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.

Three things t(w)eens should stop doing in 2014

January 9, 2014

Earlier this week I gave parents three tips for making home a more peaceful place in the new year. Since kids are part of the equation, it’s only fair that you guys also get some pointers so you can do your part to make your family a happier one. Here goes:

In 2014 you should:

The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room

Errr… hi, Mom. How’s it going?

1. Stop Leaving your stuff all over the place: We  know you’re exhausted when you come home from school/practice and all that. And probably all you want to do is collapse, get something to eat, and veg out. But seriously, if you drop your backpack, shoes, jacket, books, etc. wherever you feel like it, you’re just asking for an argument. It’s not that parents are neat freaks, it’s just that a lot of us have had it with picking up after our kids, especially when you could totally take care of your own stuff and put it where it belongs.

I was once doing a Parent-Teen Communication workshop and this girl raised her hand and said she wanted her mom to “yell less.”

So I asked her, “What does your mom mostly yell at you about?”

“The wet towels on the bathroom floor.”

“And you really don’t know how to get your mom to stop yelling about the towels on the floor?”

“No,” she said. And she really didn’t.

You do, don’t you? It’s easy. Hang up the wet towels without being asked and  fights about wet towels end there.

2. Stop taking out your bad mood on others. It’s tough being teen. Truly. If you asked your parents if they’d like to go back in time and be your age again, none of them would. They remember the stress, the confusion, the embarrassment, the longing, and the worry that no one you are crushing on will ever love you back.  On top of that, there’s the hormones, the zits, the homework, the social and academic pressure. Plus all the stuff that adults expect you to do and be. Oh, and you never get enough sleep! So, yes, there are plenty of things to make you crabby. However, it’s not fair for you to take your bad mood out on anyone else. Think about it this way, if your bad mood was a coal processing plant… you’re evil mood would be polluting your home and family. That’s unacceptable. Don’t do it any more. Instead, learn some awesome relaxation techniques and you’ll have some healthy ways to get yourself out of a bad mood. Your family will thank you and you’ll be happier too.

3. Stop making excuses. When you mess up (you’ve done it before, you’ll do it again… we all do. It’s called being human.) take responsibility. Parents and teachers really get their buttons pushed when kids make their mistakes someone else’s fault. You want to avoid arguments with the adults in your life? All you have to do is keep your agreements (Do what you say you’ll do, be where you say you’ll be and come home when you say you’ll come home.) And if something happens (stuff happens) that gets in the way of your following through on your word, than own it, no excuses. Your parents and teachers will respect you more when you take responsibility for your actions. You’ll respect yourself more too, provided that you a) apologize and mean it, b) make amends –fix what you “broke,”  c) actually learn something from the way things played out so that d) you are less likely to make the same mistake again. Or anything close to it.

That’s it. Are you OK with those three tips? I hope so. They’re yours now. Use them and you’re on your way to a happier new year.

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Give them the whole damn cookie…

November 18, 2013

UPDATE: Day 18 National Novel Writing Month. I’m 28,217 words into my YA novel. Can’t wait to find out what happens next in the story. Sure, I’m making it up, but if I already know everything my characters will say and do, plus every plot twist, there’d be zero fun in writing, thus I would not bother. It’s what I discover each day (about this fictional universe and myself), that keeps me drunk at the well.

Some semblance of the following was first posted in late 2009. Miraculously, the muffins are still fresh.

The Whole is Greater

Does this really need a caption?

Just pulled a batch of pumpkin muffins from the oven. Don’t know how they got in there, but I’m grateful as all get out. Golden, aromatic orbs of cosmic wholeness.

When Fayette was 3, David and I took her to Lake Tahoe with another couple and their two boys. IMPORTANT NOTE: Unless you know and like people really well, or you’re actually investigating ways to end a friendship, do not go on vacation with another family.

En route we hit a bakery. I let Fayette choose whatever she wanted from the display case. She picked a giant cookie carpeted in rainbow sprinkles and held it tenderly, incredulous that such a thing of beauty belonged to her. But before she got a nibble, Other Mom (the one we were traveling with, not my evil alter-ego) grabbed the cookie. “That’s too big for you to eat by yourself. Let’s share it.” Snapping it in two, Other Mom handed half to her son and the other half back to my shell-shocked girl who erupted in tears.

Other Mom shot me a “Woah, your kid’s a spoiled brat” look. I nearly slugged her for turning Fayette’s perfect treasure into a crumbly mess.

For the record, Fayette was never a brat. She sparkles with resilience and a sunny disposition, for which I can take no credit. She also has an outstanding mom. But I digress.

It’s been years since the unfortunate incident in the bakery and we’ve (mostly) forgiven Other Mom’s misguided attempt to teach the joys of sharing. No seriously, we don’t blame her any more. Okay.. well, maybe a tad.

