Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

A day for yourself, Mom.

March 1, 2017

Our kids don’t live with us any more. Here’s how that happened: We fed and watered them regularly and eventually they bypassed childhood, graduated from here and there, and outgrew their need for under-the-same-roof parents. It happens. It’s a good thing for them and for us. If you’ve taught your children well, believe me when I say that it’s beyond cool to witness them as young adults, living their own lives and making choices that reflect well on them and… yeah, on you, too.

If your kids currently live with you, they probably depend on you for… a zillion things every day. The tangible stuff and the emotional support and encouragement. Even as you teach them to become more self-reliant, and they slowly become just that, you still have a lot going on being a parent. And hopefully, you enjoy most of it. Not all the time, of course. Like our tweens and teens, we also have our own needs and moods. And sometimes we just don’t feel like cooperating.

When parenting isn’t so much fun, it might help to remind yourself that this phase is only a temp job. (See paragraph one.) Another helpful tip: Take a day off occasionally. Leave the kids and go do something that you love. If you can’t swing a whole day off yet, then how about a couple of hours? Still not doable? How about an hour? You deserve it. And more to the point, you need it to maintain your sanity, your connection to your dreams (Remember those?) and your sense of who you are beyond “Emma’s Mom.”

I took such a day on Sunday. Went, by myself, to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, one of San Francisco’s fine arts museums. I got in for free because my kids bought me a membership for my birthday. It’s really nice when people know you well enough to know what you love.

The current special exhibit: Monet the Early Years. It is spectacular. But I won’t bother describing what I saw and why it moved me so. Art may not be your thing. Let me just show you this painting that Monet called The Magpie. He did it because he wanted to challenge himself to paint a snow scene. How does one depict snow on a white canvas? Beats me, but I’d say he nailed it.

The Magpie (1869) Oil on Canvass by Claude Monet

The Magpie (1869) Oil on Canvass by Claude Monet

We can all benefit from challenging ourselves. Especially if we want to help our kids do the same. Create a challenge. Go ahead. Let your kids in on what you’re working towards. Let them see how you deal with obstacles, mistakes, frustration, progress, achievement. Give them an opportunity to support and encourage you, for a change.

Enjoy… in joy.

 

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 4:57 pm
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How to talk to kids about political protests

February 7, 2017

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We are marching for the right to be heard and listened to.

If you’ve watched anti-Trump protests in the news or seen people marching in the streets in your own community, your kids have probably taken notice. Maybe they’ve already asked you, “What are those people doing?”

No matter who you voted for, the first thing everyone who respects our Constitution ought to tell kids is that protestors have the right to protest. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from enacting any law that restricts the people’s right to peacefully assemble. And the Fourteenth Amendment makes that right applicable to state governments. Nearly all fifty states include that right in their state constitutions. If you know which ones don’t, please tell me. We can work with them.

So, there’s the first piece about talking to kids: U.S. citizens are guaranteed the right to peacefully 1) parade and gather or 2) demonstrate support or opposition of public policy or 3) express one’s views. These are guaranteed by the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble.

If your child asks, “What are they marching against?” You might frame your answer this way, “They’re marching for the right to be heard. You see, sweetie, our form of government is a democracy. Democracies stay healthy when we tell our elected representatives how we feel about the choices they’re making in our name. Voting is one way of talking to our representatives on the local, state and federal levels… all the way up to the White House. But voting doesn’t happen very often. That’s why we it’s very important we’ve got other ways to communicate with our representatives, through email, phone calls and peaceful protest.”

Our kids should learn from us that making our voices heard is a good thing. So is direct civic and political engagement. That’s a family value we can all embrace. Tell them that democracy is like a garden. If you ignore it, it will become overrun with weeds, but if you tend it and stay alert and actively involved, it will thrive.

Whether or not your beliefs align with the protestors, use the demonstrations as springboards for ongoing conversations about your family values. Either way, celebrate the fact that our country’s government protects people who protest peacefully. Let your kids know that’s a very cool thing and not every country does it.

And remember, elected officials are temps. We, the people, are here for good. If we want our country to reflect our values, including really important ones like how we treat other people and how we care for the Earth, then we need to fight for those values. And march in the street, if necessary.

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Raising Human Beings

January 28, 2017

We're raising kids, we're raising human beings.

We’re not raising kids, we’re raising human beings.

I loved Dr. Ross Greene’s book, Raising Human Beings, which focuses on parents and kids solving problems collaboratively. I didn’t love our podcast interview. Unfortunately, a poor connection between California and Maine mangled the audio so badly I couldn’t post it. Audio or no, you’ve got to hear what Dr. Greene has to say. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

Dr. Greene: One reason you want to solve problems collaboratively with kids who are behaviorally challenging is so he won’t put his fist through your wall. I’m seeing increasingly little difference between kids we call “behaviorally challenging” and kids we don’t. The reason to be solving problems collaboratively with any child is because you want to teach the skills that are on the better side of human nature. That’s a really good thing.

Annie: I agree. When parents model good problem-solving skills and work with their children to find solutions in non-violent ways then kids are learning a lot about problem-solving.

Dr. Greene: You do reap what you sow! If power to influence or solve problems with a kid is what you use, then power is what you’ll get back. But if collaboration is what you’re using then collaboration is what you’re going to get back.

“The role of a parent in the life of a kid is partner. We get into the most trouble, as parents, when we are shooting for control. Control is a delusion.” Dr. Ross Greene

Annie: Many parents seem confused about their role, vis a vis power, especially parents of tweens and teens. At that age kids seem programmed to push back. How can we help avoid those struggles?

