- Parental obliviousness: John and Elly do something that reminds us that not only do they not understand children, they don't especially want to as doing so would mean that they're arrogant, selfish people who deliberately make a chaos of their lives out of malice and folly. In the current instance, it's Elly's refusal to admit that she's broadcasting the message that Mike doesn't matter.
- Confrontation with the obvious: Sadly for the children, not even John and Elly can keep their heads buried in the sand forever. Sooner or later, Mom and Dad will end up realizing that yet again, their awful children don't know that they're merely extensions of their parents. The form this takes this time is Elly being horrified because Mike isn't as gung-ho about her job as she is.
- Misapprehension as to motive: John and Elly have always attributed the worst possible motive to any sign that the children's opinion differs from their own. In this instance, we have Mike being cast as a selfish monster who wants Elly to be a slave and NEVER EVER have time to herself or fulfillment or blah-blah-blah.
- Communications Failure: John and Elly have a firm rule about not talking to their children as if they're human beings with comprehensible motives. This time around, it takes the form of Mike having to overhear arguments about how he's a selfish little jerk because he wants the reassuring presence of Elly in his life.
- Panic: What seems to take place time and again is that John and Elly are terrified that if things go on as they are, an adult might have to do something a child wants and thus lose any authority forever.
- Show of Force: Since they have to remind the children that they have no power, they hit on the solution of shipping the problem elsewhere just to crow about being the boss of them.
- Alienation of relatives: Their hapless idiot relatives end up getting stuck babysitting because John and Elly are gutless simpletons who are too fragile to deal with their tractable children. This time around, we have Mike being treated like a normal kid instead of a radioactive leper with Tourette's.
- Failure of Concept: Aside from Laura's comments about how freaking dumb her city cousins are, the children don't have the horrible time that their idiot parents think they'll have. This year, it's Mike having a pleasant summer with caring people instead of what John and Elly want: the same treatment she got for being a much worse child despite Jim and Marian having a firm policy of not wanting to do her parenting for her.
The last stage is a reminder that no matter how many times they pack the children off elsewhere because they don't want to actually be parents, the same terrifying need to be people in their own right keeps coming back to haunt them because the children are not terrified into complying with Mom and Dad's insane demands. This means that they keep on having to dump their self-created crises on other people. Eventually, they get the grateful children they want because their failure to teach them to function in adult society on any meaningful level has created a pair of adult children who need a spotter to remind them to breathe.