MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 31st, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 18, Las Vegas

An Adults Only Weekend Away

The Framework
Tonight’s episode opens with the adults in Las Vegas for a get-away weekend. The three couples are staying in a connected suite of rooms in a fancy hotel courtesy of Jay’s closet client. But Jay is obsessed with upgrading to even nicer accommodations. And he makes no secret of his obsession.
Jay: There’s a floor above us.
Gloria: What?!
Jay: I know. It threw me too. Excelsior Plus. But to people on that floor we’re “Excelsior Minus!”

Phil and Claire, on the other hand, are both intent on accomplishing secret missions. Phil is auditioning for membership into a secret society of magicians, while Claire’s goal is to win back money she lost years ago.
Claire: Las Vegas you have a gambling problem. And her name is Claire.

Mitch and Cam, explaining, we’re forty; we have a child, seem intent on nothing but relaxing.
Cam (in steam room, glass in hand): I love cucumber water.
Mitch: I know.
Cam: If I were president…
Mitch: I know cucumbers in the reservoirs.
But as it turns out, they too are doing some things on the QT. As Cam puts it: It’s Vegas. [Mitch] doesn’t need to know what I’m doing. I don’t need to know what he’s doing. So if you see him, maybe don’t mention what I’m doing.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Tonight’s episode was a delightful farce full of absurd miscommunication and misunderstandings. I laughed out-loud at the incompetence of the characters while at the same time admiring the skill of the actors.

There’s a similar paradox going on in teens. Our kids grow bigger, smarter, and stronger during their teen years. But at the same time their chances of getting hurt or running into trouble go way up. Neuroscientists who’ve tracked brain changes in adolescents say that teens’ reward systems (unlike those of younger children or adults) seem to bias teens’ choices and decisions towards the thrill even if there is some risk. Another words, our teens are biologically set to seek out thrills and take risks.

So were the Modern Family teens left at home busy with secrets of their own?

BottomLine
Phil (introducing his magic trick): They say the only constant is change. Well, all of that is about to ch… be different.

When it comes to kids, change is a constant. Sometimes, though, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For as soon as our kids are grown-up enough to take care of themselves while we’re away, we have to consider getting a sitter for the house. Need convincing? Click here. And here.

Tonight’s show doesn’t bother with the planning that went into this adult-only get-away. So we can only guess about the arrangements made for the kids left at home. Of course, there’s Andy, baby Joe’s manny. He’s competent and often seems like he needs more to do. Plus we’ve seen Hailey’s slow but steady maturation this season. More then likely their kids and their homes were in good hands.

But what about our teens? Could we leave them home alone while we went away for a weekend? Should we?

What’s a Mom to Do?
Without the kids, tonight’s show had a fun, fresh energy. The same kind of energy that a weekend away without our kids can provide. Here are few pointers to keep in mind before packing your bags.

Consider your teen’s past behavior. Your teen’s maturity level and track record, rather than their age, matter most. Have they proven themselves to be trustworthy by following your rules and respecting your property in the past? Or do they have a history of ignoring your directions and acting impulsively? Your teen’s recent history is the best predictor of their future behavior.

Know your teen’s friends. Would their friends be likely to pressure your teen into hosting a party? If so, don’t risk it.

Establish clear rules for staying home alone. These should include whether they can have friends over while you’re away. And if so, how many. As you consider this, take the number you’re comfortable with and divide it by two. If you’re wondering why, remember their brains are a construction site. And to work with them, we have to figure out how they count. Perhaps do a test run, letting them entertain a few friends while you are out of sight. If all goes according to plan, fine. If not, don’t leave them alone.

Spread the word. Notify neighbors that you’ll be away and ask them to watch out for signs of trouble brewing – like a lot of kids, cars, or noise. And ask friends or family members to stop by occasionally to check on things. Tell your teens about the checks you’ve put in place so they’ll think twice about hosting a party.

If these pointers have left you wavering back and forth about which way to go, you’re not alone. This is a common conundrum when parenting teens. I often suggest giving teens the benefit of the doubt and a chance to build trust. In this case, though, I’d probably opt for the peace of mind that a house sitter can bring.

And take heart. Adolescence is a stage. Things do change. And almost always for the better.

Your Parenting Experiences
Have you left your teen home alone overnight or longer? How did it go?



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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on May 27th, 2013, 0 Comments

Grandma Gracie’s Theory About Rules

Season 4, Episode 24

The Framework

Tonight on Modern Family’s season finale the three households travel to a retirement village in Florida to mourn the death of Phil’s mother. The episode, though, is as much about rules and rule breaking as it is about saying goodbye to Gracie. In fact, it turns out Gracie had her own theory about rules.

