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.

Every person who bugs you is not a “bully”

April 29, 2014

There have always been kids who seem to get pleasure and a power-high from bugging other kids. Maybe there always will be. Thankfully, adults are getting wise to the fact that “Kids will be kids” is no excuse for peer-harassment. Over the past decade, we have learned some heart-breaking lessons about the tragic consequences of unstopped harassment. Our education has come through the irreparable damange caused to targeted kids and their families. These days, at least on paper, parents and educators are much less tolerant of “mean kid” behavior than we have been in the past.

Of course, we’re talking about bullying (online and off) but I’ve purposely not yet used the word because it’s overused to the point of being meaningless.

Let’s get one thing straight, the definition of bullying is not: Everything that other people do that you don’t like. A rude, one-time comment is not bullying. A friend telling you that she doesn’t want to be your friend any more is not bullying. When everything is called bullying, kids miss the point and nothing changes for the good. So let’s be clear. Peer harassment is a) ongoing b) unwanted and c) typically involves a power disparity between the two people. For example, boss to employee, coach to player, parent to child, older sibling to younger, “popular” kid to less popular kid.

In my most recent 3 minute Vidoyen video I answered the question: How can parents and educators do a better job reducing bullying?

How to stop it? I've got answers

How to stop it? I’ve got answers

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Home is where the pancakes are

April 25, 2014

Remember what Dorothy said? “There’s no place like home!” Man, am I feeling it today. It’s been a loooong 10 days since my last blog. In that time I:

  • made a killer Passover seder for 13 most loved friends and family
  • hosted a baby shower (the grandboy is due in  6 weeks!)
  • created three new PowerPoint presentations
  • flew to Montana via Salt Lake City (Two of the “bounciest” flight of my life. Seriously, it took me 48 hours to fully recover)
  • presented four sessions at a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Conference
  • met a crocodile

    You can smile at this guy!

    You can smile at this guy!

• photographed the sky

That's why they call it Big Sky Country

That’s why they call it Big Sky Country

• flew West (without bounces, thank you!) and photographed the ground

Approach to Great Salt Lake City

Approach to Great Salt Lake City

• arrived home to David after midnight.

All I can say is…. Ahhhhhh.

Sometimes we need to push, push, push. Forget how we’re feeling or what we’d rather be doing. The work needs to get done and it’s on our plate. And sometimes we really need to stop, take some delicious deep breaths, make pancakes for breakfast (even if it’s not a weekend), drink hot chocolate, and cut roses from the garden.

Bounty from the wet garden

Bounty from the wet garden

We need to take off shoes, sink into a couch with a good novel (Certain Women by Madeline L’Engle) Get another cup of hot chocolate and snuggle with a dog who loves us.

GracieClear

I’m glad you’re home, Mom

That’s it. I’m done for the week. I’ve earned a rest. I’ll bet you have too.

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Where do the children play?

April 15, 2014

 Actually, we're playing AND learning!

Actually, we’re playing AND learning!

In my senior year in college I took a course called “Observation of Young Children.” For several hours a week I sat in a narrow, darkened room, behind a one-way mirror, looking into a pre-school classroom in action. Over the course of the semester I was assigned several 2-4 year olds to “observe” and to keep a log of every single thing the child did, how long he or she engaged in the behavior, etc. Later, I was to write up my detailed conclusions about whatever patterns I observed and what they might indicate about “my kids'” temperament, interests, learning styles, etc.

What I remember most was how seriously these young children took “playtime.” It was clear they were intently busy learning through play.

So in the late ’90s, when I first heard about Baby Einstein, a series of products of the “teach your baby to read” variety, I was skeptical. Babies and young children are in the business of figuring out how the world and everything and everyone they encounter operates. Hands-down, they learn best, with the greatest enthusiasm and retention, through hands-on exploration. (That includes but is not limited to touching, holding, jumping on, crawling through, rolling in, and sticking it in your mouth exploring.)

When I first heard about Brain Insights, my first thought was, “Oh is this another  product for helicopter parents who need to chill?” Turns out, happily, it is not. Instead, Brain Insights, founded by early childhood educator, Deborah McNelis, is about understanding your child’s early brain development and using that to support a child’s learning through relaxed play. Bye bye smart apps for over-scheduled toddlers. Hello natural, hands-on parent-child fun!

Listen here to my conversation with Debora McNelis on this week’s Family Confidential podcast.

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I have to be perfect in everything!

April 8, 2014

I'm trying hard, Dad, but I'm not perfect

I’m trying hard, Dad, but I’m just not perfect

All parents want their kids to succeed in school. But what does the word “success” mean to you, as a student? Do you know? Is it all about getting a 4.0 GPA? Being accepted into a top-tier college? Getting a high-paying job so you can buy great clothes, an awesome car and (some day ) and equally amazing house? When it comes to actually defining “success” are you and your parents on the same page? If there’s a possibility you’re not and/or that you and your parents might need to to e-x-p-a-n-d your definitions, check out Challenge Success, where students, parents and schools are learning there are many many ways to be successful in life.

But when a parent’s definition of success equals: “All A’s and nothing less,” life can become way more stressful than it needs to be. Take, for example, this email from a high school student who seems to be cracking up under the strain of his parents’ pressure to be “perfect.”

Hey Terra,

My parents are super successful and push me to be like them. Not only do I have get straight A’s, I also have to get 100% on all tests. If I don’t they take everything from me till I get them. It’s impossible to get 100% in everything. Now all I do is obsess about schoolwork. In fact, everything I do has to be perfect. If there’s a stain on my shirt I spend the entire day trying to get it out. If I have a zit I can barely stand being out in public. I think I’ve become a perfectionist and I hate it. I have no friends any more because I’m just soooo focused on everything else. My parents think I’ve got a great attitude, but it’s a curse to have to have everything be absolutely perfect. Can I change? – Too Perfect

Dear Too Perfect,

You’re right, it is impossible to get 100% in everything. Human make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Your parents are holding you to unrealistic expectations. They have good intentions, but you seem to have reached a point in your life where you are a) unhappy with your need to be perfect and b) would like to make some changes in yourself. The good news is that you can. Talk with a counselor because these behaviors (the compulsion to “spend the whole day trying to remove a stain on your shirt”) are deeply rooted and hard to change without help from a trained professional. Either you can talk honestly with your parents and tell them what you think and feel or you can just walk into the school counselor’s office and be honest with him or her.

 Hey Terra,

My parents are fully aware of my perfectionism and they have told me that’s it’s good for me. That there’s nothing wrong with striving to be perfect. So they’re in another world. I don’t want to see a counselor because I can’t have a flaw and needing to see a counselor is a flaw. You know, I used to be a normal guy who had fun and friends. It’s just gotten out of control. I’m a neat freak now and constantly find flaws with myself. That with a need to get 100% on everything. This just sucks. I literally cried one day when I got home because I got a 98 on a test. – Too Perfect

Dear Too Perfect,

Your level of perfectionism is not a “good thing.” It’s unhealthy. This much stress will continue to make you unhappy. To get healthier talk to your parents about seeing a counselor or talk to them about lightening up or take yourself in to talk with the school counselor. btw, needing counseling doesn’t mean you are “flawed.” It simply means that you (like all humans) feel a bit overwhelmed at times (like now!) and you need some help understanding your behavior so you can lower your stress levels and be healthier. Not flawed… smart!

Hey Terra,

I’ll go and see the counselor.

Dear Too Perfect,

Smart move! Good luck.

In friendship,

Terra

PS If you want to find out more about how stress can work on your body and your brain (in good ways and not so much) check out my book for teens, Too Stressed to Think? It can help!

 

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