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.

I have to be perfect in everything!

April 8, 2014

I'm trying hard, Dad, but I'm not perfect

I’m trying hard, Dad, but I’m just not perfect

All parents want their kids to succeed in school. But what does the word “success” mean to you, as a student? Do you know? Is it all about getting a 4.0 GPA? Being accepted into a top-tier college? Getting a high-paying job so you can buy great clothes, an awesome car and (some day ) and equally amazing house? When it comes to actually defining “success” are you and your parents on the same page? If there’s a possibility you’re not and/or that you and your parents might need to to e-x-p-a-n-d your definitions, check out Challenge Success, where students, parents and schools are learning there are many many ways to be successful in life.

But when a parent’s definition of success equals: “All A’s and nothing less,” life can become way more stressful than it needs to be. Take, for example, this email from a high school student who seems to be cracking up under the strain of his parents’ pressure to be “perfect.”

Hey Terra,

My parents are super successful and push me to be like them. Not only do I have get straight A’s, I also have to get 100% on all tests. If I don’t they take everything from me till I get them. It’s impossible to get 100% in everything. Now all I do is obsess about schoolwork. In fact, everything I do has to be perfect. If there’s a stain on my shirt I spend the entire day trying to get it out. If I have a zit I can barely stand being out in public. I think I’ve become a perfectionist and I hate it. I have no friends any more because I’m just soooo focused on everything else. My parents think I’ve got a great attitude, but it’s a curse to have to have everything be absolutely perfect. Can I change? – Too Perfect

Dear Too Perfect,

You’re right, it is impossible to get 100% in everything. Human make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Your parents are holding you to unrealistic expectations. They have good intentions, but you seem to have reached a point in your life where you are a) unhappy with your need to be perfect and b) would like to make some changes in yourself. The good news is that you can. Talk with a counselor because these behaviors (the compulsion to “spend the whole day trying to remove a stain on your shirt”) are deeply rooted and hard to change without help from a trained professional. Either you can talk honestly with your parents and tell them what you think and feel or you can just walk into the school counselor’s office and be honest with him or her.

 Hey Terra,

My parents are fully aware of my perfectionism and they have told me that’s it’s good for me. That there’s nothing wrong with striving to be perfect. So they’re in another world. I don’t want to see a counselor because I can’t have a flaw and needing to see a counselor is a flaw. You know, I used to be a normal guy who had fun and friends. It’s just gotten out of control. I’m a neat freak now and constantly find flaws with myself. That with a need to get 100% on everything. This just sucks. I literally cried one day when I got home because I got a 98 on a test. – Too Perfect

Dear Too Perfect,

Your level of perfectionism is not a “good thing.” It’s unhealthy. This much stress will continue to make you unhappy. To get healthier talk to your parents about seeing a counselor or talk to them about lightening up or take yourself in to talk with the school counselor. btw, needing counseling doesn’t mean you are “flawed.” It simply means that you (like all humans) feel a bit overwhelmed at times (like now!) and you need some help understanding your behavior so you can lower your stress levels and be healthier. Not flawed… smart!

Hey Terra,

I’ll go and see the counselor.

Dear Too Perfect,

Smart move! Good luck.

In friendship,


PS If you want to find out more about how stress can work on your body and your brain (in good ways and not so much) check out my book for teens, Too Stressed to Think? It can help!



Every voice deserves to be heard

April 7, 2014


Let me spell it out for you

Let me spell it out for you

It’s Autism Awareness Month and organizations like Autism Speaks do a tremendous job in the areas of education, research funding, and providing resources for families. A couple of years ago, at this time of year, I was on a quest to learn more when I heard about Carly’s Voice : Breaking Through Autism by Arthur Fleischmann.  I read the synopsis: “At the age of two, Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with severe autism and an oral motor condition that prevented her from speaking. Doctors predicted that she would never intellectually develop beyond the abilities of a small child. Although she made some progress after years of intensive behavioral and communication therapy, Carly remained largely unreachable. Then, at the age of ten, she had a breakthrough.

While working with her devoted therapists Howie and Barb, Carly reached over to their laptop and typed in “HELP TEETH HURT,” much to everyone’s astonishment. This was the beginning of Carly’s journey toward self-realization.”

