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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.

For Parents: Sweetie, what’s wrong?

July 25, 2008

In the dream I was in a crowd. Despite the noise, I clearly heard a baby crying somewhere. No one else seemed to notice. The sound cut through me.  People were packed together and making progress in any direction was a challenge. But I had to find that baby.

Making my way down a hallway, I entered a smaller room and found the wailing child.  I stepped into the crowd and took the baby in my arms. She immediately stopped crying and nestled against me.  I could hear her thinking “Ahhhh, someone understands.”

Then I woke up, smiling.

We parents are genetically engineered to do our damnedest to keep our kids happy.  With our first one, we’re  all clueless at the start. But after a few months on the job, we feel like we’re pretty good at turning our kid’s bad moods into better ones.  We become masters of distraction (“Oh, look there’s a dog!”) and negotiation (“If you stop crying, I’ll read you a story.”) Whenever they’re unhappy, they instinctively come to us because they know that we’ll make things better, like magic. We love how they believe in us, but we know it’s not magic. We succeed in making them happy simply because we understand them so well and because they want to be comforted by us.

When they get to be tweens the dynamic starts to shift.  They’re more aware of their dependence on us and they start resenting us for it.

In the mind of a young adolescent, our ability to make her smile gives us way too much power. She undermines that power by finding fault in everything we do. Especially our attempts at comforting when she’s down or upset. And because he resents our knowing him so well, he throws up smoke screens, attempting to make himself less knowable.   “You just don’t understand, Mom!”


As parents, our imperative is to find and comfort the crying baby. But how do you deal when the baby is 11 or 16 and your attempts at helping are greeted with “Get outta my room and leave me alone!” ?

What do you do? What has worked in your family?  What hasn’t worked?

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , — Annie @ 8:29 am


  1. I once heard that you simply need to love your children through their teen years, whether they appear to want it or not. With my 15-year-old son, I’ve found that when we’re alone, tossing a football, shooting baskets or letting him show me how to do a better sit up, he’ll open up and talk. We have to be doing something physical, so when he’s down and not talking I grab a ball. My 10-year-old daughter needs a soft hug and cuddling to open up. I think the key is not to walk away when they tell you to do so. If I give them the opening to talk in the style they need, my two will open up.

    Comment by Diana — August 3, 2008 @ 7:36 am

  2. Brilliant, Diana! You’ve discovered something that many parents miss. And by missing it they a) miss opportunities to help their kids and b) suffer from hurt and rejected in the process.

    You’ve learned that real help isn’t about your need to be needed and appreciated for the help you’re offering,. It’s about tuning into your child’s needs and customizing your approach to meet them. By being the willing “student” for a lesson in sit-ups, you have selflessly provided comfort, support and a listening ear in a way that can be accepted without the teen losing face. Brava!

    Comment by Annie — August 3, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  3. […] This post was Twitted by AldridgeDuff […]

    Pingback by Twitted by AldridgeDuff — August 23, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

  4. I have a14 year old daughter and a 12 year old daughter. For myself and my husband we make it clear to the girls that it is our duty to ensure they are safe and well. In our house this includes being what they might call mosey and insisting that we know what’s happening in their lives. I think it’s important to always insist that the lines of communication stay open. Don’t accept that it has to close because they are older. That way they trust you and see you as a source of comfort no matter what age

    Comment by Mrsp — November 1, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

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