the conversation – why she wanted to keep the money. Instead Lily stomps off, and Mitch and Cam decide to enlist some help.

Haley (in full costume): It’s me the Tooth Fairy, and I’ve come to ask you for a favor.
Lily: Is this about the money again?

Tooth Fairy: Well, yes, it is. I need enough for all the other children’s tooths – teeth.
Lily: Wait a minute! You’re not the Tooth Fairy! You’re Haley! … (then turning to her dads) Why did you lie? You said lying was wrong.

Tip: If we start by providing all the answers, we’re inviting our teens to look for the flaws in our ideas or methods – just like Lily did. It’s wiser to bring up your concerns and what you’re asking of your teen in a simple, clear thought. Try to come up with something that can be said in 30 seconds or less. And then encourage your teen to share their viewpoint and ideas first.

And when it’s your turn to talk, don’t advocate for a course of action if it will cause your teen to argue against it. Again, we can learn from Mitch and Cam.

Mitch: All right, Lily, this is ridiculous! The Tooth Fairy has made a mistake. You need to put the $100 under the pillow, and that is the end of the story.
Cam: Because you believe that it’s the right thing to do. Don’t you?
Lily: But I want to buy a scooter.

Tip: When we worry that our teen will make a poor choice, our righting reflex kicks-in. Following our instincts we tend to argue for the outcome we desire (like Mitch did) by providing solutions based solely on our view of things. Then hoping to help our teens see the big picture, we often wind up asking questions that are variations of the one Cam asked. Questions such as “How can you say this isn’t a problem?” “What makes you think this isn’t dangerous?” “Why don’t you just…?” or “Why can’t you…?”

It’s tempting to ask these questions because these are often what we really want to know. But they’re wrong because the answer to any of them is a defense of our teen’s position. And as teens argue on behalf of a position, they become more committed to it – literally talking themselves into or out of something.

Instead of arguing harder for your position, roll with their resistance. Lily reacted to her dads’ latest request to hand back the $100 by saying she wanted a scooter. And Haley demonstrated one way to roll with resistance when she replied by asking Lily about Santa.

Haley: You know, that’s what I’d do. I mean who cares what Santa thinks, right?
Lily: Santa?
Haley: Well, he sees everything. And this [keeping the money] will probably put you on the “naughty list,” but who needs presents every year? You’ve got $100. You can ride around that empty Christmas tree until you’re an old lady.
Lily: Can I have some time to think about it?

Tip: If you sense resistance from your teen, see it as a signal to shift your approach. Instead of letting your discussion turn into an argument, stimulate your teen’s problem solving by asking questions and floating your ideas by them – like bubbles. It’s hard to fight a question or an idea that is floated by you. And the questions and ideas that are floated by them are the ones that teens are most likely to store away to think about and act on later.

Practice patience. When Lily asked for some time to think about it, her two dads had two different responses.

Mitch: You don’t need any…
Cam: Of course, sweetie.

Tip: When it comes to parenting teens, it often pays to be patient when we’re feeling least inclined to do so. Floating ideas by our teens, providing them with choices, and giving teens time to consider their options (as Cam did for Lily) aren’t as convenient as taking control. But when you practice patience, you’re more likely to get the long-term results you want most – for your teen and for your relationship.

Resources: Motivational Interviewing by Miller & Rollnick

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• Early on in the Tooth Fairy storyline, Lily (with her $100 bill in hand) says she can’t wait to tell everyone in school. And Cam turns to Mitch and says: We can’t be the parents of a six-year-old who gets $100 from the Tooth Fairy. How do you think this concern might have affected their interactions with Lily?

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