MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 10th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 16, Spring-A-Ding-Fling

Claire “Broke” Luke’s Date

The Framework
Tonight’s show begins with Phil dressed to the nines.
Phil: Hey, guys! For my opening number… Be honest – does it look like I have anything on under this?
Phil is set to be the first three-time host in the history of SCARB – THE annual banquet for Southern Cal realtors. And he’s got five, planned, real-time, hit-performance wardrobe changes underneath that tux.

Meanwhile it’s Mitch’s first day on the job at a legal aid firm, working for Wendy (a friend from law school). The day begins with Wendy dressing down her intern for the outfit he’d picked out for her.

Over at Jay and Gloria’s house there’s an argument about who knows how to get what they want out of people best. The dispute begins like this.
Jay: I do love it in leather.
Gloria: Well learn to love it in silk. It’s too hot to be wearing leather.
Jay: I was talking about this car… Oh by the way, I do the negotiating today at the dealership.
Jay claims that his business experience gives him the edge. But Gloria is certain that her curves and cleavage make her better at working people – and she has Jay’s fancy watch, a pair of designer shoes, plus a huge diamond bauble to prove it.

And tonight Cam is in-charge of the high school’s Spring-A-Ding-Fling (the “A-Ding” is Cam’s addition). He turned this two-bit dance into the event of the year, and he dresses-up for the occasion.
Fellow teacher: Fancy shirt, Coach Tucker.
Cam: Oh, thank you. You know what I like to say – I might be a coach but I travel first class.

Suffice it to say, there is a lot of focus on appearance and clothes in tonight’s episode. But it wasn’t until there was more of the same back at the Dunphy household that my attention got caught.

Luke and his date for the Fling are tussling on the front lawn as Claire arrives home.
Claire (to Luke): Honey, it’s getting close to time for the dance. Shouldn’t you go in and get changed?
Luke: I did already. The guys are coming by. We’re going to ride from here.
Claire: What about you, Rhonda? Do you wanna go in and get cleaned up?
Rhonda: I’m good.
Claire (waving Rhonda inside): Luke you wait here. Ride with your friends. I’ll bring Rhonda [when I come to help chaperone the dance].

Later at the dance there’s this.
Luke: What did you do to Rhonda?
Claire: I cleaned her up.
Luke: No! You broke her! I hate her like this.
Claire: She looks fantastic!
Luke: To you!!

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
As our teens work to figure out who they are and who they want to become, they try on new looks and new ways of dressing. In fact, their choice of clothes and accessories is often one of the first ways that teens determine and express their individuality. Some teens experiment with new looks on a weekly basis.

So how do we deal with this in a way that lets us be respectful of our teens’ new expressions of who they are? How can we guide them as they search for their own image – rather than forcing them to grow into our image of what looks good (as Claire did with Rhonda tonight)?

And how do we guide their search without using up all the emotional capital in our goodwill relationship account with them? Imagine if we each had just $1 a day to spend from that goodwill account. Some mornings we might spend most of it dealing with what they’re wearing before they’re even out the door, leaving us little for the rest of the day and night.

BottomLine
End of show voiceover: We all want people to think the best of us …

And we all want people to think the best of our kids.

In order to build their own identity, our teens have to differentiate themselves from us. The changes they make in their appearance and how they dress are part of that process. And we need to honor that. But we also need to stay involved enough to let them know that we care and that it is our responsibility to help shape the image that they project and help them understand how they might be viewed.

What’s a Mom to Do
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind the next time your teen is trying on new looks and ways of dressing.

Look for and reinforce the aspects of their wardrobe choices that you like. As they flit by in the fifth outfit of the morning, causing you to wonder just how many times they’re going to change, it’s tempting to ask, “What was wrong with the first one?” Instead, you might try something like: “Nice choice. You look great in that color!”

Sometimes it’s better to say nothing. If your teen wants to dye their hair blue, paint their fingernails black, or wear funky clothes, think hard before you object. You don’t want to squander your goodwill account trying to remake your teen with inflexible demands about their looks. It may make you cringe, but if it’s a harmless, non-permanent change, and if it doesn’t cross your limit of respectability, then consider letting your teen conform to their own idea of what’s right.

If your teen’s appearance doesn’t meet your standards for decency, say so. There are bound to be some looks that will cross over the line into what you consider disrespectful. It will probably be “too” something – too tight, too teeny, too low, too short, or too graphic. When this happens, you’ll want to tell them that while you know it’s a look for some kids, it’s part of your job as their mom to let them know when what they’re wearing doesn’t meet your family’s standard for respectability. If it makes you uncomfortable to see so much (bare skin, underwear, whatever it is) tell them that. Add that if it makes you this uncomfortable, you feel certain that it’s going to make other people uncomfortable too. Or if you’re concerned that they’ll make a poor impression or attract the wrong attention, say that.

Then negotiate with them to come up with a compromise that will work for both of you. It might be that they can wear it around the house but not to school. Or maybe they can add something to the outfit to make it acceptable.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that your teen won’t change again before they arrive at school. But at least they’ll have heard your point of view and the values that your view is based on.

Your Parenting Experiences
Alex and her date are dressed and ready with time to fill before the Fling. Their conversation also focuses on appearance.
Date: My dad has three tattoos. I’m like, “Why? You’re a dad.”
Alex: Ew! It’s so sad when parents try. My mom doubled pierced one of her ears, and I’m like, “Hello! You’re 50!” It’s so old – like ancient to have an ear piercing when you’re 50.

Do you think it pushes teens to be more extreme as they try on new looks when parents accessorize or dress like the young crowd? This could be an interesting topic to discuss with your teen. And if you do, I’d love to hear what you learn.



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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.

BottomLine
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



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