Upon their arrival the family is greeted by a bossy security guard who warns, “We run a tight ship here at Leisure Park,” and rides around on a Segway enforcing pointless rules. She lights into Phil for having breadcrumbs in his pocket (how did she know?) because there’s no duck feeding allowed, and Haley and Alex get kicked out of an empty pool because it’s for residence only. The girls respond in character: Alex as a rule follower; Haley not so much.

Cam charms a bunch of mahjong-playing senior women and then calls one of them out for taking the winning tile out of her pocket and another for swiping a whole plate of cookies into her purse. He’s right; they’re wrong. But what’s the point of stirring things up among the players? Just stir the punch, Cam.

Meanwhile Alex is miffed to find that Grandma Gracie, who she felt so close to, left her only an old lighter. Later, though, after finding the note and learning the meaning behind the gift, she uses the lighter to set-off fireworks at the funeral. She’s sure her grandmother would approve – even if it does break with traditional memorial service protocol.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Almost all of us break rules sometimes. Teens are especially prone to doing so. In the past we blamed teen rule breaking on peer pressure and rebellion – wanting to do things their parents don’t do just because they don’t do them. We now know that rapid changes taking place inside the teen brain also play a big role.

One way to think about the brain is to think of it as a balance between two different systems: an emotional pleasure seeking system that pushes us to seek rewards and go for excitement and novelty and a rational system that plans ahead and puts the brakes on impulses. These two systems are changing during adolescence, and the changes are uneven. While the rational system (in charge of braking) takes its time to mature, the emotional system gets a kick-start in early adolescence and goes into overdrive. Researchers have likened this to having an unskilled, thrill seeking driver at the wheel of a car with a high-powered engine and brakes that barely work.

This means that one of the most protective things we can do for our teens is to help with the braking action. But because our teens are making more and more decisions without our supervision, we cannot be their protector as we were when they were younger. Instead we provide protection by clearly drawing lines between right and wrong so our teens will know where the boundaries are.

It’s up to our teens, though, to decide whether or not to stay on the right side of the line. So we need to win our teens’ cooperation if our rules are to offer any protection. And we have the best chance of selling our teens on the rules if we keep things simple.

We need a few simple rules about the things we’re most concerned about – each with a purpose that’s easy for us to explain and for our teens to understand. Here are three rules that fit the bill:

• Be safe. Most teens underestimate bad consequences. Their still developing brains are like a magnet for trouble. So Be safe is about helping our teens stay away from things that could hurt them – things like smoking, drinking, drugs, driving while under the influence or riding with someone who is, getting arrested, and unsafe sex.

• Be respectful. We often find ourselves arguing with our teens, and one of our biggest areas of disagreement is respect. So be respectful is about helping our teens act respectfully towards other people, other people’s property, and to themselves. This rule addresses concerns such as acting rude, avoiding schoolwork, breaking curfew, neglecting home chores, lying, arguing with siblings or us, cheating, and stealing.

Be in contact. There are now things our teens would rather we not know. Because they fear that we’ll interfere with their fun. And because they want to protect us from what they think is needless worry. So be in contact is about helping weed out our teens’ bad decisions and reinforce their good ones. This rule is about our teens keeping us informed about who they’re with, what they’re doing, where they are, and where they’re going – especially if their plans change. And it’s about our teens letting us know when something unexpected happens and how they plan to deal with it.

Any issue can be matched to one or more of these three ways to be. Plus these rules give us a ready reason when they ask why: Because you need to be safe. You need to be respectful. You need to be in contact. Over time, we’ll float more information about each of these rules by them – always keeping our messages simple and brief.

Resources: “7 Things Your Teenager Won’t Tell You” by J. M. Lippincott & R. M. Deutsch

The BottomLine

Grandma Gracie (in note left for Alex): Alex, who I love so dearly, who’s probably too much like me for her own good, don’t be afraid to break the rules.

At the end of the day our teens must decide for themselves how to act. Whether we like it or not, it will always be our teen’s choice whether or not to abide by our rules. And, frankly, most teens are more like Haley than Alex; they’re not afraid to break the rules – particularly rules that don’t make sense.

So we should expect our teens to test our limits. But we can help tip the balance back in the right direction by making and enforcing rules that our teens can understand and respect. We can link our discussions and actions back to three simple rules: Be safe. Be respectful. Be in contact.

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• What are your rules for your teen? Has your teen tested the limits you’ve set? What do the discussions with your teen about rules sound like?



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