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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The Case for Arguing More with Your Teen

Posted on May 31st, 2012, 0 Comments

The last post discussed why teens lie and the importance of teaching our teens about the worth of honesty. But research documenting both the pervasiveness of teen lying as well as the reality that teens lie even though they believe that it is morally wrong makes me think that our teens might need something more from us.

Researcher Nancy Darling found that 98% of teens lie to their parents about some things – things such as:
– What they spent their allowance on
– Whether they had started dating
– What clothes they put on away from home
– What movie they went to and with whom
– Their alcohol and drug use
– Hanging out with friends that their parents disapprove of
– Whether chaperones were at a party
– Whether they were in cars driven by drunk teens

While some of these lies are certainly more serious than others, they share one thing in common: They all have to do with teens deceiving their parents so they can do what they want to do.

The other option open to teens as they battle for independence is, of course, arguing. But the research shows that the average teen is much more likely to lie rather than argue about a rule – 244% more likely. Researchers, however, have also found that there is significantly less lying in homes where there is more protesting and arguing.

So you just might need to argue more with your teen.

Now, I have to admit that I did not like arguing with my kids when they were teens. It often left me feeling disconnected from them and inadequate as a mom (not to mention as a debater). Apparently I’m not alone. Researcher Tabitha Holmes, who did extensive interviews with mothers and their teens, found that nearly half of mothers feel that arguments damage their relationship with their teen.

Yet, Holmes found that the vast majority of teens think that fighting can make the relationship with their mother stronger. Teens said they see arguing as a way to get their views heard and as a chance to hear their parents’ perspective. For teens, it’s not how big the fight is or even how many fights that is important. Instead, what matters most to teens is the quality of the disputes and how they are resolved.

I never learned to like arguing with my teens, but I did find that when I changed how I thought about our arguments – when I began thinking of them as a chance to model how to communicate when you disagree – things went much better. And when I took a couple minutes to think about what I wanted most – for myself, for my teen, and for our relationship – before jumping into the fray, sometimes these disputes even left me feeling more connected to my teens.

Arguments can strengthen your relationship with your teen if:

– You calmly listen to them, acknowledging when they make a good point.

– You take their interests and perspectives into account before making a decision, and you sometimes budge a bit, letting them use responsibility to negotiate to “yes.”

For example, a teen asking for a later curfew might get to “yes” with “If you let me stay out 30 minutes later, I’ll text you at my regular curfew time just to check-in. How about if we try that for a month before you make a final decision?”

– When saying “no,” you have good reasons for denying their requests and take the time to explain your decision.

Battling for independence is at the top of the teen agenda. By giving our teens an appropriate avenue for disagreeing and a model for how to do it, we are giving them an acceptable way to stay true to their mission to extend away from us. Doing so can also help us stay true to our mission as parents to stay connected to them so that we can guide them to wiser decisions and safer actions.



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