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.

My Mother Died on Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014

Some things you never forget

Some things you never forget

My mother, Martha Scolnick Larris, died on Christmas Eve. Tonight I’ll light the yahrzeit lamp to mark the anniversary of her passing. The same lamp she used to honor her parents’  memory. I guess some day my children will light it for me. Lovely Jewish tradition.

1994. It’s been twenty years. My relationship with my mother was often contentious and frustrating and hurtful. As much for her as it was for me, I’m sure. Takes two to tango. But we also had fun together. And there was much about her that I loved and admired including her love of books, her impressive vocabulary and quick wit, her instant rapport with every child she encountered, her self-reliance and her sense of fairness. She was a whiz at canasta and bridge and absolutely unbeatable in Scrabble. Also, my mom had a dynamite smile which you can see in this photo at the right.

I think of her often while I’m in the kitchen. I still have her coffee pot and her ice cream scoop. I still make her meatloaf, her sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, her banana chocolate chip cake. But it’s in the garden, when I marvel at my gladiolus or smell the lilacs that she comes to me most. The fact that I have a garden which gives me so much pleasure is a direct result of being my mom’s daughter. Let me tell you, that woman knew her flowers. And because of her, so do I. And so does my daughter.

This iris grows in my garden  because my mom had them in hers.

This iris grows in my garden because my mom had them in hers.

Maybe it seems a small thing to know a freesia from a forsythia, a hydrangea from a hyacinth. And who really cares if those iris bulbs I got from my neighbor seem bluer this year than ever?  I care. I can’t help it. This special awareness of plants provides me… no compels me to pay attention and celebrate color, light, form and fragrance. If I saw them all as “just flowers” I’d be missing most of the show and I certainly wouldn’t be taking photos of them every chance I get. Appreciating beauty at that level ain’t small potatoes. So thank you, Mom.

I know all moms are not always a positive influence on their children. People, including our parents, come into our lives for a reason. But even in a less than wonderful childhood there are positive lessons. Take a moment and think about those lessons. They are gifts you’ve received. Now think about the legacy you’re giving to your children. Hopeful it’s a life-affirming one.

Your comments, as always, are welcome.

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Blogging for Huffington Post

December 22, 2014

Just started blogging for Huffington Post. Long time goal on my bucket list… check! I haven’t been at it for long, so you haven’t missed much. If you’d like to catch up, here’s where you can subscribe to my RSS feed and/or read the three articles I’ve posted so far.

Since I’m starting this gig during the holiday season, I’m seasoning my posts with holiday spirit. Like this one, from today: This Holiday Season Have Compassion for Relatives Who Drive You Nuts.

It’s a little funny and a little serious. Bottom line, we’ve all got folks in our extended family who can push our buttons like all get-out.  (Not sure where that expression comes from but I’ve always liked the sound of it.) Don’t know about you, but when I get my chain yanked I’m at least as unpleasant as the aforementioned button-pushers. No fun for me or anyone else. So in this post I give tips for turning irritation into compassion. Why? So you (and I) can spread a little love in Aunt Gertrude’s direction while teaching our kids that there are times when we all need to put on our ‘company manners’ and be pleasant to everyone.

Time to get together with the family...

Time to get together with the family…

Go ahead, read it and you just might have a happier holiday. I hope so!

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Holiday parties! What’s the price of Popularity?

December 20, 2014

T’is the season for parties. When it’s a family affair, all the kids are included. But as you get older, you may want to organize your own get-togethers, and that means only “special friends” get invited. If you’ve been left off a party invitation list you might have felt left-out. But what if you were invited to a party and one of your besties wasn’t? Awkward situation!

This question comes from a girl who found herself in that situation. Her question and my answer are included in my latest book, The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA. Read on…

 

"I got invited, but my friend didn't! Awkward!"

“I got invited, but my friend didn’t! Awkward!”

