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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Day 30: Kindness and Respect Challenge (What did we learn?)

October 30, 2013

Open. You've got the keys

I know it’s not the official last day of this month-long Kindness and Respect Challenge. (We all remember Thirty days hath September…) But tomorrow’s Halloween. (Yay, Kit-Kat bars!) So this is my wrap-up post.

When I take on a challenge my goal is to learn and to teach. Like my previous Annoyance Challenge. Did I really want to learn to be more annoying? Teach others to shorten their tempers? No and no. I (stupidly) thought it might be good to learn more about what pushes my buttons so I could, you know, be less reactive and help others do the same. Throwing myself into an annoyance challenge was like draping myself in cosmic fly paper.  I instantly attracted the most irritating people and situations. As unpleasant as it was, I learned a bit about my prickly side. Also discovered that feeling irritated may not be a choice, but acting on it definitely is. I also learned to opt out more often. A good thing for me and my family.This time, I wanted to explore a positive human response.

What I’ve learned about kindness and respect

1. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

2. There are no guarantees we ever get what we deserve.

3. We often feel sad and unappreciated when others treat us like crap so we throw a Self-Pity Party.

4. We often feel frustrated and hostile when others treat us like crap so we try to make them pay.

5. How others treat us is beyond our control. (see 2)

6. We have some control over our own behavior.

7. We can choose to be compassionate and respectful to ourselves and others.

8. We can also choose to be ornery and hard to live with.

9. We each have tremendous potential to be good and power to do good.

10. Unfortunately we don’t always remember what we’ve got going for us because destructive emotions can work against us. (See 3 and 4)

11. Stress helps us survive in emergencies. But most of what we stress about is just day-to-day life. Mis-identifying the mundane as EMERGENCY!! messes with our natural inclination to be kind and respectful to one another. And yet (irony of ironies) that inclination is frequently the most effect approach.

12. When we are kind and respectful  we can often soften hearts and open minds.

13. When we are kind and respectful and people remain hard-hearted and close-minded, we still did the right thing. For that, we earn Good Karma points.

14. Whenever you see a child, smile kindly and say “Hi.”  Kids need to see kind people in the world.

15. Whenever you are with children, treat them and everyone else with respect. That’s how you teach kids what it feels like to be respected and what it looks like to be respectful.

Okay. That’s all I’ve got for now.

Thanks for coming along with me on this leg of the journey. Hope you learned something useful.

In friendship,




You know better than that! Or do you?

February 6, 2013

"I'm sorry, Daddy. I didn't know."

When a very young child intentionally hurts another, how do we respond? With outrage and anger? Threats and intimidation? None of the above. Young children are ignorant, as in, they don’t know any better. Instead of shouting, a caring adult needs to step in and say to the child, “When you do that, you hurt others. When you hurt others you hurt yourself. The next time you feel so upset that you feel like doing harm, come to me. Let’s talk and work together. I can help you learn to handle those big feelings in safer ways, so that you can be a helper, not a hurter.”

When adults treat children in this respectful, compassionate way, children learn to be compassionate. But when adults respond to a child’s ignorance with anger…. how can they possibly learn about compassion?

When older children and adults behave cruelly it’s harder to view their actions through the “ignorance” lens, but it still applies. When we intentionally harm others, we are, in that moment, blindly ignorant of the hurt we cause. If, in that moment of harming, we had known better we would have done better. That’s why, whenever we get our buttons pushed and are about to lose it we need to calm down and wake up just enough to recognize the damage we are contemplating. And in that moment of pause, we realize that we do, indeed, know better.

All teachers are not parents, but all parents are teachers. Teaching kids to be good people includes teaching them how to manage their destructive emotions in constructive ways. When we witness cruelty between kids we need to summon compassion. Through our compassion for their ignorance we can help children become wiser.


No constitutional right to be a jerk.

September 10, 2009

President Obama greets high school students (AP photo)

President Obama greets high school students (AP photo)

In last night’s speech before a joint session of Congress the President was clear about his goals for health care reform. He also delivered a clear message to Americans about the most effective way to deal with rude and disrespectful people.  When the President stated the fact that the health care reform bill does not afford coverage to people who are in the US illegally, Rep. Joe Wilson (SC) shouted “You lie!” making the Congressman the liar. But I digress.

The President could easily have responded  to unexpected rudeness as many of us have. He could have handily shot back a history-making zinger. But it was the President’s choice not to that was most note-worthy.

After the speech a friend on Twitter asked “Heckling the Prez? Sheesh! Explain that 2 kids! arg!” If you’re worrying about that, don’t. The real lesson wasn’t in the rudeness of Rep. Wilson (whose name will be remembered for none of the reasons his parents imagined when their son was elected to Congress). The real lesson for kids was delivered by President Obama, some of whose critics were so bent out of shape Tuesday when he visited a high school that at least one was seen carrying a sign saying “Keep the president away from our kids!” 

Kids, here’s the real lesson from last night’s “interaction”: When someone disrespects you, you can choose to retaliate or not. When some jerk calls you a liar, or worse, you can do what Barack Obama did last night… you can control yourself. The President’s display of self-respect as well as respect for the people in that room and for the office he holds sends just the right message.

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