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.

Mom, I don’t wanna talk about it!

January 30, 2011

The classic standoff

Clinical research shows the hairs on the heads of parents of teens get noticeably grayer on Friday and Saturday nights. (Assuming previous teen shenanigans haven’t already caused you to pull out all of yours.) I probably should have written this blog on Thursday so you’d have it in advance of the weekend. But no worries. There’s no expiration date on advice for dealing with a teen’s poor judgment. If you don’t need this now, save it. It’ll come in handy sooner or later.

I recently got an email from Distraught Parent describing how Teen Daughter had purportedly gone to a friend’s sleepover (Just us girls). In the wee hours of the Saturday AM Parent receives call from local law enforcement reporting that Daughter and two equally Clueless Friends have been picked up riding in car driven by Drunk Teen Boy. Daughter comes home, announces: “I don’t want to talk about it!” and proceeds to sleep for the rest of the day. Parent describes how Daughter’s had a “rough” semester, has been “sad” for months and how her grades have plummeted from A’s to C’s. What to do??

Here’s my reply:

I’m relieved to hear your daughter’s choice to ride with a drunk driver didn’t end in tragedy for her or anyone else. I’m sure you are too! Sounds like something’s been going on with her for a while and this is the capper. (So far!)

Yesterday she didn’t want to talk and that’s OK for yesterday. It’s not an option for today.

She needs to talk and you need listen. (I mean really listen.) If you lay into her with The Lecture she’s going to shut down. She knows she blew it, but the real question is WHAT’S GOING??

Have the fact-finding conversation today. Let her know how you felt when you got the 4 AM call. Let her know that your TRUST in her honesty, her ability to make good choices and to keep herself safe has been shredded. Let her know that you know things haven’t been easy for her lately. Let her know you love her and it’s your job to keep her safe and to help her sort through the challenges she’s facing. Let her know she can talk to you anytime and that you will NOT throw anything she tells back in her face.

Do your best to help her figure out why certain choices she’s making aren’t in her own best interest. That’s the best you can work towards. You are her mentor, teacher and guide but you can’t live her life for her.

Your daughter deserves a meaningful consequence for her irresponsible and dangerous choice on Friday night. And you both deserve some professional help in rebuilding the trust and improving the communication between you.

Like I said at the top, teens aren’t known for their prescient decision-making. In the best of situations, their “still-under-construction” brains often works against them. Add alcohol/drugs, sexual tension, peer pressure, sleep deprivation and a whole host of other stressors and it’s tough for them to do the right thing, which often includes resisting the wrong thing!

The more we calm down, tune in to our teens and listen to them attentively and compassionately, the more likely they’ll let us know the kind of support they need from us during a rough semester and beyond.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 7:20 pm

How do I get him back?!!

January 27, 2011

Love can make you crazy and blind. It can (temporarily) mess with your IQ and confuse you into thinking that something destined to make things worse is going to help a romance. When it comes to Bf/Gf situations, I define “worse” as: more stressful, more hurtful, more confusing, more frustrating, and in all ways less awesome.

When you’re so “in love” you can’t think straight, don’t try. Instead STOP, get your hands off the cell phone (or anything else that’ll connect you to social media) and take a whole bunch of slow deep breaths. Then, after you’ve calmed down and cleared your head a bit, if you’re still very confused about your next best move, then reach out to someone you trust and talk things over with them.

That’s exactly what this girl did when she emailed me about getting dumped by her boyfriend.

Hey Terra,

I have a boyfriend who just broke up with me. I really love him and want him back, but he told me that he don’t want me. Please Terra I’m begging! I really want him and me to work out. I don’t want to lose him. I want him back. HELP!!!

Confused Angel

Dear Confused Angel,

You say “I don’t want to lose him.” Fair enough, but sweetheart, he’s already gone. The guy makes his own choices. Same as you. Speaking of choices, why would you choose to be with a guy who doesn’t want you? That makes no sense. You know what happens when girls are desperate to “get him back”? They often end up doing stupid things they’re not ready for and/or really don’t want to do,  just to keep the guy around. (You know what I’m talking about.) And then, after the girl does the stuff she’s not proud of, you know what happens next? The guy dumps her a second time because while he might have enjoyed the sex, he wasn’t into the relationship. Which is what he said the first time he dumped her!

Look, Angel, I understand how much it can hurt when the person you love doesn’t feel the same way about you. I’ve been there. More than once. But you can’t force someone to love you. That isn’t how it works.

You are a beautiful, radiant, powerful, young woman and you deserve to be with someone who wants you as much as you want him. If your ex bf doesn’t love you and doesn’t want to be with you then he is NOT the right guy for you!