I was hooked, got my hands on the book and read it in three days. All I could think was, “Wow! There goes a whole bunch of assumptions about autism.” I was blown away by Carly’s intelligence, her wit, and her drive to communicate and be understood. I was also touched and inspired by her father’s relentless commitment to connect with her. I had to learn more about the story behind this story. I wanted to interview Arthur Fleischmann.

Social media being what it is, connecting with Arthur was easy. He graciously accepted my invitation to be my guest on Family Confidential. What a fascinating, dynamic and very personal conversation we had. I’m so pleased to share with you this never-before-published interview. Aruthur’s chronicle of life with his daughter Carly provides us all something to think about, especially when it comes to giving everyone the respect he or she deserves plus the opportunity to be heard. Listen here.


Tween girl: I don’t wanna wear a bra! Or a shirt!

April 2, 2014

I don't like this idea

I don’t like this idea

Ours is a boob-fixated culture. With so much sexualization of girls in the media you’d assume they’re all dying for their first bra and thong. At least once a week I get email from girls complaining about their “too small” breasts. They want to know if having sex will make them “rounder” or if some cream pitched online will make their breasts grow. But recently I heard from a mom whose daughter was actively resisting the whole “growing-up” thing.

Mom: My 12 year old daughter has started developing breasts and this wouldn’t be problem if she would just wear a shirt or something at our house. But she thinks it’s ok to walk around half naked. Me and my husband have told her she needs to wear something at home, but she’s not listening.

Annie: In 17 years of answering email from parents I’ve not heard this one yet. Just to clarify: Is your daughter just wearing a shirt (without a bra) or is she “walking around half naked?” Not the same thing. If you made a list of your objections to your daughter’s not wearing a bra or a shirt, what would they be? Communicate your objections to your daughter (calmly and respectfully and privately—without your husband being part of this “just between us girls” conversation). Good luck and please let me know how it goes.

Mom: Around the house she refuses to wear even a shirt. I talked with her about why she needs to wear something around the house. (She won’t wear a bra outside the house, but wears shirts.) She is so stubborn. She thinks it’s unfair that girls have to wear bras and shirts all the time and guys don’t. I really don’t want to make her wear something, but I don’t see another option.

Annie: While I admire the strong young feminist you’re raising, she needs to understand what is and what is not appropriate for a 12 year old girl (even at home). No shirt… not appropriate. Tell me, is there a counselor and/or a health/life skills teacher at your daughter’s school? It sounds like you need someone outside the family to talk with your daughter. A female counselor or teacher who has experience working with tweens around puberty and modesty issues would be helpful.

Mom: I will email the counselor today to see what she thinks needs to be done. One bad thing about having a strong young girl is that she will not listen to anyone or anything. That’s why I’m concerned about this. She does what she does no matter if it’s right or wrong.

Annie: Even strong girls needs to learn there are rules and consequences for breaking rules. That’s true for all of us. It’s part of living in a civil society. If, for example, she decided to take her shirt off at school, she’d be disciplined… so in that case she wouldn’t have total freedom to “do what she does.” Good luck with the counselor and please let me know how it goes.

Mom: The counselor thinks my daughter is resisting growing up. That she’s only doing this because she knows she’s maturing into a woman. I can understand that. She told me to make sure my daughter always has a bra on at least because it’s something she needs everyday when she’s older. I don’t think she’ll like me checking her everyday to see if she has a bra on.

Annie: I’m sure your daughter will not appreciate your checking on whether she’s wearing a bra. This doesn’t sound like a good solution as it’s going to become more of a battlefield between you, not less of one. I’d talk to her pediatrician on this one. You need another way to handle this.

Mom: The pediatrician? Never thought of calling her doctor about this.

Annie: Pediatricians can be really helpful in talking to young patients about puberty and their thoughts and feelings about “growing up.”

Mom: Guess she’s just a very unique child then. Pediatrician it is.

Annie: Good luck!

What challenges have you had with your children around growing up and the changes brought on by puberty?

Filed under: Parenting,Puberty,Tweens — Tags: , — Annie @ 10:33 am
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