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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.

Friendship issues from the 4th grade

March 27, 2012

This is Part 3 of a 5-part series based on anonymous, hand-written questions students gave me while I visited their school in St. Louis. If you’re new to this series and you live and/or work with 2nd-6th graders, (or you’re just interested in Social Intelligence and/or bullying, please check out Part 1 (Friendship issues from the 2nd grade)  And Part 2 (Friendship issues from the 3rd grade). Coming soon… you guessed it! Questions from the 5th grade.

My friends are at war! (Illustration © Erica DeChavez, 2013)

My friends are at war! (Illustration © Erica DeChavez, 2013-2014, from The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, by Annie Fox, illustrated by Erica De Chavez, © 2014 by Annie Fox and Erica De Chavez. Now available)

My 2 best friends want to wipe each other off the face of the Earth! I hate it! It’s tearing me apart! Help! Me! When two people you care about are not getting along, it can feel like you’re in being pulled in two directions at once. I’m guessing that once upon a time, these two girls may have been close friends, but then… what happened?? A misunderstanding? A competition that led to jealousy? An unkind remark that was meant as “a joke” but not taken that way? There are so many ways a friendship can break apart. Since you care about them and would love to see them getting along, try negotiating a “peace treaty.”

Call a meeting with you and your 2 friends. Tell them how their fighting is “tearing you apart.” Tell them you want to help them get to the bottom of this feud. Then give Friend A an opportunity to speak her mind. While she’s talking, you and Friend B only get to LISTEN. No one interrupts. No one corrects. Just listen. When Friend A is done talking, it is her turn to LISTEN while Friend B speaks her mind. Again, without anyone interrupting. After Friend A and Friend B have both had their say, it is your turn. You might say: “Friend A, this is what I heard you say about why you are angry with Friend B. Friend B, this is what I heard you say about why you are angry with Friend A. What could we each do, moving forward, to help our friendship?” Good luck. I hope this helps!

Somebody is making fun of somebody else’s reading level. What should I do? You know this isn’t OK, and I’m very proud of you for putting your values into this question. It tells me that you are a person who believes that everyone should be treated with respect. Whether this is happening to you or you are watching someone else being made fun of, I encourage you to stand up to the person who is doing the teasing and speak up. Sometimes people get away with teasing because they don’t think it’s “a big deal” or they somehow think it’s “fun” or “funny.” Teasing can be very hurtful and the best way I know to have less of it, is to tell the teasers “That’s not ok.” Go for it!

I have two classmates that really annoy me sometimes. What should I do? You always have options, but being rude is never one of them! You could try to spend less time with each of these classmates. Or, the next time you feel annoyed by their behavior, you can privately, calmly and politely talk to them about it. But you know what I think might be the most interesting thing for you to do? Ask yourself a couple of questions: “Why is that behavior so ANNOYING to me?” Think about the answer. It may not be as simple as you first imagine. Another question you might ask yourself is this one: “Why might s/he be doing this? To be liked? To be respected? To be thought of as cool?” If you look at “why” people act the way they do, you might start to understand them a little better. For example, have you ever done something just to get people to notice you and to like you? We all have. So if these classmates are doing stuff just to get people to like them, instead of feeling “annoyed” by their behavior, you might actually start to understand them better and feel some compassion. (Much nicer than annoyance!)

I have a friend and he is sometimes nice to me and sometimes not. Should I be friends with him? We all have times when we’re in a bad mood and not so nice to the people around us. It’s not ok to take out your bad mood on someone else, but it happens. Hopefully not too often! But even when it does happen, after the bad mood passes, it’s a good thing for friends to talk about what happened. Have you ever told your friend how you feel when he isn’t nice to you? If you have told him and his behavior still hasn’t changed, you might want to ‘take a vacation’ from this friendship. Spend less time with him and more time with people who are nice to you. If you haven’t yet told your friend about this, talk to him. He’s not a mind-reader!

One of my friends is way too bossy! Also, if she does not get her way she is very mean to me! I sure hope you’re not suffering silently! Because, like I said in my answer to the last question: Friends aren’t mind-readers. When people aren’t treating us well, we have to let them know. Please stand up and speak up for yourself. Might your friend get angry when you tell her how you feel? Yes, there’s a chance she will! But the only way things are going to change in this friendship is if you show that you know how to be a real friend to yourself!

Why do friends make up a club and don’t invite you in? I think you probably already know the answer, but I’ll tell you any way: They didn’t invite you in because they don’t want to spend as much time with you as you want to spend with them. I understand it hurts your feelings to be left-out of their club, but you might think about it this way: “Real friends like to be with me as much as I like to be with them. If these friends aren’t inviting me to join their club, maybe they aren’t as good friends as I thought. Hmm… instead of feeling sorry for myself about their little club, maybe I should look around and try to make a new friend.”