 

Q: “Friend A invited everyone to her party except Friend B. Now Friend B is mad at me for wanting to go. But I need to go so I can be popular. Is it worth it?”

Answer: If understand that you want to go to the party, but if everyone was invited except Friend B, you can understand why she is upset. Maybe you can also understand why she is angry that you want to go without her.

When you say, “I need to go to the party so I can be popular,” I wonder if the Popularity Game means more to you than Friend B. People who ditch friends to be with more “popular” people often find themselves without any real friends.

Should you go to the party? Good question! If you do, then Friend B will probably be unhappy with you. She might get over it, but there is also a chance that your going to the party could really damage the friendship. You are the only one who can decide if it’s “worth the risk. To help you figure it out, think about this: If Friend B go invited and you didn’t, how would you feel about her going with you? If it wouldn’t feel right for her to go, then it’s probably not right for you.

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If you’re curious about the 49 other questions and answers in The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, check out this free excerpt. If you’ve got a friendship challenge you need help with right now, email me or post it to the comments below.

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

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Get the behavior you want without being the parent you hate

December 10, 2014

My name is Annie Fox and I endorse this book!

I’m Annie Fox and I approve this message!

I read lots of parenting books, but only recommend the top notch. That means they deliver pragmatic advice in small, well-organized, chunks of digestible wisdom. No big chunks, please. Who’s got the time? It helps a lot if the book’s tone is so engaging I can imagine the author talking to me over a cup of coffee. Also, it’s a good thing if the descriptions of parent-child interactions are so spot-on I’m chuckling and misting over throughout. (Yes, a good parenting book is as likely to make me cry as it is to have me laughing and calling out to David, “Sweetie, you’ve gotta hear this!”)  Added requirement for any great parenting book: I have to learn something new. Not so easy because, as I said, I read loads of them.

For all the above reasons, I’m happy to recommend Dr. Deborah Gilboa’s latest book, Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate. Before I tell you what I learned, let me tell you who needs this book – Any parent who has ever wondered if there’s a better way to get your child to:

1. Brush his/her teeth

2. Get along better with siblings

3. Quit whining about being “booooorrrrreeeed” and learn to manage their free time creatively

4. Do something you require without your constant nagging

… plus fifty other things that kids need to learn in order to be become respectful, responsible, and resilient young adults.

Dr. Gilboa, aka @AskDocG, is a practicing family physician, and a parenting expert. She’s also the mom of four boys who,  have apparently brought her to edge of sanity more than once. In the book’s introduction she admits that she has “nagged, yelled at, threatened, and guilted my children to try to get them to behave well. Not all of the time, and usually not on purpose, but, just like many parents, I’ve done all this and more. Not only do I feel really horrible about it afterwards, but (and here is the kicker) it doesn’t work.” So you see, Doc G is also honest, humble and funny. What’s not to like?

Listen to my podcast interview with Doc G.

As for what I learned from Get the Behavior You Want… it came from section 5: What you do is more important than what you feel. Think about it for a minute. Most of the time we mindful parents do our best to get our children in touch with their feelings. “How do you feel now, sweetheart?” “And how did what he said this morning make you feel?” “How do you think you’ll feel about that tomorrow?” The message to kids: how they feel is pretty much the most important thing. Doc G points out that feelings are important, but they should not be accepted as an excuse for poor behavior. Something parents do all the time!

We do it when we say, “Oh, she’s just in a bad mood.” “He’s had a hard day.” “She’s overtired.” Doc G teaches that we need to help our kids become accountable for their behavior. And we can accomplish that by empathizing with our kids’ feelings (“I understand why that made you angry….”) while still sticking with our standards of behavior (“….but biting is totally unacceptable in this family. And here’s the consequence for the doing it…”)

It’s not always easy for an unhappy, overtired child to accept responsibility for his or her actions, but parenting is all about clear standards and consistent responses, isn’t it?

Thanks, Doc G!

Try making this shift in the way you deal with unacceptable behavior from your kids and let me know how it goes.

 

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