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.

Podcast: Autism, acceptance and the path toward independence

February 24, 2010

"Raising Brandon: Creating a Path to Independence for your Adult 'Kid' with Autism & Special Needs"

"Raising Brandon: Creating a Path to Independence for your Adult 'Kid' with Autism & Special Needs"

As an optimist I believe, no matter what, spring will come and seeds will grow. So a couple of weeks ago during a winter storm I popped a dozen organic beans into biodegradable pots. Every other day I watered them. I took them out whenever the sun showed its face and I dutifully retrieved them at night so they wouldn’t catch a chill. This morning my baby beans measured 4 inches tall so I shuttled them up to the garden and tucked them in. Tomorrow I expect to see at least one beanstalk poking through the clouds and by June I know I’ll bask in the green glow of my neighbors’ envy.

Parents are by far the most optimistic gardeners. Once the seed’s planted we naturally assume our baby will be above average in all ways. Healthy, sweet-tempered, a champion sleeper and oh so smart, talented and athletic.  But when tiny baby or growing child doesn’t match our expectations for whatever reason, parents may feel ashamed, guilty, angry or all of the above.

If you’ve got a special needs child you know exactly what I’m talking about. Even as you deal with today’s parenting challenges you may also worry about how your child will find his way when he’s no longer a child and must deal with the world’s expectations. At those times nothing is more encouraging than talking with an experienced parent who is ahead of you on the path, offering practical advice and hope. Those special people are like a breath of spring, chasing cold fear from your heart.

In this week’s podcast I talk with Amalia Starr, author of Raising Brandon: Creating a Path to Independence for your Adult ‘Kid’ with Autism & Special Needs. Amalia is a family consultant and motivational speaker who specializes in supporting parents of children with special needs through workshops, seminars, and private sessions. Her results-based approach focuses on empowering both parents and their children to reach their full potential. As a mother, she has devoted more than thirty-six years to creating a path to independence for her son, Brandon.

Listen to my interview with Amalia Starr right here:

If you have iTunes, you can subscribe to this podcast in the iTunes Store.

Or, you can download an MP3 version here.

Upcoming guests include:

Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater

Salome Thomas-El (aka Principal El), author of I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City and  The Immortality of Influence: We Can Build The Best Minds of the Next Generation

David McQueen, international speaker empowering adults and youth alike on subjects such as leadership, careers and communication skills.

Hannah Friedman, author of Everything Sucks: Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest for Cool

Dara Chadwick, author of You’d Be So Pretty If…

*What’s a podcast? “A podcast is a series of digital media files, usually either digital audio or video, that is made available for download via web syndication.” –Wikipedia… So, in this case, there’s an audio file for you to listen to (in addition to reading the above).


We’re so proud of you… now

February 20, 2010

Way to go, son!

Way to go, son! (Photo by Daniel Tacci)

Crazy-fearless young snow boarders defy gravity  in the half-pipe. Who knows how the hell they do it, but man, it look like a total blast. Parents in the crowd, happily freezin’ for a reason, beam up unconditional love and support to their McTwisting young ‘uns. The commentator crows “Are  those proud parents or what?”

Well, yeah… your kid’s competing in the Olympics! What’s not to be proud? And by the way, looks like  he’s bringing home Vancouver gold so dust off the mantle. Talk about bragging rights, reflected glory, and a chunk of change from commercial endorsements. Not too shabby for a kid you worried wouldn’t amount to anything cause all he ever wanted was to do tricks.

It got me thinking that maybe the Flying Tomato and the other joyful but oh so focused kids on the boards weren’t always a source of parental pride. Just guessing there might have been a few heated conversations ’round the kitchen table about why the boy couldn’t think of a more ‘productive’ way to spend an afternoon.

What if the parents of  Shaun White and Louie Vito had come down heavy and managed to squelch their kids’ early passion? What if they took parental responsibility to mean “re-direct kid toward practical pursuits”? If every parent went that route I’m guessing there wouldn’t be Olympic snowboarding to thrill and inspire us landlubbers.

I’m wondering how often we parents, with all good and loving intentions, snuff out the flame of a kid’s interests because we don’t see where it could possibly lead? Just don’t see what they see.


Guest Blogger: Don’t Give In! Stick With Your Rules

February 16, 2010

By Bruce Sallan

Bruce Sallan gave up his showbiz career a decade ago to become a full-time dad to his two boys, now 13 and 16. Bruce’s internationally syndicated column, A Dad’s Point-of-View, is his take on the challenges of parenthood, both as a single dad and now, newly remarried, in a blended family. Please visit Bruce at, join his “A Dad’s Point-of-View” Facebook page and follow the man on Twitter, which is where I met him. Glad I did!

A parent who means what he says creates a partnership kids can count on.

A parent who means what he says creates a partnership kids can count on.

