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The “modern” family

March 17, 2011
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Locke states that parents must “inform the mind and govern the actions of the their [children’s] ignorant nonage, till reason shall take its place and ease them of that trouble” (58. 301). I have to admit that this is not an easy task. Not only do parents have to nourish their children, but also they must educate them by enforcing rules.  Through household laws, parents “preserv[e] and enlarg[e] freedom” because “where there is no law, there is no freedom” (57. 301).  The hit series, Modern Family, captures the stuggles parents face in parenting and how they deal The clip I posted depicts the constant battle teens have with their parents in regards to freedom and rules. Both parents teach their children valuable lessons.  Haley, a young teen, has her boyfriend over for the first time.  She wants to be alone with him in her room, but her mother, Claire, knows that this is not a good idea so she enforces some rules.  On the other hand, Luke accidently shot his sister with a BB gun.  The rule was that if he shot someone, he would get shot as well.  Phil, the father, teaches Luke that is not okay to inflict harm on others.  This comedic scene depicts one point of Locke’s views on parenting in a comedic way.

It is important to note that Modern family illustrates a family in which both parents educate their children about life lessons. Dual parenting makes a family. I think that it is very important for both parents to educate their children; however Locke disagrees.  Locke states that, that paternal power places the power of the “parents over their children wholly in the father, as if the mother had no share in it” (52. 300).  He believes that fathers are the rulers of the house. This is kind of the opposite of how America works. In stereotypical terms, the father works during the day, while the mom takes care of the children and performs household duties. Usually she is the one disciplining the kids and teaching them lessons. Many episodes of Modern Family depict Claire struggling to discipline her kids because Phil does not help her. He is either clueless in regards about how to be strict or just wants to be the friend. This clip below illustrates this.

I agree with Locke to a certain degree; however, I dont think it is right to say that males are the rulers of the house. I believe women are just as sufficient. It is also interesting to think about Lockes view in relation to divorce. My parents were divorced and my mom raised, disciplined, and nourished me with little help from my dad. In contrast to Locke, My dad was not in the ruler of the house because a) my mom took that role and b) I didn’t even live with my dad. What do you think?

10 Comments
  1. BrianFisher permalink
    March 17, 2011 4:37 PM

    I agree with your assessment that Locke incorrectly assignes too much power to the father in a household. Both parents, not just the father, imparts useful knowledge towards their children.

  2. March 17, 2011 6:38 PM

    I agree with this post and Brian’s comment. We have natural rights because we are human. When Locke differentiates between who has power in the household, he is saying that from birth we differ in our natural rights over power. Our duty to care for our children and to instill reason in them stems from being human, not the fact that we are a mother or a father. The main problem I have with Locke assigning an unequal portion of power to the father is that he is basically stating that from his birth, he has a greater natural right to household power over her. Locke thus contradicts the point of everyone having the same natural rights and being bound by the same laws of nature.

  3. naturner permalink
    March 18, 2011 4:31 PM

    This is a great post. As a major fan of this show, I definitely agree that Claire takes the reigns in raising Luke, Alex, and Hayley. Although Phil is clueless or in his own world most of the time, he does succeed in instilling important values in his children (often in comedic and unconventional ways). However, as a stay-at-home mother, Claire definitely has more time to devote to the children. We see that Claire is very fragile and easy-to-break sometimes, which is where Phil comes in and really plays the part of the supportive husband. It also can be argued that that is actually Phil’s main goal because in almost every episode we hear Phil saying how he wants to please Claire and be there for her.

  4. Nicholas Steiner permalink
    March 18, 2011 11:05 PM

    I enjoyed your relation to Locke’s ideas to something that people today can easily relate to. Although I definitely agree with you on the point that both parents should have their own say in how to raise their children, I feel as though we also need to consider this situation in Locckean times. Although Locke’s ideas about the father being the prominent figure when raising children seem crazy today, in the late 1600’s, this would not be considered very off the wall. Your post does a good job of showing us how some of the things that political theorists said must be taken and applied differently to the “modern family.”

  5. noahgordon10 permalink
    March 19, 2011 7:07 PM

    You’re completely right. In this day and age parenting is a shared job–as it should be. I understand a little bit what Locke because he was coming from a different time, but his views seem ignorant and outdated today. I’m a big fan of the show and enjoyed the clips.

  6. Brett Pere permalink
    March 20, 2011 1:03 PM

    I agree as well. It is my belief that a family runs most efficiently when there is both a mother and father involved in raising a child, with each adding their own insight, gained from life experience, to attempt to raise their children the best way possible. In that sense, I disagree with Locke that the father is the rule-maker. But what about families that don’t have a mother and a father, but rather 2 mothers or 2 fathers?

  7. Rian Handler permalink
    March 20, 2011 5:28 PM

    I found your post interesting as well as entertaining. As a fan of Modern Family, I thought that comparing the show’s plot and characters to Locke’s ideas made it easy to understand and relate to. I agree with you that Locke puts too much emphasis on the father’s role in raising a family. Even though the stereotypical situation today is the mother raising the kids (the opposite of Locke’s view), I think that even this view is challenged by the numerous ‘modern families’ in America.

  8. Shane Malone permalink
    March 20, 2011 6:06 PM

    I’m going to jump on the bandwagon as well and say that Locke does put to much importance in the father raising the kids. As you pointed out in your post and as well as other people have, Society is much different from what Locke has said. Relating this to a modern tv show. Makes for a good example of this difference. I really enjoyed your post.

  9. jdeclaire permalink
    March 20, 2011 11:35 PM

    I agree completely with this post. There is no way you can pinpoint which parent has more “duty,” or more “power” in the household. I think Locke is completely wrong when he claims that the father has more of a role as a parent. In Locke’s view, the mother does not play much of a role in raising the children at all. As you said and in your specific example, this is seldom the case. My parents are divorced, as well. I live with my mother and she takes care of just about every one of the everyday needs: nourishment, care, etc. Now, that does not mean that my father plays absolutely no role in my life or when I was growing up. That is absolutely not true. To extend on your point, it has become accustomed in most cultures for the mother in the house to assume the responsibilities of caring for the children on an everyday basis, keeping the house intact, and running the necessary errands, while the father works and earns the majority of the money. This even varies between families and cultures, so Locke was completely wrong to limit the important roles to only the father in all situations.

  10. Valerie Van Hulle permalink
    March 21, 2011 12:50 PM

    This is a very interesting post that shows how parenting has changed.
    As a fan of Modern Family, I think that Claire takes a stronger role in parenting. While Phil makes an attempt at parenting, it is his main goal to keep Claire happy and Claire is happy when her children are successful and happy.
    In the end, I think Claire and Phil have an interesting dynamic, but it works well. Their children do learn morals and ethics, regardless of a parenting style that contradicts Locke’s.

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