When something that ought to be whole is less than, our wiring triggers a loss. Compound those disappointments and we lose our confidence and trust in the people around us. Obviously we adults can’t control what others give to us, but when it comes giving to our kids, we ought to deliver the whole. That means:

a) Our complete attention when our child wants to show us something, even when we’ve got a million other things to do.

b) Our completely open mind when our daughter needs to talk about what’s worrying her, even if it makes no rational sense to us.

c) Our completely open heart when our son confesses to messing up (again).

Our kids are quickly growing up and away. Give them the whole damn cookie while they’re still living with us. That’s what we signed up for. That’s what they need.

PS Got a pumpkin loitering about? Put it to use and have some fun in the kitchen with the kids:

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins (Thank you, Betty Crocker)

1 and 1/2 cups flour 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
(Gotta cook it first. You knew that, right?)
2 tsps baking powder 1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp salt 1 egg
1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tin. Mix all ingredients just until flour is moistened. Fill muffin cups. Bake 18-20 min. Pop ‘em out of the pan. Cool. Devour.

UPDATE 2013: A year ago David and I went to Tahoe and searched for the same bakery. Alas, it was gone. But we found a nearby bakery, bought a large rainbow sprinkle cookie and presented it to a delighted Fayette when we returned to the Bay Area. She was touched, her eyes sparkle and we apologized for not doing more during the original Cookie Mishap. Of course she forgave us and happily ate the whole perfect cookie.

 

Filed under: Happiness,Holidays,Parenting — Tags: , , — Annie @ 12:44 pm
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Unplugging

July 11, 2012

This is Part 2 of my 4-part Bing Summer of Doing blog series. If you just got here and missed Part 1, let me explain. I’m the Bing Summer of Doing ‘expert‘ of the week. Part of this awesome responsibility involves blogging about the word of the day.  Today’s word is unplugging. The irony of writing about unplugging while plugged in doesn’t escape me, but if I wrote on the back of this envelope, you wouldn’t see it, so…

Bing Summer of Doing - Pull the plug and.. DO

Winnie-the-Pooh said, “Sometimes I sit and think. And sometimes I just sit.” He also called himself a bear of “little brain” but I disagree. Just “sitting” is the best thing you can do at certain times. And if you’re just sitting in a park, on the beach, on a fallen tree in a forest… you’re probably in a good place, mentally and emotionally.

I’ve noticed that it’s summer. Funny how a whole season can sneak up on you like that. Actually, it’s more scary than funny.  Sometimes, my time on the computer seems endless and I feel like I live in a casino – no windows or evidence the earth is turning. But I see that it’s beautiful outside (yes I do have a window) so I’ve decided to unplug. Not forever,  just for some significant part of each day –  as a way to grab back some balance in my life.

What am I unplugging from? How about these three things for starters? Negativity. Routine. Technology.

Unplugging from destructive emotions: Instead of marinating your soul in anger, frustration, jealousy when the mood strikes, how about simply recognizing the feeling? And then… take a few slow deep breaths. (INHALE s-l-o-w-l-y and evenly through your nose. Relax your jaw and open your mouth.) Then EXHALE s-l-o-w-l-y and evenly through your mouth. Repeat. …. again. Again. Now smile (a half smile will do). Good. You’ve just unplugged from an upset and hopefully you’ve done it before causing any damage. Nice going.

Unplugging from routine: Routines offer security. They can also be fun and creativity drains. Fight back by changing something you’ve been doing automatically every day. Try a miniscule shake-up like brushing your teeth with the opposite hand. Dang, unplugging from your routine could be as simple as sitting in a different place at the kitchen table. Or skipping the table altogether and taking your salad or sandwich out on the front steps. There are so many ways to dance through your day, why not make up some new moves? When you do, you’ll find your usual dance partners have to come up with some new moves of their own.

Unplugging from technology: Life isn’t virtual. It’s real. Simple truth. So easy to forget. Years ago, a storm blew out our power for 5 days. No school. No computers. No work. Me and David and the kids read aloud from a big book of obscure folktales. We paused at crucial plot points and took turns guessing what could happen next. We acted out alternative endings. We played Crazy Eights by candlelight. We roasted marshmallows. We all shared memories from childhood. And by the second or third day, we were eating outrageous ice cream sundaes for breakfast (hey, we couldn’t let all the Chunky Monkey melt, could we?). I was more than a little disappointed when the lights came back on and we all plugged in again. But you don’t need a power outage to take a healthy break from social media and the rest of it.  I’m not saying you should become incommunicado for a week and freak out your friends and family. I’m just saying that by spending most of your waking hours with your head in a screen, you miss a lot of the juice of life. That’s just a waste, because the real stuff — the shared joys and disappointments between friends and family — need to be experienced face to face, not just via text and FB posts.

So I’m unplugging today. When I mentioned this to David, he said, “So you’re not going to do anything?” Wrong! I’m going to do plenty of stuff… not sure what yet, but I know, for sure that I’m not going to check my email 75 times. Tweet. or Surf. Just for today. And see what unfolds when I push back the digital infringement and make some room for other things. I’ll report back later. In the meantime, how about if you slowly take your hands off the keyboard, step back from your computer and go outside and play with a friend?

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