Dr. Greene: All “pushing back” behavior is the child saying, “I’ve got concerns here that I want addressed.” If we use power to address those concerns, then we blow those concerns off. Kids don’t feel heard, their concerns don’t get addressed, and they stop talking to us. The role of a parent in the life of a kid is “partner.” We get into the most trouble when we shoot for control. Control is a delusion. You don’t have control. Many parents of adolescents have discovered that already. Those still fighting with their adolescents haven’t quite come to it yet.

Annie: It’s easy to be a good parent when everything is going just fine, isn’t it? I picture the family at the supermarket, it’s late, been a long day, everyone is hungry, maybe a little stressed out, and your kid grabs one of those sugar-packed impulse items by the checkout. You don’t want her to have it. There’s a struggle. Other parents are watching. How do you problem-solve collaboratively in a situation like that?

“Parents and kids don’t have to be adversaries. It all comes down to how we solve problems collaboratively when kids are failing to meet expectations.”

Dr. Greene: The trick is get out to of the heat-of-the-moment. Most kids and care-givers get into the same conflicts every week. That makes them predictable and it means we don’t have to wait until the heat-of-the-moment to solve those problems. We can solve them with a planned approach. I ask parents: “Which of your expectations is your child having trouble meeting on a reliable basis? (Make a list!) Which ones would you like to start working on first?” That’s how to start solving problems collaboratively.

Annie: Makes sense. Some examples of common parental expectations that a child is getting homework done, getting up and out the door for school in the morning. Too much screen time That’s a common struggle in so many families. How do we deal with that collaboratively?

Dr. Greene: First parents have to get clear on what their expectations are. Parents don’t always know. After that we can use the 3 steps of Plan B (solving problem collaboratively) vs. Plan A (parents trying to solve the problem unilaterally).

Step 1: (The Empathy Step) Get the conversation started. For example, “I’ve noticed it’s hard for you to end the screen time to do your homework or to come in to dinner. What’s up?” The goal of this empathy step is to gather information from the kid about his concern or point of view about this expectation he’s having difficulty meeting. If we don’t hear the kid’s concern, this problem will remain unsolved.

Step 2: (Define Adult Concerns) Adults have concerns that need to be heard and addressed, as well. Typically adults try to get their concerns met with Plan A (unilaterally with power). Now they can get their concerns met with Plan B (collaboratively, as partners).

Step 3: (The Invitation) This where parent and child develop a solution, but it’s got to be realistic, mutually agreed upon, and mutually satisfactory. The solution truly and logically addresses the concerns of parent and child. If it doesn’t, the problem is not solved.

Annie: I can see this model requires flexibility and openness on the part of the parent, especially if he or she wasn’t parented this way a generation ago.

Dr. Greene: It definitely requires a change in lenses, in one’s perspective, and in one’s definition of authority. A lot of parents are initially scared that this model will result in their losing authority. In reality, they’re not only picking up authority, they are dramatically improving the relationship with their child, dramatically improving communication.

“This is not about strength and power. It’s about empathy. Disagreeing with your kids, that’s going to happen. Kids’ failing to meet expectations? It will happen. Does that have to mean conflict? No!” – Dr. Ross Greene.

Learn more about Dr. Ross Greene at LivesInTheBalance.org

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When girls see women marching

January 23, 2017

Look around, little sister. You are one of us.

Look around, little sister. You are one of us.

When girls see women marching together, proud and peaceful, focused and determined, politically motivated and ready for action, those girls might realize something they had not known—something about women and something about themselves as girls.

When girls see women marching in solidarity for women’s rights and human rights, a seed is planted. One that will help girls recognize:

Women are beautiful. Each of us, in all our infinite diversity. Look at the images from women’s marches around the globe. Look at our faces. Look at our bodies. Look at our shining eyes. Look at our mouths shouting, chanting, singing, making our voices heard. Face it. Our beauty is undeniable. Face yourself. You are beautiful. Stop starving yourself. Not to fit into skinny jeans or someone else’s idea of “perfection.” Stop trashing your body with insults. Stop trashing other girls. Just stop. Love your body. Girl, you are beautiful.

Women are powerful. We don’t need anyone’s approval to be who we are. Getting approval is not why we’re here. We don’t need a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse to complete us. What you see is what you get—an already complete package. Be clear about that. Be clear, also, that no one has the right to touch us without our permission. No one has the right to objectify us or make us feel small or scared. No one has the right to make laws that govern our reproductive rights. Being pretty and sexy and nice and cooperative is not why we’re here. We are here to use our power for good. Each of us, on our own, has the power to shift any conversation, any relationship, any situation just by being focused, honest, and assertive. That’s power. Girl, you are powerful.

We are sisters. There is no “natural competition” between women. Some male marketers made that up to get you to buy more beauty products. What is natural is our connection with and our empathy for each other. We are sisters. To be unkind to another woman, to another girl, is to be unkind to yourself. We need each other’s understanding and support. We are sisters.

We have a caring heart. We are upholders of humanity’s highest value and greatest asset: a caring heart. Our mammalian brain is wired for empathy, to feel the full range of human experience whether it’s our own experience or someone else’s. Do not deny what you feel. Do not let anyone scoff at your tenderness and tell you you’re “too emotional.” Our emotions make us fully human. To deny our emotions is unhealthy. It can also desensitize us to the needs of others. A woman’s power comes, in part, from her caring heart. You have that heart.

We get things done. We are doers. We are organizers. What you feel is important, but what you do is more important. When we work together, with clarity of purpose, with respect for our individual strengths and compassion for our limitations, we are unstoppable. We are women.

The Women’s March was a spectacular beginning. It was the first step. Here’s what’s next.

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