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.

Raising Human Beings

January 28, 2017

We're raising kids, we're raising human beings.

We’re not raising kids, we’re raising human beings.

I loved Dr. Ross Greene’s book, Raising Human Beings, which focuses on parents and kids solving problems collaboratively. I didn’t love our podcast interview. Unfortunately, a poor connection between California and Maine mangled the audio so badly I couldn’t post it. Audio or no, you’ve got to hear what Dr. Greene has to say. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

Dr. Greene: One reason you want to solve problems collaboratively with kids who are behaviorally challenging is so he won’t put his fist through your wall. I’m seeing increasingly little difference between kids we call “behaviorally challenging” and kids we don’t. The reason to be solving problems collaboratively with any child is because you want to teach the skills that are on the better side of human nature. That’s a really good thing.

Annie: I agree. When parents model good problem-solving skills and work with their children to find solutions in non-violent ways then kids are learning a lot about problem-solving.

Dr. Greene: You do reap what you sow! If power to influence or solve problems with a kid is what you use, then power is what you’ll get back. But if collaboration is what you’re using then collaboration is what you’re going to get back.

“The role of a parent in the life of a kid is partner. We get into the most trouble, as parents, when we are shooting for control. Control is a delusion.” Dr. Ross Greene

Annie: Many parents seem confused about their role, vis a vis power, especially parents of tweens and teens. At that age kids seem programmed to push back. How can we help avoid those struggles?

Dr. Greene: All “pushing back” behavior is the child saying, “I’ve got concerns here that I want addressed.” If we use power to address those concerns, then we blow those concerns off. Kids don’t feel heard, their concerns don’t get addressed, and they stop talking to us. The role of a parent in the life of a kid is “partner.” We get into the most trouble when we shoot for control. Control is a delusion. You don’t have control. Many parents of adolescents have discovered that already. Those still fighting with their adolescents haven’t quite come to it yet.

Annie: It’s easy to be a good parent when everything is going just fine, isn’t it? I picture the family at the supermarket, it’s late, been a long day, everyone is hungry, maybe a little stressed out, and your kid grabs one of those sugar-packed impulse items by the checkout. You don’t want her to have it. There’s a struggle. Other parents are watching. How do you problem-solve collaboratively in a situation like that?

“Parents and kids don’t have to be adversaries. It all comes down to how we solve problems collaboratively when kids are failing to meet expectations.”

Dr. Greene: The trick is get out to of the heat-of-the-moment. Most kids and care-givers get into the same conflicts every week. That makes them predictable and it means we don’t have to wait until the heat-of-the-moment to solve those problems. We can solve them with a planned approach. I ask parents: “Which of your expectations is your child having trouble meeting on a reliable basis? (Make a list!) Which ones would you like to start working on first?” That’s how to start solving problems collaboratively.

Annie: Makes sense. Some examples of common parental expectations that a child is getting homework done, getting up and out the door for school in the morning. Too much screen time That’s a common struggle in so many families. How do we deal with that collaboratively?

Dr. Greene: First parents have to get clear on what their expectations are. Parents don’t always know. After that we can use the 3 steps of Plan B (solving problem collaboratively) vs. Plan A (parents trying to solve the problem unilaterally).

Step 1: (The Empathy Step) Get the conversation started. For example, “I’ve noticed it’s hard for you to end the screen time to do your homework or to come in to dinner. What’s up?” The goal of this empathy step is to gather information from the kid about his concern or point of view about this expectation he’s having difficulty meeting. If we don’t hear the kid’s concern, this problem will remain unsolved.

Step 2: (Define Adult Concerns) Adults have concerns that need to be heard and addressed, as well. Typically adults try to get their concerns met with Plan A (unilaterally with power). Now they can get their concerns met with Plan B (collaboratively, as partners).

Step 3: (The Invitation) This where parent and child develop a solution, but it’s got to be realistic, mutually agreed upon, and mutually satisfactory. The solution truly and logically addresses the concerns of parent and child. If it doesn’t, the problem is not solved.

Annie: I can see this model requires flexibility and openness on the part of the parent, especially if he or she wasn’t parented this way a generation ago.

Dr. Greene: It definitely requires a change in lenses, in one’s perspective, and in one’s definition of authority. A lot of parents are initially scared that this model will result in their losing authority. In reality, they’re not only picking up authority, they are dramatically improving the relationship with their child, dramatically improving communication.

