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.

Single mom + Son + Conversation about Girls=Awkward

January 27, 2012

Got this email today from a single mom who just discovered her teen son has been pressuring girls to “put out.” She felt unsure how to talk to him about it. Obviously she’s not the only single mom out there who can’t rely on a positive male role model to set a boy straight on what is and what is not OK when it comes to relationships. With her permission, I’m sharing her email and my response. Hopefully it will empower other moms to get proactive in educating their sons about empathy and respect.

Dear Annie,

I spied on my 13 year old son’s computer and found out he pressures girls for “second base.” If they don”t comply he dumps them.  His last girlfriend told people he dumped her because she would not put out.  I don’t know how to address this with him.  I am a single mom and am very upset that I have raised a boy that would do this to girls!  The worst thing is that some girls agree.  How should I talk to him about this?

Confused Single Mom

Dear Single Mom,

It’s a good thing you found out. Now that you know what’s been going on you can give your son a needed course correction.

Yes, it would be easier if Dad were in the picture, but since that doesn’t seem to be the case, the honors fall to you. You might say something like this, “You are old enough to have girlfriends, so I want to talk to you about boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. Don’t worry. This isn’t about about sex, so you can relax. This is about relationships, which, by the way, are a 2-WAY Street. If you want a good girlfriend, you have to be a good boyfriend. Tell me what you think it means to be a good boyfriend.”

Then close your mouth and LISTEN to what he has to say. I’m guessing he’s never thought about it. He may just shrug and say “I dunno.”

That’s when you say, “OK. I understand you may not know. After all, they don’t teach classes in this, though they should. But a guy needs to learn how to be a good boyfriend, so I’m going to tell you what I know from the girl’s point of view. No girl likes to be pressured into doing things she’s not ready for.  Guys who pressure girls to “do stuff” are being disrespectful. Good guys don’t do that. And good guys make good boyfriends. The kind of girls who make good girlfriends (the only kind worth falling for), are girls with self-respect. They will stand up for themselves. They will say “No, I’m not going to do that. And I don’t like it when you pressure me. So just stop.”

ASK: What do you think about a girl’s right to say ‘Stop pressuring me.”?

LISTEN for his answer.

Ultimately it’s your responsibility to teach your son how to treat people with respect. That includes friends, teachers, kids he may not particularly like, and girlfriends. He needs you to step up and teach him about respect and empathy (taking the other person’s point of view.)

Tell him you have some information that he’s been pressuring girls to do things they don’t want to do. Tell him, this is WRONG because it is DISRESPECTFUL. Say: “Maybe you didn’t know this before. But now that we’ve had this conversation, you know it’s wrong. From now on, I expect you to always treat the people you are with with respect. If I find out that isn’t the case, there will be a consequence. Do we understand each other?”

How’s that?

In friendship,
Annie

Hi Annie,
That is such a great reply. I really appreciate your response. There is so much teen dating advice on web for girls. It would be helpful if moms of boys took some proactive steps towards this problem too. I couldn’t find much. I am going to speak with him this weekend. Will let you know how it goes. God bless you.

(More confident) Single Mom

Happy to help. ;O)

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An easy way to ease into one of these discussions is through my Teen Relationships Bill of Rights. Check it out and share it with your son and daughter.

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Guest Blogger: Rites of Passage – Becoming An Adult

January 25, 2012

By DeAnna L’am

DeAnna L’am, (B.A.) speaker, coach, and trainer, is author of Becoming Peers – Mentoring Girls Into Womanhood and A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period. She is founder of Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women & Girls™. Her pioneering work has been transforming women’s & girls’ lives around the world for over 20 years.