How do you know if a so-called friend is a REAL friend? You know if you’ve got a REAL friend (vs. the Other Kind) by the way you feel when you are with that person. Do you feel safe? Do you feel respected? Do you feel totally accepted for who you are without any pressure to be someone you’re not just to get that person to like you more? A REAL friend is there for you, when you need cheering up and when you want to share some exciting news. I wrote a whole book about Real Friends vs. the Other Kind. See if it’s in your school library.

There is a girl in my class that is nice to everyone else except me. I really like her, but when I join a game with her in it, she says she is not playing and then she runs away! Also, I think she can get really tough when I want to talk to her. What should I do? Before I answer your question, I’ve got one I need to ask you: Why would you want to be friends with someone who is not nice to you?? You ask “What should I do?” Well, because I know you deserve to be treated with respect, I’d say, for the time being,  you should stop trying to get this girl to be nice to you. For whatever reason, she’s not ready to do that. Why would you continue knocking on her door when she refuses to open it with a smile and welcome you inside? Instead, I suggest you go on a New Friend Search. I’m sure you will find the kind of friend you deserve. Good luck!

My friend is friends with a very mean and rude girl and she’s stealing my friend away from me. What should I do? Someone can “steal” a pencil or a book, but I don’t really believe anyone can “steal” a friend away from you. If your friend chooses to spend more of her time with this other girl then that’s your friend’s choice. I understand you don’t like it because you miss the special close one-on-one relationship you two used to have, but she has the freedom to spend time with other people. Talk to her about it. See if there is a way you can schedule playtime just with her. And while she’s busy, think about what fun things you can be doing, either on your own or with other friends.

My bff hates me because she wanted to do something really bad and I said no because I knew she was gonna get caught. So she did this thing and she’s not my friend ’cause I said no. But she got away with it, so I’m totally clueless. I’m very proud of you for not letting your friend pressure you into doing something that you knew wasn’t OK. That tells me that you know how to make healthy choices, even when friends are pushing and pulling you in other directions. I think your bff is angry because you didn’t go along with her idea. She probably knows that you were right in your decision but she can’t yet admit that she was wrong. So instead, she’s pushing you away with her anger. Give her some time to cool off. Hopefully, you two will come back together. But here’s a word of warning: if she has any more idea to do things that don’t feel right to you, think about whether she shares your values. It can hard to have a real lasting friendship with someone who doesn’t share your values.

UPDATE October 3, 2014: The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA is now available in print and on Kindle (the ebook can be read on any device, your mobile phone, tablet, or computer with the free Kindle reader app). Visit for an excerptreviews, and to order your copy.


Friendship issues from the 3rd grade

March 19, 2012

This is Part 2 of a 5-part series based on students’ questions I received while visiting a school in St. Louis in early March. Missed the 1st part (Friendship issues from the 2nd grade)? Here it is. And please check back next week for Questions from the 4th grade.

What should I do if someone is being mean to me and not to anybody else? Not everyone knows when they’re being ‘mean.’ Sometimes people feel so angry or jealous they do and say things without thinking about other people’s feelings. That’s why it’s important for you to speak up whenever you are being treated disrespectfully. Even if you’re not the only one who’s being treated this way, you should still speak up. Show that you have respect for yourself. If his/her behavior toward you doesn’t change for the better, talk to your teacher. With the teacher’s help, you and this other person may be able to make the peace.

My bff twin bosses me. She wants to make me believe in something I know isn’t real. It’s very annoying. What should I do? Sometimes people who have an active imagination just automatically try to get other people to see things their way in a game or on the playground. Your bff may not be trying to “boss” you around. She may just be trying to get you to play a game in a certain way. If you’re not having fun always doing things her way, then you should tell her. And if that doesn’t change anything, it might be a good idea to spend time with friends who you feel more comfortable with.

One of my friends (A) called my other friend (B) “smart” and not me. Friend A had a playdate with Friend B (and not me) and the next day Friend A only talked about Friend B’s pet. It made me sad. What should I do? It can hurt if you feel like a friend you were once very close to is starting to like other people more than she likes you. That’s what the emotion jealousy is about. You may feel like you are in competition and that only one person can win. But that’s not necessarily the truth. I suggest you talk to Friend A and let her know how you’ve been feeling. Maybe she doesn’t even know! When we let our friends know how we feel, we can often work things out. And when we open our hearts, we can include more people in our friendship circle.