“This is not about strength and power. It’s about empathy. Disagreeing with your kids, that’s going to happen. Kids’ failing to meet expectations? It will happen. Does that have to mean conflict? No!” – Dr. Ross Greene.

Learn more about Dr. Ross Greene at LivesInTheBalance.org

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Divorce heartbreak for tweens and teens

July 14, 2014

I just wish they'd stop screaming at each other!

I just wish they’d stop screaming at each other!

What can I say about parents divorcing that you don’t already know from personal experience or what you’ve observed? Probably nothing. For the couple involved, divorce is one of life’s major upheavals (second only to Death of a Spouse). The whole family feels the impact of divorce and its aftershocks, but adults and kids process it differently.

Young children are very egocentric. As long as their moment-to-moment needs continue to be met, they’re less aware of what’s going on in the family. They’re also not skilled at “covering up.” If they feel tension between Mom and Dad, they will let behave in ways that let everyone know “I’m not happy!” Parents will respond, as best as they can, by comforting the children and/or distracting them. It usually works pretty well.

Teens, on the other hand, are often more distressed by divorce than their younger siblings, and more likely to mask their emotions. Without letting on what’s going on, Mom and Dad might assume their teens are “OK”  when they are far from it. Why do teens hide their feelings? Because they don’t:

a) know how to express the intensity of their emotions (ager, sadness, confusion, guilt, fear, etc.)

b) want to add to their parents’ problems

c) want to get yelled at

d) want to choose sides

e) want to show that they’re not “mature enough” to handle what’s going on

f) all of the above

On this week’s Family Confidential video podcast, I talk with Wendy Young, child and adolescent therapist and founder of Kidlutions. We discuss pragmatic parenting tips for helping kids of all ages navigate the emotional challenges of divorce. – Listen here

 

 

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Why didn’t someone tell me parenting is so….

July 7, 2014

If only they'd told me, I'd still have done it but...

If only they’d told me, I’d still have done it but…

My son and daughter-in-law just had their first child. Nestled within the magic New Baby bubble they gaze, blissful, at this perfect little person who has pretty much taken over their lives and their sleep cycles. But who cares? This is awesome!

Parents are meant to fall in love with their babies. It’s the highest form of sweet surrender. Mom and Dad are totally thrilled to be parents. They’re also overwhelmed by the sheer volume of time, energy and work it takes to care for a newborn. If only they’d known… but of course, we can’t know what being a new parent is about until we’re there. And even then, it’s a tilter-whirl without the safety harness so who’s got time to reflect or even brush your teeth?

But what if you had a wise, cheerful, best friend with several kids? Someone who will happily help you through the uncertain times with the right mix of empathy, humor and sage counsel? Sign me up, right?

My guest this week on Family Confidential is that kind of friend. Natalie Cutler-Welsh is co-founder of the If Only They’d Told Me blog, podcast and co-author of the book If Only They’d Told Me: Babies, Sex and a Cup of Tea. She and her co-author, Jacqueline Lockington, call themselves “the best friends you never knew you had.” So, don’t say no one understands what you’re going through. These women get it.

No matter where you are in your parenting journey, (even if you aren’t yet a parent but are working on it) you’ll enjoy and appreciate my conversation with Natalie. Listen right here.

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An appointment with the Teen Doc

June 23, 2014

I’ve always beenimages-1 drawn to people who help people… especially if those they help are kids. Dr. O (aka @TheTeenDoc) is the medical doctor at the head of Teen Clinic in South San Francisco. For that alone she has my deep admiration and respect. In addition to prescribing treatment for the body she also administers to the heart and soul of her young patients. For this she has won a place in my heart’s Heroes Gallery.

I connected with Dr. O on Twitter. Two minutes into our conversation I knew  I wanted her as a guest on my Family Confidential podcast.

Two weeks ago we talked for 20 minutes about her work. We shared personal experiences and insights about kids and mentors. We also laughed a lot. I’m grateful to have recorded this conversation and proud to share it here. Listen to Dr. O talk about how she  uses empathy to connect with the kids in her clinic. You’ll be glad you did because her words and ways will inspire to do the same with the kids in your life.

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