DeAnna helps women & girls love themselves unconditionally! She specializes in helping women reclaim their cycle as source of intuition and spiritual renewal, helps Moms welcome their girls into womanhood with ease & confidence, and trains women to hold RED TENTS in their communities. Learn more about her work and her special Rites of Passage Tele-Summit: Skillfully Guiding Girls to Womanhood and Boys to Manhood beginning February 6th

We all deserve recognition of our Rites of Passage

How does one become an adult? Well, mostly by imitation…

I grew up in a household of two (heavy) cigarette-smoking, coffee-drinking parents. For me, this was the epitome of adulthood…  And when I started smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, at the age of seventeen, I felt that I have arrived!

The “arrival” was not celebrated in any way. However my Dad, who used to buy cigarettes in cartons (for him and my Mom) added a few packs to the family monthly cigarette shopping, on my behalf. I was given the stamp of approval: I belonged.

And isn’t this what Rites of Passage are all about? Arriving, belonging, getting in par with the adult world around us, which was mostly beyond our reach as children, and is now accepting us as rightful members.

Indigenous cultures similarly rewarded their youth with belonging and acceptance, only that their requirements were far more meaningful. Youth were given a multitude of things that our young lack today:

- Spiritual guidance from an early age, toward discovering the gift one was born to bring to their community

- Active mentors who fostered different skills in a youth, each bestowing their own gifts on their young protegee

- A prescribed set of challenges that will stretch a youth beyond their comfort zone, and will call them to find within them the ability to endure, overcome, and emerge triumphantly

- A tradition of Spiritual Eldering designed to pass on wisdom and knowledge from one generation to the next

- A tight knit community that is eager to collectively honor and celebrate all milestones in an individual’s life

In contrast, the guidance I received, growing up, consisted of explicit messages, overt assistance, and covert expectations, all directed toward achieving high grades at school, an academic degree, and a career that will guarantee enough money to ensure a secure retirement.

There was no conscious guidance toward grounded, balanced, intentional adulthood, and in its absence I could only imitate what I saw around me. It took many years of unlearning (including quitting cigarette-smoking and coffee-drinking) to develop a sense of deeper meaning in my life.

Deeper meaning is what the youth search for. The need we have as young human beings, while transforming from childhood to adulthood, is for meaningful challenges that will help us prove to ourselves that we are courageous and  worthy; role models that will inspire us to strive, and communities that will accept us as equals.

In the absence of such cultural offerings, the youth of each generation will devise their own tests that would lead them to become accepted by their tribe. For me, it was cigarettes and coffee that made me feel grown up and ultimately belong. For many today it is gang activity or teen pregnancy. These are the shadow manifestations of an authentic need. They seemingly include every element of traditional rites of passage:

- Going beyond one’s comfort zone to prove worthiness (gang activity and teen sex)

- Performing daring acts that lead to approval (in the eyes of gang members, or boyfriend/girlfriend)

- Ultimate acceptance or belonging (this last one applies to gang members but hardly ever to girls who get pregnant. They often end up shunned by both their boyfriend and their family)

This grim picture only exists because we, as a society, abdicated our responsibility to our young!

It is in our hands to restore the picture to its natural balance. It is our (exciting!) task to rally around our young in meaningful ways, to provide them with meaningful challenges that will stretch them positively, and to receive them as equals when they triumphantly emerge from their trials.

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Teaching Kids to Be Good People

January 17, 2012

(See UPDATES BELOW)

I’m writing my first book for adults since Armchair BASIC. It’s called: Teaching Kids to Be Good People. It will be available as an eBook in September.

Since one person’s “good” might be another person’s “Are you kidding me?!” I knew I needed to be precise from the onset. So I asked my twitter followers, plus many of my most thoughtful friends, colleagues and family members “How do you define a ‘good’ person?”

Lots of intriguing and insightful responses galloped my way and I’m grateful. My plan is to dissect each one… all in good time. But at the moment, I’m focused on forgiveness.

That’s an aspect of “goodness” I hadn’t considered. Probably says something about me. I mean, I have overstayed my welcome at the Self-Pity Party, ahem… once or twice. So when one especially kind-hearted friend offered me this nugget: “A good person is forgiving”,  like a dog and a flying tennis ball, I was on it. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking.

