MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on April 28th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 20, Australia

An Upside Down Family Trip

The Framework
In tonight’s opening scene Luke is upside down in a handstand, exclaiming: We’re in Australia. It’s on the bottom of the globe. So everybody but me is upside down.

His parents fill in the details.
Phil: I came from the Land Down Under. I was conceived on my parents’ honeymoon. It was on a blanket in the park. And I still have that blanket.
Claire: Phil’s mom left us money for a trip there. When the rest of the family found out, they just jumped onboard.

But once they reach Sydney, the family quickly splits into factions.

Claire and Jay come up with one excuse after another to sneak-away to work on winning a bid for a big job. Claire is especially intent on winning. As Jay puts it: Claire has an incredible work ethic. She’s like a Young Me … Young Me was an accountant from Korea. Died at her desk.

Mitch and Cam also keep contriving reasons to ditch the family. It seems that back in the day they knew this guy who now lives in Sydney. He was kind of annoying then, but now he’s a big-time talk show host here. Needless to say, the perks that come with his celebrity status are a magnet for Mitch and Cam who quickly become hangers-on.

Meanwhile Phil is on a spiritual journey to embrace his native land – with a reckless abandon that leaves him with swollen lips, a body mutilated by jellyfish stings, and a hard punch in the face from a kangaroo. As Gloria, the adult accompanying him, laments: I don’t know how I’m going to keep Phil safe anymore. I think he’s going to die here.

With the adults acting like children, the kids are pretty much left on their own. Luke and Manny takeoff for a topless beach and on the way back join a random group of men who invite them to go on a walkabout. Alex fixates on finding the words to turn the trip into a worldly experience worthy of a college essay. And Haley keeps an eye on Lily all the while having her sights set on finding a hottie worth keeping. As Haley explains: This country’s number one export is hot surfers. I’m not going to buy the first one I see. I’m still browsing.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Although we didn’t see evidence of this tonight until the very end of the episode, family trips to new places can strengthen our connection to our teens.

This happens in part because exploring a place we’ve never been puts our teens and us on a more level playing field. This doesn’t mean we get to abandon our roles as the adults did tonight. We’ve still got to be the parents, but we may find ourselves dependent on our teens for a change. A kid with a good sense of direction may be the first to figure out the subway system. Or an outgoing kid may be the one who asks a stranger for directions.

Phil: This place was really special to my mom. She actually left me a list of things she thought we should do: visit the Great Barrier Reef, see the bush, and climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. You guys are with me – right?
The others: No… Not doing that… You know how I feel about heights…

Tonight on Modern Family’s upside down trip the foot dragging came mostly from the adults. But in real life it’s typically the teens who drag their feet when it comes to family trips. They worry about leaving their friends and what they’ll miss out on. And, to be honest, they probably have their doubts about what it’ll be like to spend days on end with just their family.

What’s a Mom to Do?
Don’t take your teen’s foot dragging personally. Chalk it up to the worries and doubts that are a part of doing almost anything new. And then before they really dig in their heels, put some plans in place that will help get things off on the right foot.

Here are some tips to help get everyone onboard for your next family trip.

Give everybody a say. Don’t dictate the agenda. As Phil learned tonight, it’s hard to get everybody onboard that way. And forget trying to negotiate to build consensus. Instead let everybody be in-charge of choosing one family activity. Only three rules apply here:
– It has to be an activity that everybody can do safely.
– It can’t be a budget buster.
– And everybody has to enthusiastically participate.

Give them some space. Don’t get quarters so tight that there’s no room for privacy or pack the schedule so full that there’s no free time. This is especially important if you’re traveling with a kid like Alex.

Build in a way to say “yes.” Things like parasailing, zip lining, and jet skiing are teen magnets. But they can blow the budget big time. Instead of nixing everything on their “I want to…” list, build in a way to let them decide: Give your teen a set amount to spend on the trip, and let them keep any money leftover.

Set a no-texting time zone. If you try to ban texting for the entire trip (what you’d really like to do), your teen is likely to rebel. But if you compromise by setting times when they can and when they can’t text, chances are they’ll go along with the plan. Initially, they may still complain. But eventually they may get so involved in the fun, that they’ll forget they’re disconnected.

Bend the regular rules. Your teen will still need some guidelines and some watching. (For proof look no further than Manny and Luke’s decisions tonight.) But take a break from the normal routine: Like letting them have dessert first or order a dessert that’s bigger than dinner. Allowing them to stay up late sometimes and sleep in the following mornings. Closing the door on their unmade beds.

Let them bring a friend. Not on every trip you take as a family. And maybe not for the whole time. But every now and then letting your teen invite a friend can mean more fun for them and a little more relaxation for you.

Your Parenting Experiences
Traveling as a family takes us out of the normal routine, letting us see qualities in our kids that the normal routine keeps us from seeing. What have you discovered about your kids while on a family trip?

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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.

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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