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.

Parenting Question: What do I do when my kid is in a bad mood?

June 17, 2015

This is Part 3 of my Q&A blog series in which I alternately answer parenting questions and teen questions. If you’re just joining us, you can check out Part 1 How do I keep my child away from a bad friend?” and Part 2Who was that guy my mom was with?”

You've been warned!

You’ve been warned!

Today’s Question: I get that nobody is happy all the time. I’m not! But when my 9 year old son is in a bad mood, it’s not fun for anyone. I’ll admit, I’m not always very patient with him when he’s like that. Obviously that doesn’t help. So, what do I do when my kid is in a bad mood?

Bad moods are kind of like stinky cheese. You open the wrapper and they permeate everything and everyone. The unhelpful thing that parents often do is try to get a child out of a bad mood by distraction or becoming the court jester.  When parents rush in believing it’s always their job to turn that frown into a smile then they’re in for a lot of trouble and they’re not helping their children learn to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Life can be really frustrating. Life can be disappointing. And, if your child expects that everyone will be treated equally, then life is also unfair! OK, so we’re all agreed that crap happens and so do bad moods. Kids need us to teach them essential life skills: resilience and GRIT, which is all about being able to rub up against the challenging aspects of life without wilting and giving up. GRIT also involves the ability to figure out what’s your next best move in the current situation.

When a bad mood strikes there isn’t really anything that a parent has to do. That may be a newsflash for some. It’s only when the bad mood is accompanied by unacceptable behavior – rudeness, unkindness, destruction, etc.  that parents need to intervene. Otherwise, how will our children learn to be good people?

I was talking to my friend, Dr. Deborah Gilboa ( about her most recent book, Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate. One of the points she made that jumped out at me was about how we need to teach children that their feelings are less important than their behavior. She’s spot on. As caring parents and educators, we have focused too much on children’s emotions. (“What are you feeling!?”) When that becomes the end-all and be-all, kids assume that their emotions are more important than what they do or say. What little Max feels is not an acceptable excuse for everything he may do. The clear message for Max: Feel whatever you’re feeling. If you’re in a bad mood, be in a bad mood. But you do not have the right to intentionally be cruel or in any way disrespectful to anyone (online or off).

Instead of providing kids with excuses for bad behavior (“She just did it because she was upset.” “He only said that because he’s jealous.”) let’s do a better job teaching them how to deal with unsettling emotions. Let’s also help them understand that sometimes, even when we are disappointed, hurt, or frustrated, we can calm down and express ourselves without hurting anyone.  These life skills will help all of us behave in ways that make us feel good about who we are.

Got a parenting question about raising tweens and teens? Just ask.


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,




Day 29: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Why do they have to be so mean?)

October 29, 2013

How mean do you really want to be?

Just got this email from a teen who’s feeling really humiliated because of a mean trick played by her so-called friend partnering with another girl. I’ll let her describe it herself:

Hey Terra,
During math today I got up to throw something in the trash and my BFF (Friend A) whispered to me, “Are you on your periods because there’s a red spot on your jeans!” Shocked I ran to the bathroom and saw the “red spot” was the lipstick of my so-called Friend B. Earlier I saw her handing the lipstick to another girl who was standing near my chair. I didn’t expect she’d put red lipstick in my chair so I’d sit in it.

What if someone else besides my BFF saw the red spot?! I already feel humiliated. My first thought was “What did I ever did to her?!” I would NEVER do that to her because we’re all girls and I wouldn’t want to make anybody feel bad. I am really scared Terra. Especially scared that my crush saw it and won’t like me. Please send me your brilliant advice now, Terra!!!

Hi there,
I know it’s almost Halloween and some people use it as an excuse to do some really “out there” stuff, but what happened to you is a really mean trick. I’m glad to hear that you’d “never” do something as mean as that to anyone. You should be proud of yourself because you’re a kind, compassionate and trustworthy girl. And I’ll bet you’re a great friend.

You’ve asked a good question: “What did I ever do to her…. (to make her think she needs to get back at me??)” I don’t know the answer. Only the girl who did it knows. You could talk to her, but I’m guessing she’d deny it. (“I didn’t do anything and I don’t know what you are talking about!”) You know how some kids can be, especially when they are confronted with the truth of their bad behavior.