I hope this helps straighten out your head a bit.

In friendship,

P.S. Don’t call or text him.

Filed under: Parenting,Teens — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 4:55 pm

Damn right I’ve been wronged!

January 16, 2011

Why rehash when it was bad enough the first time?

Several years ago I collaborated on a project from hell.

(NOTE: I’m not disclosing which project, how  long ago, or with whom because my collaborator may still be a bit tectchy on the subject. On the remote chance this blog finds its way to said collaborator they needn’t worry about reading further because this isn’t about their out of line behavior, it’s about mine.)

Anyway, suffice it to say that our year-long working relationship had some monumental craggy bits and by the end the two of us were barely speaking, as in not at all. The final brick in the wall came with my words, hissed over the phone: “Let’s just finish the damn thing.” And we did, sorta. What I mean is that yes, we completed the project and delivered an award-winning result but we never successfully “finished” the real business between us.

As promised, I’m not getting into any of the dirt. Truly not important. But I want to cop to my reactions to the situation. At this time you may be thinking, “Oh, good! Annie’s now going to tell us how she rose above the animus and appealed to her Higher Angels to guide her through a cantakerous relationship.” Sorry, but that’s not where I’m headed so feel free to turn in your ticket stub at the box office for a full refund.

I will give myself some credit for having had the maturity not to air dirty laundry when I was operating in any professional capacity. But I will take full responsibility for compulsively talking about what happened with family and certain close friends.  I’m not proud of the way I vented without restraint for several years. Fact is, I’m down-right embarrassed as I now picture myself running my mouth as I did. Not only was I stuck in a pity party, I was gorging myself at a never-ending Outrage Banquet complete with Doggie Bags.

Why am I telling you all this? Because you’re not the only one who can’t quit gnawing at that old bone even though it’s dry, maybe a little rancid and actually turns your stomach. Looking back, I’ve gotta wonder, was I temporarily insane? A masochist needing to relive the discomfort, the feeling of betrayal ad nauseam? What was the point of all that re-hashing? Weren’t the first twenty servings of hash distasteful enough?

I’m happy to report that particular pity party is done. Yippee! I realize I totally overstayed my welcome. There’s now no doubt I could have processed my feelings more efficiently and saved myself and my captive audiences a ton of suffering. My apologies to all of you.

The next time I’m bonkers, brooding and blaming I hope to cut to the chase with a few well-directed questions to myself:

1. What happened?

2. How did my response contribute to the way I’m feeling now?

3. What (if anything) would I like to say directly to that person? (as opposed to talking about them)

4. What did I just learn about myself in these kinds of situations?

5. The next time I’m in a similar circumstance, what might I do differently?

OK, folks, party’s over… See ‘ya around.

Filed under: Cruel's Not Cool,Parenting,Tips — Annie @ 2:46 pm

From the “Say it isn’t so” files

January 8, 2011

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Forgive me if I’m not my usual perky self. It hasn’t been a great news day for those of us hopeful about the inherent goodness of humankind.

Let me explain. This morning I read about the arrest of six kids in Carson City, Nevada. What had these 12 and 13 year olds girls done? Apparently one dreamed up a Facebook event called “Attack a Teacher Day” and invited 100 students to join. The other five got busted for responding to online threats against specific teachers in two middle schools.  According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune the six girls were “booked Wednesday at juvenile hall on a misdemeanor charge of communicating threats.” Thankfully a parent saw the “invite” and deleted it. No one was physically harmed.

Thinking about it, there’s so much wrong here I didn’t know where to begin. So I posted to my anti-bullying forum Cruel’s Not Cool! to start a discussion. I posed some questions: What might have been going on in the mind of a kid who thought that “attacking” teachers was a terrific idea? Why might the participants have decided to get on the bandwagon? What role does Facebook or any social media site have in monitoring illegal content like threats to someone’s life? In what ways might the charges against the tweens be totally appropriate or totally absurd? What’s the role of parents in raising kids of good character and teaching their tech savvy darlings to be responsible digital citizens?

But before any responses were posted, I read about an actual attack this afternoon. A politically motivated assassination attempt on the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). The Congresswoman took a bullet through the brain and she’s currently in critical but stable condition. So far at least 6 people are dead. Among them, an aide for the Congresswoman, a 9-year-old and U.S. District Judge John Roll.

Kids openly tease, harass, persecute and physically attack peers whom they “don’t like.” If school bullying and disrespecting teachers is ‘no big deal’ (and many students say “nothing happens” when bullying is reported), it may not take much reasoning to conclude that it’s also OK to gun down someone we disagree with. Not that anyone capable of this behavior has much in the way of reasoning powers, but you don’t need that to buy a gun.

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