What if nobody want to play with me? I’m sorry you’re feeling like this. That tells me some kids in your class may not have been as friendly as they could be. I’m also thinking that there are probably some kids in your class who don’t realize that you are looking for friends. You should definitely talk to your teacher about this. Maybe he or she can give you some ideas for making new friends. Also, if your teacher knows that you are feeling lonely at school, s/he can do something about it by talking with the whole class about what it means to be a real friend and to make everyone feel welcome. I hope this helps.

Why does my friend get her way, usually? If the same person in a friendship seems to get her way most of the time, it may be because the other person has allowed that to happen. For example, if I always say, “Let’s go on the swings” and you always agree (even if you’re bored with the swings) then I’ll think you love the swings as much as I do. But that’s not the truth! Suppose you’d much rather climb on the climbing structure. If you never say what you want, how am I supposed to know? The next time your friend has a suggestion that you don’t agree with, you might say something like this, “I don’t feel like doing that today. How about if we do your idea tomorrow and my idea today?” That’s called compromise… and it is a good way to keep a friendship healthy and strong.

What do I do if two people go against one of my friends? I’m not exactly sure what you mean when you say “go against one of my friends” but it doesn’t sound too friendly. And it sounds like you feel you ought to do something to help your friend. Whenever you get that feeling that “something isn’t fair here,” pay attention to it. You have the power to stand up for anyone who is being treated unfairly. I hope you do that! That’s part of what it means to be a real friend. Also, it will make you feel proud of yourself for doing the right thing.

What do I do when someone is playing a game and doesn’t include me? Sometimes a game is set and it doesn’t work to let more people into it. (Like 9 people on a baseball team. That’s all that can play at one time.) If that’s the game then the people who don’t want to include you are not trying to be hurtful. But sometimes people who want to leave you out may be trying to hurt your feelings. If it feels like someone (or a group of people) are always trying to exclude you, then you have some choices: a) you can talk with them about it b) you can talk with a teacher about it c) you can look for other people to play with or d) you can feel sorry for yourself and waste a lot of your play time being in a bad mood (I would not recommend choice ‘d’). But you are not powerless. So think about what you’re trying to do and get some help, if you need it.

What should I do if my two friends say that I said something but I did not and I said I did not. It can be really frustrating when you are telling the truth and people do not believe you! I’m not really sure what you can ‘do’.  No one has control over what other people say or think or believe. You can continue to tell them “I did not say that.” but there is no guarantee that they will believe you. Real friends tell each other the truth and real friends listen to each other. When they make a mistake, they apologize. Real friends treat each other with respect. It sounds like these friends are not being respectful to you. If they continue in this way, it is going to be hard for you to relax and feel comfortable around them. I don’t know why they refuse to believe you, but if it continues, I suggest you take a break from this friendship and if they ask “Why?” tell them “I need a friend who will believe me when I tell them the truth.”

Nobody wants to sit with me at lunch, not even my best friend. What should I do? Everyone deserves to have a friend to sit with at lunch! If your best friend doesn’t want to sit with, I’m wondering what makes this person your “best friend”? This doesn’t sound like “best friend” behavior. It also sounds like you don’t know why your friend is treating you this way. I think you should ask him/her “Why don’t you want to sit with me?” See if you can get to the bottom of this, on your own or with help from an adult.

What should I do when my friend does not treat me nice when I treat them nice? A friendship is a two-way street. Niceness and respect and all the other good things in friendship have to flow in both directions. When only one person is being nice and the other person isn’t, well, that friendship is in trouble! The best thing you can do is to be a real friend to yourself. What do I mean by that? I mean, talk to this friend and let him/her know that you don’t like the way s/he has been treating you. (Give an example of some of the ‘not nice’ behavior you are talking about). You might also say, “When you act this way, it feels like you aren’t my friend. So what’s going on?” Then close your mouth and LISTEN to what your friend has to say. Talking about friendship problems doesn’t always fix things, but it’s a very good place to start!

What should I do if somebody is pushing me around? The next time it happens you should hold up your hand, look the person straight in the eye and say, “Stop! Don’t do that.” If they don’t stop, talk to your teacher. It’s the responsibility of the school to make sure that every student is treated with respect. If this pushing around stuff continues, tell your parents and ask them for help. It’s your parents’ responsibility to make sure that you are safe. They can’t do their job if they don’t know what’s going on. Talk to them. They can help.



Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 7:10 pm

Friendship issues from the 2nd grade

March 12, 2012

A few weeks ago, I visited a school in St. Louis where the word “respect” is much more than a poster on the wall. (I love it when that’s the case!) Walking through the front door I sensed that social and emotional learning at this school was the real deal. Throughout the day, I presented five separate grade-specific sessions. And let me tell you, those 2nd –  6th graders were some of the most engaged students I’ve met in the dozen or so years I’ve been doing this stuff. The kids eagerly took my tools for dealing with friendship issues and in return, gave me their hand-written, anonymous questions to take home and ponder. I promised I’d address each one, right here, in my blog, so they could log on, with their parents, and have a serious conversation about what’s going on in their lives and what it means to be a real friend vs. the other kind.

Because I also teach the importance of keeping agreements, I’m starting today with part 1 of a 5 part series in which I will respectfully answer each of the thoughtful questions I received from those St. Louis students. See Part 2 Friendship Issues from the 3rd grade. and Part 3: Friendship Issues from the 4th grade

(NOTE: If you are one of the students who wrote a question and you don’t find yours in your grade’s blog post, I may have put it in the wrong place by mistake. Look for it in another blog in this series.)

My best bud lost to me in a state capital contest and hasn’t liked me since. What should I do?

Sometimes it’s hard to lose. Maybe once or twice you have felt angry at someone who beat you at a game. I know I have! It sounds like your friend may be feeling that way since you won the contest. I suggest you go to your friend, maybe at recess or lunch. Smile, and say, “Let’s be friends again” then invite your friend to play or to sit with you. See what happens!

What do I do if someone is only trying to play with my friend, not me? And I tell her “May I play with my friend?” and she says ‘No.” It sounds like you and this person are having a little tug-of-war! But instead of pulling on either end of a rope, you are pulling on your friend! This person does not ‘own’ your friend, but neither do you. If you and this person and your friend can not play well all together, then suggest you talk to your friend and set up a time to play with just her. You may have to take turns playing with her. And during the time when your friend is playing with the other person, you find someone else to play with.

What can I do if someone makes someone be a certain thing in a game? Make believe games are a lot of fun, but it’s not so much fun if one person gets a little bossy and tries to “make” other people be certain things they don’t want to be. Of course, if you’ve never told the person that you aren’t comfortable with all of his/her ideas, then it’s time to speak up! The next time this happens in a game, you might say, “No. I don’t want to be that. Instead, I’m going to be______.” Try it and good luck!

How do I find out if people like me, cause I want to be nice to them? I think you have this “being nice” stuff a little bit backwards. We aren’t “nice” to people just because they like us and we want to reward them! We should be nice to people is because we can be! Also it feels good to be nice to people and makes the world a better place! And you know something else? When you are nice to people, they are more likely to want to be your friend because you’ve shown that you are a kind and friendly person. So don’t worry about whether certain people like you. Just be nice and see what happens!

What should I do if somebody retaliates for something you did not do? You do your best to tell them that you didn’t do the thing that they’re blaming you for. If they won’t listen or won’t believe you, you should talk to an adult about this. Hopefully a parent or teacher can help you and this other person get to the bottom of this misunderstanding.

What should I do if someone tattles on my friend? You don’t need to “do” anything except to take yourself out of the middle of this one. It really doesn’t have anything to do with you. If your friend did something that wasn’t OK and got in trouble for it, then your friend is the one that needs to set things right. As for the person who “tattled”, well, honestly, I’m not so sure what that word means. If it means, “Someone was mean to me and I told the teacher about it.” I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that is the right thing to do!

What if somebody pushes me into another person? If it was on purpose (and not accident) then you apologize to the person who got bumped and you talk to the person who pushed you. You might say, “If you’re angry about something, let’s talk. But don’t push me.”

What if somebody promises to sit with me at lunch but doesn’t? Sometimes people forget their promises and they need to be reminded. And sometimes people make promises when they really don’t mean to keep them. If this person is a real friend, then set up another time to sit together at lunch. If this person never seems to want to sit with you at lunch, I suggest you find some other people who DO want to sit with you!

What should I do when people give me the silent treatment because they don’t want to be my friend? I know that it hurts when people you want to be friends with act like they don’t want you as a friend. You can’t force someone to be your friend, but you can always remind yourself that you deserve to be treated with respect. Giving someone the silent treatment is disrespectful. If someone does this to you, I suggest you do two things 1) tell them “STOP. You’re being cruel.” and 2) look around you and find some kinder people to hang out with.

What should I do if no one likes me? I wonder how you can be so sure that “no one” likes you. I’m sure that’s not right! But I can tell that you believe it and it’s making you feel sad and lonely. You need at least one good friend you can count on. And it sounds like you need some help finding that friend. Please talk to your parents about these feelings and talk to your teacher. Tell them “I need a friend.” and that will be the start of something better.