Look, even if the girl admits she did it, so what? That’s not going to change anything. What happened happened. It’s history… not ancient history, but still… it’s in the past. Either someone saw the red spot or they didn’t. Either someone will tease you about it or they won’t. If anyone asks you “Did you get your period through your jeans?” You can simply say, “No. That was someone’s weird idea of a mean joke. They put lipstick on my jeans so it would look like blood. It wasn’t blood. It was red lipstick.” End of conversation. Don’t name names. Just move on.

That’s my best and most brilliant advice.

As for your “so-called friend” who was part of this cruel joke, you might talk to her about it. Let her know what you saw (the lipstick) and what you think of her kind of friendship… OR you could keep a safe distance from her because she doesn’t seem to be trustworthy. WARNING: Do NOT talk ABOUT her to anyone. That will just add more social garbage to your school.

Good luck and I hope this helps you calm down and move on. Remember, you didn’t do anything to be ashamed of. Whoever did this to you is the person who ought to be “humiliated” not you!

In friendship,

Filed under: Girls' Friendship,Kindness and Respect Challenge,Parenting,Teens — Tags: — Annie @ 3:37 pm

Day 28: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Compassion begins at home)

October 28, 2013

Ah yes, the family is together again

Depending on your relationships with kin folk, the upcoming holidays may bring on joyful anticipation or a queasy gut. If you’re planning on attending a family get-together be on your best behavior. Why? Because nothing kills the holiday spirit faster than letting the button pushers win. You know who I’m talking about:

  • Your aunt who rehashes everything that messed up her annual trip to Vegas because of course you want to hear how stale the airplane pretzels were.
  • Your brother–in–law who asks how you’re doing, then four seconds into your answer interrupts with “Oh, did I tell you….?”
  • Your niece who comments on the health hazards of each lovingly made side dish on the buffet table.

Drives you bonkers every time, right? Instead of allowing these encounters to vaporize your Happy Ho-Ho, here are three good reasons to stay calm:

1. When you exchange irritation for compassion you take better care of yourself emotionally and physically.

2. When you refuse to let your buttons get pushed you do your part to make the get-together happier for yourself and everyone else.

3. All parents are teachers. If you want to teach your kids to be good people who know how to use their “company manners” you’ve gotta show them what it looks like.

Tips for Becoming More Compassionate (during the holidays and year-round)

When that relative does or says something which grates your nerves, ASK yourself:

  1. What’s going on with me right now? Irritation? Embarrassment? Frustration? Boredom? Resentment? Jealousy? Job #1= Identifying what you’re feeling so you can start understanding your reactions and take them off auto-pilot.
  2. Why does this bother me so much? We are hardest on people whose behavior mimics parts of ourselves that we dislike. Which part? Think about it. And while you’re pondering, you might find yourself softening toward the equally flawed mortal in front of you.
  3. What’s my usual way of responding? How does your knee-jerk response increase your stress levels and the stress of the people closest to you? Thinking clearly about the downside of our usual reactions can encourage us to explore more positive options.
  4. What does that person need? We’re usually so busy resenting button pushers we rarely think about helping them. But if you consider why Auntie must rehash every complaint and disappointment, negative family dynamics can shift. Maybe she just needs someone to acknowledge her troubles. Sounds like what most of us need at times. Maybe the problem isn’t what Auntie really needs, but her inability to ask for it directly. If you can figure out what she (or anyone) really wants and you can provide some or all of it, you might discover a) Auntie isn’t as “irritating” as she used to be,  b) you feel more compassion and love towards her, and c) you’ve freed yourself from a cycle that only made things worse. Win-win-win.

Revving up to family get-togethers, talk honestly with your teens about the challenges we all have in expressing our needs. Share with them what you’ve learned about being part of a family. Let them know while families are forever, family dynamics can change. With compassion and a willingness to be honest about what you feel and what you need, you can teach your children that healthy people continue growing in positive directions.

Happy Holidays, from our family to yours


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