Nobody promised that being a parent would be easy nor were we assured that we’d get kids that were easy to handle. If you’re like most of us, you face regular challenges to your authority, your rules, and the way you expect your kids to behave. As with much in life, there’s room for compromise, but with parenting I suggest that sticking with your rules defines your values and teaches your children valuable lessons.  The first rule must be that you tell the truth.

It’s a simple idea to tell the truth, but not always so simple to execute in real-life family situations. For instance, what do your kids really hear when you say something like, “If you do this fill-in-the-blank thing, you’re gonna be grounded” with stern parental authority. Most kids will interpret that to mean, “Well, I sure hope you won’t do that, but I’ll forgive you when you do because I love you so much and want to be your best friend.”  The result?  You haven’t told the truth or stood by your word. The kids then know they can manipulate you.

The impact of vacillating on our children is drastic and very harmful. I cannot emphasize enough how much we are role models for our children and how much they learn from our behavior. Our kids watch every move we make and if we waffle on a rule or a threat, then they learn to work that to their benefit.  I’ll offer a personal example that has been hard on our family.

My older son turned 16 in November and he still hasn’t been allowed to get his driver’s permit, let alone his license.  At 15½ he was legally allowed to get his permit, but the reason he hasn’t is that when he was about 14, I set a rule that he had to have a “B” average for the privilege of driving.  No excuses, no blaming his teachers, no “I’m so close” – he had to bring home a “B” average.

As I explained to him, part of my rationale was that insurance rates are significantly lower for kids with a “B” average. And, since he can’t get his license until six months after getting his permit, regardless of his age upon getting his permit here in California, he has delayed the process substantially with his “B-minus“ grade level!

The irony is that by not wavering on this rule, it has made its implementation almost easy and without any challenges from him. He has acknowledged his own screw-ups with schoolwork and putting off homework assignments, and lazy studying for exams.  It has put him in the embarrassing position, among his friends, of not having a permit while so many others have gotten theirs.  And, since he now has a girlfriend, it’s doubly embarrassing, as she’s gotten her permit, and a “B” average, even though her birthday is six months after his.

I feel bad for him. You bet.  Will I ease up on my rule?  Maybe.  But, the maybe includes a compromise that is in essence a version of my original rule. We discussed allowing him to get his permit now, with the “B-minus” average, BUT he won’t be allowed to get his license unless he then makes up the difference with a high enough “B” average next semester that the aggregate is a total of a “B” average.

The advantage to him and us if he accepted the revised “rule” is that the six-month countdown can begin and if he makes the grades, he can potentially get his license sooner.  It would ease my chauffeur responsibilities if he could drive and I’d love that. The irony is that he’d then have to do even better next semester and, consequently, he was not sure whether to take this offer.

After presenting him with that option, he chose to stick with the present rule, feeling that he had a better chance at getting the required “B” average, starting fresh this next semester rather than having to get a higher average and get his permit now.  That is an interesting choice, but it was his and he’s also learning delayed gratification and his own responsibility in what has happened and he’s not blaming us. It’s a win-win for us parents and maybe a valuable lesson for this particular teen.

The result is that Will knows that I mean business, and that I’m open to compromise, but only if there’s equal balance within any new agreement.  I’ve kept my credibility and can even be sympathetic to his sadness at not having his permit, let alone his license several months after his 16th birthday.  The rule is not “me” and he doesn’t fully tie me to the rule, which is the beauty of it.

So, stick with your rules even if you see the pain and discomfort it causes your children. They learn more from this sort of “pain” than when you give in and spoil them.  They learn to trust and respect you and maybe, just maybe, they might take those rules seriously, too.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 1:38 pm

Let The Games begin

February 11, 2010

lg-vancouver2010_16d-ajI’ve never been much of sports fan. Except back when the 49ers were a team for which I proudly screamed my head off. That aside, I’ve always loved the Olympics. Ordinarily watching TV doesn’t make my list of Family Bonding Activities, but the Olympics, AKA The Games, are a totally worthwhile exception. First off, they’re educational. (Where else can you learn the rules of curling?) More importantly, they offer all the drama you could  hope for. I mean really, does anything beat watching an elite skiier wipe out on the giant slolam?

Starting tomorrow and continuing through Feb. 28 you and your loved ones can gather round the tube and enjoy something unscripted and incredibly special together. And check this for an added bonus,  if 21st century parenting has you frazzled, there may be no better personification of the word “focus” than Olympic athletes in action.

Those folks spend years preparing for their moment at the Games. Either they shine when it counts or they pack it in and hope for another shot in 2016. It’s been said, “Great athletes aren’t great all the time, they’re just great when they need to be.” Same goes for parents. You can be a great parent when you need to be simply by recognizing that now is the moment to put all distractions aside and focus on your child’s needs.

Distractions are… well, distracting. And  we’re all guilty at times of  getting too wrapped up to notice our kid standing right there needing us. Don’t get me wrong when I say focusing is simple. It is simple. In theory. But no way is it easy. If it were, we’d all be great all the time.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 9:52 pm
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