My friend says “I can do this and you don’t have the powers to.” What should I do? Invent some super powers of your own! It all starts with your wonderfully powerful imagination. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do!



Guest blogger: Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

March 5, 2012

by Scott Morgan

Scott Morgan is a board certified Austin divorce attorney who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law. Check out his blog.

Everyone’s heard horror stories of divorced parents using their children to get back at their ex. Loving parents take pains to avoid this kind of behavior, even if the thought of their former spouse makes them teeth-grittingly furious. Here are some tips for successfully co-parenting while avoiding behaviors that will ultimately harm your children:

  • Tell the Kids Sooner Rather Than Later

Children should be told about the impending divorce or separation as soon as parents know there is no hope for reconciliation. During this conversation it is important parents present a united front and avoid blaming each other, regardless of how tempting this may be. Children need to know that the divorce is in no way their fault. Don’t assume they know it. Tell them! If either parent finds this conversation too daunting, they should seek the services of a therapist, at this juncture and at any point during or after the divorce.

I had a client who had a very amicable divorce with her husband. They mutually decided they just didn’t want to be married to each other. Things were so mutual that they did not separate and neither one moved out until the divorce was final. Both parties were good parents and loved their 5 and 6 year old kids very much. Unfortunately, they could not bring themselves to tell the kids until two days before they separated and the wife moved out with the kids and they put the house on the market. As you can imagine, the children did not take it well and were very upset. They eventually adapted to the new situation as kids usually do, but if the parents had been more upfront about what was happening they could have reduced the kids’ trauma..

  • Don’t Use the Children as Pawns.

In the worst of cases, one parent may fight for custody solely to hurt their spouse. They might even threaten to have one or all of the children appear in front of the judge. This temptation should be avoided at all costs. Children can be permanently harmed by their direct involvement in their parent’s divorce.

One of my clients, a stay-at-home mom who did everything for the kids, had an affair and was leaving her husband. The husband was a likeable enough guy, but a workaholic and not a particularly involved dad. Understandably, he was very hurt by the affair. What was not so understandable was his turning the divorce into a lengthy, ugly, full-blown custody case that was purely motivated by revenge. Ultimately the case settled with wife getting primary custody, but the custody dispute was completely unnecessary and created a major rift between them that permanently damaged their co-parenting relationship..

  • About Joint Custody

In some states joint custody has to be agreed upon by both parents while in others it’s a quasi default position. Some child psychologists disapprove of joint custody where visitation schedules alternate weeks with each parent. These clinicians say that the frequent back and forth can leave the child with feelings of instability. Others say that what’s most important is that both parents fully engaged as parents and be very involved with their children’s lives and that alternating week visitation arrangements are a good way to facilitate this.

From my experience, the most important issue in post-divorce parenting, regardless of the specifics of the visitation arrangement, is that both parents put their children’s best interest at the forefront of their thoughts and sincerely work together to raise their children. While this can be challenging, every parent should try their best to accomplish it.

  • Don’t Ask the Children Who They Want to Live With

A perceptive parent can tell what a child’s preferences are and should not need to ask them this question. Neither parent should attempt to bribe or guilt trip their children in order to manipulate them.

While it sometimes makes sense to ask teenagers about their wishes, asking a younger child what they want is an exercise in futility. I had a custody case involving an eight year old boy. Both parents wanted and sought primary custody and they both believed that the child wanted to live with them. Why? Because each separately asked the child who he wanted to live with. The boy answered to each “I want to live with you.” It wasn’t that he was trying to confuse them, he was just incapable of making such a significant choice.

  • Visitation Must Continue Even if Child Support Doesn’t

Court ordered child support must be paid as ordered. Visitation with the children must also be allowed as ordered. However, the right of visitation and the obligation to pay child support have nothing to do with each other. Children shouldn’t feel that a visit from the other parent is contingent upon their ability to pay.

I once did a consultation with a mom who was inquiring about pursuing her ex over his child support delinquency. She mentioned how she’d refused to let him see the kids when he stopped paying child support. As I explained that she was just as much at risk of a contempt of court finding as her ex was. I advised her to immediately resume allowing her ex to see the kids. In the eyes of the court they are completely separate issues.

While effectively co-parenting your children can be one of the life’s hardest challenges, especially if you have deep-seated resentment towards your ex, you owe it to your children to do your absolute best. That will give them their best chance for a happy and healthy childhood.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 5:18 pm
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