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.

Friendship issues from the 8th grade Part 1

May 19, 2014

Since September I’ve been doing Skype in the Classroom sessions about Real Friends vs the Other Kind with 3rd-10th graders. (Even did one in Croatia!) Today I beamed into an 8th grade class in Philadelphia. Here are some of those students’ questions along with my answers. I’m sharing them to let you know that you are not alone in dealing with any of this stuff.

Student: What would you do if you had a friend you couldn’t trust but you were trying to give them a chance?

We're just a bunch of kids learning to be good friends

We’re just a bunch of kids trying to figure out this friendship thing

It’s good to give someone a second chance. We all make mistakes, right? Sometimes we’re in a bad mood and we’re rude. Sometimes we’re trying to impress other people and we end up hurting a friend. Before you give someone another chance, though, you have to talk about what happened. You can say, “What you did made me feel like I can’t trust you. I want to give you another chance, but first tell me what the heck was going on when you did that?!” A real friend will stop and think. They’ll say something like this: “I’m really sorry. This is why I did it. I promise I’m not going to do that again.” Then you can say, “Cool” and you move forward in the friendship.

But if your friend says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” They’re not taking responsibility for what they did. Even though you may want to trust them again, you haven’t really cleared up the problem. They don’t seem to understand what they did and why it wasn’t OK. Chances are good, they will do it again. If you still want to give them another chance, proceed with caution.

Student: If you’re friends with someone and you know that they’re talking about you, what should you do?

You can’t pretend that you don’t know it, so you have to talk about it. But watch your attitude. If I’m angry and I go my friend and say: “Hey, I heard that you’re talking about me. What’s up with that?!” your friend will feel attacked and will defend him or herself. They may say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when they actually know exactly what you’re talking about. Or they may be innocent and ask, “Who told you that?! It’s not true!” Maybe the person who told you was lying because they wanted to mess up your friendship. Bottom line here, if you need to talk to a friend about something important, get the facts first and don’t come out fighting. If you know the truth, calm down and say, “I know you’ve been talking about me and it makes me feel like you’re not a real friend.” Then you close your mouth and you listen to what they have to say. Afterwards, decide what’s right for you to do in this friendship.

Student: Have you ever felt like if you didn’t have a friend you weren’t like… normal?

There were times when I didn’t have a real friend. (That’s the only kind worth having.) It’s OK not to have friends if you know that you are friends with yourself. Being cool with who you are lets you be cool with spending time on your own. That’s way better than hanging out with people you don’t trust or respect. Not having a friend can be lonely and sometimes you might wonder, “What’s wrong with me? How come I don’t have at least one person who I’m really close with?” There’s nothing “wrong” with you. It might just be that the people around you are not a good match for you and for the kind of friend you are looking for. It may be that you’ve got high standards for yourself and for the people you call your friends. That’s a good thing.

If you aren’t finding real friends at school, look outside of school. At an afterschool club. Or a youth group. Or at the park. Just talk to people. I used to go to the library a lot when I was in middle and high school. There were kids there from other schools and I got to be friends with some of them.

If you need new friends or more friends… first you need to know what a real friend is. Make a list of what makes a Real Friend. Use it as your “shopping list.” For example, respect is a really important trait in a friend. You may see someone and say to yourself, “Is this person respectful? I don’t know him or her yet, but do I like what I see in the way this person treats others? Would I want a friend who treats me that way?” Think about what you’re looking for and keep your standards high, for yourself and for other people.

I hope this helps, and tune in next time, for Part 2 of Friendship Issues from the 8th grade. Til then, be a good friend to yourself and others.

 

---------

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

---------

To the parents of a rapist

March 11, 2014

Oh, hallowed halls of enlightened education

Oh, hallowed halls of enlightened education

I’ve been following the story out of Dartmouth about a female student who was raped shortly after her name appeared in a “Rape Guide” posted on an anonymous Dartmouth student blog. There is so much that’s vile about the particulars of this case and the overall campus (and national) culture that permits and promotes these attitudes and acts, I do not know where to begin. As a parent educator, this feels like a logical place:

Dear Mom and Dad,

By now you know that your son is a rapist. Of course you are shocked that the young man you raised with such love and care and attention, the one who succeeded so brilliantly throughout his school years that he ended up at Dartmouth, is now revealed to you, your family and all your friends as a violent, callous person. A rapist. Not a word anyone wants on their son’s resume. And not only is he a rapist, but he has been encouraging his classmates to be rapists.

How heart-sick you must be. Undoubtedly you remember how thrilled you were when the Dartmouth letter of acceptance arrived. You celebrated, as a family. You had such dreams for your son. And now, you find that he’s been spending time, in between classes and study sessions, writing a “Rape Guide,” using his considerable verbal skills (showcased in those outstanding SAT scores) to craft descriptive prose like this: “Increase the alcohol you give her each time. Then one such day, go for it. Preferably, invite her to your room. Get touchy with her, she likes that. As you guys get drunker… maybe spank her, you know, “jokingly” of course. She might be reluctant. Just tell her to relax.  Keep on going. Start groping her and stripping her down. Does this sound rapey? It really isn’t, trust me. She just likes playing hard to get. I know. I’ve been there.”

My heart goes out to you because you are suffering. You must be grieving for the loss of your “ideal” son. You must also be absolutely baffled that your boy could be such a calculatingly, cold-hearted misogynist. And through the blizzard of your emotions and disbelief, you are probably wracking your brains looking for answers to these questions: What did I do wrong? How could my son have thought that rape was OK? How is it possible that he could have such little regard for the feelings of another person? How could my child, who grew up in this family, believe that he and his fellow male classmates have the right to treat women with such contempt? Where did he get these values? What do I say to him now? How can I look at him without utter disgust? What can he say or do that will make this better?

I usually have lots of answers for parenting questions. I don’t have any answers for these.

Please get some family counseling. You’re going to need it.

I wish you strength during this terrible time. You’re going to need plenty of that too.

Filed under: Cruel's Not Cool,Parenting,Social Justice — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 1:13 pm
---------
Older Posts »
Find Annie Fox: Find Annie on Facebook Find Annie on Twitter Find Annie on Pinterest Find Annie on YouTube Find Annie on Google+ Find Annie on LinkedIn Find Annie on Goodreads Find Annie on Quora