  • What does it mean to be forgiving?
  • How do you actually forgive someone? Which muscle do you relax or clench?
  • What’s the connection between forgiving and forgetting? Are they mutually exclusive?
  • What might you gain by holding on to your resentment? Anger? Self-righteous indignation?
  • What might you lose?
  • Why is it so $#*@ hard to permanently unplug a memory that continues to wound each time you project it onto your mental movie screen?

These are open ended questions, my friends. I don’t know any useful answers… yet. Love to hear your thoughts.

fyi, in the next 6 months, I’ll be talking about teaching kids to be good people at the 18th Annual Character Education Conference in St. Louis, the INTASE Educators’ Conference in Singapore, and at the 19th National Forum on Character Education in Washington, DC.

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UPDATE 3:13 pm Today (9/14/12): The book is finished! And I’ve had only enthusiastic early reviews, including these:

  • “Annie Fox has a genuine passion for helping our young people and she has many years of experience doing it. Both are evident in this wonderful resource for parents and teachers. It’s full of insight, wisdom, good stories, and most important – practical advice. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to help our kids become good people.” –Dr. Hal Urban, author of Life’s Greatest Lessons and 20 Gifts of Life
  • I can’t express enough how much I love Annie’s work. Having worked in this field for so long, it becomes increasingly difficult to read new thoughts and ideas. Every time I read something of Annie’s, it makes me think. She writes about subjects with such compassion, insight and practicality that you can’t help but love all that she does. Great book-a great job Annie!” –Sarah Newton, author of Help! My Teenager is an Alien!
  • “Another work of magic from what I have come to know as a master in the field. Sharing actual scenarios and follow up ideas, helps to keep readers connected to Annie’s ideas in a way that most parenting books fail to do.” –Joe Bruzzese, author of A Parents’ Guide to the Middle School Years and Founder of Sprigeo.com, the online bully reporting system
  • “Finding positive, empathetic role models is often difficult but this wonderfully practical and warm hearted eBook is a great place to start. It will empower parents with some really helpful suggestions and ideas that will help you to navigate the choppy emotional waters of raising great adults.” –Sue Atkins, author of Parenting Made Easy – How to Raise Happy Children

This early feedback, especially coming from these excellent parent educators, has touched and encouraged me. The book is done, so what am I waiting for? Nothing, except to finalize the cover design. That won’t take long. As promised, before the sun sets on the last day of September 2012,  Teaching Kids to Be Good People, will be available to everyone interested in raising young adults of good heart and mind. If you’d like to receive an announcement when the book is available, shoot me an email and I’ll let you know… personally.

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UPDATE (10/3/12): I’m very pleased (and excited) to announce Teaching Kids to Be Good People is now available in print and also on Kindle. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

We parent-educators are gardeners. We plant seeds and offer nurturing lessons that our kids can internalize. But we are not our children’s only influencers. By re-dedicating ourselves to teaching our kids to be good people, we provide them with the tools to do the right thing while we’re right there beside them and when they’re on their own. Whether they actually do it, is their choice. But at least we’ll know we’ve done our part well.

To help on our parenting journey, I’ve written this very personal and pragmatic guide that includes essays, podcasts, prompts, tools, questions, answers and self-assessment quizzes all for the purpose of teaching kids to be good people. How do you define a “good person?” That’s what I wanted to find out, so I posted the question and received hundreds of answers. Eight words kept reappearing:  Emotional intelligence, ethics, help, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, tolerance and social courage — all essential, teachable skills. This book will help you teach them to your children or students. Hopefully, we’ll become so engaged in this process that our teaching will inspire all of our children to become part of the solution.

Look for an announcement next month! In the meantime, if you’d like a personal email when the Teaching Kids to Be Good People is available, let me know.

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